Trump says Nagorno-Karabakh conflict ‘easy’ to resolve

(Updated with Trump's announcement of the ceasefire agreement on Twitter in sixth paragraph; U.S. State Department's statement from paragraph 10)

U.S. President Donald Trump said on Sunday he would "straighten out" the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the disputed region Nagorno-Karabakh, should he get re-elected in November. 

Speaking at an election rally in New Hampshire, Trump said that the Armenians were "incredible people, they're fighting like hell" and claimed that he can solve everything between Armenia and Azerbaijan. “I call that an easy one," he said, comparing the conflict with the normalisation agreements between Israel and several Arab countries that were brokered by the United States.

This was the first time Trump spoke about the ongoing clashes in South Caucasus which erupted a month ago.

Later on Sunday, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced on Twitter that both Armenia and Azerbaijan had agreed to commit to a ceasefire at midnight. The foreign ministers from the warring nations flew to Washington on Friday to meet with Pompeo separately for de-escalation talks.

White House National Security Adviser Robert O'Brien had said earlier in the day that the negotiations spanned throughout the weekend and Azerbaijan was still resisting a ceasefire agreement, in an interview on TV news programme Face the Nation.

Trump congratulated both Armenian Prime Minister and Azeri President Ilham Aliyev for agreeing to adhere to the ceasefire.

Meanwhile, senior adviser to the OSCE Minsk Group Trey Lyons announced that the group’s co-chairs, the United States, Russia and France, will meet in Geneva on Oct. 29 with Armenia and Azerbaijan’s foreign ministers "to discuss, reach an agreement on and begin implementation" of steps necessary to achieve a peaceful settlement. 

Armenia and Azerbaijan fought a war over the breakaway region between 1988 and 1994 that killed some 30,000 people and displaced one million others. The countries agreed to a Russian-brokered ceasefire in 1994, but have failed to observe it since. Both sides have initiated clashes sporadically several times during nearly three decades of relative calm. The current round of fighting is the largest and deadliest since the 1994 truce.

U.S. State Department announced that the humanitarian ceasefire will take effect at 08:00 a.m. local time (12:00 a.m. EDT) on Oct. 26, 2020, on Monday.

The department’s statement was as follows, in full:

Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan and Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov met with Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun on October 24, 2020 and reaffirmed their countries’ commitment to implement and abide by the humanitarian ceasefire agreed in Moscow on October 10, which were reaffirmed in the statement issued from Paris on October 17, in accordance with the October 1, 2020 joint statement of United States President Donald J. Trump, French President Emmanuel Macron, and Russian President Vladimir Putin.  The humanitarian ceasefire will take effect at 08:00 a.m. local time (12:00 a.m. EDT) on October 26, 2020.  The United States facilitated intensive negotiations among the Foreign Ministers and the Minsk Group Co-Chairs to move Armenia and Azerbaijan closer to a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

People from the Armenian American community, which is believed to be about 1.5 million, have called for the president and Congress to condemn Azerbaijan for an outbreak of fighting last month in the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh that they view as part of their historic homeland.

Thousands of Armenian-Americans gathered outside the White House last week to protest the lack of U.S. action and urged Trump to speak up against Azeri and Turkish policies. 

On Oct. 14, Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden, Trump’s election rival called on the Trump administration to stop coddling Ankara and warn Turkey, along with Iran, to stay out of Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

"Turkey’s provision of arms to Azerbaijan and bellicose rhetoric encouraging a military solution are irresponsible," Biden said, in his first statement on the conflict.

The opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Ahval.