There is an "opportunity actually to bring a peace agreement to fruition" - Blinken

The US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has said that there is a "moment of opportunity" for Armenia and Azerbaijan to sign a peace deal after decades of conflict. 

Responding to a question from the chairman of the United States Senate Committee on Foreign Relations Bob Menendez on Wednesday (22 March), Blinken said that he has been "very engaged on seeing what we can do to help Armenia and Azerbaijan come to a peace agreement that normalizes the relationship between them, as well as deal with obviously the rights and protections for the Armenian ethnics in Nagorno Karabakh, dealing with border delimitation, etcetera."

He added that he thought there is an "opportunity actually to bring a peace agreement to fruition", although he also said that he didn't want to "exaggerate" it. 

"I had Prime Minister Pashinyan and President Aliyev together in Munich at the Security Conference, I had the foreign ministers here in Washington, I expect that they’ll come back, we worked on a text and this is not something that we are imposing on Armenia, we are answering the strong desire expressed by Armenia to see if we can help them reach an agreement which would end, at least in many ways, thirty plus years of conflict," the US Secretary of State said.

The Lachin Corridor

Blinked also mentioned that he has been "pressing" Azerbaijan to re-open the Lachin Corridor "including as recently as this week".

Ever since 12 December last year self-proclaimed Azerbaijani eco-protesters have staged a protest on the Lachin Corridor that Armenia argues is tantamount to a "blockade" of Nagorno-Karabakh.

In a ruling on 22 February, the International Court of Justice in The Hague issued a binding ruling compelling Azerbaijan to "take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions". You can read more about the ruling here.

Armenia argues that Azerbaijan is not complying with the ruling, and on Monday (20 March) announced that they are "working" to take Azerbaijan to the United Nations Security Council over the issue.

Azerbaijan on the other hand insists that the situation on the Lachin Corridor does not constitute a blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh, instead arguing that various types of vehicles, including ambulances and humanitarian convoys, can pass freely, and that the road is open for humanitarian purposes.

Blinken speaks with Aliyev

Separately, on Tuesday (21 March), the US Secretary of State also held a phone call with the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev. 

According to the corresponding press releases, they discussed the situation on the Lachin Corridor, Blinken continued to offer "U.S. assistance in facilitating bilateral peace discussions with Armenia", and Aliyev "stressed that Azerbaijan was fully committed to the peace agenda".

source: with agencies
photo: Getty Images