Biden says Turkey must stay out of Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict

Greg Nash

Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden on Tuesday called for the Trump administration to demand Turkey stay out of the escalating conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over a contested territory. 

The former vice president also called on the administration to ask the opposing countries to de-escalate the situation. 

“With casualties rapidly mounting in and around Nagorno-Karabakh, the Trump Administration needs to call the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan immediately to de-escalate the situation. It must also demand others — like Turkey — stay out of this conflict,” Biden wrote on Twitter. 

The statement marks a sharp rebuke of Turkey from Biden hours ahead of the first debate of the 2020 presidential race. His statement is also a preview of how the Democratic nominee may confront Ankara should he win the election in November. 

Biden’s statement stands in sharp contrast to President Trump’s more restrained response on the outbreak of heavy fighting between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the State Department’s veiled reference to Turkey as an “external party” that threatens to exacerbate tensions. 

Trump is also known for his effusive praise of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan despite the Turkish leader’s aggressive behavior in international conflicts and against U.S. interests. 

Biden’s tweet was welcomed by the Armenian National Committee of America, according to director Aram Hamparian, who called for Trump to issue a similar statement.

“We’re following what the candidates say very closely. We’re encouraged by Vice President Biden calling out Turkey’s interference — Turkey is pouring fuel on the fire,” he said.

“We have yet to see that from President Trump and that’s certainly something that many Armenians around the country are taking notice of.” 

Turkey has taken a strong stance on the side of Azerbaijan amid open conflict with Armenia that broke out early Sunday in the contested mountainous area of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The territory, which falls within sovereign Azerbaijan but has been run by a majority of Armenians, has been in dispute between the two nations since the fall of the Soviet Union in 1991. 

The two countries have maintained a fragile ceasefire since 1994, though the most recent outbreaks of fighting have occurred in 2016 and in July.

The international community, including the United States, has called for a cessation of hostilities and a return to negotiations between Baku and Yerevan, although Erdogan has called for Armenia to withdraw from Nagorono-Krabach and has reportedly sent fighters to assist Azerbaijan.  

Both Armenia and Azerbaijan have blamed the other as the aggressor, with reports of dozens killed and hundreds wounded, including civilians. Observers have raised the alarm that the use of heavy weapons and drones are a worrying sign of a wider conflict that could draw in the international community. 

Biden’s call echoes other statements by Democratic lawmakers who are pushing for the Trump administration to halt military sales to Azerbaijan and demanding accountability for Turkish interference.

Trump said on Sunday that he was watching the situation “very strongly” and would work to try to stop the fighting. 

Negotiations for a larger peace deal are stalled under the Minsk Group, co-chaired by the United States, Russia and France and under the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. 

Tags 2020 Debates Armenia Azerbaijan Donald Trump election 2020 international policy International relations Joe Biden Russia Turkey United States

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