WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States lifted a ban on sales of weapons to regional rivals Armenia and Azerbaijan because of “positive developments,” the State Department said on Friday.
The two Caucasus countries have been on a “proscribed destinations list” for defense sales since July 1993 because of their armed conflict over the mainly ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.
“Effective March 29, 2002, all requests for licenses or other approvals for Armenia and Azerbaijan involving items covered by the U.S. Munitions List will no longer be presumed to be denied,” spokesman Philip Reeker said.
“Removing them from the proscribed destinations list will help deepen our military cooperation with both countries, which will contribute to peace and stability in the Caucasus,” he said.
“We believe there have been positive developments in Armenia and Azerbaijan and it is in our foreign policy and national security interests to remove them,” he added.
Reeker said the United States would continue to carefully examine any requests for weapons from the two states.
In January the United States lifted restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan, rewarding the government for its cooperation in the U.S. “war on terrorism.”