ArmInfo. "We know, after months in which the Lachin road was blocked, where Azerbaijan was blocking passage of food and fuel along that road to the people inside Nagorno-Karabakh, we know from reports that the situation was, even before last week's military action - we knew, and we're hearing reports - that the humanitarian circumstances were extremely difficult for civilians inside Nagorno-Karabakh," USAID Administrator Samantha Power told a press conference in Yerevan, Armenia.
"Let me first share that I am in Armenia because President Biden asked me to travel here. This was not a pre-planned trip, this is a trip being taken because President Biden wanted me to come and deliver a message on his behalf, to the Prime Minister, which is that the United States supports Armenia's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democracy. And I feel privileged to have had the chance to pass that message, along with Assistant Secretary Kim, directly to the Prime Minister just before coming here today.
"Again, as the Administrator of USAID, my focus is on humanitarian needs right now. We know, after months in which the Lachin road was blocked, where Azerbaijan was blocking passage of food and fuel along that road to the people inside Nagorno-Karabakh, we know from reports that the situation was, even before last week's military action - we knew, and we're hearing reports - that the humanitarian circumstances were extremely difficult for civilians inside Nagorno-Karabakh.
"So we are working with our partners on the ground, who are now in a position, we hope in a permanent way, to be able to move food and medicine to those vulnerable people. As I indicated, we are also working very closely with the Armenian authorities who are welcoming people who have left Nagorno-Karabakh, and many of those people who have arrived today, we understand, and these are secondhand reports, are elderly, some have very specific conditions, many have vulnerabilities of other kinds. The American people and USAID want to, again, help all those who are stepping up to meet the needs of those individuals. And we are here to get a firsthand sense of what more we can do.
"With regard to assistance, the assistance that has been provided to Azerbaijan, as Assistant Secretary Kim made clear in her congressional hearing a couple of weeks ago, we are reviewing our assistance, and definitely in a volatile moment here. I want to take account of progress toward peace, and the extent to which, again, the commitments that have been made to the rights and dignity of individuals in Nagorno- Karabakh are being kept," Mrs Power said.
In response to a New York Times reporter's question that the U.S. made it absolutely clear that force is not acceptable in the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, but a week later, Azerbaijan launched the military assaults and it seems that Azerbaijan's commitment not use force passed with no real action from the United States, Mrs Power said:
"First, we are focused in the very, very immediate term, on the welfare of civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh, and those who have fled. And certainly, again, as USAID, we are intently focused on the humanitarian welfare of civilians, who in some cases have not been able, in most cases, have not been able to leave, or have not been able to get access to the kinds of provisions that for years they were able to access. And so we are very focused on that vulnerability, and as I personally, and as others in the U.S. government are able to, engage civilians who are coming into Armenia, we're going to learn a lot more in a hurry about the severity of those conditions, and what those individuals have gone through - causing them to leave Nagorno-Karabakh.
"Second, we have called for immediate, unimpeded, independent access to Nagorno-Karabakh, and that is a major priority right now, is to secure that access. I, again, talked in my own remarks about the importance of verification, but it goes beyond that. In any circumstance, where you have a military moving into civilian areas, particularly one where there is the kind of history that has existed here - that has transpired here, it's absolutely essential that eyes and ears, of independent bodies, neutral arbiters, are there, both to deter, and to document and hold accountable. And we know this firsthand, as the United States. As a country, when we have found ourselves in conflict in other countries, no matter what the intentions may be, it is absolutely critical to have a free press there on the ground, or to have independent monitors who can cast a light on the actions of not only whole militaries, but individuals who comprise those militaries. We have learned a lot. And that information is absolutely critical to informing accountability.
"So, that is where there is a lot of focus right now. You mentioned Assistant Secretary Kim's statement, that the use of military force was unacceptable - Secretary Blinken said the same thing as when military force was undertaken. And we're looking at what the appropriate response is. I already mentioned the review, as did Assistant Secretary Kim, the review of our security assistance and other forms of assistance. But I would not leap to any conclusions about American foreign policy or our reaction to the events that have just transpired.
"And then again, with regard to the future, both in our diplomacy and our diplomacy regionally, or bilateral diplomacy with Armenia and with Azerbaijan, we are making, again, very, very clear, as we did in the U.N. Security Council sessions, so many member states of the United Nations support for Armenia's sovereignty, territorial integrity, and democracy. And I'm not going to preview what the consequences would be of violating those precepts, but it's absolutely imperative that the world stand together now and stress the inviolability of those principles."
Asked to clarify her answers about the U.S. reviewing assistance, particularly whether she meant assistance to Azerbaijan, Mrs Power said:
"Let me say two things. First, we have in the context of the bilateral relationship with Armenia, we, USAID, have nearly tripled our assistance to Armenia over the last couple of years as a way of supporting economic opportunity, small businesses, and the democratic reform and institutional reforms that the government is trying to put in place. That is not just true of USAID. but more broadly, the partnership with the country of Armenia is expanding substantially reflective of deeper and deeper collaboration between our governments, which, of course, mirrors the deep people to people ties that exist, particularly, of course, with so many cherished Armenian Americans in the United States. We now have a stepped up partnership and a stepped up assistance relationship with the government and the people of Armenia, which I think is really noteworthy. And in some ways, because it has been gradually getting deeper and deeper, perhaps has gone - the extent of that increase, you know, has gone perhaps unnoticed or less commented upon, than it might have been.
"What I said in the context of Azerbaijan is undoubtedly, you know, we are looking at the broad scope of responses to recent events. And above all, we are very eager to see the ceasefire hold, to ensure that people are able to leave Nagorno-Karabakh if that's what they are choosing to do. But those who stay have their rights, their dignity, their property, respected and protected. And so again, I don't have anything to preview in terms of, you know, which tools the United States might employ, but you know, in circumstances such as those we - there are a vast array of tools at our disposal, and there are very high level in Washington discussions underway about what the appropriate actions are. But I really do again, want to underscore the importance of meeting immediate needs, and particularly ensuring that a broad coalition of countries stress just how critical and how urgent it is to get independent eyes and ears on the ground into Nagorno- Karabakh."
In response to a question concerning calls from the U.S. about support for Armenia's sovereignty and independence and, in this context, some real practical measures to ensure security guarantees and some expert assessments that in order to push Russia out of the region, Washington is ready to give up with the last Armenians, Mrs Power said:
"Our emphasis is on the U.S.-Armenian partnership and how to deepen that. And so you asked about specifics in terms of the manifestation of how that is going to get deepened in light of recent events. And, again, I'm not going to preview anything here, as this is - these deliberations are underway quite literally as we speak."
Aliyev and Erdogan are talking about Zangezour corridor voicing direct and indirect threats. And people in Armenia are concerned that a real war might start. As to the instruments the U.S. could use to restrain Azerbaijan and prevent it from starting a new war, Mrs Power said.
"So, understanding again, that in light of recent events, there's great skepticism that political talks can produce concrete outcomes, or there's great skepticism about trusting a political process, and I hear that, we hear that, and and we understand that. But when it comes to issues of access and connectivity, there is only one way to bring about the kind of stability that will unlock the economic potential, not only the people of Armenia, but the people of Azerbaijan as well. And that is to secure any such agreement on connectivity peacefully. And so that is our message. That is the message of all of our partners. It is certainly what the Armenian leadership here is pursuing. And, you know, again, President Aliyev of Azerbaijan is on record, in being - in supporting the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Armenia, just as the Prime Minister has been, and with that foundation, again, we're going to push, use our convening power to be as helpful as we can in facilitating that regional peace."
The full transcript of Samantha Power's press conference in Armenia is available here: https://www.usaid.gov/news-information/speeches/sep-25-2023-administrator-samantha- power-press-conference-armenia?fbclid=IwAR3G-_W_cvE- CgqZCKnfqKsuyTNs0clrSsHfb609GNYcBjSEjsrPnBZN6s4