BAKU, Azerbaijan (RFE/RL) – On September 22, the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry called a recent visit to the Artsakh Republic by three US lawmakers a “provocation” and said it had blacklisted them, Russian news agency Interfax reported.
Earlier in the week, Azerbaijan’s state-run APA news agency said the ministry had threatened to blacklist the three members of the U.S. House of Representatives. During their visit to Armenia, Frank Pallone, David Valadao, and Tulsi Gabbard all made a side trip to Artsakh and met with various officials.
“Pallone, Valadao, and Gabbard paid an illegal visit to the occupied Azerbaijani territories, thus breaching Azerbaijani law,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Hikmet Hajiyev told Interfax. “All three are added to the list of undesirable persons in Azerbaijan.”
The legislators’ visit was “a provocation aimed at undermining efforts of the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, including the United States, in settling the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” he told Interfax.
While in Artsakh, the U.S. legislators, who are members of the U.S. Congressional Armenian Caucus, met with Nagorno-Karabakh legislators and visited the Shushi Arts College and a cathedral.
Pallone said the legislators’ goal was to learn and educate the American public about the region.
“We try to learn about the military situation on the border and what measures are being taken to eliminate the consequences of the April war,” Artsakh Press quoted Pallone as saying. He was referring to a sharp uptick in violence in the region that occurred in April.
“One of the goals of our work is to contribute to the activity of the OSCE Minsk Group, and we believe that the people of Artsakh should have the right to self-determination and have security mechanisms,” Artsakh Press quoted Pallone as saying.
Representatives Gabbard and Pallone traveled to Artsakh on September 20, while Rep. Valadao was in Artsakh a few days prior. During his visit, Rep. Valadao reviewed the life-saving HALO Trust de-mining programs that he helped fund as a leading member of the House Appropriations Committee.