YEREVAN — Philip Reeker, the acting assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs, arrived in the Armenian capital late on Wednesday from Baku where he met with President Ilham Aliyev and other Azerbaijani officials.
In Yerevan he held a meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday. Welcoming the high-ranking US diplomat, Pashinyan said Reeker’s visit was a good opportunity to discuss the U.S.-Armenian agenda and prospects of bilateral relations.
Pashinyan used the opportunity to thank President Joe Biden for the official recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide saying this will contribute to maintaining stability and security in the region.
Pashinyan noted that the recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide was an important factor in the regional security, since the security challenges of the Armenian people have not changed over the past 100 years. He said the 44-day war against Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) last autumn showed that the same actors who took part in the organization and implementation of the Armenian Genocide took part in this war as well.
Reeker noted that this was his first visit to Armenia and he was glad to discuss bilateral relations with his Armenian counterparts. He conveyed to Nikol Pashinyan the greetings of US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, confirming his readiness to develop partnership with Armenia and help it with democratic reforms.
The two men also spoken about the situation in the region. Both sides noted the importance of the role of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and the need to take steps to defuse tensions.
“As we made very clear in statements from Washington, we would like to see both parties pull back to positions, relocate to where they were on May 11,” Reeker told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service after meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and senior Armenian diplomats.
He said the troop disengagement is essential for preventing shootouts and other violent incidents at border sections where Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers have been facing off against each other for the past month. It should be followed by a demarcation of the long and mountainous frontier, he said, adding that Washington is ready to provide “technical expertise” for that purpose.
The State Department similarly urged both sides to “return to their previous positions and cease military fortification of the non-demarcated border” in a statement issued on May 27. A department spokeswoman said earlier that Baku should “pull back all forces immediately and cease further provocation.”
Pashinyan proposed on May 27 that Armenia and Azerbaijan withdraw their troops from the disputed border areas and let Russia and/or the United States and France, the two other countries co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group, deploy observers there. He also called for the launch of a process of “ascertaining border points” supervised by the international community.
Asked whether the U.S. supports the idea of an observation mission, Reeker said: “The talk of some sort of a peacekeeping mechanism or observers has long been part of the co-chair process. For many, many years that’s been discussed.”
According to an Armenian government statement, Pashinyan told Reeker that Baku must withdraw its forces from Armenia’s “sovereign territory” and unconditionally free all Armenian soldiers and civilians remaining in Azerbaijani captivity seven months after a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the war in Karabakh.
“I have expressed concern, as has the United States government repeatedly, over the need to have all prisoners, all detainees freed and returned home,” Reeker said in this regard, commenting on his talks in Yerevan and Baku.