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Blinken ‘warns’ US lawmakers of possible Azerbaijani attack on Armenia

Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan (left), US Secretary of State Antony Blinken (centre), and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov in May 2023. Photo: US State Department.

Politico has reported that US Secretary of State Antony Blinken told US lawmakers that Azerbaijan might invade southern Armenia ‘in the coming weeks’. Washington has described the claims as ‘inaccurate’.

On Friday, Politico cited two sources as saying that Blinken had warned ‘a small group’ of US lawmakers of a potential Azerbaijani invasion.

The lawmakers reportedly called Blinken on 3 October in an attempt to urge Washington to take ‘possible measures’ against Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in response to the invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Blinken told them that the State Department was looking at avenues to hold Azerbaijan accountable, and that it plans to cancel US military assistance to Azerbaijan.

On Sunday, Armenpress contacted the State Department for comment on Politico’s report. The department’s spokesperson, Matthew Miller, stated that the article was ‘innacurate and in no way reflects what Secretary Blinken said to lawmakers’.

‘The United States strongly supports Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We have stressed that any infringement of that sovereignty and territorial integrity would bring serious consequences’, Miller told Armenpress.

In response, Eric Bazail-Eimil, the co-author of the Politico article,  wrote that four people had told him that Blinken had a call with a group of lawmakers on 3 October, and two of those four reported that Blinken had said the state was ‘tracking the possibility’ that Azerbaijan would invade in coming weeks. 

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‘An absence of substantial deterrents’

Aliyev has previously threatened to establish the proposed ‘Zangezur corridor’ through Armenia by force. The corridor would connect western Azerbaijan with its exclave of Nakhchivan. 

However, last week, Azerbaijan and Iran began constructing a transit route to connect western Azerbaijan to Nakhchivan. The corridor is being built in Iranian territory with Azerbaijani funding.

In an interview with Politico, Aliyev’s senior foreign policy adviser, Hikmat Hajiyev, denied that Azerbaijan had any claims on Armenian territory. He said that his country had already ‘restored’ control over Nagorno-Karabakh and had no intention of pushing into Armenian territory.

‘Azerbaijan restored what legally, historically and morally was ours’, said Hajiyev.

The Regional Centre for Democracy and Security, a Yerevan-based think tank, on Saturday raised concerns over the absence of deterrents to a potential Azerbaijani invasion of Armenia.

‘Considering the weak international reaction to the ethnic cleansing of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, Aliyev may perceive an opportunity to pursue further concessions from Armenia through either the use of force or the threat of it’, read the centre’s statement. ‘With the absence of substantial deterrents on the ground, Azerbaijan faces few constraints to escalate.’

Tigran Abrahamyan, an Armenian MP from the I Have Honour faction and a member of the parliament’s defence committee, stated that Washington ‘neither denied nor confirmed the circumstance of [Blinken’s] prediction’.

He also accused Washington of not deterring armed conflict in the region, despite consistently condemning the use of force.

‘At the same time, Azerbaijan is announcing another round of realising its territorial ambitions, and it has become natural to it’, said Abrahamyan. He added that Azerbaijan’s approach took place within a context of an ‘agenda of unilateral concessions’ established by the government of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, and the variable application of principles by third countries acting as mediators in the conflict.