Azeri president says Armenia is a country "of no value"

BAKU Tue Nov 20, 2012 3:08pm EST

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev answers questions during a news conference at Prague Castle in Prague April 5, 2012. REUTERS/David W Cerny

Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev answers questions during a news conference at Prague Castle in Prague April 5, 2012.

Credit: Reuters/David W Cerny

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BAKU (Reuters) - Azeri President Ilham Aliyev took his verbal attacks on arch enemy Armenia onto Twitter on Tuesday, calling his Caucasus neighbor a "colony" run from abroad.

Aliyev and his government have tried to boost their presence online, where dissident Azeri bloggers and members of the Armenian diaspora regularly attack Azerbaijan's human rights record.

"Our main enemy is the Armenian lobby ... Armenia as a country is of no value. It is actually a colony, an outpost run from abroad, a territory artificially created on ancient Azerbaijani lands," Aliyev said in a tweet microblog.

War between ethnic Azeris and Armenians erupted in 1991 over Azerbaijan's mainly Armenian-populated Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Armenian-backed forces seized along with seven surrounding Azeri districts.

A truce was signed in 1994, but there was no peace treaty, and violence still flares sporadically along Azerbaijan's border with Armenia and a frontline with Nagorno-Karabakh.

Oil-producing Azerbaijan, host to oil majors BP, Chevron and ExxonMobil, frequently threatens to take the mountain enclave back by force, and has spent heavily on its armed forces, though it says it favors diplomacy.

Armenia and Azerbaijan failed to make peace in internationally mediated talks last year and have been hurling angry rhetoric at each other ever since, although analysts do not yet detect any drift into a new armed conflict.

"We are conducting talks and at the same time building up our military strength," Aliyev said in another tweet, adding that Baku would continue its efforts to isolate its neighbor.

"Azerbaijan grows stronger and more powerful by the year, while Armenia weakens and declines every year ... We will continue our efforts to isolate Armenia."

Armenian officials were not available to comment on the statements.

Nagorno-Karabakh has run its own affairs with heavy Armenian military and financial backing since the war.

Azerbaijan accuses ethnic Armenian lobbies, active in France and the United States, of blackening its international image and has worked to counter this, notably by hosting the Eurovision song contest this year.

(Reporting by Margarita Antidze; Writing by Thomas Grove; Editing by Kevin Liffey)

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