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blinken, aliyev discuss observer mission to karabakh as u.s. steps up engagement

Blinken, Aliyev Discuss Observer Mission to Karabakh as U.S. Steps up Engagement

Author: Nicholas Castillo

Sep 28, 2023

Image source: President of the Republic of Azerbaijan

On September 26, United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken spoke over the phone with Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev. During the call, Secretary Blinken urged no further military action, broad amnesty, and that Baku allow unhindered humanitarian access to the territory. As reported by a Department of State spokesperson, President Aliyev agreed to accept an observer mission to Karabakh. According to a statement released by President Aliyev’s office, he suggested the use of the UN Resident Coordinator Office to the Karabakh region.

The call came after the last week’s fighting in the region, which saw a decisive Azerbaijani victory and move toward Azerbaijan establishing full control over the breakaway region. Since then, the United States has increased its humanitarian and diplomatic engagement as events point towards a conclusion to the over 30-year-old conflict in the South Caucasus.  

U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) head Samantha Power and State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim both arrived in Armenia on September 25. In Yerevan, Power met with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan. The pair addressed domestic reforms, humanitarian assistance to Karabakh and the ethnic Armenian residents of the region, including plans to address the needs of the thousands of Armenians already leaving into Armenia. Later in the day, Administrator Power attended a roundtable of government ministers, where conversations focused on short-term responses to the situation in Karabakh, as well as long-term economic and diplomatic cooperation. In addition, Power spoke with humanitarian NGOs. Power also met with several Armenians who had already crossed the border from Karabakh, where she announced $11.5 million in new humanitarian aid to provide water, food, and medical care. 

On September 27, Administrator Power and Acting Assistant Secretary Kim arrived in Azerbaijan to meet with President Aliyev. In addition to humanitarian issues, Power hoped to “address the prospects for a durable and dignified peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia, based on mutual respect for each other’s territorial integrity and sovereignty,” according to a statement released by USAID’s Baku office.

Power’s trip to Armenia follow the September 22-25 Congressional delegation visits, led by Senator Gary Peters, to Armenia. While in Yerevan, Senator Peters also discussed security and humanitarian issues with Prime Minister Pashinyan.

With these trips, the United States has increased its diplomatic engagement with the region and appears to be laying the foundation to pursue a long-term solution to the conflict over between Armenia and Azerbaijan. With the Armenian separatist forces agreeing to disarm and disband following last week’s violence, it appears likely that the long running conflict over Karabakh is entering its final stage. U.S. engagement has thus focused on issues such as humanitarian support, the rights of the Karabakh Armenians under what is likely to be Azerbaijani re-integration, and territorial integrity. The establishment of an observer mission under the auspices of the UN Resident Coordinator Office in Azerbaijan holds the potential to greatly contribute to these objectives."

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