Azerbaijan on Thursday held a military parade to mark the country’s declared victory over Armenia in the recent war over the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Azerbaijan’s president Ilham Aliyev and visiting Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdogan, a key ally in the conflict, presided over the parade.
The six weeks of fierce fighting ended with a Moscow-brokered ceasefire under which Baku reclaimed much of the region along with surrounding areas. The peace deal was seen as a big victory in Azerbaijan, but Armenians see it as a national defeat. It prompted mass protests in Armenia, with opposition supporters demanding the country’s prime minister resign over his handling of the conflict.
Armenia and Azerbaijan, two former Soviet republics, have been involved in a territorial conflict since they gained independence in the 1990s. Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, but is historically an ethnic Armenian region, has been the focal point of the conflict between the two nations.
More than 2,000 people have died since the fighting broke out on September 27, including many civilians. Fighting has surged to its worst level since the 1990s, when about 30,000 people were killed.
Turkey strongly backed Azerbaijan during the conflict. During the parade, Erdogan called for new leadership in Armenia, and said that it could join a regional cooperation with Azerbaijan if it took certain steps. He also raised the possibility of reopening the border between Turkey and Armenia.
“We wish for the Armenian people to rid itself of the burden of leaders who console them with the lies of the past and trap them into poverty”, Erdogan said.
More than 3,000 soldiers took part in the parade on Thursday, and dozens of military vehicles drove through Baku. A flyover of helicopters and fighter planes completed the event.