Azerbaijan on Sunday cancelled a high-level government delegation's trip to Washington to protest against a perceived snub by the U.S. State Department in a human rights report.
The 2006 report initially included a reference to the disputed province of Nagorno-Karabakh as Azerbaijani territory occupied the country's Caucasus neighbor and bitter enemy Armenia. This reference was later deleted after diplomatic pressure from Yerevan.
The report’s Armenia section now says: "Armenian forces occupy large portions of Azerbaijani territory adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian officials maintain that they do not 'occupy' Nagorno-Karabakh itself."
"In relation to the introduction of changes in the initial 2006 text of a U.S. State Department human rights report relating to the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the government of Azerbaijan has taken the decision to cancel the visit," Azerbaijan's foreign ministry said in a statement.
"The introduction of corrections, distorting the essence of the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict causes bewilderment and doubts about the position of the U.S. as an honest broker in the resolution of the conflict," it said.
A delegation of high-level government officials had been due to arrive in Washington on Monday for two days of bilateral talks.
The United States said its policy had not changed. "Any interpretation that our policy regarding the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has changed is not correct," State Department spokeswoman Nancy Beck said Sunday. She said the U.S. was aware of Azerbaijan's statement announcing the postponement and was in contact with its government.
"These talks are important and we look forward to them taking place at the earliest date," Beck said.
On Friday, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack also said there had been no change, adding: "The United States reaffirms its support for the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, and holds that the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh is a matter of negotiations between the parties."
The United States, Russia and France, under the auspices of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, have been encouraging Azerbaijan and Armenia to resolve the conflict for more than a decade.