Congressional Group Concerned Over Clinton Aliyev Meeting

WASHINGTON–DC–A bipartisan group of more than sixty Members of Congress joined with Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Edward Porter (R-Ill.) in voicing serious reservations about President Clinton’s meeting with former KGB General and current human rights violator–President Gaidar Aliyev of Azerbaijan–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

"We would like to thank Congressmen Pallone and Porter for their principled leadership and all those who supported this effort to reaffirm the fundamental commitment of the American people to a freely negotiated settlement which respects Karabakh’s right to security and self-determination," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

In their letter–dated July 31–Representatives reminded the President of Aliyev’s "long record of human rights violations dating back to his four decades as an official of the Soviet KGB."

They pointed out that "during the 1960’s–[Aliyev] orchestrated the depopulation of Armenia’s from their homes in Nakhichevan." More recently–they explained that "since his return to power through a military coup in 1993–President Aliyev has suppressed democracy and committed widespread violations of human rights–which have been documented by the State Department."

The signatories also expressed their concerns about the negative regional implications of Aliyev’s visit–arguing that his invitation "threatens to harm the peace process by undermining confidence in the role of the United States as an impartial mediator. . . and will most likely only encourage Azerbaijan to further harden its negotiating stance. This encouragement is particularly dangerous given President Aliyev’s pattern of unacceptable behavior–including his use of oil as a weapon against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh–his blockades of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh–his rapidly expanding military capabilities–his treats of force and intimidation tactics and his refusal to negotiate directly with the democratically representatives of Nagorno-Karabagh."

Congressmen Porter and Pallone’s initiative to send a Congressional letter to President Clinton was jointly supported–from its earliest stages–by both the ANCA and the Armenian Assembly of America.

The two organizations worked cooperatively in educating Congressional offices concerning the merits of the letter.

Among the Members of the US House joining Reps. Pallone and Porter in signing the letter were: House Minority Whip David Bonior (D-Mich.); Commerce Committee Chairman Tom Bliley (R-Va.); Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Science George Brown (D-Calif.); Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on National Security Ron Dellums (D-Calif.); Ranking Minority Member of the Commerce Committee John Dingell (D-Mich.); Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Veterans’ Affairs Lane Evans (D-Ill.); Ranking Minority Member of the Committee on Rules Joe Moakley (D-Mass.)–and; Ranking Minority Member of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).

Also co-signing the letter were Representatives Neil Abercrombie (D-Hawaii)–Robert Andrews (D-NJ)–Michael Bilirakis (R-Fla.)–Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio)–Ken Calvert (R-Calif.)–Merrill Cook (R-Utah)–Jerry Costello (D-Ill.)–Danny Davis (D-Ill.)–Julian Dixon (D-Calif.)–Calvin Dooley (D-Calif.)–Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.)–John Ensign (R-Nev.)–Harris Fawell (R-Ill.)–Vic Fazio (D-Calif.)–Bob Filner (D-Calif.)–Michael Forbes (R-NY)–Barney Frank (D-Mass.)–Bob Fran’s (R-NJ)–Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)–Steve Horn (R-Calif.)–Sue Kelly (R-NY)–Joseph Kennedy–II (D-Mass.)–Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)–Barbara Kennelly (D-Conn.)–Gerald Kleczka (D-Wis.)–Sander Levin (D-Mich.)–Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)–Matthew Martinez (D-Calif.)–James McGovern (D-Mass.)–Howard McKeon (R-Calif.)–Michael McNulty (D-NY)–Martin Meehan (D-Mass.)–Robert Menendez (D-NJ)–Connie Morella (R-Md.)–Jerrold Nadler (DNY)–John Olver (D-Mass.)–Major Owens (D-NY)–William Pascrell (DNJ)–George Radanovich (R-Calif.)–Lynn Rivers (D-Mich.)–Steven Rothman (D-NJ)–Marge Roukema (R-NJ)–Edward Royce (R-Calif.)–Charles Schumer (D-NY)–Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)–Pete Stark (D-Calif.)–Esteban Torres (D-Calif.)–John Tierney (D-Mass.)–Frank Wolf (R-Va.)–and Lynn Woolsey (D-Calif.).

Representatives James Rogan (R-Calif.) and Howard Berman (D-Calif.) wrote separate letters to President Clinton regarding his meeting with Aliyev.

Commenting to the ANCA after forwarding his letter to the White House–Rep. Rogan stressed that "This is not an issue of theoretical foreign policy. This is an issue with serious impact affecting thousands of Armenia’s and Armenian-Americans. It deserves our attention–focus–and concentration as we look to support the Karabakh negotiations."

Rep. Berman–who serves on the International Relations Committee–wrote to the President concerning "a number of grave issues affecting our bilateral relations with Azerbaijan."

He wrote– "President Aliyev has a long history of human rights abuses against many groups–including Armenia’s–dating from his role as an official of the Soviet KGB."

The Aliyev visit has prompted national and international reaction. Because of his controversial profile–Aliyev is regarded as a risky ally. In addition–a slew of human rights organizations have protested and expressed their serious concerns with this visit. Many have characterized the event of the week as trade-off of oil for blood. Aliyev is scheduled to visit Houston upon leaving Washington.

For more information on official response to the Aliyev visit see page 2 of this edition of Asbarez.

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