Azerbaijan: Flights to Nagorno Karabakh Will Be Boarding at Gunpoint
Fasten your seat belts, put your seat backs in a full, upright position and please mind the Azerbaijani guns pointed at us. Soon we'll be landing in the disputed territory of Nagorno Karabakh.
Azerbaijan’s aviation authorities warned on March 16 that flights from Yerevan to Karabakh’s newly refurbished airport, expected to start in May, are not authorized and may be shot down. “[T]he airspace over Karabakh is closed,” said Arif Mammadov, director of Azerbaijan’s Civil Aviation Administration. “According to the law on aviation, airplanes landing in that territory may be destroyed."
The airport in Karabakh's capital -- Stepanakert to ethnic Armenian Karabakhis and Armenians; Khankendi to Azerbaijanis -- is slated to reopen in May after a 20-year break. Separatist authorities maintain that Baku's threats will not change those plans. The region’s de facto leader, Bako Sahakian, has threatened to retaliate for any possible attacks from Azerbaijan.
Some regional commentators think that Baku’s warning may be little more than a bugaboo meant to disrupt Karabakh's connections with the outside world. But that is still not too comforting for those of us with a fear of flying.