Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has accused the United States of siding with Armenia in the ongoing border dispute between the two South Caucasus countries. In a phone call with U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken on Monday, Aliyev expressed his dissatisfaction with the recent American actions in support of Armenia, which he said had jeopardized the U.S.-Azerbaijani ties.
According to a statement from the Azerbaijani presidential office, Aliyev criticized the U.S. for providing humanitarian and military assistance to Armenia, waiving the Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act that had barred such aid since 2002. He also denounced the U.S. for expressing concern over Azerbaijan’s establishment of a checkpoint on the Lachin corridor, a vital road that connects Armenia with the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh.
Aliyev claimed that the checkpoint was necessary to ensure security and stability in the region, and that Azerbaijan had the right to control its own territory. He also reiterated his demand for Armenia to open a “corridor” along its southern border, linking mainland Azerbaijan with its exclave of Nakhchivan, which borders Turkey and Iran. He warned that if Armenia refused to do so, Azerbaijan would solve the issue “by force”.
The phone call came amid renewed tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian enclave that is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan but has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a separatist war there ended in 1994. In 2020, a six-week war erupted between the two countries, resulting in more than 6,000 deaths and the displacement of tens of thousands of people. The war ended with a Russia-brokered ceasefire that saw Azerbaijan regain control of much of Nagorno-Karabakh and adjacent territories that had been held by Armenian forces.
Since then, the two sides have been engaged in sporadic clashes and negotiations over the implementation of the ceasefire agreement and the resolution of the border dispute. The U.S., along with Russia and France, co-chairs the OSCE Minsk Group, a mediation body that has been trying to facilitate a peaceful settlement of the conflict since 1992. However, the Minsk Group has been largely sidelined by the recent developments and has faced criticism from both Armenia and Azerbaijan for its ineffectiveness.
In a statement after the phone call, the U.S. State Department said that Blinken had reaffirmed the U.S. commitment to the OSCE Minsk Group process and to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of both Armenia and Azerbaijan. He also urged the two leaders to engage in direct talks on a peace treaty and to cooperate on the unblocking of regional transport infrastructure and the delimitation of their common border. He stressed the importance of establishing confidence and preventing further violence in the region.