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US warns Azerbaijan to end military operation

Secretary of State Antony Blinken called the attack on Nagorno-Karabakh “unacceptable”

A screen grab captured from a video shows smoke rising after Azerbaijan started ‘anti-terror activities’ in Nagorno-Karabakh, September 19, 2023 ©  Getty Images / Azerbaijani Defense Ministry

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken has called for “an immediate end to hostilities” by Azerbaijan against the ethnic-Armenian province of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azeri operation has been condemned by the EU, US, and Russia.

“Azerbaijan’s unacceptable military actions risk worsening the humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Blinken said in a statement on X (formerly Twitter) on Tuesday. “We call for an immediate end to hostilities and for direct dialogue.”

Earlier on Tuesday, an anonymous US official told Reuters that Blinken would hold talks with all sides in a bid to end the “egregious” outbreak of violence in the province.

Azerbaijan launched what it called “counter-terrorism measures” against the ethnically-Armenian province of Nagorno-Karabakh earlier on Tuesday. Baku claims that it is targeting a buildup of the Armenian military in the province, while Yerevan denies deploying units to Nagorno-Karabakh and has accused Azerbaijan of attempting to carry out the “ethnic cleansing” of the Armenian enclave.

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The Azeri operation has been condemned by the US, EU, and Russia, among other powers. Russia brokered a ceasefire between Baku and Yerevan when both sides fought over Nagorno-Karabakh in 2020, and maintains a contingent of peacekeepers in the province. Azerbaijan said that it informed Russia before launching its military operation, but Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova said on Tuesday that this warning came just “minutes before military action began.”

The US is not a formal ally of either Armenia or Azerbaijan, but has sold weapons to Baku since 2002, in exchange for access to the country as a launchpad for deploying troops to Afghanistan. These arms sales are a bone of contention for the sizable Armenian diaspora in the US, which authorities in Yerevan say numbers up to two million people.

Two of the US’ major NATO allies – France and Germany – have issued condemnations of Azerbaijan’s actions, with French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna calling the operation “illegal, unjustifiable, [and] unacceptable.” 

One NATO member, Türkiye, has come out in support of Azerbaijan. The Turkish Foreign Ministry stated that Azerbaijan “was forced to take measures it deems necessary on its sovereign territory.” 

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In the Armenian capital of Yerevan, protesters clashed with police outside government buildings. Opposition politicians and activists accuse Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of abandoning Nagorno-Karabakh when he said he would recognize Azeri sovereignty over the province earlier this summer. 

Azerbaijan has vowed to keep up the bombardment of Nagorno-Karabakh until Armenian-backed authorities there surrender and dissolve their government.

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