U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken (left) and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian (file photo)
U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken has offered support in facilitating bilateral peace discussions with Azerbaijan in a phone call on March 20 with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian.
The U.S. State Department said that in the call Blinken "reiterated U.S. support for direct talks and diplomacy to support a lasting and sustainable peace in the South Caucasus and stressed that there is no military solution."
The statement also said Blinken thanked Pashinian “for Armenia’s continued commitment to peace and encouraged concrete steps forward in finding solutions to outstanding issues.” According to the press service of the Armenian prime minister's office, Blinken reiterated his call for the immediate unblocking of the Lachin Corridor, the mountain road that links Armenia and the breakaway enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, and stressed that the United States is ready to continue supporting the process.
Pashinian and Blinken exchanged views on the prospects for the settlement of Armenian-Azerbaijani relations and the opening of communication ties in the region, according to the prime minister’s press service. Pashinian also expressed concern over the recent aggressive rhetoric of Azerbaijan. Tensions have flared recently as the Lachin Corridor has been blocked by government-backed Azerbaijani protesters since December 12. The availability of food in Nagorno-Karabakh has become acute due to irregular deliveries, and prices for food and other goods have risen significantly. There have also been periodic interruptions in the supply of gas and electricity. Baku and Yerevan have been locked in a conflict over Azerbaijan's breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh for years. Armenian-backed separatists seized the mainly Armenian-populated region from Azerbaijan during a war in the early 1990s that killed some 30,000 people. Diplomatic efforts to settle the conflict brought little progress and the two sides fought another war in 2020 that lasted six weeks before a Russia-brokered cease-fire, which resulted in Armenia losing control over parts of the region and seven adjacent districts. Armenia's Defense Ministry on March 12 rejected as "untrue" an accusation from Azerbaijan that Yerevan is transporting military equipment to the Nagorno-Karabakh region over ground routes bypassing the Lachin Corridor. Nagorno-Karabakh is legally part of Azerbaijan.