A senior U.S. government official has praised Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan for agreeing to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh through an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty.
Erin Elizabeth McKee, an assistant administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), pointed to Pashinyan’s statement to that effect, made at news conference on Monday, when she spoke during a congressional hearing in Washington on Tuesday. She spoke of an “important first step” towards a U.S.-backed resolution of the Karabakh conflict.
“Prime Minister Pashinyan asserted for the first time, sort of very publicly, Armenia’s recognition of Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity … This assertion is inclusive of Nagorno-Karabakh,” McKee told the U.S. House Subcommittee on Europe.
Pashinyan’s statement drew strong condemnations from Karabakh’s leadership and Armenia’s leading opposition groups.
In a televised address aired late on Tuesday, Arayik Harutiunian, the Karabakh president, urged Yerevan to refrain from any “action or statement” that would help Baku restore control over the Armenian-populated region.
“Artsakh was not and will not be a part of Azerbaijan because that is the will of our people,” said Harutiunian. He urged Armenia’s citizens to show support for this position “in an active and resolute way.”
In Yerevan, some opposition leaders signaled plans to stage street protests to try to prevent Karabakh’s “surrender” to Azerbaijan.
In recent weeks, the United States has intensified its efforts to facilitate the signing of the Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord. The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers reportedly made progress towards the deal during four-day negotiations held outside Washington earlier this month.
Dereck Hogan, a U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state, revealed on Tuesday that Washington is now trying to help the two sides overcome the remaining sticking points. He said they relate to the delimitation of the Armenian-Azerbaijani border, “the distancing of Armenian and Azerbaijani forces” deployed along the frontier, and “the rights and security of ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“We put forward a number of ideas that help the two sides come together on these particular issues,” Hogan told the House Subcommittee hearing. “And so they are looking at, reviewing our ideas.”
Hogan added that Washington is looking forward to a fresh meeting between Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev which will be organized and mediated by European leaders in Moldova on June 1.
Aliyev and Pashinyan are also due to meet in Moscow on Thursday for talks hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.