Senior U.S. officials arrive in Armenia amid mass exodus from Karabakh
U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power and U.S. State Department Acting Assistant Secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim arrived in Armenia on Monday, after ethnic Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh began a mass exodus on Sunday following Azerbaijan's defeat of the breakaway region's fighters in a conflict dating from the Soviet era.
The U.S. Embassy in Armenia said the officials have arrived “to affirm U.S. support for Armenia’s sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, and democracy and to address humanitarian needs stemming from the recent violence in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“The United States continues to support Armenia as it advances a dignified and durable peace in the region. The United States is deeply concerned about reports on the humanitarian conditions in Nagorno-Karabakh and calls for unimpeded access for international humanitarian organizations and commercial traffic,” the embassy added.
Power will meet with senior government officials.
The Armenians of Karabakh, a territory internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan but previously beyond its control, were forced into a ceasefire last week after a 24-hour military operation by the much larger Azerbaijani military.
The Armenians are not accepting Azerbaijan's promise to guarantee their rights as the region is integrated. The Nagorno-Karabakh leadership told Reuters the region's 120,000 Armenians did not want to live as part of Azerbaijan for fear of persecution and ethnic cleansing.
The Armenian government said late on Sunday that a total of 1,050 people had crossed into the country from Nagorno-Karabakh. It was unclear when the bulk of the population might move to Armenia.
Armenia has prepared space for tens of thousands of Armenians from the region, including hotels near the border, though Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan says he does not want them to leave their homes unless it is absolutely necessary.
In 2020, after decades of skirmishes, Azerbaijan, backed by Turkey, won a 44-day Second Karabakh War, recapturing territory in and around Karabakh. That war ended with a Russian-brokered peace deal that Armenians accuse Moscow of failing to guarantee.