The senior diplomats representing several dozen nations travelled to Shushi over the weekend to attend a conference organized there by the Azerbaijani government. The U.S. and French ambassadors were conspicuously absent from the event.
“We regard this as a disrespectful attitude towards out territorial integrity,” Hikmet Hajiyev, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s chief foreign policy aide, said during the conference.
Hajiyev charged that the United States and France have done little to help resolve the Karabakh conflict in their capacity as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.
“It’s not clear whether they cannot accept Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity or the reconstruction work taking place in Shusha,” he said.
The U.S. Embassy in Baku responded to the criticism on Monday in a statement provided to the Azerbaijani Service of the Voice of America. It said that embassy officials regularly visit “all regions” of Azerbaijan, including the Aghdam, Fizuli and Zangelan districts won back by Baku as a result of the 2020 war.
The statement made no mention of Shushi or Hadrut, another town in Karabakh proper occupied by Azerbaijani forces during the six-week hostilities stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire.
Azerbaijan maintains that its victory in the war with Armenia put an end to the Karabakh conflict. The U.S. and France, which have for decades led the Minsk Group together with Russia, say, however, that the conflict remains unresolved because there is still no agreement on Karabakh’s status.
Washington underlined this stance last week when it appointed a senior U.S. diplomat, Philip Reeker, as the Minsk Group’s new co-chair. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Reeker will strive for a “long-term political settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry responded by denouncing what it called U.S. attempts to “revive” the group.