Washington has reaffirmed its support for peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia after Baku pulled out of an upcoming U.S.-hosted meeting citing allegedly “biased” remarks by a U.S. State Department official.
During a November 16 press briefing, State Department spokesman Matthew Miller reiterated that Washington continues “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.
The comments came after Baku said on November 16 that it would not participate in normalization talks with Yerevan that were planned in the United States this month.
“We do not consider it possible to hold the proposed meeting on the level of the foreign ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Washington on November 20, 2023,” the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The Foreign Ministry said the decision was in response to what it called “one-sided and biased remarks” made by the assistant U.S. secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, James O’Brien, in reference to Azerbaijan’s lightning offensive in September that resulted in Baku regaining control of the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh.
WATCH: Ethnic Armenian Rafik Sarkisian rode his beloved horse from Nagorno-Karabakh to safety in Armenia after Azerbaijani forces attacked Nagorno-Karabakh on September 19. He traveled for over 24 hours before a local Armenian family took in the exhausted 60-year-old.
O’Brian said during a U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee meeting on November 15 that “nothing will be normal with Azerbaijan after the events of September 19 until we see progress on the peace track.”
“We’ve canceled a number of high-level visits, condemned [Baku’s] actions,” O’Brian added.
The Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry said the comments “were a blow to bilateral and multilateral relations between Azerbaijan and the United States.”
The September offensive ended three decades of rule by ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, which is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have fought two wars in the last three decades over the region, which had been a majority ethnic Armenian enclave since the Soviet collapse.
The region initially came under the control of ethnic Armenian forces, backed by the Armenian military, in separatist fighting that ended in 1994. During a war in 2020, however, Azerbaijan took back parts of Nagorno-Karabakh along with surrounding territory that Armenian forces had claimed during the earlier conflict.
Nearly 100,000 ethnic Armenians, most of the region’s ethnic Armenian population, fled to Armenia after the latest offensive by Azerbaijan effectively gave Baku control over the rest of the region.
In its November 16 statement, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry also said that “such a unilateral approach by the United States could lead to the loss of the United States’ mediation role.”
The same day, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian said that Yerevan’s “political will to sign, in the coming months, a peace agreement with Azerbaijan remains unwavering.”
Pashinian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev have held several rounds of talks under EU mediation, although Baku in September withdrew from two meetings planned by the European Union.
The same month, Aliyev also refused to attend a round of negotiations with Pashinian that were to be mediated by French President Emmanuel Macron, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz, and European Council President Charles Michel.
Yerevan cited France’s allegedly “biased position” against Armenia as the reason for skipping those talks in Spain.