State Department Ignores Credible Warning of Azerbaijani Genocide against Armenians of Artsakh
Ignoring warnings from Congressional leaders and rights experts about an ongoing genocide of Armenians in Artsakh being perpetrated and carried out by Azerbaijan, the United States pushed forward Baku’s scheme of opening an alternate route that bypasses Armenia.
Yuri Kim, the acting assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasia on Thursday called for the simultaneous opening of the Lachin corridor and “other routes” for humanitarian supplies to Artsakh during separate phone calls with the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Ararat Mirzoyan and Jeyhun Bayramov.
Kim said she reiterated Washington’s “serious concerns over the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh” when she spoke to Mirzoyan early in the morning.
“We urge all sides to work together now to immediately and simultaneously open Lachin and other routes to get desperately needed humanitarian supplies into Nagorno-Karabakh,” she wrote in a post on the social media platform X, formerly known as Twitter.
Even before the phone conversation Baku expressed its readiness to allow Red Cross aid from Armenia into Artsakh, if assistance from Azerbaijan’s Red Crescent is allowed in at the same time via the Aghdam road.
Hikmet Hajiyev, foreign policy adviser to President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, told Reuters on Thursday that Azerbaijan was now ready to let the Red Cross bring in humanitarian aid on the condition that the Red Crescent also be allowed to bring in aid, on a different road from Azerbaijan.
He said the two roads – the Lachin corridor and the Aghdam road – could be opened to aid simultaneously as part of a pilot scheme that could defuse tensions and spur long-running peace talks between Baku and Yerevan.
Hajiyev said that Aliyev discussed this proposal with Secretary of State Antony Blinken on September 1.
“There was a suggestion for the simultaneous opening of the roads and Azerbaijan agreed and immediately agreed,” Hajiyev told Reuters, while complaining that part of the Aghdam road had been “obstructed” with concrete blocks by Artsakh authorities.
Hajiyev also complained that “one week has passed since the telephone call with Secretary Blinken and there is no movement.”
It took the State Department five days to announce Blinken’s call with Aliyev. In a brief statement it said that Blinken insisted on the need for renewed traffic through the Lachin corridor “while recognizing the importance of additional routes from Azerbaijan.” On the same day, Blinken visited Kyiv and pledged an addition $1 billion assistance to Ukraine.
Kim’s message to Yerevan and Baku suggests that Blinken and the State Department are not only on board with Baku’s plan but are advancing it within their diplomatic discussions.
Artsakh residents and authorities oppose the alternate Aghdam road, arguing that Azerbaijan will utilize the road to complete its genocide campaign against the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Noted human rights experts Luis Moreno Ocampo and David Phillips testified on Wednesday in front an emergency hearing of the Congressional Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, saying that a genocide of Armenians is being carried out by Azerbaijan and its leaders — “as we speak” — and urged the Biden Administration to take definitive steps to stop it before all 120,000 residents of Artsakh are wiped out.
The State Department reportedly ignored invitations to appear and speak at Wednesday’s hearing.
The Armenian foreign ministry’s readout of the call did not elaborate on Kim’s proposal for the simultaneous opening of the two roads. Yerevan has not clarified its position on the matter.
Following a meeting in July with Aliyev, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said that he did not discuss the Aghdam alternative because he did not have a “mandate” to engage in such discussion. Immediately after those talks, the President of the European Council Charles Michel, who hosted the meeting, began advancing Baku’s agenda and called for the exploration “alternative routes” to Artsakh.
In reporting on the telephone conversation with Kim, the senior State Department official, the Armenian foreign ministry said that Mirzoyan “reiterated the need to lift the illegal blockade of the Lachin corridor by Azerbaijan in accordance with the Statement of November 9, 2020 and two orders of the International Court of Justice. The importance of ensuring unimpeded access and humanitarian activities of the International Committee of the Red Cross to Nagorno-Karabakh was emphasized.”
“Minister Mirzoyan thoroughly touched upon the destructive behavior carried out by Azerbaijan during this period — systematic policy of ethnic cleansing in Nagorno-Karabakh, the disrespect towards its own commitments and clear calls of the international community. The need to establish an effective international mechanism for discussing rights and security guarantees between Stepanakert and Baku was emphasized,” the Armenian foreign ministry said it its readout.
In its readout of the call with Kim, Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said that Bayramov denied the humanitarian crisis in Karabakh, saying that Baku has not been blocking the Armenian-populated region’s land link with Armenia and the outside world. He dismissed international calls for the unblocking of the Lachin corridor as “interference in our country’s internal affairs.”
Despite struggling with severe shortages of food, medicine and other basic necessities, most residents of Karabakh remain strongly opposed to the alternative supply line sought by Baku.
Recents warnings by Yerevan about the Azerbaijani troop buildup along the borders with Armenia and Artsakh were not mentioned in any of the call readouts.
Pashinyan on Thursday urged the international community to take “very serious measures” to thwart Baku’s plans. The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry dismissed Pashinyan’s appeal and said that Yerevan should end its “military-political provocations.”