"Trust, but verify":  Blinken Hopes For Peace Agreement Between Azerbaijan, Armenia

"Trust, but verify":  Blinken Hopes For Peace Agreement Between Azerbaijan, Armenia

The top U.S. diplomat on Wednesday once again expressed his hope for a peace agreement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, TURAN's Washington correspondent reports.

"I think the best thing that can happen is they have made progress — Armenia and Azerbaijan — on a peace agreement," Secretary of State Antony Blinken told the House Committee on Foreign Affairs when pressed by Congressman Jim Costa, a Democrat from California.

"And if that [peace] agreement can be reached, I think that's the thing that stands both Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the whole region in the best stead," the Secretary went on to add.

Blinken recently spoke separately with both Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan to reaffirm U.S. support for progress between the two countries on a durable and dignified peace agreement.

During yesterday's congressional hearing on the State Department's proposed budget, Congressman Costa, a member of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, raised the issue of Karabakh diplomacy and expressed his mistrust to Azerbaijan.

"Well, always, as someone once said, trust but verify," Blinken replied back.

The Secretary also spoke about strengthening U.S. support and cooperation with Armenia. "I met with Prime Minister Pashinyan just a few weeks ago in Brussels with the head of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, precisely to look at what more we and the EU can do to support Armenia," he said.

"And we'll be moving forward, I think, in a number of different areas. Prime Minister Pashinyan has done an extraordinary job leading his country in very, very difficult times. We want to make sure that we're getting people's support, including those who have left Nagorno-Karabakh," Blinken concluded.

During yesterday,s hearing, Blinken was also asked about Georgia's Russian-style "foreign influence" law which recently passed the parliament and has triggered mass protests.

"We're very concerned about the foreign agents law that was passed. I think it's right out of Moscow's playbook, unfortunately," he told lawmakers.

"I think it clearly counters the desire of the overwhelming majority of Georgians to move towards the EU and the EU integration," Blinken added.  "So we are looking very hard at what we can do in response to that and I anticipate we will take actions."

Blinken did not preview actions. He noted that the EU was looking at the impact on Georgia's efforts to join the bloc.

The bill requires NGOs and media outlets that receive more than 20 percent of their funding from abroad to register as bodies "pursuing the interests of a foreign power."

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