US Legislators Urge President Bush to Condemn Azeri War Rhetoric Demolition of Armenian Cemetery

–Representatives Knollenberg–Pallone–Radanovich–and Schiff Registered Concerns on Eve of Bush-Aliyev Meeting

WASHINGTON–DC–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has expressed its appreciation to four leading legislators–Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Representatives George Radanovich (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA)–for urging President Bush to personally encourage Azeri President Ilham Aliyev to stop his government’s threats against Armenia and Karabagh.

The two leaders met at the White House last week in a meeting–which was reported to have covered–among other items–energy security issues–Iran’s nuclear program–and democratic reform in Azerbaijan. It was not immediately clear–based on media accounts–if President Bush addressed the issues raised in the Congressional letter.

In their letter–the four legislators voiced their concern that–"in the years since the 1994 cease-fire agreement in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict–Azerbaijani government officials have consistently threatened war and fostered anti-Armenian intolerance. Ignoring international criticism–President Aliyev has repeatedly declared that Azerbaijan could launch a new military offensive against Karabakh–and that he is waging a ‘cold war’ against Armenia where the ongoing negotiations are only a way to achieve unilateral Armenian concessions."

Furthermore–the letter condemned Azerbaijan’s demolition of an over 1,000-year-old Armenian cemetery in Julfa–Nakhichevan–noting that "[k]nowingly expunging traces of Armenian presence also raises serious questions about Azerbaijan’s commitment to engage in the peace process." The legislators credit the Administration for its assurances that "US opposition to such tactics has been officially conveyed. However–the United States will be unable to advance its policy objectives and the OSCE Minsk process will achieve nothing if Azerbaijan is allowed to risk war with impunity. These counterproductive strategies are undermining the stability of the South Caucasus region."

The full text of the Congressional letter is provided below.

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Congress of the United States

Washington–DC 20515

April 27–2006

The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue–N.W.
Washington–DC 20500

Dear Mr. President,

It is our understanding that you will be meeting with President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev later this week. We urge you to take this opportunity to condemn the Azerbaijani war rhetoric and other actions taken against the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh which undermine U.S. objectives in the region.

In the years since the 1994 cease-fire agreement in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict–Azerbaijani government officials have consistently threatened war and fostered anti-Armenian intolerance. Ignoring international criticism–President Aliyev has repeatedly declared that Azerbaijan could launch a new military offensive against Karabakh–and that he is waging a "cold war" against Armenia where the ongoing negotiations are only a way to achieve unilateral Armenian concessions.

As part of this campaign–this year Azerbaijan has increased its military spending by 100% over the previous year to more than $600 million. It has also tightened the seventeen year economic blockade against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Moreover–President Aliyev has indicated he would not engage in any confidence-building measures with Armenia and he had "no desire" to tone down his country’s war-mongering and anti-Armenian propaganda.

Under the backdrop of the peace talks last December–eyewitnesses captured on film Azerbaijani soldiers destroying historical Armenian monumen’s in the medieval cemetery of Julfa–Nakhichevan of Azerbaijani Republic. Condemned by the European Parliament–this incident is not isolated. A Scottish expert on Armenian architecture–who traveled though Nakhichevan in the summer of 2005–found that a number of Armenian monumen’s that were intact as late as the 1980’s were razed to the ground. Knowingly expunging traces of Armenian presence also raises serious questions about Azerbaijan’s commitment to engage in the peace process.

We acknowledge and appreciate the assurances of the Administration that U.S. opposition to such tactics has been officially conveyed. However–the United States will be unable to advance its policy objectives and the OSCE Minsk process will achieve nothing if Azerbaijan is allowed to risk war with impunity. These counterproductive strategies are undermining the stability of the South Caucasus region.

We urge you to condemn these actions and call upon President Aliyev and Azerbaijan to desist from making any further threats against its Christian neighbors Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

We look forward to working with you on this issue and look forward to your response.

Sincerely,

JOE KNOLLENBERG
Member of Congress

GEORGE RADONOVICH
Member of Congress

FRANK PALLONE–JR
Member of Congress

ADAM SCHIFF
Member of Congress

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