The Azerbaijani government has condemned the top U.S. mediator in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks for attending an event in Washington that marked the 24th anniversary of Nagorno-Karabakh’s declaration of independence from Azerbaijan.
The December 9 ceremony on Capitol Hill was organized by the U.S. Congressional Caucus On Armenian Issues as well as the two leading Armenian-American lobby groups. James Warlick, the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, attended it along with several pro-Armenian U.S. lawmakers, notably House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce.
Warlick also met in Washington last week with Karen Mirzoyan, the foreign minister of the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR). Mirzoyan was also present at the Capitol Hill event.
The U.S. ambassador to Azerbaijan, Robert Sekuta, was summoned to the Foreign Ministry in Baku and handed a note of protest on Tuesday.A ministry statement quoted Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Mahmud Mammadguliyev as telling Sekuta that Warlick thus called into question U.S. support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity and Washington’s impartiality in the Karabakh peace process.
Mammadguliyev said Washington must also stop issuing visas to Karabakh Armenian leaders who regularly visit the United States, including for fundraising purposes.
Warlick appeared to defend his actions in comments to the Azerbaijani APA news agency. The diplomat said that while the U.S. does not recognize Karabakh as an independent state it needs to “listen to the voices” of Karabakh’s population.
Warlick also stressed that the U.S. continues to advocate a resolution of the Karabakh conflict based on the internationally recognized principles of territorial integrity of states, peoples’ right to self-determination and non-use of force.
The event in question featured a speech by Royce in which the influential Republican congressman renewed his calls for the U.S., Russian and French mediators to press Baku to accept major safeguards against intensifying ceasefire violations in the Karabakh conflict zone.
Royce initiated in late October a joint letter by over 80 U.S. lawmakers to Warlick listing three concrete measures which they believe would minimize deadly fighting. Those include mutual sniper withdrawal, deployment of more field observers from the OSCE, and installation of gunfire-locator systems on the Karabakh frontline. Warlick reportedly backed the proposed safeguards.