YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who arrived in Armenia Sunday, said the use of fore in the Nagrono-Karabakh conflict was an “unacceptable violation” of the cease-fire, but fell short of singling out Azerbaijan and the side that breached the cease-fire.
“We have expressed our concern to both presidents that return to violence is unacceptable. We regret the incidents of the last several weeks and it is in the interest, first and foremost, for the people of Nagrono-Karabakh, but certainly of Azerbaijan, Armenia and the greater region to work as hard as we can together to come up with an acceptable, lasting settlement of this conflict,” said Clinton during a press conference with her Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian.
“The United States strongly condemns the use of force or the threat to use force and we regret the loss of life that results as use of force is used. These are unacceptable violations of the 1994 cease-fire agreement and it is also contrary to the stated commitments by both sides. We have called upon everyone to refrain from use of force or the threat of force, because we, number one, do not want to see the loss of life or injury… We do not want to see further dislocation of individuals and families and we do not want to see the peace process harmed. So, my message is the same to everyone: the United Stated condemns the use or the threat of use of force,” added Clinton at the press conference, which took place after a meeting with President Serzh Sarkisian.
On June 18, a day after a presidential summit on Karabakh in St. Petersburg, Azeri forces opened fire on Karabakh positions in Mardakert, killing four Armenian soldiers.
“We were disappointed to see Secretary Clinton – in Baku and again in Yerevan – repeat the State Department’s generic call on all parties to refrain from the use of force, when it has been Baku alone that has both threatened and acted upon its warnings of renewed war,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “This type of diplomatic language may, at least superficially, appear evenhanded, but, in terms of U.S. interests in regional stability, is actually counter-productive, in that it ignores and even encourages continued Azerbaijani aggression.”
“Inspired by our American Independence Day, we had hoped that Secretary Clinton would issue an open call for a lasting resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict based on the fundamental values of democracy and self-determination. After all, if the founding father were following the State Department’s logic in 1776, the U.S. would still be a British colony,” added Hamparian.
Clinton said the principles for the Karabakh conflict resolution remain unchanged and are based on the Helsinki Act of non-use of force, territorial integrity and people’s right to self-determination. She said during the press conference that the US is ready to help the sides reach a peace agreement.
“It is difficult, but achievable. The OSCE Minsk Group is actively working on it. Besides the recent statement of the Co-Chairmen, both Armenia and Azerbaijan understand that there is no other way. Rather serious negotiations took place between presidents Sarkisian and Aliyev in St. Petersburg, and we hope for a progress,” said Clinton.
“The people of Karabakh have the right to decide their own destiny and develop in their historical territory. It is an inalienable right and due to its implementation many world nations are prosperous today,” he added
Nalbandian said that talks between the Armenian and Azeri Foreign Ministers will be held on July 16 on the sidelines of an informal meeting of OSCE Foreign Ministers in Astan
Clinton also called on Turkey to move forward with normalizing ties with Armenia and, on the Karabakh front, urged the sides to honor the cease fire.
“We urge Turkey to take the steps that it promised to take and that both sides continue to try to find the opportunities to open doors to reconciliation and normalization. And now, as they say in sports, the ball is in their court and it is their turn to act,” Clinton said at press conference with her Armenian counterpart Eduard Nalbandian during a visit to Yerevan.
She stated that the U.S. was pleased with Sarkiasian’s policy on normalizing relations with Turkey and applauded Yerevan’s April decision not to withdraw its signature from the Armenian-Turkish Protocols despite the obstacles by Turkey.
“Despite the fact that Turkey was and remains unprepared to establish relations with Armenia without preconditions, it is very important for us to hear the position of the US administration on the matter,” said Sarkisian during his meeting with Clinton.
Clinton also pressed Armenia and earlier Azerbaijan to work to resolve the Karabakh conflict and pledged US support in the negotiation process.
Clinton arrived in Yerevan Sunday evening and was greeted at Zvartnots Airport by Nalbandian, who was accompanied by Deputy Foreign Minister Arman Kirakosian, US Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch and Armenia’s Ambassador to the US Tatul Markarian.
Before arriving in Armenia, Clinton said in the Azeri capital Baku that reaching a peace deal on Karabakh was a “high priority” and that Washington was ready to help.
“We stand ready to help both Azerbaijan and Armenia to achieve and implement a lasting peace settlement. The final steps toward peace are often the most difficult. But we see peace as a possibility,” she said at a news conference with her Azerbaijani counterpart, Elmar Mammadyarov.
“We believe there has been progress. This is a high priority for the US,” Clinton said.
Clinton had earlier met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, who said he expected the United States “to work closely with us and with others on the resolution” of the conflict.
“This is a major problem for us and the major threat to regional security,” Aliyev said. “We want to find a resolution based on international law and we want to find it as soon as possible. Our people are suffering.”
Aliyev last month threatened to withdraw from foreign-backed peace talks after he accused Armenia of stalling the negotiations.
After meeting with Aliyev, Clinton said she had raised the issue of two jailed bloggers whose case has intensified concerns over media freedom in Azerbaijan.
Clinton said that despite “considerable progress” with regards to freedoms in Azerbaijan, “there are still lots of challenges”.
“President (Barack) Obama and I have both received many letters about the two young bloggers who are in prison. I’ve certainly raised those in my meetings today,” she told a group of youth activists.
The two bloggers, Adnan Hajizade and Emin Milli, were arrested and jailed on hooliganism charges last year shortly after posting an Internet video of a donkey giving a press conference, lampooning the country’s docile press and statements by government officials.
The charges related to a scuffle in a restaurant but the bloggers and rights groups say the arrests were politically motivated.