On November 27, U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken held a pivotal phone conversation with Ilham Aliyev, President of the Republic of Azerbaijan. The call was steeped in diplomatic tension as President Aliyev expressed his disquiet over recent U.S. actions believed to strain Azerbaijan-U.S. relations.
Airing of Grievances
At the core of Aliyev's grievances were comments made by U.S. Deputy Secretary of State James O'Brien during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing on November 15. The Azerbaijani president rejected O'Brien's remarks about his country, dismissing them as biased and unreflective of the actual situation. This comes on the heels of a U.S. announcement suspending high-level bilateral meetings and contacts with Azerbaijan, a move that spurred Azerbaijan to cancel high-level visits from the U.S. in response.
A Step Towards Normalization
In an effort to mend fences, Blinken suggested a visit to Azerbaijan by O'Brien in December to help normalize relations. Aliyev agreed to the proposal, but with a caveat - the U.S. would have to lift its travel ban on senior Azerbaijani officials post the visit. Blinken acquiesced to this demand, marking a potential step towards easing the diplomatic tensions.
Armenia Peace Treaty Talks
The phone call wasn't just limited to bilateral issues. The leaders also discussed the ongoing peace treaty negotiations with Armenia. Aliyev expressed frustration at Armenia's 70-day delay in responding to Azerbaijan's proposals, perceiving it as an attempt to stall the process. With a border delimitation commission meeting between Azerbaijan and Armenia scheduled for November 30, the stakes are undoubtedly high and the world watches with bated breath.