Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov were originally scheduled to meet there on June 12. According to the Armenian Foreign Ministry, the talks were cancelled “at the request of the Azerbaijani side.” The U.S. State Department insisted last week that the delay was “100 percent due to scheduling issues.”
“We must make every effort to establish peace and sign an agreement to normalize [Armenian-Azerbaijani] relations,” said Pashinian. “The meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers will take place in Washington next week, and our delegation is leaving for the United States with this intent.”
“We look forward to hosting another round of talks in Washington soon as the parties continue to pursue a peaceful future in the South Caucasus region,” a State Department spokesman, Vedant Patel, told reporters on Wednesday. He gave no dates for the talks.
Mirzoyan and Bayramov reported major progress towards an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace treaty after holding four-day talks outside Washington last month. Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev met together with European Union chief Charles Michel later in May. They held two more meetings in the following weeks and are due to meet again in July.
The two sides say that despite Pashinian’s pledge to recognize Azerbaijani sovereignty over Nagorno-Karabakh through the peace treaty, they still disagree on other sticking points. Tensions along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border and “the line of contact” around Karabakh have steadily increased over the last few weeks, with the sides accusing each other of violating the ceasefire on a virtually daily basis.
A June 15 skirmish on the Lachin corridor led Azerbaijan to completely block relief supplies to Karabakh through the sole road connecting the disputed region to Armenia. The move aggravated shortages of food, medicine and other essential items in Karabakh. Baku already blocked commercial traffic through the corridor as well as electricity and gas supplies to Karabakh several months ago.
Pashinian again condemned the “illegal blockade” as he opened a weekly session of his cabinet in Yerevan.
“Everything is being done [by Azerbaijan] to make the life of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh impossible,” he said. “This is exactly the policy of ethnic cleansing that we have been warning about for years.”
Pashinian at the same time renewed his calls for the launch of an “international mechanism for Baku-Stepanakert dialogue” that would address “the issue of the rights and security of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenians.”
Critics in Yerevan and Stepanakert say the restoration of Azerbaijani rule, implicitly advocated by Pashinian, would only force the Karabakh Armenians to flee the territory.