No:654/23, Commentary in response to groundless remarks by U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Europe hearing
The one-sided and biased remarks made by the U.S. Assistant Secretary of State James O’Brien at the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Subcommittee on Europe hearing on November 15, 2023, are counterproductive, baseless, and unacceptable.
We consider the hearings and delivered remarks as a blow to the Azerbaijan-U.S. relations in bilateral and multilateral formats. The groundless accusations voiced against Azerbaijan are irrelevant and undermine peace and security in the region.
While touching upon the latest situation in the region and circumstances that led to the 19-20 September counter-terrorism measures by Azerbaijan, the State Department representative ignored to mention the major challenge that led to such an action by Azerbaijan, namely the illegal stationing of more than 10,000 Armenian armed forces in violation of the norms and principles of international law, and the of Trilateral Statement of November 10, 2020. Furthermore, the Azerbaijani side has repeatedly stated in all the meetings, including with the U.S. side that the mentioned forces are a source of threat in the region, and had urged an immediate withdrawal of these forces.
Moreover, the U.S. side while mentioning the importance of taking forward the peace process, forgets to mention that for more than two months Armenia has not been responding to Azerbaijan’s proposals on the peace agreement, thus delaying the process. Despite the fact that it was Azerbaijan who initiated the peace process with basic principles and emphasized the necessity of signing the peace agreement, including the need for demarcation/delimitation of borders and opening up the communication lines, the Assistant Secretary of State refrained from noting that the efforts in these areas were undermined and derailed by Armenia for the last three years. Unlike Armenia, Azerbaijan has always respected the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Armenia, that was also reconfirmed in the Prague meeting in October 6, 2022.
Azerbaijan, not only following the 2020 44-Day War, but also for almost 30 years of occupation of its lands, has been committed to the norms and principles of international law and the peace process. On the contrary, the U.S. side being a mediator has never urged Armenia, which was the aggressor and a destabilizing source in the region, to act in line with international law and to withdraw from the territories of Azerbaijan and to end the occupation, which lays a responsibility on the U.S. side as well. Additionally, it was also an accountability of the U.S. side that it has not prevented the double-standard approach, while being a side supporting the separatist regime, was the only country to officially fund this regime and facilitated on a regular basis visits of its representatives as well as meetings with the officials in the United States.
The United States, being a non-regional country, through its actions and statements is undermining transportation security efforts of the regional countries. It is well known to the U.S. side that Armenia has not fulfilled its obligations arising from paragraph 9 of the 2020 Tripartite Statement, which led Azerbaijan to decide to build alternative roads. It is the sovereign right of Azerbaijan to agree with neighboring countries on how to build communication lines, which also includes an agreement with Iran related to a route to its Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic. Against this backdrop, Azerbaijan also reconfirms the priority of the “3+2” format (Azerbaijan-Armenia-Türkiye-Russia-Iran) for the security of the region. Therefore, any comments that undermine these efforts are inappropriate.
With regard to remarks by James O’Brien about the waiver to the 907 Section, it seems that the U.S. side is again repeating the same mistake it made in 1992, when Azerbaijan was sanctioned with this amendment, despite being a state who faced aggression and occupation. It was also the U.S. side who has decided to waive the 907 Section in 2001, when Azerbaijan has supported the U.S. counter-terrorism efforts worldwide following 9/11 attacks. It was Azerbaijan, who extended a helping hand to the U.S. side by opening up its air space routes, the Northern Distribution Network, and its logistics capabilities. It was Azerbaijan who was among the first nations who fought shoulder to shoulder with the U.S. side in Afghanistan. Azerbaijan was also the last partner nation to leave Afghanistan. Therefore, it turns out that the U.S. side has always considered the support of Azerbaijan as occasional, while it should be reminded that the history has always repeated itself. Such an indifferent action by the U.S. side not to waive the 907 Section is an ill-disposed step toward Azerbaijan.
Additionally, the remarks that “Azerbaijan’s use of force eroded the trust and raised doubts regarding Baku’s commitment to a comprehensive peace with Armenia” have no value bearing in mind that it was Azerbaijan who was the victim of aggression and of the use of force for almost 30 years. Azerbaijan once again underlines that, in line with Article 51 of the UN Charter, it had the legitimate right to use force to defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity.
Concerning the statement that the U.S. side has canceled high-level bilateral meetings and engagements, which were initiated by the U.S. side with Azerbaijan, and “there cannot be “business as usual” in our bilateral relationship,” it should be noted that the relations could not be one-sided. Consequently, the same approach will be applied equally by Azerbaijan. In these circumstances, we consider the possibility of high-level visits from the United States to Azerbaijan inappropriate as well.
Moreover, such a unilateral approach by the United States could lead to the loss of the mediation role of the United States. Under these circumstances, it is important to note that we do not consider it possible to hold the proposed meeting on the level of the Foreign Ministers of Azerbaijan and Armenia, in Washington on November 20, 2023.
International law norms and principles have always been a priority for Azerbaijan in its foreign policy. Azerbaijan will always act in line with its international obligations. At the same time, Azerbaijan will resolutely and adequately address all the negative steps against its national interest.