US Insists on Reopening of Karabakh-Armenia Road

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YEREVAN (Azatutyun) — The United States has again called for the immediate reopening of Nagorno-Karabakh’s land link with Armenia which has been blocked by Azerbaijan for the past month.

“The United States remains concerned that the Lachin Corridor has now been blocked for over three weeks, creating a grave humanitarian situation,” Michael Carpenter, the US ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) headquarters in Vienna, tweeted over the weekend of January 7-8.

“We thank [the International Committee of the Red Cross] for providing critical aid during this time, but call on Azerbaijan and Russia to restore access immediately,” Carpenter said.

The US Embassy in Yerevan added its voice to the call on Monday, January 9. In written comments, it reiterated the US State Department’s earlier statements that the Azerbaijani blockade “sets back the peace process and undermines international confidence.”

Commenting on the possibility of US humanitarian aid to Karabakh, the embassy said the US Agency for International Development (USAID) is trying to address “the needs of displaced persons in Armenia.” It did not elaborate.

The head of USAID, Samantha Power, spoke with Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan on Friday, January 6. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Mirzoyan said the international community should take “clear steps” to reopen the Lachin corridor and prevent a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Karabakh.

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Government-backed Azerbaijani protesters blocked a section of the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia on December 12. They are demanding that Baku be allowed to inspect “illegal” ore mines in Karabakh.

The authorities in Yerevan and Stepanakert have rejected these demands as a gross violation of the Russian-brokered agreement that stopped the 2020 Armenian-Azerbaijani war.

Citing the continuing blockade, Mirzoyan refused to meet with his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov on December 23 for talks that were due to be hosted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov.

Blinken Plans More Talks

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken will speak to the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers in the coming days to try to kick-start the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, the State Department announced on January 4.

“As you know, Secretary Blinken is personally invested in this process; he’s demonstrated that personal investment by bringing together … his counterparts from Armenia and Azerbaijan by speaking with them regularly,” the department spokesman, Ned Price, told a news briefing in Washington. ”I expect he’ll have an opportunity in the coming days to re-engage by phone with his counterparts in Armenia and Azerbaijan.”

Blinken most recently hosted face-to-face talks between the two ministers in Washington on November 7. He phoned Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev later in November. He urged the two sides to “schedule further talks as agreed in Washington,” according to the State Department.

Aliyev and Pashinyan were scheduled to meet in Brussels on December 7 for further talks hosted by the European Union’s top official, Charles Michel. However, the Azerbaijani leader canceled the summit, objecting to French President Emmanuel Macron’s participation in it.

In separate comments to the Armenpress news agency, Price said the United States remains concerned about the closure of Karabakh’s vital land link with Armenia.

“This sets back the peace process and undermines international confidence,” he said. “We call for the full restoration of free movement through the corridor.”

Price also announced on Wednesday the retirement of Philip Reeker, a senior State Department adviser for Caucasus negotiations and the US co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group. Reeker has held that post since August.

“Since the beginning of Ambassador Reeker’s appointment in August of last year, it was always understood and expected that he would serve in this position on a short-term basis until the end of last year,” Price told journalists.

The State Department spokesman did not say whether Reeker will be replaced by another US diplomat.

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