BAKU, April 4. /TASS/. The Azerbaijani defense minister ordered on Monday placing in operational readiness all heavy armaments of the country for possible strikes on Khankendi (or Stepanakert), the largest city of the disputed Nagorno Karabakh, if Armenia continues shelling Azerbaijani settlements, a defense ministry source said on Monday.
According to him, the Armenian side continued shelling settlements located close to the line of contact separating the parties in the conflict around the mostly Armenian populated Azerbaijani enclave of Nagorno Karakbakh.
"Despite repeated warnings, Armenia is thus coaxing Azerbaijan into adequate measures," the document said. The Defense Ministry urged Armenia "comply with the rules of international law, refraining from the use of force against civilians".
"The defense minister ordered placing in full operational readiness heavy armaments of all branches of arms, including missile and artillery forces, to make destructive strikes on Khankendi (Stepanakert) and other occupied settlements if Armenia does not stop shelling Azerbaijani settlements within a short time," the ministry said.
Tensions in Nagorno-Karabakh soared along the engagement line separating the conflicting parties in the small hours of April 2. Fierce clashes followed. Either side blamed the other for breaching truce.
Neighbouring Armenia and Azerbaijan fell out with each other in the late 1980s because of Nagorno-Karabakh, the disputed territory that had been part of Azerbaijan before the Soviet Union break-up but was mainly populated by Armenians.
In 1991-1994, the confrontation spilled over into large-scale military action for control over the enclave and some adjacent territories. Thousands left their homes on both sides in a conflict that killed 30,000. A truce was called between Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh republic on one side and Azerbaijan on the other in May 1994.
Talks on Nagorno-Karabakh have been held on the basis of the so-called Madrid Principles suggested by co-chairs of the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) - Russia, France and the United States - in December 2007 in the Spanish capital.