Rep. Pallone Protests Azeri Policies Aliyev Visit

Editor’s Note : The folowing speech was delivered by Congressman Frank Pallone at the Tuesday evening pro-Karabakh demonstration sponored by the Armenian National Committe of Greater Washington. The demonstration–held at the Willard Hotel–was organized in protest of the reception held in honor of Gaidar Aliyev–President of the Republic of Azerbaijan–who is on his first official visit to the United States. Let me first of all say how proud I am to see so many people here demonstrating.

I see in the distance the Capitol of the United States–and it serves to remind me that many times people have to take to the streets–even here in the United States–to make their point. But believe me–what you’re doing here tonight–not only is it being heard across the street [at the Aliyev speech]–I assure you–but more importantly–it will be heard in the Capitol–at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue.

And–you know–separate and apart from the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia–I think it’s important that all of you are here tonight just to send a message about why Aliyev should not be invited to the United States.

Because whether or not we’re Armenia’s or Armenian-Americans or supporters of Armenia or Karabakh–the bottom line is that someone with his history–and I don’t have to repeat it but I just have to mention a few items–someone of his history of having worked for the KGB–of having been involved in supporting the invasion of Afghanistan–of having been actually removed from the Politburo because of corruption–and of actually continuing this brutal dictatorship in Azerbaijan–let’s face it: this type of demonstration could not occur in Baku. So you’re saying foremost here tonight that Aliyev should not be invited to the United States–that Azerbaijan continues to be a dictatorship contrary to the democratic principles that we have in this country and that we hold so dear. So I’m very pleased that we’re doing this.

The only reason he’s here–the only reason he’s being wined and dined–the only reason he’s here for a state visit–as we know–is because of the oil interests. And when I saw the balloons that say "No Blood For Oil"–I think that basically says it all. We know–we’ve read the newspapers – the Washington Post–the New York Times – we know what’s happening.

We know that the oil lobby continues to buy its interests through the halls–unfortunately–of Washington.

And the bottom line is that the only way to counter-act that is for people like you to take to the streets–for Armenian-Americans–for people who believe the United States stands for something morally–to insist through grassroots effort – which is what the ANC does–which is what the Armenian Assembly does–which is what the various Armenian groups do – to say: Look–we have political power–we don’t find this acceptable–the United States has to take the moral highroad when it comes to foreign policy–when it comes to Karabakh–and we cannot have blood for oil. That is the crucial aspect of this.

And I believe very strongly that ultimately the good will prevail–the people will prevail–those of us who make our case about why the United States should stand up for Armenia–should stand up for Karabakh–we ultimately will succeed in the end.

Let me just tell you a little bit about what’s going on in Congress and what our concern is.

I think many of you know that I co-chair the Armenia Caucus–and we have a number of goals. But right now we are very concerned about the fact that the United States officially–the State Department–tilts towards Azerbaijan. And we have been saying over and over again that it is crucial that the US in its foreign policy stand up for the self-determination of Karabakh.

We are very concerned about what we hear coming from the State Department–the fact that the official pronouncemen’s that come forth from the Minsk Group–from the US as the co-chairs of the Minsk Group–seem to suggest that the US is pushing a settlement that would basically force a settlement on the people of Nagorno-Karabakh that they don’t find acceptable. And one of the things that we’re trying to get across to the State Department–and we will also make the case to Aliyev because there are going to be opportunities in the next couple of days for us as Congressmen to meet with him and to say what we feel–what we’re saying.

What we’re saying to the State Department over and over again is that the self-determination of Karabakh should not be sold for oil. The United States has to separate the two. The United States can be in support of exploiting the oil in the Caspian Sea. We don’t have a problem with that. We actually would like to see a pipeline go from Baku through Armenia down to the Mediterranean. We don’t have a problem with that. But what we don’t want is the two brought together. The US. has to stand tall and say–look–Karabakh is a nation. I see the sign over there–"Azerbaijan–face it–you lost." You did. I was in Karabakh. Let me tell you.

While I was in Karabakh back in February–what I saw was a democratic society–a free-market society–a group of people that fought for their nationhood and won very successfully–and who are not really threatened right now with any external forces. So the problem here is the United States–because of the Azeri lobby–isn’t facing the facts. The facts on the scene are that Nagorno Karabakh is a nation that governs itself–that has its own economy–and it is very self sufficient.

And we cannot take the position that somehow it’s going to be joined back with Azerbaijan or that it is part of Azerbaijan and that we’re going to come up with a solution that doesn’t protect its sovereignty and its security. And what we have to say to Aliyev–what we have to say to our own State Department is separate the oil from the self-determination of Karabakh. We have to sit down and have direct talks.

The Azerbaijanis don’t want to talk with the Karabakhtzis. They don’t talk. We passed a resolution in the Congress the other day that calls for direct talks between the countries. That’s the only way that anything positive is going to happen. Direct talks–let the people of Nagorno-Karabakh decide their own destiny. Don’t link it to oil. But let me tell you–the only way that this message is going to get across is if you continue to demonstrate–if you continue to write the letters–if the ANC and the Assembly and all the Armenian groups continue to go up to Capitol Hill and make their case–and all of us join together. Because ultimately in a democracy–the people will reign and you will be successful. And don’t think that you won’t be–don’t lose sight of the cause. You will win. Today unfortunately is not a good day because we have Aliyev here–but he will be gone soon.

He won’t be here very long. And when he’s gone–all of you and all the Armenian-American community and all the people who believe in the cause of Nagorno-Karabakh will still be here and we will triumph together.

Thank you.

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