“I've been very actively and directly engaged with leadership in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, trying to help advance prospects for a long-term political settlement in regard to Nagorno-Karabakh,” Blinken told the Foreign Relations Committee of the U.S. Senate during a hearing held on Tuesday.
“We have been trying to push back on any unilateral actions, particularly by Azerbaijan, that would only inflame the situation, and we have a number of programs in place that are part of the budget to try to help advance more peaceful prospects,” he said without elaborating.
Blinken pointed to his recent phone calls with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev as well as the foreign ministers of the two South Caucasus states.
During his conversations with Aliyev and Pashinian, he called for “restraint, de-escalation, and renewed diplomacy,” according to the U.S. State Department.
Blinken phoned the two leaders on April 5 more than a week after Azerbaijani troops seized a village in eastern Karabakh and tried to push deeper into the territory, sparking deadly fighting with Karabakh Armenian forces.
The State Department deplored the Azerbaijani troop movements, calling them “irresponsible and unnecessarily provocative.” Baku rejected the criticism.
Speaking during Tuesday’s hearing, Robert Menendez, the pro-Armenian chairman of the Senate committee, accused Baku of trying to “eliminate the presence of Armenians” living in Karabakh. Menendez also criticized the U.S. government for continuing to seek greater U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan than Armenia.