U.S. Says, Azerbaijan-Armenia Peace Process 'Still Fully Alive", Parties 'Prepared To Return To Washington'
The U.S.-backed peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia is "ongoing and is still fully alive," two senior State Department officials said on Monday, amid concern about increasing tension due to deteriorating humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh, TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.
The officials, who briefed reporters on background, (meaning not for attribution) said that the Biden administration has been trying for several years to find a way forward to achieve a just, durable, sustainable peace, and that process continues: the parties are "prepared to return to Washington" to continue the dialogue.
"We've had three rounds of meetings that we've hosted here in Washington. There have been others that have hosted, say, in Europe, and even the Russians have hosted a couple of their sets of talks," a senior official said.
The U.S 'has been very clear' that the first step to achieving lasting and durable peace is resolving the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. "We're very concerned about the situation there now, and we've been very focused on trying to resolve that through every means we can," another senior official added.
According to them, the U.S. has had engagements "at all levels" during the past few days: Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with both President Ilham Aliyev and Prime Minister Nkil Pashinyan last weekend. Separately, acting Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim spoke with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Bayramov twice in the past week.
"And that was just this weekend...This has been a steady, constant, intense effort to try to find a way forward on this very difficult set of issues," an official said, adding that U.S. Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations Lou Bono is also in daily touch with all sides and has made multiple trips to the region.
Washington has 'consistently' called for the Lachin Corridor to be reopened to commercial, humanitarian, and private traffic. "We've conveyed this both publicly and privately. We are also open to other corridors and other routes for supplies to reach there".
Baku's position has been that if other alternative routes — such as a road from Aghdam — were used, that they would then reopen Lachin. "We're not being prescriptive about what that kind of a deal would have to look like or the modalities of that, but we are doing everything we can to try to facilitate any kind of a deal because, again, our overriding goal is getting humanitarian assistance in there," a senior official said.
"As of this point, the routes are not open," another senior official made it clear when asked by TURAN about media reports citing Azerbaijan that a deal was reached to open roads.
Asked whether there might be violence in the coming days in the absence of a deal, the official said, 'we've seen and heard no indications."
As for the current humanitarian situation inside Nagorno-Karabakh, while the U.S. has no eyes on the ground, the officials said, they "do not have any confirmed cases of death due to famine or malnutrition at all."
The second official went on to elaborate: "... We have no personnel there. So any information would be secondhand. We do try to take every resource we can use to assess that. I think all we can really say at this point is that we are concerned. I don't think we have more granularity than that. We do know that we want to get aid there as soon as possible."
The officials also reacted calls that it was 'reasonable’ to believe "genocide" against Armenians being committed. "We remain deeply concerned about what's going on there. We continue to watch it and assess it. We have no new determination to announce here. So I think that's clear," a senior official said, adding that they also reject any suggestion that there's somehow international complicity in this. "We are doing everything we can to resolve the situation... We're doing everything we can to focus on how to practically get food and assistance there."
As for the peace talks, the officials insisted that Washington 'remains serious' about it, and that "this is 24-7 for us".
The U.S, is also trying to make sure that this is not about the West and Russia. "Russia has a history in this region. We're not trying to displace Russia" an official said when asked by TURAN about Moscow's role in the process.
"It speaks more to the broad international consensus on the need to find a solution," another official said, adding that "this is a process that's led by both Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The officials went on to conclude, "Both sides are committed. They remain committed to see this process through. The political will exists to achieve peace."
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