FO rejects 'baseless' claim by Armenian PM about Pakistani forces' involvement in Karabakh conflict

Published October 17, 2020
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri addresses the media at a weekly press briefing. — DawnNewsTV/File
In this file photo, Foreign Office spokesman Zahid Hafeez Chaudhri addresses the media at a weekly press briefing. — DawnNewsTV/File

Pakistan on Saturday rejected as "baseless and unwarranted" a claim by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan that Pakistani special forces were reportedly fighting alongside the Azerbaijani army in the two countries' conflict over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.

In a statement, the Foreign Office (FO) asked the leadership of Armenia to halt its "irresponsible propaganda" and reiterated support for Azerbaijan's right to self-defence.

The Armenian leader, in an interview with Russian news agency Rossiya Segodnya on Thursday, had stated that Pakistani forces, alongside Turkish troops, were taking part in the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh.

He was asked whether his country had any proof for the claim that "foreign mercenaries and terrorists" were fighting on the Azerbaijani side.

"According to some reports, special forces of the Pakistani army are also involved in the hostilities," Pashinyan said in his response, according to a transcript of the interview provided by the Armenian prime minister's office.

Reacting to his statement, the FO said Pakistan "categorically reject[s] these baseless and unwarranted comments" by Pashinyan that had referred to "some unsubstantiated reports".

The press release noted that Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev had also clarified his stance on the matter, stating that Azerbaijani forces were "strong enough to defend their homeland" and did not need the help of foreign forces.

"It is regrettable that [the] leadership of Armenia, to cover up its illegal actions against Azerbaijan, is resorting to irresponsible propaganda, which it must stop," the FO said.

It stated that Pakistan has consistently extended diplomatic, moral and political support to Azerbaijan and "will continue to stand by the brotherly nation of Azerbaijan and support its right of self-defence against any aggression".

"We believe that long-term peace and normalisation of relations between the two parties would depend on complete and comprehensive implementation of the UN Security Council resolutions and withdrawal of Armenian forces from Azerbaijani territories," the statement emphasised.

Earlier this month, the FO spokesperson had rejected "speculative and baseless" media reports claiming the Pakistan Army was fighting alongside Azerbaijani forces against Armenia.

His statement had come after a report published by TimesNowIndia and a few other media outlets claimed that Prime Minister Imran Khan had sent troops to the disputed territory to fight alongside the Turkish military and Azerbaijan army in Agdam.

Decades-long conflict

The decades-long Nagorno-Karabakh conflict re-erupted on September 27 and has so far killed more than 700 people, including nearly 80 civilians.

The mountainous western region of Azerbaijan has remained under separatist Armenian control since a 1994 ceasefire ended a brutal war that killed 30,000.

Armenia, which backs Nagorno-Karabakh but does not recognise its independence, has admitted that Azerbaijani forces have made important gains along the front in the past week.

On Saturday, a missile strike levelled a row of homes in Azerbaijan's second city of Ganja, killing 12 and injuring more than 40 people in their sleep in a sharp escalation of the conflict.

The early hours attack, which saw a second missile strike another part of Ganja and a third reach the nearby strategic city of Mingecevir, came hours after Azerbaijani forces shelled the ethnic Armenian separatist region's capital Stepanakert.

The seeming tit-for-tat attacks further undermine international efforts to calm a resurgence of fighting between Christian Armenians and Muslim Azerbaijanis before it draws in regional powers Russia and Turkey.

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