Chicago Armenians Protest Aliyev

CHICAGO (Combined Sources)–Chanting slogans such as "Shame on you–Amoco" and "No Blood for Oil" nearly 100 members of the Armenian National Committee of Illinois and its supporters picketed the Amoco World Headquarters in downtown Chicago on Monday–protesting a visit to Amoco by Azeri President Gaidar Aliyev.

Aliyev was in Chicago to sign an agreement with Amoco to jointly explore and develop the offshore Inam oil field in the Caspian Sea–about 120 miles south of Baku. While Aliyev was attending the signing ceremony inside–protesters shouted "Aliyev’s a Murderer" and waved signs saying "American Morals Or Caspian Oil?" and "Azeri Leader Incites Ethnic Violence" outside of the Amoco building. Thousands of leaflets were distributed to curious office workers on their lunch hour–many of them Amoco employees. The leaflets outlined Aliyev’s numerous human rights abuses since seizing power during a coup in 1993 and as a Communist leader and KGB general in the Soviet era. Traffic was also snarled around the building as cars stopped to observe the picket and ask questions of the protesters.

"American companies like Amoco have a corporate responsibility to uphold American values and cannot roam the world financing dictators for the sake of greed. We will not stand idly by and watch them trade blood for oil with brutal dictators like Aliyev," stated ANC spokesperson Rita Aladjadjian.

Amoco and other oil companies are working to eliminate sanctions imposed by Congress on Azerbaijan for its human rights violations in order to gain favor and oil contracts. According to press reports in the New York Times and Washington Post–various current and former high-ranking government officials have also joined in the effort–lured by Azerbaijan’s vast mineral wealth. "In spite of the knowledge that Azerbaijan is using its oil revenues to fund repression and aggression in the Caucasus–the Clinton administration–the oil industry and its allies are allowing themselves to be bought–and are becoming not-so-unwitting accomplices in Aliyev’s crimes," said Aladjadjian.

Aliyev has been touring the United States since late last week–arriving in New York Saturday–July 27.

Aliyev’s visit to the United States has also drawn protest from Armenia’s in New York and Washington when he visited there last week. The ANC also organized a grassroots campaign that sent over 150,000 post cards to President Clinton protesting Aliyev’s visit to the White House.

Aliyev said Monday that pressure on Armenia from the US and other nations created hopes for a resolution to the dispute over the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

"It is unacceptable to us to have a second Armenian state within Azerbaijan," Aliyev told an audience of business leaders through an interpreter.

"Armenia has to compromise. We have compromised already," he said. Aliyev said US–Russian and French intervention to promote negotiations on the fate of Nagorno-Karabakh "has created high hopes in our hearts" that the entirely Armenian populated Karabakh would be returned to Azerbaijan.

He said 20 percent of his country–Karabakh–was under Armenian control and 1 million Azeris were refugees. Aliyev did not mention details of brutalities committed against Armenia’s of the region during his government’s reign.

Aliyev was on the last stop of a US tour that included talks in Washington with President Bill Clinton and Congressional leaders–and where he signed several oil exploration deals with US. oil companies.

The United States has barred Azerbaijan from receiving US aid because of the dispute–while giving its neighbors–Armenia and Georgia–$100 million annually–Aliyev said.

The continuing dispute with neighboring Armenia over the Nagorno-Karabakh region was made more difficult to resolve because Russia had shipped $1 billion worth of weapons to Armenia during the three-year cease-fire–according to Aliyev. Such allegations have repeatedly been refuted by experts and Azerbaijan has been known to have received several a million dollars in weapons from the Russian Federation–indeed in violation of numerous arms control treaties.

Three principles agreed to last December at Lisbon meetings of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe needed to be implemented–he said. Those included respect for international borders–self-rule for Azerbaijan and security guarantees for the majority Armenia’s and minority Azeris within Nagorno-Karabakh.

"We will protect our independence to the end. Our independence is irreversible and eternal. No one can set us back," Aliyev said.

In a lengthy report–the Chicago Tribune–featured the Armenian protests at the Amoco building–quoting Armenian-American representatives.

"The U.S. oil industry cannot roam the world financing dictators for the sake of greed," said Vasken Aivazian–of the Armenian National Committee. "Our legislators and these oil companies cannot trade blood for oil. They have a responsibility to assure human rights for all."

The article also put Amoco officials in a critical light–objectively questioning the consequences of investing in a dictatorship. Amoco is currentluy the largest self-proclaimed US investor in Azerbiajan.

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