Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliev announced Tuesday a campaign to counter the influence of the Armenian diaspora.
Aliev said his oil-rich ex-Soviet republic was opening embassies and consulates in parts of the world where the Armenian diaspora was especially influential.
"It's no secret that California is a state with a large Armenian population. We opened a consulate general (in Los Angeles) to be there and to fight the Armenian lobby," Aliev said in an interview with Arabic network Al-Jazeera, a transcript of which was published by Azerbaijan's state news agency Azertaj.
Aliev said his country planned to open an embassy in Argentina, where the Armenian lobby "is strongest among Latin American nations." "One might ask, 'Why open an embassy in a country with which we have no serious links.' But we're opening an embassy to fight the Armenian lobby on its own turf," Aliev said.
Azerbaijan and Armenia have been locked in a territorial dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh ethnic-Armenian enclave since before the break-up of the Soviet Union. Azerbaijan lost control of the territory and seven surrounding regions during a war in the early 1990s, but Karabakh's status has yet to be settled. Diaspora Armenians are key to financing the rebel government controlling the enclave. The world-wide Armenian diaspora has numbered in the millions since Armenians were forced out of Ottoman Turkey in a series of massacres and forced marches during World War I.
Aliev said Azerbaijan's new oil wealth gave it a chance to outweigh ethnic-Armenians' influence abroad. "What is attractive about Armenia...? Only the fact that it has a rich diaspora that influences the policies of various countries," Aliev said. "Azerbaijan is a country that will supply Europe and world markets with energy resources. Imagine Azerbaijan on one side of the scale and Armenia on the other."