Response to Blinken and Aliyev’s meeting; calls on U.S. to recognize Az rights

“Secretary Blinken meets with Azerbaijani President, as U.S. policy toward S. Caucasus creates chill,”

Rachel Brooks

April 28, 2021 

Image credit: “Joe Biden” by Gage Skidmore is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Above, U.S. President Joe Biden’s early days in office overlapped with the end of the Karabakh conflict, and the transition to a peace process. His decision to declare the Armenian Massacres of 1915 as a “genocide” came at a time of raw diplomatic post-conflict effort, and elicited a mixed response. The Azerbaijani community responded by asking for the Biden administration to likewise recognize the genocidal massacres of their WWI history and Karabakh War history, as well as continued human rights issues of the present. Now, in the wake of this choice, Secretary Blinken has discussed the “opportunities” of U.S.-Azerbaijan relations moving forward. 

The U.S. Secretary of State Anthony Blinken stated on April 28 that he had met with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to discuss the continued relationship of the United States and Azerbaijan. 

“Good opportunity to speak with Azerbaijani @presidentaz Ilham Aliyev today and emphasize the importance of our bilateral partnership. I also conveyed our support for the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs’ efforts to achieve a lasting political settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” said Blinken, via his Twitter, on April 28 at 1:31 pm. 

Blinken’s statements were met with the response that noted the perceived insignificance of the OSCE-Minsk Group, as the Karabakh conflict came to a determined close. Responders argued that, with Azerbaijan’s liberation of lands under Armenian occupation for nearly 30 years, the OSCE’s role as a conflict mediator was nullified. 

 

This comes mere days on the heels of U.S. President Joe Biden’s decision to use unequivocal terms in defining the Ottoman-Tsarist World War I conflict ethnic cleansings of Armenians from Anatolia as a “genocide,” in a move that was regarded as a “historical” mistake by Turkish and Azerbaijani leadership and historians, and led to diplomatic backlash.  This statement was followed by Dashnak demonstrations against the Azerbaijani community, including the hanging of an effigy from a makeshift gallows draped in an Azerbaijani flag at a Armenian political rally demonstration.

As Blinken signaled his announcement, the Azerbaijani community responded. Their highest priority, said Turan Yusubov, Azerbaijani Academy of Public Administration, was for the U.S. to pressure Armenian to give over landmine maps. 

Nasimi Aghayev weighed in on other actions of the new Biden Administration as it comes to terms with the complexity of U.S. diplomacy following the Karabakh conflict.

 

“Currently, the most worrying issue for the Azerbaijani society is the map of mines. We would like to see US pressure on Armenia in this regard. It may soften relations after the recent “genocide” scandal,” said Yusubov.

Other Blinken post responders called on the Biden administration to recognize the Khojaly massacre of 1992, as well as hate crimes directed at Azerbaijanis and Turks by the Armenian community in the United States. They also called on Blinken to recognize the ethnic cleansing and displacement of Azerbaijanis from eastern Armenia and Karabakh in the late 80s. 

Responders cited front-page headlines of The Sunday Times in 1992 that recalled the massacre of Azerbaijanis in the mountains between Khojaly and Agdam. 

“Armenian soldiers massacre hundreds of fleeing families. .shot and bayoneted more than 450 Azeris, many of them women and children, who were fleeing an attack on their town…possibly thousands missing and feared dead,” wrote The Sunday Times. 

Others noted reports from The Irish Times that had detailed the grisly massacre of Azerbaijani civilians in Khojaly, a strategic move of the Armenian forces orchestrated by ASALA leader Monte Melkonian.

A scan of the edition of The Sunday Times recording the Khojaly massacre. 

The Biden administration’s policy toward the Armenian massacres of 1915 has elicited a response from other demographics of the Caucasus community that consider the decision to deviate from the unbiased approach of the World War I pogroms, which was the policy of previous presidents. The toll has its diplomatic consequences in the region, as the response poured in. 

In a recent interview with the American Pigeon, Dr. Ali Demirdas, an expert on U.S.-Turkish relations, noted the belief that U.S.-Turkish relations were at an all-time low. 

“I believe the American and Turkish relations have hit rock bottom,” said Dr. Demirdas. 

“What will happen in the near future will depend on how Ankara reacts to it. There is some sense of silence in Ankara now. It is either a sign of inaction or calm before the storm.” 

He noted that, while he believes inaction is more likely, the offense may go deep enough to lead to greater issues between the two nations. 

“After Mr. Erdogan’s phone call with Biden on April 23rd, I am more inclined toward inaction. However, a storm is quite possible. Turkey has in the past shut down American bases on its soil and expelled military personnel when relations were strained. Other options may be a comprehensive military operation against the proxy YPG in Syria, the inclusion of northern Cyprus in Turkey, refusing passage of American ships into the Black sea, even annexing Mosul and Kirkuk on terror (PKK) grounds.”