U.S. Ramps Up its Diplomatic Engagement to Achieve Peace Between Armenia and Azerbaijan
Author:Caspian Policy Center
Sep 29, 2022
September 27 marks the two-year anniversary of the Second Karabakh War, in which Azerbaijan regained control of most of Nagorno-Karabakh and the country’s other territories Armenian forces had occupied since the early nineties. As important as the anniversary might be, in recent days there have been noteworthy diplomatic efforts, led by the United States that will hopefully help bring an overdue peace to Armenians and Azerbaijan and to the whole of the region.
The ceasefire Russia brokered to end the fighting in November 2020, while offering a platform to start work between Armenia and Azerbaijan on a real peace and normalization of relations and trade between the two countries, has not been able to head off renewed fighting. On September 13, deadly clashes broke out on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border on September 13 that killed over 200 soldiers on both sides and left an unknown number of others wounded.
The U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke with both Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev and Armenia’s Prime Minister Pashinyan on September 13 to call for an end to the fighting. Secretary then met with the Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and the Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov in New York on September 19, emphasizing the need to avoid further hostilities and underscoring the importance of returning to the peace process. The Secretary also encouraged both sides to meet again before the end of the month. “The United States is prepared to do whatever it can to support these [diplomatic] efforts,” Secretary Blinken said
Days after the New York talks, senior Azerbaijani and Armenian officials came to Washington DC to discuss further normalization of Azerbaijani-Armenian relations and making progress towards peace. On September 26, the Azerbaijan President’s Foreign Policy Advisor Hikmat Hajiyev met with the Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs Karen Donfried to talk about the normalization process, the peace agreement, border delimitation and transport issues, as well as the prospects for the development of Azerbaijani-American bilateral strategic relations. Hajiyev also met with U.S. Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl on bilateral cooperation and regional security issues.
On September 27, U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan hosted a trilateral meeting at the White House with the Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia Armen Grigoryan and Hikmat Hajiyev. “We discussed the importance of avoiding further violence and pursuing time-bound and focused negotiations,” Sullivan wrote on Twitter. “We also identified concrete steps forward in support of a stable and lasting peace.” Sullivan described the talks as “direct” and “constructive.” In a Facebook post, Grigoryan said the talks focused on a “long-term peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict” and the “establishment of peace in the region.” In turn, Hajiyev wrote on his Twitter page that the three sides discussed peace treaty negotiations, opening transport links between Armenia and Azerbaijan, demarcation of the two countries' border, as well the as issues regarding landmines and missing persons as a part of a broader humanitarian agenda. Hajiyev thanked the U.S. for its continued efforts toward achieving lasting peace in the region, emphasizing the importance of “continuing to work on the peace agenda within a specific time frame.”
Looking at the recent diplomatic developments, Caspian Policy Center’s (CPC) Chief Executive Officer Efgan Nifti noted “Everyone understands that achievement of peace after the decades-long conflict is not an easy process, but an agreement between Azerbaijan and Armenia will produce practical benefits for both countries and the region.” He further stressed that “Achieving lasting peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia is key to the development of prosperity and security in the South Caucasus. The U.S. is also strongly supportive of the continued efforts of EU leadership to bring Azerbaijan and Armenia around the negotiating table. It is understandable that not every issue can be solved in one meeting, but the key is to make steady progress towards reaching durable peace between the two nations."
The increased U.S. involvement since early 2021 in the peace process between Azerbaijan and Armenia can be crucial in helping foster stability and prosperity in the broader region as well as better, more secure lives for both Armenians and Azerbaijanis. When asked about the prospects for the talks between the two sides, CPC Advisory Board Member and former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Robert Cekuta noted: “It is often said wars end at the negotiating table, in other words, it is through diplomatic engagement that a real, lasting victory — i.e., a lasting peace and relations that benefit all parties — can be realized.” Cekuta welcomed the determined high-level involvement by the United States in bringing the sides together to help realize a peace agreement and highlighted Secretary Blinken’s comments after his meetings with the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers last week at the UN: “Strong diplomatic engagement is the best path for everyone.”