KARABAKH | 30.09.14 | 10:18


ArmeniaNow reporter

Azerbaijan's initiative to arm civilians living at the border
with Armenia and along the line of contact with Nagorno-Karabakh,
according to an Armenian military expert, is aimed at letting people
in borderland communities feel more secure and at expanding the army's
combat possibilities, but in reality it will have only a negligible
effect, while disproving the myth propagandized by Baku for years
about the "weak Armenian Army".

Last week, Azerbaijani media published the text of the order by
President Ilham Aliyev on measures aimed at "strengthening the
protection of the country's borders". Under the order, measures need
to be taken "to form volunteer patrol teams that will consist of
residents of the areas adjacent to the line of contact between the
armed forces of the Azerbaijani Republic and the Republic of Armenia."

David Jamalyan, an advisor to Armenia's defense minister, thinks
that this is one of the steps to prepare Azerbaijan's society
psychologically for a possible war. According to him, it is
not new that in recent years Azerbaijan's military and political
leadership has been getting ready for a war both in the military and
moral-psychological dimensions.

"This way an attempt is made to create an additional combat resource
for the Azerbaijani army in case of war. I don't think, however, that
it can significantly improve the combat efficiency of the Azerbaijani
army. Besides, our state border security is reliable," Jamalyan told
ArmeniaNow, adding that by such steps official Baku, maybe unwillingly,
creates an atmosphere of fear among its own population in relation
to the Armenian armed forces, at the same time undermining confidence
in the Azerbaijani army.

Expert on Azerbaijan Angela Elibegova thinks that the move is just
another propagandistic rhetoric as after the recent events in Karabakh
and at the Armenian-Azerbaijani border the population of the borderline
zone in Azerbaijan gave quite a tough estimation to the work of the
country's Defense Ministry.

"We saw that people began to leave Azerbaijani border villages,
as they do not believe they would be defended, and this move can
be seen as a promise to better protect them. Time will show whether
this promise is fulfilled or not. For years now we have heard from
the Azerbaijani side that they need to build a protective wall for
their border villages, however, despite the demands of the population
this wall has not been built," said Elibegova.

In July, against the backdrop of increased Azerbaijani sabotage
operations along the line of contact there were also opinions in
Armenia that residents of border villages should be armed. Such
an opinion was, in particular, expressed by Armenian Public
Council Chairman Vazgen Manukyan. But President Serzh Sargsyan, the
commander-in-chief of the Armenian armed forces, did not agree with
that opinion, saying that he did not see the point of doing that,
as Armenian armed forces are capable of providing the security of
the population in border areas. He said that those who can handle a
gun should be in the army rather.

And although many residents of the border villages in Armenia's
northeastern Tavush province in conversations with ArmeniaNow also
pronounced in favor of being allowed to carry guns in order to be able
to resort to self-defense, if necessary, some still acknowledged that
weapons in the hands of civilians sometimes could become an additional
headache and lead to shooting incidents amongst themselves.

Nevertheless, in early August headquarters were established in most
of the border villages. Even today local civilians take turns to be
on duty at such headquarters in order to provide support to the armed
forces, if need be.

According to Jamalyan, there is no need to arm Armenian civilians
living near the border with Azerbaijan today. This step, the official
explained, could only be taken if the support of volunteers were
needed to the army in the event of a large-scale war. Meanwhile,
according to him, nothing suggests today that Azerbaijan will start
full-blown hostilities in the near future.

"It is another matter, however, to prepare civilians in border
communities for possible hostilities, because I think that the
willingness of society to mobilize quickly against external aggression
is a serious deterrent," the expert said.