Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, right, meets with US envoy Philip Reeker in Yerevan, November 1, 2022

US Diplomat Says It Will Facilitate US-Azerbaijani Talks, as Russia Slams Western Mediation

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WASHINGTON (Azatutyun) — The United States will spare no effort to continue to facilitate a resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict, a senior US diplomat said after visiting Baku and Yerevan this week.

“We firmly believe that continued direct dialogue and diplomacy, not military action, is key to resolving issues and to reaching a comprehensive lasting peace and prosperity for all,” Philip Reeker, a senior adviser for Caucasus negotiations at the State Department, said in a video address released by the US Embassy in Armenia on Friday. “We all understand that this is not easy.”

Washington is “committed to doing everything we can to support your efforts towards a durable peace,” Reeker added, echoing US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s remarks made at the most recent meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers hosted by him in Washington on November 7.

Blinken spoke with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev by phone later in November. He urged the two sides to “schedule further talks as agreed in Washington,” according to the State Department.

Reeker, who is also the US co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group, met with the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders during his latest tour of the South Caucasus states.

Aliyev and Pashinyan were due to meet in Brussels on December 7. Aliyev canceled the meeting last week, objecting to French President Emmanuel Macron’s participation in it sought by Yerevan.

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Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov traded fresh accusations on Thursday when they addressed an annual OSCE ministerial conference held in the Polish city of Lodz.

Mirzoyan said that Azerbaijani forces occupied more Armenian territory and committed war crimes during large-scale fighting on the border between the two countries in September. He also deplored Baku’s continuing armed “provocations” at various sections of the border.

Bayramov said, for his part, that progress in Armenian-Azerbaijani talks has been “quite limited” so far because the Armenian side is “imitating” a peace process and not honoring its commitments.

Russian Grousing

The attention from the US and Western partners is not sitting well with Russia. Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov on December 1 accused Western powers of obstructing Russian efforts to end the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and trying to hijack Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements brokered by Moscow.

Lavrov also questioned the effectiveness of separate peace efforts made by the United States and the European Union.

“It’s hard for me to imagine how they can discuss the issue of [Armenian-Azerbaijani border] delimitation and the peace treaty without a [precise] map of the former Soviet republics which is kept in the Russian [general] staff,” he told a news conference in Moscow.

Lavrov reiterated that the US and France stopped cooperating with Russia within the framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, which was for decades co-headed by the three world powers, following the Russian invasion of Ukraine. They thus “buried” that mediation format, he charged.

US Assistant Secretary of State Karen Donfried denied this when she visited Yerevan in June. Later in the summer, another senior State Department official, Philip Reeker, was appointed as the new US co-chair of the Minsk Group.

In a clear jibe at Armenia’s leadership, Lavrov said Pashinyan effectively recognized Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh in a joint statement with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, French President Emmanuel Macron and EU chief Charles Michel issued after their October 6 meeting in Prague.

“Armenia and Azerbaijan confirmed their commitment to the Charter of the United Nations and the Alma Ata 1991 Declaration [by former Soviet republics] through which both recognize each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” read that statement.

This recognition was meant to be at the heart of an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty promoted by the West. Pashinyan publicly backed such a deal ahead of the Prague summit, stoking Armenian opposition claims that he is ready to help Baku regain full control over Karabakh.

Later in October, Russian President Vladimir Putin signaled support for a different peace deal that would indefinitely delay an agreement on Karabakh’s status. Pashinyan repeatedly stated afterwards that he backs this formula and hopes Moscow will get Baku to accept it.

Lavrov complained on Thursday that the Prague statement made this task much harder for the Russians. Aliyev was ready to consider the Russian version of the peace treaty before the summit held in the Czech capital, he said.

“When the Armenian side is telling Russia, after signing that document [in Prague,] to stand by its proposals on Karabakh’s status… that is not about holding negotiations,” added the top Russian diplomat.

 

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