WASHINGTON, June 13, 2016 /PRNewswire/ --
In response to a petition which called on the Obama administration "to assist in the liberation of the Azerbaijani provinces occupied by Armenia," the White House stressed the importance of "the return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijan's control."
In its reply, the White House further urged Armenia and Azerbaijan "to demonstrate restraint and enter into an immediate negotiation on a comprehensive settlement," which would include "a determination of Nagorno-Karabakh's status."
Elkhan Suleymanov, the President of the Association for Civil Society Development in Azerbaijan who initiated the petition, welcomed the response but expressed disappointment about its "vague and noncommittal language."
He pointed out that the United States is one of five permanent members of the UN Security Council as well as co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, the mediators also consisting of Russia and France, which has made "no progress towards the liberation of our occupied territories," as the petition stated.
"We had hoped for an explicit endorsement by the White House of the recent resolution by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), calling for the immediate withdrawal of Armenia's forces from the occupied territories," Suleymanov said, adding, "sadly, that did not happen."
Suleymanov said he appreciated the White House statements that the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh should be returned to Azerbaijan's control and that it is not supporting a separatist solution for Nagorno-Karabakh. "About the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh, we note this may be indeed determined when it comes to the level of local autonomy, as it is for instance the case in many European countries. Nagorno-Karbakh is and will always be part of Azerbaijan."
The Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding provinces were occupied by Armenia during the post-Soviet power vacuum. Fighting erupted again in April, resulting in hundreds of casualties. In addition to PACE, the United Nations, European Parliament and the OSCE have all called for the immediate and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian troops from the Azerbaijani territories.
The petition, which received more than triple the number of signatures needed to secure a response from the White House, also called on the Obama administration "to assist in the prevention of a humanitarian catastrophe in the region" because of the dangers posed by the neglected Sarsang dam, which is located in the Armenian-occupied territory.
In its response, the White House noted that it will "continue to facilitate discussions related to humanitarian issues" and that technical experts will inspect the dam and water management.
SOURCE Azerbaijan Monitor