US official: Russian arms impede Nagorno-Karabakh settlement

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton said Thursday that Russian arms supplies to both Azerbaijan and Armenia have hampered the settlement of their conflict over the region of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Speaking on a visit to the Armenian capital, Bolton told reporters that Russian arms sales to both countries have "clearly not contributed to the resolution of the dispute because of the enormous leverage it gives Russia over both parties."

Nagorno-Karabakh is a region of Azerbaijan that has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since a war there ended in 1994. International efforts to settle the conflict have stalled.

Russia has sought to maintain friendly ties with both Azerbaijan and Armenia, which remain locked in a conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. Russia has a military base in Armenia and provided the overwhelming bulk of its weapons, but it also has been the principal arms supplier for Azerbaijan.

Asked if the United States would review a ban on selling arms to the two countries, Bolton said Washington will consider the issue.

"We are Americans. We believe in competition as a spur to improvement," he said. "Our military equipment is better than the Russian in all cases. So I think this is something we should consider consistent with our statutory framework."

Russia, the U.S. and France have co-chaired the so-called Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe that has attempted to broker a peaceful Nagorno-Karabakh settlement.

Before traveling to Armenia, Bolton visited Russia and Azerbaijan this week.