'No Chance Of Business As Usual With Azerbaijan As Long As Peace Agreement' James O’Brien Tells Lawmakers
The top State Department official in charge of Europe and Eurasia on Wednesday assured U.S. lawmakers that there's 'no chance of business as usual' with Azerbaijan, as long as the peace agreement between Baku and Yerevan goes unconcluded, TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.
"We're putting forth all the elements that we see as important in the relationship in order to see whether we can get a peace agreement concluded now." Ambassador James O’Brien said during a hearing before the Congressional Committee on Foreign Affairs on the future of Nagorno-Karabakh.
He went on to elaborate: "What steps do we take with that? It's two things. One is we have canceled a number of senior-level engagements. We do not anticipate submitting a waiver, a 907, which enables us to provide some assistance to Azerbaijan. And it is assistance that's meaningful both to them and to us, so this has some effect. And we are noting that the possibility of building a transit corridor hinges on the conclusion of a peace agreement, that an agreement with Armenia on working consensually to develop that."
O’Brien also said that Washington has signaled 'repeatedly,' at every high-level contact that the use of force inside Armenia is completely unacceptable.
"The authorities in Baku have assured us they have no such intention, and we're monitoring very closely the movement of troops and any indication that they might have plans otherwise," he added.
O’Brien also said that he met on Friday with Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan to discuss 'other steps that we might take to support the refugees and assist the government of Armenia with helping them in their current situation and with whatever choices they might make'.
When speaking about the September war, O’Brien said that the State Department is developing, at Secretary Blinken's order, a comprehensive thorough and transparent record of what happened not just on those days but for the months before.
"We've commissioned independent investigators, we have our own investigators working in the field, there's information available from international NGOs and other investigators and as we develop the record of what happened we will be completely open about what we are finding. I can't put a timeline on this investigation but we will keep you informed as we go forward and I'm happy to say more about this."
Washington is also working on how to support Armenia. "I've been fortunate to work on issues in Armenia over the last couple of years in my role as the sanctions coordinator at the State Department. I'm very impressed by the government's commitment to reform and to build diversifying the relationships that it has economic, political, energy and security particularly in the transatlantic community and I think we owe it to the people of Armenia to help them through this difficult situation so that those choices they've made very bravely are able to help them have a more secure, stable and prosperous future."
He went on to elaborate: "We're working closely with the European Union on providing an offer of support for Armenia over the next months. When I met with the Prime Minister on Friday this was the main topic of our conversation and I think it's critical to a secure, free and prosperous region that we be supportive of the Armenian people and of the government and the choices that they've made."
As for the peace talks, O’Brien said that the next few weeks will be critical in testing the party's willingness to go from good intentions to saying "yes".
"Because as we all know, yes is the hardest word to get in a negotiation. So how are we doing that? Well, we are deeply engaged. "We are also deeply engaged with our Turkish colleagues as we go forward," he added.
Answering to lawmakers' question, O’Brien once again reariated that nothing will be normal with Azerbaijan after the events of September 19th until we see progress on the peace track.
"So we've cancelled a number of high-level visits, condemned the actions, and.... the 907 waiver. We don't anticipate submitting a waiver until such time as we see a real improvement in the situation."
The hearing is still ongoing.