Washington reaffirmed his support for Azerbaijan-Armenia peace talks after Baku got out of an upcoming meeting hosted by the United States, citing allegedly “biased” remarks from a US State Department official.
At a press briefing on November 16, State Department spokesperson Matthew Miller reiterated that Washington continues to “support peace talks aimed at resolving issues between Azerbaijan and Armenia.” .
“We encourage both parties to engage in these negotiations, whether here or elsewhere, and this will continue to be our policy,” he added.
The comments come after Baku said on November 16 that it would not participate in normalization talks with Yerevan planned in the United States this month.
“We do not consider it possible to hold the proposed meeting at the level of foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Washington on November 20, 2023,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Foreign Ministry said the move was a response to what it called “biased and one-sided remarks” made by US Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien in reference to Azerbaijan’s September offensive that resulted in Baku regaining control of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
WATCH: Armenian-born Rafik Sargsyan rode his beloved horse from Nagorno-Karabakh to safety in Armenia after Azerbaijani forces attacked Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19. He traveled for more than 24 hours before a local Armenian family took in the exhausted 60-year-old.
O’Brian told a meeting of the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on November 15 that “nothing will be normal with Azerbaijan after the events of September 19 until we make progress on the path to peace.
“We have canceled a number of high-level visits and condemned (Baku’s) actions,” O’Brian added.
Azerbaijan’s Foreign Ministry said the comments “constituted a serious blow to bilateral and multilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the United States.”
The September offensive ended three decades of rule by ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars in the past three decades in the region, which had been an ethnically Armenian-majority enclave since the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The region initially came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, supported by the Armenian army, during separatist fighting that ended in 1994. However, in a war in 2020, Azerbaijan retook parts of the Nagorno-Karabakh as well as surrounding territories that Armenian forces had controlled. claimed during the previous conflict.
Nearly 100,000 ethnic Armenians, most of the region’s Armenian population, fled to Armenia after Azerbaijan’s latest offensive effectively gave Baku control of the rest of the region.
In its November 16 statement, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry also said that “such a unilateral approach by the United States could lead to the loss of the mediation role of the United States.”
The same day, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian declared that “Yerevan’s political will to sign, in the coming months, a peace agreement with Azerbaijan remains unshakeable.”
Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev have held several rounds of talks mediated by the EU, although Baku withdrew in September from two meetings planned by the European Union.
The same month, Aliyev also refused to participate in a series of negotiations with Pashinian that were to be brokered by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz and European Council President Charles Michel.
Yerevan cited France’s alleged “biased position” towards Armenia as the reason why negotiations in Spain were ignored.