The State Department is tracking the possibility that Azerbaijan could soon invade southern Armenia in the coming weeks, Secretary of State Antony Blinken warned a group of lawmakers, Politico reported Friday citing two people familiar with the conversation.
In a telephone call on October 3, members of Congress pressed Blinken on possible measures against Aliyev in response to his country’s invasion of Artsakh in September, said the two people, who were granted anonymity by Politico to discuss the call.
Blinken told the lawmakers that the State Department was looking into ways to hold Azerbaijan accountable. One such step, according to Politico, is not renewing the waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which bans military assistance to Azerbaijan.
Blinken expressed confidence about ongoing diplomatic talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan to the Democratic lawmakers, among them representatives Nancy Pelosi and Anna Eshoo of California, and Frank Pallone of New Jersey.
Pelosi and Eshoo last week called for U.S. sanctions on Azerbaijan in a letter to President Biden, the Armenian National Committee of American reported on October 3.
In the Congressional letter, led by Eshoo and Pelosi, a bipartisan group of lawmakers condemned Azerbaijan’s “unprovoked military offensive” and “cruel nine-month blockade” of Artsakh, which “left the region’s Armenian population with no option but to flee, fearing for their future under Azerbaijan’s brutal authoritarian rule.”
“It is clear that our country’s response to this crisis has not been commensurate with the scale of the devastation. We believe the United States must make clear to Azerbaijan that its unprovoked aggression against Artsakh is unacceptable and will be met with an appropriate response,” the members of Congress said in the letter.
The warning from the State Department comes as both Baku and Ankara have been ramping up the pressure on Yerevan to open a land link between Azerbaijan and Nakhichevan through Armenia—the so-called “Zangezur Corridor.”
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Wednesday that the threats amounted to territorial claims.
“In Armenia, this is perceived as territorial claims and a demand for an extraterritorial corridor,” Pashinyan said.
President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan told the European Council President Charles Michel in a phone call last week that he intends to take back eight villages that he said were being “occupied by Armenia.”
That threat was made weeks after Azerbaijan launched a large-scale attack on Artsakh, forcing the displacement of more then 100,000 Artsakh residents—what many are calling an systematic ethnic cleansing campaign.
Aliyev has said “we will be implementing the Zangezur Corridor, whether Armenia wants it or not.”
French Foreign Minister Catherine Colonna told the French Senate on Wednesday that Azerbaijan planned and organized the exodus of more than 100,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh.
“No matter how it tries to portray the situation, yes, Azerbaijan planned and organized the exodus of more than 100,000 Armenians from Nagorno-Karabakh. This is a crime that cannot go unpunished,” Colonna said Wednesday.
Politico said that two additional people confirmed that a Blinken briefed member of Congress on the situation in Azerbaijan, but did not provide details.
In a statement to Politico, the State Department declined to comment on the call, but emphasized the department’s commitment to “Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity” and resolving conflict through “direct talks.”
Since the briefing, Pallone, the Democrat from New Jersey, has said publicly that he is worried Azerbaijan could invade soon.
“Aliyev is moving forward with his objective to take Southern Armenia,” Pallone said in a post on X on Wednesday, arguing that “his regime is emboldened after facing little consequences” for invading Nagorno-Karabakh.