Senior US officials arrived in Yerevan on Monday amid a mass Armenian exodus from Nagorno-Karabakh, a region that is at the centre of a decades-long conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
USAID administrator Samantha Power and Yuri Kim, acting assistant secretary of state for Europe and Eurasian affairs, were in Yerevan to “affirm US support for Armenia’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity and democracy, and to address humanitarian needs stemming from the recent violence in Nagorno-Karabakh”, the US embassy said in a Facebook post.
Amid spiralling tension between Yerevan and the Kremlin over the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis, Russia accused Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan of “unacceptable attacks” after he criticised his Moscow-led allies for failing to aid the country against Azerbaijan.
“The Yerevan leadership is making a huge mistake by deliberately trying to demolish Armenia’s multifaceted and centuries-old ties with Russia and making the country hostage to the geopolitical games of the West,” the Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The struggle for control of Nagorno-Karabakh, which has a largely Armenian population but is internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan, has killed tens of thousands and caused more than one million to become refugees, Bloomberg reported.
The region’s Armenian population declared independence as the Soviet Union collapsed and controlled the territory until Azerbaijan took part of Nagorno-Karabakh and reclaimed seven surrounding districts in a 2020 war with Yerevan that ended when Russian President Vladimir Putin brokered a ceasefire.
More than 6,600 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh had entered Armenia from Azerbaijan as of 5pm Monday local time, the Armenian government said, as local media reported long queues of vehicles at the border.
Officials from Baku and Armenian representatives from Nagorno-Karabakh held a second round of talks on Monday on integrating the territory into Azerbaijan as part of an agreement that ended last week’s fighting.
Nagorno-Karabakh said it would “completely disarm” its defence forces and accept rule by Azerbaijan under the accord, opening a new phase in one of the world’s most intractable territorial disputes.
The US diplomats were meeting government officials in Yerevan as Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev held talks with Turkish leader Recep Tayyip Erdogan.
They met in Azerbaijan’s exclave of Naxcivan, which borders Turkey, Armenia and Iran, as Mr Erdogan backs Baku’s demand for a transport corridor across southern Armenia to connect to the territory.
Many in Nagorno-Karabakh see little future there after decades of enmity between the two sides. Thousands displaced in the fighting are unable or unwilling to return to their homes.