Air Message: Response to threats against the new airport in Stepanakert

Air Message: Response to threats against the new airport in Stepanakert

Photolure

“Stepanakert airport will offer the highest level of technical safety’, says Atbashyan.

Immediately after the NKR Civil Aviation Department's statement announcing the May 9 opening date of the newly-built airport in Stepanakert, various Azeri officials made threats of possible strikes at the aircrafts flying to Nagorno Karabakh.


Arif Mammadov, director of Azerbaijan’s State Civil Aviation Adminsitration, said that “Azerbaijan can destroy airplanes about to land at the airport built by the Armenian side in the occupied Azeri city of Khankendi (Stepanakert) in Nagorno Karabakh.”

Mathew Bryza, former OSCE Minsk Group mediator who is currently the US Ambassador in Baku, made a statement in this connection. In his interview to the Azeri service of Radio Liberty (Azadliq), he said:

“Threats of use of force, including against civil aviation which does not pose a threat as it is, are unacceptable and contradict the commitments made by the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia seeking peaceful settlement. We are urging the sides to collaborate and find solutions to the issues of commercial security of flights before the scheduled opening of the new airport in Nagorno Karabakh”.

The US Ambassador did not specify which of the sides is voicing hostile statements; however, he let the Azeri aministration understand that such threats are unacceptable.

On May 9 the Armenian nation will be celebrating the 19th anniversary of liberations of the symbol of Nagorno Karabakh – the town of Shushi. The culmination of festivities will be the first flight between the capitals of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. While civilians will be celebrating, however, the anti-aircraft forces of NKR will be in a state of high alert.

For the first time since independence (1991) People of Nagorno Karabakh will be given an opportunity to use air communication service coonecting them with the outer world.

At the initial stage the only flight Stepanakert-Yerevan-Stepanakert is scheduled to fly every other day, but the airport is being built with a capacity to support perspective flights to other destinations as well. The airport administration has not specified which countries Nagorno Karabakh can have air communication with, however, considering NKR's current status as an unrecognized republic, flights would most probably be operating between Stepanakert, Yerevan and Gyumri.

The airport's passenger service capacity is up to 1,000 people per hour. Flights will be operated by Artsakh Air company via three 50-seat SRJ-200 aircrafts $15-16 million each. The one-way ticket fair for Yerevan-Stepanakert one-hour flight will be around $45.

TheNKR Government-adjunct Civil Aviation department is headed by Dmitry Atbashyan, a prominent award-winning Soviet pilot, who during the Soviet times was a 'minister without portfolio', heading civil aviation in the Armenian SSR.

“Stepanakert airport will offer the highest level of technical safety, with professional pilots and safe aircrafts,” said Atbashyan.

He also stated that “our neighbors in air space – Azerbaijan and Armenia – have signed an internatinal convention on prevention of any kind of illegal interference in civil aviation; they have made commitments to not take any illegal acts towards civil aircrafts which might affect the safety of airplanes and passengers”.

David Babayan, head of the central information department of the NKR president’s office,
said in his turn that “if Azerbaijan makes an attempt to shoot down an aircraft about to land in Stepanakert airport, Artsakh's armed forces will give an adequate response. NKR would not indulge such provocations of Azerbaijan and would respond respectively”.