US senator seeks to end Azerbaijan aid after Nagorno-Karabakh offensive
The new head of the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee called Wednesday for an end to security aid to Azerbaijan after the country's forces seized back Nagorno-Karabakh from ethnic Armenian separatists.
"As the world continues to grapple with Azerbaijan's coordinated, intentional campaign of ethnic cleansing, we must both prioritize support for the Armenians who have been expelled as well as (hold) Azerbaijan accountable," Senator Ben Cardin said in a statement.
He called on the United States to halt security assistance as leverage to prevent Azerbaijan from forcibly seeking a land corridor inside Armenia to connect to its exclave of Nakhchivan.
Azerbaijan and its ally Turkey have hinted at designs on a land corridor to Nakhchivan - tied to Azerbaijan for a century but without a land border - in the wake of last month's lightning offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh that ended decades of control by ethnic Armenian separatists.
Azerbaijan's swift triumph over Artsakh is a major victory for Turkey's ambitions in the South Caucasus - but it poses strategic challenges for Russia and Iran, and moral dilemmas for Western powers 👇 https://t.co/3QoDnavOQ8— The New Arab (@The_NewArab) October 3, 2023
Tens of thousands of ethnic Armenian residents have since fled Nagorno-Karabakh, leading Armenia to allege ethnic cleansing. Mostly Muslim Azerbaijan denies the charge and says it will respect the rights of Armenians, who are historically Christian.
US assistance to Azerbaijan is already limited by Congress, which under a 1992 law has prohibited security aid. But American presidents have every year waived the restrictions, citing US national security interests.
A US government report last year said Azerbaijan received $164 million in US security assistance between 2002 and 2020.
Azerbaijan has close ties both with Turkey and Israel, with its oil wealth allowing it to ramp up its military in recent years.
Cardin took over last month from Senator Bob Menendez, a fierce critic of Turkey and Azerbaijan, who was indicted on corruption allegations.