U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has offered support in facilitating bilateral peace discussions with Azerbaijan in a phone call on March 20 with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
The U.S. State Department said that in the call Blinken “reiterated U.S. support for direct talks and diplomacy to support a lasting and sustainable peace in the South Caucasus and stressed that there is no military solution.”
The statement also said Blinken thanked Pashinian “for Armenia’s continued commitment to peace and encouraged concrete steps forward in finding solutions to outstanding issues.”
According to the press service of the Armenian prime minister’s office, Blinken reiterated his call for the immediate unblocking of the Lachin Corridor, the mountain road that links Armenia and the breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, and stressed that the United States is ready to continue supporting the process.
Pashinian and Blinken exchanged views on the prospects for the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and the opening of communication ties in the region, according to the prime minister’s press service.
Pashinian also expressed concern over the recent aggressive rhetoric of Azerbaijan.
Tensions have flared recently as the Lachin Corridor has been blocked by government-backed Azerbaijani protesters since December 12.
The availability of food in Nagorno-Karabakh has become acute due to irregular deliveries, and prices for food and other goods have risen significantly. There have also been periodic interruptions in the supply of gas and electricity.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov discussed Nagorno-Karabakh at a meeting in Moscow with his Armenian counterpart, Ararat Mirzoyan. Lavrov said that the problem of the Lachin Corridor should be considered exclusively in the context of trilateral statements, and emphasized that each side has its own obligations.
He did not specify what Armenia should do in connection with the opening of the corridor but said the issues of rights and security guarantees for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh should be resolved between representatives of Karabakh and Baku.
Lavrov also lashed out at Brussels and Washington for “imposing their supervision” on the peace talks between Yerevan and Baku, accusing the West of “undisguised attempts…to undermine the region’s security architecture” and “tear Russia away” from the region.
Lavrov’s meeting with Mirzoyan came days after Pashinian said he had complained to Russian President Vladimir Putin about “problems” with Russian peacekeepers in Karabakh, warning of an escalation in the region.
Baku and Yerevan have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan’s breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh for years, and the United States and European Union have recently taken the lead role in peace talks between them.
Armenian-backed separatists seized the mainly Armenian-populated region from Azerbaijan during a war in the early 1990s that killed some 30,000 people.
Diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict brought little progress and the two sides fought another war in 2020 that lasted six weeks before a Russia-brokered cease-fire, which resulted in Armenia losing control over parts of the region and seven adjacent districts.
Armenia’s Defense Ministry on March 12 rejected as “untrue” an accusation from Azerbaijan that Yerevan is transporting military equipment to the Nagorno-Karabakh region over ground routes bypassing the Lachin Corridor.
Copyright (c) 2015. RFE/RL, Inc. Reprinted with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036.