Prime Minister Binali Yıldırım slammed members of U.S. Congress on Thursday for meeting with the so-called leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenians.
U.S. congressmen should hold Armenia accountable for its crimes in Nagorno-Karabakh rather than meeting with occupiers and receiving a so-called "medal of gratitude" from them, Yıldırım said, speaking to reporters in Baku, Azerbaijan.
On Wednesday, a group of eight U.S. congressmen met in Washington's Capitol building with Bako Sahakyan, Nagorno-Karabakh's so-called leader, and accepted "medals of gratitude." The congressmen, including Sen. Jack Reed, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce, ranking Democrat Eliot Engel, Representatives David Cicilline, Jim Costa, Brad Sherman, Adam Schiff, and David Valadao, are known for supporting the occupation.
"Though many international organizations such as the U.N. and OSCE [Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe] accept this injustice and have urged to fix this issue, they failed to take necessary steps on the issue," Yıldırım said, speaking at the 6th Global Baku Forum in Azerbaijan.
Nagorno-Karabakh is officially part of Azerbaijan. Baku and Yerevan have feuded over the Nagorno-Karabakh region since Armenian separatists seized the territory in a war that claimed some 30,000 lives in the early 1990s and ended in a frail 1994 truce. Efforts to negotiate a settlement have failed, and frequent clashes have continued.
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev also underlined the necessity of global peace and security. He stated that the purpose of the global forum was to strengthen stability, security and coexistence. Regarding the conflict with Armenia, Aliyev said, "Nagorno-Karabakh is our ancient land. For centuries, Azerbaijanis lived in these territories. Now, in our occupied territories everything is destroyed, our historical monuments, graves and religious monuments, everything is destroyed."
"This is also genocide against our culture. The conflict resolution must be based on international law and UNSC resolutions [...] Unfortunately, these resolutions are not implemented and no sanctions were imposed on Armenia," he added. The president urged for the end of the "status quo" in Nagorno-Karabakh and added that nations can only have peace and prosperity if they are independent.
Azerbaijan and Armenia remain in dispute over the occupied Karabakh region. Nagorno-Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991 with Armenian military support, and a peace process has yet to be implemented.