Congress, Assembly Urges White House to Implement Royce-Engel Proposals, Suspend U.S. Military Aid to Azerbaijan
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Yesterday, the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chairs Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) and Robert Dold (R-IL) sent letters to President Obama and the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs condemning the latest Azerbaijani attacks against Nagorno Karabakh and calling for a suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan.
The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) strongly supports the Armenian Caucus initiative and urges the United States to take a stronger stance against Azerbaijan and towards peaceful negotiations.
“We request that you condemn Azerbaijan’s aggression, suspend U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan, provide emergency relief aid to Nagorno Karabakh, and send a State Department fact-finding mission to both evaluate the destruction inflicted by Azerbaijan’s aggression and assess the humanitarian relief and reconstruction needs of Nagorno Karabakh’s affected civilian population,” the Pallone-Dold letter reads.
Addressed to the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee’s Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), the Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs expressed their opposition to providing U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan using American tax payer dollars. “We urge the suspension of military aid until its government ceases cross-border attacks, ends its threats of renewed war, and agrees to a settlement of regional conflicts through peaceful means,” the letter states.
“Rather than providing military aid to Azerbaijan we should be putting pressure on the country to cease its undemocratic policies,” the Co-Chairs suggested.
The Armenian Caucus letter echoes the Armenian Assembly’s April 5 letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry. Assembly Board of Trustees Co-Chairmen Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian urged the U.S. to resume full enforcement of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.
“There can be no U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan unless and until it ceases all military hostilities against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and agrees to a path for a peaceful and just resolution of the conflict. Anything less risks further escalation and full-scale war,” Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian stated in the Assembly letter.
Several Members of Congress also released statements this week condemning Azerbaijan’s military attacks that left over 50 dead, including a 12-year-old Armenian boy and an elderly Armenian couple who were killed execution-style. As of April 7, eleven Members of Congress expressed their concern and released statements on the recent attacks in Karabakh, including Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Robert Dold (R-IL) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), and David Valadao (R-CA). Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) also issued a statement on this matter.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) suggested that “U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan be cut off until it ceases its aggression, renounces violence, and commits to a purely peaceful resolution of the conflict.”
“I will continue to work with my colleagues to provide humanitarian assistance in Nagorno Karabakh and demand the suspension of US military aid to Azerbaijan until its government fully agrees to end cross-border attacks,” Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA) stated.
Prior to the Nuclear Security Summit, Members of Congress encouraged the U.S. to take the opportunity to meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and discuss a peaceful resolution for the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
“I joined dozens of my Democratic and Republican colleagues in March 2016, calling on President Obama and his administration to work with the two parties in advance of last week’s Nuclear Security Summit in Washington, D.C. to deescalate the ongoing situation,” Rep. Napolitano added.
Rep. Sherman said he previously urged the U.S. to use the opportunity provided by the summit to advance the peace process in Artsakh. Instead of peace, “it appears that Azerbaijan’s President Aliyev launched new attacks against Nagorno Karabakh,” he added.
Both of the letters, as well as many statements by Members of Congress, point out that Azerbaijan’s recent hostilities came almost immediately after meeting with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.
“Despite attending meetings in D.C. with Secretary Kerry and Vice President Biden last week, Azerbaijan President Ilham Aliyev does not appear committed to the peace process and I question his sincerity in trying to reach a resolution,” Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) said.
In his statement, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) pointed out that the attacks occurred just hours after Azerbaijan’s President returned from meetings in Washington, D.C. with Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry. Rep. Schiff urged the Obama Administration and the OSCE Minsk Group to “demand accountability on the part of Azerbaijan and continue to work toward implementing proposals that promote peace.”
On April 6, the governments of Azerbaijan and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic announced the cessation of hostilities and the Armenian Assembly of America hopes that the cease-fire holds.
On March 25, the Assembly submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs where he outlined nine key policy priorities for the Armenian American community in Fiscal Year (FY) 2017. Part of those priorities included full enforcement of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act; advancing the Nagorno Karabakh peace process; and not less than $5 million to Nagorno Karabakh, especially for the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center.
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 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.