Given the scale of the needs of the people that the people of Nagorno-Karabakh are facing, today I am announcing that the United States will provide $11.5 million in humanitarian assistance.U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) chief Samantha Power speaking to reporters in Armenia. Power is one of two senior U.S. officials visiting Armenia since the ceasefire between Armenia and Azerbaijan was announced last week.
Quick Cliff Notes:
Azerbaijan = a predominately Muslim nation
Armenia = a predominately Christian nation
Background: The dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan – two countries that also border/are near Russia, Turkey, and Iran – is part of a decades-long conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh, an area that is inside Azerbaijan but mainly populated by Armenians. The two countries have been vying for control of the area ever since the Soviet Union – which they were both part of – collapsed in 1991. Periodically, fighting has erupted over this area leading to violence and thousands of deaths. A new conflict emerged recently with Azerbaijan demanding pro-Armenian forces and leadership leave the area as part of an “anti-terrorist” exercise. Just last week, Armenian and Azerbaijan forces reached a ceasefire that ended 24 hours of heightened tension and fighting. The ceasefire agreement included terms that Armenian forces would withdraw from Nagorno-Karabakh; residents are allowed to remain, though many are now fleeing.
Why It Matters: The risk of genocide; America calls the past persecutions of the Christian Armenians a genocide (a targeting of people due to their religion and beliefs). The simmering conflict between these two nations always raises concerns of a broader conflict with large countries, like Turkey, Iran, Russia and the West vying for influence because of the strategic geography and access to oil.
Top diplomats, USAID chief Samantha Power and State Department acting assistant secretary for Europe and Eurasian Affairs Yuri Kim, arrived in Armenia a day after ethnic Armenian’s began withdrawing from Nagorno-Karabakh. Meeting with senior Armenian government officials, Power discussed the humanitarian crisis caused by the conflict as tens of thousands of people are now seeking ways out of Nagorno-Karabakh and into Armenia.
by Emily Hooker, based in Texas