Armenian Assembly of America Urges United States to Resume Enforcement of Section 907 in Wake of Azerbaijan Military Offensive

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, in the Armenian Assembly of America’s (Assembly) letter
to United States Secretary of State John Kerry, Co-Chairmen Anthony
Barsamian and Van Krikorian stated that Azerbaijan cannot be trusted and
“must be held accountable for its egregious human rights violations.”
“President’s Aliyev and Erdogan are very much responsible for [the]
bloodshed and the failure to reach just peace,” the Assembly’s letter
continued.

The Assembly called for
Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act to be fully enforced. “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 emphasized.

“The Armenian Assembly
fully supports the governments of Armenia and Artsakh and their right to
self-defense as they confront this full scale and unprecedented assault
by Azerbaijan,” stated Barsamian and Krikorian. “We also embrace
yesterday’s statement by President Sargsyan to the Ambassadors of OSCE
countries.”

The Assembly letter to
Secretary Kerry also highlighted the need for real, effective U.S.
action and strengthening the OSCE Minsk Group peace process. “The
current situation demands much more than condemnation – a robust and
immediate response from the United States is needed to stop the
pattern,” the Assembly letter states.

Further, the Assembly
indicated that the Nagorno Karabakh Republic “should resume its place as
a negotiating party in the Minsk process and its officials be allowed
to travel to Washington and other countries freely.”

Barsamian and Krikorian
stated that Armenia and Karabakh “deserve our full support in defending
themselves” and recalled President Obama’s pledge to work “for a lasting
and durable settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict that is
agreeable to all parties, and based upon America’s founding commitment
to the principles of democracy and self-determination.”

“The Nagorno Karabakh
Republic has a right to defend its citizens and to live freely without
being subjected to Azerbaijan’s tyranny,” the Assembly letter states.

Earlier today, 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.

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.

Editor’s Note: The text of the Armenian Assembly of America’s letter to Secretary Kerry is below:

April 5, 2016

The Honorable John F. Kerry
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Kerry:

On
behalf of the Armenian Assembly of America, we are writing to request
more effective United States action in light of the military offensive
admittedly initiated by Azerbaijan with the support of Turkish military,
personnel, and equipment on April 2 against Armenia and the
Nagorno Karabakh Republic. The offensive started with the killing of a
12-year-old boy and continued with the gruesome mutilation of an elderly
Armenian couple.

We
are hopeful that the cessation of hostilities announced today will
hold. We were especially grateful to see the statement issued with the
Russian Foreign Minister that “It was agreed that Russia, the U.S. and
France, as co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, will step up their efforts
to foster a resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict…Sergey Lavrov
and John Kerry condemned attempts by certain ‘external players’ to whip
up the standoff around Karabakh.” We also fully support the statements
of President Sargsyan to the Ambassadors of OSCE countries yesterday and
the reactions of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.

This
is a time to strengthen the OSCE process. The Nagorno Karabakh Republic
should resume its place as a negotiating party in the Minsk process and
its officials should be allowed to travel to Washington and other
countries freely.

Increasingly
and without repercussion, Azerbaijan has flaunted the signed 1994
cease-fire agreement, targeting civilians in violation of international
law. You, Ambassador Warlick, and others involved in resolving this
armed conflict know full well that President Aliyev has intentionally
escalated the violence against innocent civilians as pressure for
Armenian concessions. In
RFE/RL reports
among others, Azerbaijan admitted to launching the offensive – which
came hours after President Aliyev’s meeting with you in Washington, D.C.
Such behavior must make it clear that Azerbaijan cannot be trusted to
honor its commitments and must be held accountable for its egregious
human rights violations.

In
the Assembly’s testimony before Congress and in our meetings with
Administration officials, we have repeatedly and consistently
highlighted Azerbaijan’s militarization, war rhetoric, and substantial
escalation of its cease-fire violations (see enclosed map), and urged
the United States to stop the false equivalency between Azerbaijan’s
actions and Armenians’ self-defense. The current situation demands much
more than condemnation – a robust and immediate response from the United
States is needed to stop the pattern. Presidents Aliyev and Erdogan are
very much responsible for this bloodshed and the failure to reach a
just peace. They have consistently used violence to distract their
publics and the international community from their own authoritarian
and criminal behavior. Armenia and Karabakh deserve our full support in
defending themselves.

For
over two years now, both Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh have been calling
for international monitors along the Line of Contact and for the
cease-fire framework to be respected, with Azerbaijan saying it will
not, and instead escalating its rhetoric and matching it with
frontline fighting and shelling. In yesterday’s
Wall Street Journal,
the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry stated that it has given “the order to
all troops, including rocket-artillery troops to be prepared to
deliver crushing blows” to Stepanakert, the capital of the Nagorno
Karabakh Republic. The
Washington Post
also reported that the Azeri Defense Ministry stated that its soldiers
“became shahids” – Muslim martyrs. We are deeply troubled by
Azerbaijan’s attempts to make this a religious conflict as well as
reports of Azerbaijan’s ties to ISIS.

The
United States took a principled stand against Azeri aggression with the
adoption of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, which stated that
no U.S. funds may be “provided to the Government of Azerbaijan until the
President determines, and so reports to the Congress, that
the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all
blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and
Nagorno-Karabakh.” Given Azerbaijan’s blatant violations and knowing of
your leadership with respect to Section 907 while serving as a United
States Senator, I urge you to fully enforce Section 907. 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 fullscale war.

We
also recall President Obama’s pledge to work “for a lasting and durable
settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict that is agreeable to all
parties, and based upon America’s founding commitment to the principles
of democracy and self-determination.” We concur. The Nagorno Karabakh
Republic has a right to defend its citizens and to live freely without
being subjected to Azerbaijan’s tyranny.

We
appreciate your attention to this critically important matter and
respectfully request a meeting to discuss concrete steps going forward.

Sincerely,

Anthony Barsamian

Co-Chairman

Van Z. Krikorian

Co-Chairman

Enclosure

About Armenian Assembly of America

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.

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