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Nuclear concerns in Armenia via The Jerusalem Post

[…]

At a press conference on April 29 in Armenia, MP Hrant Bagratyan, a former prime minister, claimed that Armenia has nuclear weapons. A recording of his talk was later released by the Media Center, an Armenian NGO.

“We have the ability to create nuclear weapons,” Bagratyan told journalists, adding, “We have nuclear weapons.”

The press conference came following an earlier speech to parliament during which Bagratyan urged the creation of nuclear weapons to prevent “further attacks and aggression” from neighboring Turkey and Azerbaijan.

“There is no alternative, we have to protect ourselves,” he said.

Fighting between Azerbaijan and Armenia started more than 30 years ago, in the late 1980s. It escalated into a full-fledged war in 1991 as the Soviet Union collapsed.

More than 30,000 people were killed before a cease-fire was instituted in 1994. Since then, sporadic, unenthusiastic and ineffective efforts have been made by the Minsk Group – co-chaired by France, the Russian Federation and the United States – to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Battles have erupted periodically between the two sides, most recently in early April when Armenian positions fired intensive artillery barrages at nearby Azerbaijani positions and residential areas.

The UN Security Council has recognized Azerbaijan’s right to this territory with Resolutions 822, 853, 874 and 884, among others. Armenia has continued to ignore the resolutions. Turkey supports Azerbaijan.

Bagratyan’s statements were in response to the recent escalation, which killed hundreds of soldiers and civilians.

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We did know that Armenia has a nuclear power plant at Metsamor, which was built in 1970, ceased operations in 1988 and then resumed work in 1995. Mehmet Fatih Oztarsu, vice president of the Turkish Analytical Center for Strategic Outlook, in an interview with Trend News Agency said that according to ecologists, seismic activity in this area makes operations at Metsamor nuclear power plant extremely dangerous – but there is no evidence the material came from there. Multiple reports, including those by The Telegraph and World Report, indicate that it might have come from Novosibirk in Siberia, but they are not confirmed.

Armenia’s claim of a nuclear weapon – if one can constitute Bagratyan’s statements as such – will create legal and political problems for the country. Azerbaijan and Turkey will both need to deal with the legal and security ramifications of this statement immediately.

And the international community, too, should clarify what Bagratyan meant. If he did mean that the country has nuclear weapons, how Armenia obtained them and who helped it get them is important information.

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