President Ilham Aliyev has defiantly rejected calls from Secretary of State Antony Blinken, as well as the United States to lift the now 100-day-old blockade of Artsakh.
In a phone call with Blinken, Aliyev reportedly dismissed the top American diplomats calls to end the closure of the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Artsakh to the outside world, insisting that the road was operational.
“Secretary Blinken encouraged finding solutions to outstanding issues and underscored that there is no military solution,” State Department spokesperson Vedant Patel said after the phone call.“ He reaffirmed the importance of reopening the Lachin corridor to commercial and private vehicles.
In a readout of the call issued by the Azerbaijani government, Aliyev called the blockade “false Armenian propaganda,” saying that Russian peacekeepers and the International Committee of the Red Cross have traveled to and from Armenia on that road.
According to the Azerbaijani readout, Aliyev again accused Armenia of shipping military personnel and weapons to Artsakh and repeated his instance that an Azerbaijani checkpoint be set up on the Lachin corridor.
Since the beginning of the Artsakh blockade on December 12, the United States, through Blinken as well as the State Department, the USAID and several Members of Congress have called on Baku to lift the blockade. Similar calls have also been made by the European Union and other EU member states and agencies.
In February, the International Court of Justice ordered Azerbaijan to ensure the “unimpeded movement” along the Lachin Corridor.
Blinken’s call with Aliyev came a day after a similar conversation between the top U.S. diplomat and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, who voiced his concern about Azerbaijan’s increasingly aggressive rhetoric against Armenia and Artsakh.
Blinken mediated talks between Aliyev and Pashinyan on February 18 on the margins of the Munich Security Conference.
Despite Aliyev’s personal rejection of American calls to end the blockade, the United States said that it will not impose sanctions on Azerbaijani individuals.
In an interview with Azatutyun.am on March 7, Louis Bono, the U.S. Minsk Group co-chair said that there would be no sanctions against Baku due to the blockade.
Rep. Adam Schiff has spearheaded a congressional letter to Bono, questioning the U.S. policy and refusal to apply sanctions on Azerbaijan.