In written answers to questions submitted by pro-Armenian U.S. Senator Robert Menendez, Antony Blinken also said that the Biden administration will “review” security assistance to Azerbaijan due to the recent war in Karabakh.
“I support the provision to Armenia of security assistance and aid to strengthen democratic governance and promote economic growth, both of which will help to strengthen Armenia’s security and resilience,” Blinken wrote on Thursday.
“If confirmed, I look forward to working with Congress and the Secretary of Defense to determine the appropriate level of assistance to meet the security needs of Armenia and the region,” he added in response to a question about how the U.S. could help the Armenians defend themselves against “Azerbaijan and Turkey’s aggression.”
“If confirmed, I will reinvigorate U.S. engagement to find a permanent settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that protects the security of Nagorno-Karabakh and helps to ensure another war does not break out,” he said, answering another question.
Biden complained about a lack of such engagement during the autumn war in Karabakh that coincided with the U.S. presidential race. In an October 28 statement, he said then U.S. President Donald Trump must “get involved personally to stop this war” and freeze U.S. aid to Azerbaijan.
The U.S. Congress had banned such aid through Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act passed in 1992. However, U.S. administrations were allowed in the early 2000s to waive the ban and help Azerbaijan’s military and security agencies.
The Trump administration significantly increased the security aid to Baku, reportedly providing over $100 million worth of equipment and other assistance to Azerbaijan’s State Border Guard Service in 2018-2019. Azerbaijani border guards also participated in the six-week hostilities in and around Karabakh stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.
“In light of the recent outbreak of hostilities in Nagorno-Karabakh, the Biden-Harris administration will review our security assistance to Azerbaijan,” said Blinken. “If the circumstances warrant, the Biden-Harris administration will be prepared to suspend waivers of requirements under section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.”
The two main Armenian-American advocacy groups were quick to hail Blinken’s written comments submitted days after his confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee headed by Menendez.