“I am appointing Louis L. Bono, a member of the Senior Foreign Service, as Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations,” Blinken said in a statement released on Wednesday. “In this capacity, Mr. Bono will work with regional leaders to advance the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan and to address Russia’s ongoing occupation of sovereign Georgian territory.”
“The United States is committed to helping Armenia and Azerbaijan negotiate a comprehensive peace agreement, including a long-term political settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” added Blinken. “Mr. Bono will engage bilaterally, with likeminded partners, including the European Union, and with international organizations, such as the OSCE, to facilitate direct dialogue between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
The new envoy replaced another high-ranking U.S. diplomat, Philip Reeker, who retired a month ago.
Reeker also served as the U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group dealing with the Karabakh conflict. The mediation format was for decades led by the United States, Russia and France. It collapsed following the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Blinken did not mention the Minsk Group in his statement. Still, a U.S. State Department spokesman stressed later on Wednesday that Bono “also represents the United States in the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair format, as his predecessors have in this role.”
Blinken spoke with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan in January in separate phone calls that focused on Baku’s continuing blockade of the Lachin corridor. He urged Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to “immediately restore commercial traffic” through the sole road connecting Karabakh to Armenia.
Aliyev reportedly rejected the appeal, defending the Azerbaijani government-backed protesters who blocked the road on December 12 to demand that Baku be allowed to inspect “illegal” copper mines in Karabakh.