Azerbaijan has pledged to retake Nagorno-Karabakh from ethnic Armenians, at a rally in Baku held on the eve of the breakaway territory’s self-declared independence day.
In what Armenians are likely to see as a provocative gesture, a huge Azeri flag was hoisted on what is claimed to be the world’s tallest flagpole.
The ceremony came one day after a deadly clash on the Azeri-Karabakh frontline, for which both sides blamed each other.
In Baku, Azerbaijan’s capital, President Aliyev vowed that the Azeri flag would one day fly over Nagorno-Karabakh, and called on his people to work hard to make it reality.
Amid the tension, Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev is visiting Azerbaijan. Negotiations have stalled since last year’s attempt at peace talks.
Nearly 20 years after ethnic Armenians threw off Azeri rule, the unresolved conflict is a constant threat to stability in the South Caucasus.
Tuesday’s clash in the mountainous territory was the latest of several skirmishes. Baku said an enemy assault was repelled by Azeri forces; Armenian reports said Azerbaijan was the aggressor and disputed casualty figures.