Senator Cardin: US should halt security aid to Azerbaijan after violence

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States should withhold security assistance to Azerbaijan after its seizure of the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh last month, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin, chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee said on Wednesday.

“As the world continues to grapple with Azerbaijan’s coordinated, intentional campaign of ethnic cleansing, we must both prioritize support for the Armenians who have been expelled as well as holding Azerbaijan accountable,” Cardin, a Democrat, said in a statement.

Azerbaijani forces captured Nagorno-Karabakh, a separatist ethnic Armenian region within Azerbaijan, in a lightning military operation on Sept. 20 that triggered an exodus of more than 100,000 Armenians.

The United States must take actions – including condemning inflammatory rhetoric – to ensure Azerbaijan does not pursue additional territorial gains, Cardin said.

“The United States should halt security assistance to Azerbaijan until it has stopped this brutal campaign,” said Cardin.

(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Paul Grant; Editing by Caitlin Webber and Andrea Ricci)