In September, Azerbaijan initiated a military offensive against the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, prompting some 100,000 ethnic Armenians who are the majority in the region to flee en masse to Armenia due to fear of oppression and rapidly deteriorating humanitarian conditions. Nagorno-Karabakh is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but the ethnic Armenians there have long sought independence from Baku.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev declared victory over the enclave. At the same time, he promised to guarantee the rights and security of Armenians living in the region.
In recent Congressional testimony Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs James O’Brien expressed concern over Armenians uprooted from Nagorno-Karabakh:
“We insist on the people having complete access to the territory, on the protection of the property, the protection of the culture, and that the people receive adequate information so that they can make a real choice about their future and know that they have the viable opportunity to return and live in Nagorno-Karabakh if that's what they choose.”
The United States announced $11.5 million in assistance to Armenia on September 26th.
Moreover, the United States is helping Armenia and Azerbaijan negotiate a peace agreement, said Assistant Secretary O’Brien:
“We are deeply engaged. I think there have been 13 senior level visits to the capitals Yerevan in Baku since September and meetings among the parties as well. We are also deeply engaged with our Turkish colleagues as we go forward. We've made clear that nothing will be normal with Azerbaijan after the events of September 19th until we see progress on the peace track.”
Assistant Secretary O’Brien expressed optimism that all sides to the conflict stand to gain from a peace agreement:
“Central Asian countries are looking for new routes to get their goods to market. Those routes can run through Azerbaijan onto Georgia or down through Armenia to Turkey. We've said no use of force is acceptable. A transit corridor built with the involvement and consent of Armenia can be a tremendous boon to states across the region and to global markets who will receive access to these goods.”
The United States is committed to helping Armenia and Azerbaijan make the best decisions for the future peace and prosperity of their two countries and the broader region.