Azerbaijan's Aliyev scolds Blinken over U.S. backing for Armenia

Military parade of Azerbaijan's armed forces in Khankendi

BAKU (Reuters) - Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev told U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken in a call on Monday that recent American actions in support of Armenia had jeopardised U.S.-Azerbaijani ties, Baku said on Tuesday.

The two countries had enjoyed relatively cordial relations until Azerbaijani forces recaptured the largely ethnic Armenian-populated breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in a lightning offensive in September.

The United States provided diplomatic backing for Armenia, which had supported Karabakh's separatist authorities, and U.S. officials visited Yerevan in the days after the offensive.

In a statement, Aliyev's office said Aliyev had told Blinken that "the latest statements and actions taken by the U.S. have seriously damaged Azerbaijan-U.S. relations".

It said Baku had taken note of comments by Assistant Secretary of State James O'Brien during a congressional hearing that there was "no chance of business as usual" with Azerbaijan after the offensive in Karabakh.

However, it added that Aliyev and Blinken had agreed, in the interest of normalising ties, that O'Brien would visit Baku, and Washington would lift a ban on senior Azerbaijani officials visiting the U.S.

Baku's military victory in Karabakh prompted the exodus of almost all the territory's 120,000 ethnic Armenians. The United States and other Western countries have pledged aid to help Armenia cope with the influx.

Armenia, a traditional ally of Russia, has in recent months distanced itself from Moscow and sought closer ties with the West.

(Reporting by Nailia Bagirova in Baku; Writing by Felix Light in Tbilisi; Editing by Kevin Liffey)