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Pompeo to meet separately with Azerbaijan, Armenia top diplomats

Pompeo to meet separately with Azerbaijan, Armenia top diplomats

The Trump administration has invited Azerbaijan’s foreign minister to the United States for a meeting this week at the same time that Armenia’s foreign minister will be in Washington.

The visits come as the two countries engage in a new military conflict over the disputed area of Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Azerbaijan’s minister of foreign affairs, Jeyhun Bayramov, will meet with Secretary of State Mike PompeoMichael (Mike) Richard PompeoPompeo knocks Turkey in NATO speech: report The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Mastercard - Dem leaders back smaller COVID-19 relief bill as pandemic escalates US to temporarily withdraw some embassy personnel in Baghdad: report MORE on Friday, the country's foreign ministry said in a statement, with the Azerbaijani ambassador to the U.S. saying the invitation came from the State Department. 

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“The invitation came from the United States,” the ambassador, Elin Suleymanov, told The Hill. 

Politico first reported on Monday that the two ministers would meet with Pompeo on Friday.

Armenia’s ambassador to the U.S. had earlier told The Hill that preparations were being made for Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan’s visit to Washington and that Yerevan is pushing the United States to halt military assistance to Azerbaijan and sanction Turkey for its support of Baku.

Azerbaijan and Armenia are locked in a fierce, weeks-long battle along the border between Azerbaijan and the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave within Azerbaijan that is controlled by ethnic Armenians that refer to the territory as Artsakh. 

Armenians view Artsakh as part of their historical homeland in the region and self-governance as a right of self-determination. Azerbaijan views Armenia as perpetrating an illegal military occupation of their sovereign territory. 

The United States, France and Russia are co-chairs of the Minsk group that has for nearly 30 years tried to mediate a negotiated solution to the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, with the situation periodically devolving into armed conflict. 

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The most recent fighting, which broke out on Sept. 27, has inflicted hundreds of casualties on the Artsakh Defense Forces, backed by Armenia, and resulted in dozens of civilian deaths in Nagorno-Karabakh and in Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani military does not publicize its military deaths. 

Russia launched two attempts this month for a humanitarian ceasefire with both Azerbaijan and Armenia’s foreign ministers but that has failed to hold — with each side accusing the other of breaking the terms of the deal. 

Suleymanov told The Hill that the meeting with Pompeo is expected to address the stalled political negotiations over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh and not necessarily a cessation of hostilities in the region.  

“The issue is not the cease-fire, the issue is the resumption of substantive talks based on international law,” Suleymanov said. 

Azerbaijan’s foreign ministry said that the meeting with Pompeo will also include representatives from France and Russia in their capacity as co-chairs of the Minsk group.