Washington, D.C. - The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) welcomed a bipartisan letter from the Armenian Caucus leadership, spearheaded by Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), directly addressed to President Biden regarding his upcoming meeting with Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, on Monday, June 14, 2021 at the NATO Summit in Brussels, Belgium.
The letter urged President Biden to use the tête-à-tête to address the Erdoğan regime's "direct military and economic support of Azerbaijani aggressions against Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Armenia."
The letter continued: "A clear statement must be sent to Erdoğan and his ally, Azerbaijani President Ilhan Aliyev, that the United States is imminently prepared to withhold security aid and implement targeted economic sanctions unless Azerbaijani forces are removed from Armenian territory and all remaining Armenian prisoners of war and civilian captives are released from Azerbaijani custody."
During the 44-day war waged by Azerbaijan against the Armenian people last Fall, both Erdoğan and Aliyev violated - and continue to violate - international law, with the aid of "Turkish-backed foreign mercenaries, many alleged to have ties with internationally recognized terrorist groups, Bayraktar TB2 strike drones that utilize American components and technology, and heavy weaponry, including the potentially illegal use of cluster and white phosphorus munitions."
The lack of accountability has only "emboldened Erdoğan and Aliyev" as Azerbaijan continues to hold an estimated 200 Armenian detainees and prisoners of war, who are being used as "bargaining chips for territorial negotiations in contravention of international human rights law."
In efforts to further destabilize the region, Azerbaijani forces have "illegally crossed international borders, including in the last month, threatening the territorial sovereignty of Armenia along with the lives and livelihoods of civilians in those regions."
Instead of participating in negotiations under the auspices of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs aimed at a lasting and fair resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Aliyev's moves, with the "full-throated support of Erdoğan are calculated to test international willingness to use our economic and diplomatic influence to restrain regional aggressors."
President's Biden's upcoming meeting, however, can be an opportunity to "demonstrate the United States’ commitment to fostering democracies throughout the world and our willingness to stand up for human rights, especially in Armenia and Artsakh." It is also an opportunity for President Biden to reiterate his "demand" from last year that Turkey stay out of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and work "to prevent interference by third parties, including nation-states like Turkey."
The letter concludes: "Without strong American leadership, Turkey and Azerbaijan will continue to violate human rights and undermine democracy while destabilizing the region. The United States must make clear that there are consequences for these hostile activities."
"The Administration's meeting with President Erdoğan at the NATO Summit allows the U.S. to exert more pressure on that regime's aggressive and expansionist policies in the South Caucasus and in the Middle East," said Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. "We commend Congressman Pallone and the Armenian Caucus leadership for this timely letter."
Joining Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) on the letter are fellow Caucus leaders Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Adam Schiff (D-CA).
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.