Armenian Caucus Protests Azeri Threats against Armenia

WASHINGTON–DC–Seventy members of the US House of Representatives joined last week with the Co-Chairmen of the Congressional Armenian Caucus–Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–in calling on President George Bush to press Azerbaijan to back away from increasingly violent rhetoric aimed at Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh–reported the Armenian National Committee Of America (ANCA).

"We share the concerns raised by this bipartisan group of US legislators regarding the growing danger to Armenia–and to American interests–posed by the increasingly angry threats coming from Azerbaijan’s senior leadership," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "Armenian Americans appreciate the leadership of Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Joe Knollenberg and Frank Pallone on this issue–and look forward to learning of the Administrations response to Azerbaijan’s irresponsible and dangerous behavior."

In the letter–dated October 8th–Members of Congress specifically asked President Bush to publicly condemn Azerbaijan’s war rhetoric and other increasingly bellicose remarks against the Republic of Armenia and Mountainous Karabagh. The letter–states–in part:

"Efforts to reinforce stability and reduce the risk of conflict are in the best interests of the United States and the region. The Nagorno Karabagh peace process will achieve nothing if Azerbaijan is allowed to risk war and predict ethnic cleansing with impunity. To this end–we urge that you condemn these remarks and call upon the government of Azerbaijan to desist in making any further threats against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh."

Joining Reps. Knollenberg and Pallone were: Gary Ackerman (D-NY)–Robert Andrews (D-NJ)–Xavier Becerra (D-CA)–Shelley Berkley (D-NV)–Howard Berman (D-CA)–Michael Bilirakis (R-FL)–Jeb Bradley (R-NH)–Michael Capuano (D-MA)–Dennis Cardoza (D-CA)–John Conyers (D-MI)–Jerry Costello (D-IL)–Joseph Crowley (D-NY)–Rosa DeLauro (D-CT)–Jim DeMint (R-SC)–Vernon Ehlers (R-MI)–Anna Eshoo (D-CA)–Tom Feeney (R-FL)–Bob Filner (D-CA)–Mark Foley (R-FL)–Barney Frank (D-MA)–Scott Garrett (R-NJ)–Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)–Michael Honda (D-CA)–Steve Israel (D-NY)–Jesse Jackson (D-IL)–Sue Kelly (R-NY)–Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)–Mark Kirk (R-IL)–Gerald Kleczka (D-WI)–James Langevin (D-RI)–Sander Levin (D-MI)–Nita Lowey (D-NY)–Stephen Lynch (D-MA)–Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)–Edward Markey (D-MA)–Karen McCarthy (D-MO)–Betty McCollum (D-MN)–Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI)–James McGovern (D-MA)–Michael McNulty (D-NY)–Martin Meehan (D-MA)–Candice Miller (R-MI)–James Moran (D-VA)–Grace Napolitano (D-CA)–Devin Nunes (R-CA)–Collin Peterson (D-MN)–Jon Porter (R-NV)–David Price (D-NC)–George Radanovich (R-CA)–Mike Rogers (R-MI)–Steven Rothman (D-NJ)–Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA)–Bobby Rush (D-IL)–Loretta Sanchez (D-CA)–H. James Saxton (R-NJ)–Adam Schiff (D-CA)–E. Clay Shaw (R-FL)–Christopher Shays (R-CT)–Brad Sherman (D-CA)–John Shimkus (R-IL)–Mark Souder (R-IN)–John Sweeney (R-NY)–Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH)–Fred Upton (R-MI)–Christopher Van Hollen (D-MD)–Peter Visclosky (D-IN)–Henry Waxman (D-CA)–Anthony Weiner (D-NY)–Joe Wilson (R-SC)–and Albert Wynn (D-MD).

The ANCA–in a September 28th note to Congressional offices in support of this letter–wrote: "If history is any guide–silence on our part will only embolden the leadership in Baku to escalate their rhetoric even further. Left unchecked–we run the risk that the Azerbaijani government will translate their angry remarks into aggressive actions that will create a humanitarian disaster and destabilize a region of great strategic importance to the United States."

On September 28th–Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) spoke on the House floor about the dangers posed by increasingly inflammatory Azerbaijani statemen’s by President Ilham Aliyev and his Cabinet Members–calling for a military takeover of neighboring Armenia and the decimation of its population in the coming decades. In his remarks–Rep. Pallone cited statemen’s "made by officials in the government of President Aliyev calling into question the very existence of Armenia. For example–as reported by Radio Free Europe–the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman called for Azerbaijan’s takeover of the entire territory of Armenia and removal of the entire Armenian population from the Caucasus. He went so far as to say–and I quote–’Within the next 25 years there will exist no state of Armenia in the South Caucasus.’ Given Azerbaijan’s history of aggression against Armenia’s–these remarks can’t be dismissed as mere rhetoric."

The text of the Congressional letter is provided below:

Dear Mr. President,

We are writing to strongly urge you to condemn the ongoing Azerbaijani war rhetoric and other increasingly bellicose remarks made against the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. These statemen’s undermine US interests in the region.

As you know–a cease-fire in the conflict over Nagorno Karabagh was established in 1994 and sensitive peace negotiations to achieve a final agreement are ongoing. However–the government of Azerbaijan continues to make dangerous claims and threaten war against Armenia. This war rhetoric has continued unabated and has intensified in recent months.

In July–as reported by Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty–the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman called for Azerbaijan’s takeover of Armenia and removing its entire population. He said–"In the next 25-30 years there will be no Armenian state in the South Caucasus. This nation has been a nuisance for its neighbors and has no right to live in this region. Present-day Armenia was built on historical Azerbaijani lands. I believe that in 25 to 30 years these territories will once again come under Azerbaijan’s jurisdiction." Mr. President–this reprehensible call for ethnic cleansing and even genocide warran’s the strongest possible reply from our country.

The President of Azerbaijan–Ilham Aliyev–has repeatedly declared that Azerbaijan could launch a new war in Karabagh. Just two months ago–he stated–"At any moment we must be able to liberate our territories by military means. To achieve this we have everything." Aliyev has directly linked Azerbaijan’s economic progress to its military "superiority."Under these circumstances we cannot react positively to those calling us to compromise," Aliyev stated.

Last year–as reported by BBC Monitoring–Azerbaijani Defense Minister General Safar Abiyev said that occasional violations of the cease-fire were "natural" since Azerbaijan is still "at war." Statemen’s like this not only undermine the peace process–but can also serve to actually encourage attacks against Armenia.

Just this month–NATO canceled its Cooperative Best Effort (CBE) 2004 exercises in Baku–Azerbaijan after the government of Azerbaijan barred Armenia from participating. US General James Jones–Supreme Commander of Allied Forces in Europe–expressed regret over Azerbaijan’s refusal to honor its host obligations to accept delegates from all interested partners. As part of its commitment to international security in the Caucasus–Armenia welcomed both Azerbaijan and Turkey to participate in the NATO CBE 2003 exercises in Yerevan–Armenia.

Efforts to reinforce stability and reduce the risk of conflict are in the best interests of the United States and the region. The Nagorno Karabagh peace process will achieve nothing if Azerbaijan is allowed to risk war and predict ethnic cleansing with impunity. To this end–we urge that you condemn these remarks and call upon the government of Azerbaijan to desist from making any further threats against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.

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