Azerbaijan on Thursday refused to participate in normalisation talks with arch-foe Armenia that were planned in the United States this month over what it said was Washington’s “biased” position.
Baku and Yerevan have been locked in a decades-long territorial conflict over Azerbaijan’s Nagorno-Karabakh region, which Baku reclaimed in September after a lightning offensive against Armenian separatists.
Internationally mediated peace talks between the ex-Soviet republics have seen little progress but both countries’ leaders have said a comprehensive peace agreement could be signed by the end of the year.
“We do not consider it possible to hold the proposed meeting on the level of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia in Washington on November 20, 2023,” Baku’s foreign ministry said in a statement.
The move followed a hearing in the US House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday, where, the ministry said, Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien made “one-sided and biased remarks” about Azerbaijan.
O’Brien told the House Committee that “nothing will be normal with Azerbaijan after the events of September 19 until we see progress on the peace track.”
“We’ve cancelled a number of high-level visits, condemned (Baku’s) actions,” he added.
The Azerbaijani foreign ministry said: “Such a unilateral approach by the United States could lead to the loss of the United States’ mediation role.”
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Thursday that Yerevan’s “political will to sign, in the coming months, a peace agreement with Azerbaijan remains unwavering.”
Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev have held several rounds of talks under EU mediation.
But last month, Aliyev refused to attend a round of negotiations with Pashinyan in Spain, citing France’s “biased position.”
French President Emmanuel Macron and German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had been scheduled to join EU chief Charles Michel as mediators at those talks.
So far, there has been no visible progress in EU efforts to organise a fresh round of negotiations.