During a press briefing on November 16 Matthew Miller, a spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, was asked to comment on Baku’s step to refuse to participate in Washington talks planned at the level of foreign ministers.
Miller said that “we continue to support peace talks to resolve the issues between Azerbaijan and Armenia.”
“We would encourage the two parties to engage in those talks, whether they are here, whether they are somewhere else, and that’ll continue to be our policy,” he added.
Speaking to members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee’s Subcommittee on Europe as part of a hearing on “the future of Nagorno-Karabakh” on November 15, James O’Brien, assistant secretary at the U.S. State Department’s Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, said that Washington “made clear that nothing will be normal with Azerbaijan after the events of September 19 until we see progress on the peace track.”
The official referred to Baku’s one-day military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh as a result of which virtually the entire local Armenian population – more than 100,000 people – fled to Armenia.
O’Brien said that Washington canceled a number of high-level visits to Azerbaijan in response to that action and that “we don’t anticipate submitting a waiver on Section 907 until such time that we see a real improvement.”
Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act passed along with the adoption of the legislation in 1992 bans any kind of direct United States aid to the Azerbaijani government. A decade later, however, U.S. lawmakers amended Section 907 to allow presidents to repeal it annually to provide military assistance to Azerbaijan such as for countering international terrorism and border security.
Azerbaijan on Thursday reacted angrily to the remarks by the U.S. State Department official that its Foreign Ministry described as a blow to relations between the two countries.
It said that Baku would, therefore, not send a delegation to Washington for talks between the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia around a peace agreement that it said were planned for November 20.
Last month Azerbaijan also withdrew from at least two meetings planned by the European Union and European leaders.
Armenia, on the country, has indicated readiness to engage in further talks with Azerbaijan both in Brussels and Washington.
In his remarks during the congressional hearing O’Brien said that the next few weeks will be “critical” in the context of negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan.