Menendez calls on Biden to support Armenia amid rising tensions with Azerbaijan
The top Democrat with oversight of U.S. foreign policy on Thursday called for the Biden administration to put its support behind Armenia in the face of rising tensions with Azerbaijan.
Sen. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), the chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, put his support behind allegations by Armenia that Azerbaijan had violated its borders and called on the Biden administration to “engage on this issue at the highest levels.”
“The violation of Armenia’s sovereign territory by Azerbaijani troops is a dangerous and illegal act of aggression that underscores the sustained threat that the Armenian people continue to face,” the senator said in a statement. “After my conversation with Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S. earlier today, it is clear that the United States, and the international community as a whole, must respond strongly to this incursion so Azerbaijan understands it will face serious consequences for its malign activities.”
Armenia on Wednesday accused Azerbaijan of launching an incursion into its territory, warning of rising tensions in the region as the two countries continue to grapple with fallout from an outbreak of fighting in October.
While a ceasefire was signed in November to end fighting over the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, tensions remain high.
Menendez called for the Biden administration to take an active stance on the side of Armenia to push back against “dictators”, calling out Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Turkey was accused of covertly sending fighters and providing military support to Azeri forces during the fighting in late 2020.
Russia holds a mutual defense treaty with Armenia but also exercises significant influence in the region, since the two countries formerly belonged to the Soviet Union.
Russia helped implement the November ceasefire.
“When Azerbaijan attacked the Armenian people last fall, the previous Administration failed to engage and left the door open for dictators like Aliyev, Erdogan, and Putin to decide the fate of the Armenian people,” Menendez said in his statement. “I urge the Biden Administration to engage on this issue at the highest levels to make clear that Azerbaijan must respect Armenia’s sovereignty and that further threats and aggressions are simply unacceptable.”
Armenia’s Foreign Ministry on Thursday said that its Foreign Minister Ara Aivazian spoke with Phillip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary for the Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs, and “stressed that tolerance of such encroachments on Armenia’s sovereignty by [the] international community bears threat of destabilization of the region.”
In phone call w/#US Assistant Secretary of State for European & Eurasian Affairs Philip Reeker, Acting FM @Aivazian_Ara stressed that tolerance of such encroachments on #Armenia‘s sovereignty by international community bears threat of destabilization of the region. pic.twitter.com/t44N2p2loX
— MFA of Armenia (@MFAofArmenia) May 13, 2021
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Biden administration last month notified Congress that it was extending a waiver allowing the delivery of U.S. military and security assistance to Azerbaijan. The waiver extension requires the secretary of State to certify that such assistance does not contribute to conflict in the region.
Updated Friday at 2:07 p.m.