By Daphne Psaledakis
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senior Biden administration officials arrived in Azerbaijan on Wednesday amid a humanitarian crisis and an exodus of tens of thousands of people after Azerbaijan took back control of Nagorno-Karabakh in a lightning offensive last week.
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power, joined by U.S. State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim, will raise the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh and the importance of Azerbaijan following through with its commitments in a meeting with President Ilham Aliyev.
Power “will also address the prospects for a durable and dignified peace between Azerbaijan and Armenia, based on mutual respect for each others’ territorial integrity and sovereignty,” USAID said in a statement.
The trip to Azerbaijan follows a visit to Armenia earlier this week, where Power said Washington would stand in solidarity with Armenia and that it was essential the international community gained access to Karabakh, amid reports of unknown numbers of people being injured and requiring evacuation, or lacking food and other essentials.
The Armenians of Karabakh – part of Azerbaijan that had been beyond Baku’s control since the 1991 dissolution of the Soviet Union – began fleeing this week after their forces were routed in the operation by Azerbaijan’s military.
The Armenians are not accepting Azerbaijan’s promise to guarantee their rights as the region is integrated. The Nagorno-Karabakh leadership told Reuters the region’s 120,000 Armenians did not want to live as part of Azerbaijan for fear of persecution and ethnic cleansing.
Aliyev has pledged to guarantee the safety of Karabakh’s Armenians but said his “iron fist” had consigned the idea of the region’s independence to history.
(Reporting by Daphne Psaledakis; Editing by David Holmes)