(Reuters) – Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said on Thursday it could not take part in a meeting with Armenia’s foreign minister planned for Nov. 20 in Washington because of the “one-sided approach of the United States”.
It said senior U.S. officials were unwelcome in Baku for the same reason.
Meanwhile, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said he intended to intensify political and diplomatic efforts to sign a peace treaty with Azerbaijan, Russia’s TASS news agency reported on Thursday.
The two Caucasian countries have been in conflict for decades, most notably over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh, internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but largely populated and controlled by ethnic Armenians with Yerevan’s support until Baku recaptured it in September.
Azerbaijan objected in particular to “one-sided and biased” comments on Wednesday by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien to the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
It said that, when O’Brien said Azerbaijan’s use of force in September had prompted most of the population of more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians to flee, he had failed to mention the “illegal stationing of more than 10,000 Armenian armed forces”.
It complained that O’Brien did not mention that “for more than two months Armenia has not been responding” to Azerbaijani peace proposals. The Azerbaijani statement also said Washington was continuing to offer support to Armenia even though Armenia was “an aggressor and a destabilizing source in the region”.
According to a transcript posted by the committee, O’Brien said “there cannot be ‘business as usual'” in Washington’s relations with Baku.
He said the U.S. had cancelled high-level bilateral meetings and engagements with Azerbaijan and would keep urging it to “facilitate the return of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians who may wish to go back to their homes or visit cultural sites in the region, as well as restore unimpeded commercial, humanitarian, and pedestrian traffic to the region”.
Azerbaijani Prime Minister Ali Asadov told a forum in Tbilisi last month that Baku had been committed to peace and the restoration of transport links with Armenia since 2020, but that progress hinged on Yerevan.
(Reporting by Reuters; Editing by Kevin Liffey and Mark Trevelyan)