WASHINGTON, DC — U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken struck an optimistic note about the prospect of normalization between Armenia and Azerbaijan in his remarks on May 4 at the closing session of what were marathon talks between the two countries’ top diplomats in Washington this week.
“A final agreement is within reach, and we’re determined to continue to help our friends achieve it,” Blinken said as he welcomed “tangible progress on a durable peace agreement” made by Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Azerbaijani counterpart Jeyhun Bayramov at the four-day negotiations conducted since May 1.
The top U.S. diplomat also acknowledged that the two sides “have discussed some very tough issues over the last few days.”
“I hope that they see – and I believe that they do, as I do – that there is an agreement within sight, within reach. And achieving that agreement would be, I think, not only historic, but would be profoundly in the interests of the people of Azerbaijan and Armenia, and would have very positive effects even beyond their two countries.
“I think the pace of the negotiations and the foundation that our colleagues have built shows that we really are within reach of an agreement. The last mile of any marathon is always the hardest; we know that. But the United States is here to continue to help both of our friends cross the finish line. And as I say, I think we’re very much within reach of that,” Blinken said according to a readout released by the U.S. Department of State.
The U.S. secretary of state described the leadership from both Armenia and Azerbaijan and the two countries’ foreign ministers as “inspiring.”
“None of this is easy, but the commitment, the determination to move forward, to deal with the remaining challenging issues is real. And we feel, coming out of these few days, that, as I said, we’ve made very tangible progress. A final agreement is within reach, and we’re determined to continue to help our friends achieve it,” Blinken said.
In a later statement released by the U.S. Department of State Blinken described Armenian-Azerbaijani bilateral peace talks and trilateral meetings in Washington as “intensive and constructive,” saying that the parties have made “significant progress toward addressing difficult issues.”
He said that both Armenia and Azerbaijan “demonstrated a sincere commitment to normalizing relations and ending the long-standing conflict between their two countries.”
The two sides agreed in principle to certain terms and have a better understanding of one another’s positions on outstanding issues, Blinken said.
He proposed the ministers return to their capitals “to share with their governments the perspective that, with additional goodwill, flexibility, and compromise, an agreement is within reach.”
Baku and Yerevan will continue to have the full support and engagement of the United States in their effort to secure a durable and sustainable peace, Blinken underscored.
Washington hosted Mirzoyan and Bayramov at a new State Department facility in Arlington, Virginia, a suburb of Washington.
Blinken said at the start of the meetings that dialogue between Yerevan and Baku is key to achieving lasting peace in the South Caucasus.
A joint statement issued by the parties after the talks said Mirzoyan and Bayramov and their teams “made progress in mutual understanding on some articles of the draft bilateral Agreement on Peace and Establishment of Interstate Relations.” The statement also noted that positions on a number of key issues remain different.
“The ministers presented their views on the current situation and expressed their positions on the existing problems related to the regulation of relations,” it said.
“The two ministers expressed their appreciation to the American side for hosting the negotiations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The parties have agreed to continue discussions,” the statement concluded.
In addition to meeting Blinken, the ministers also met with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan.