80 Members of Congress Urge Bush to Mark Karabakh Independence Anniversary

WASHINGTON–To mark the 15th Anniversary of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s Independence, Members of Congress joined the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), in sending a letter to President Bush urging him "to recognize the 15th anniversary of the independence of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic [Artsakh]" and calling the President’s attention to Artsakh’s "efforts in furthering their democracy and creating an independent state." Nagorno Karabakh’s decision to establish a sovereign state came as a continuation of the national liberation movement that began immediately after Joseph Stalin awarded administrative control over Karabakh to Soviet Azerbaijan in 1921. After suffering from over 70 years of discrimination and oppression by Azerbaijan and the Soviet regime, the people of Artsakh stepped up their struggle for freedom and democracy by establishing the independent Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Artsakh. The congressional letter, signed by 77 members and sent to the White House on September 29, highlights a long history of US support to Nagorno Karabakh and the will of the people of Artsakh to build a democratic and economically viable country. The letter also notes the continuation of Azerbaijan’s destructive policy, which threatens peace and stability in the region and "goes against US interests." Most importantly, the congressional letter advocates for expansion of US political and economic engagement with Nagorno Karabakh. The letter said in part: "As we work towards peace, the United States can and must expand its engagement with the lawfully and democratically established Nagorno Karabakh Republic. These ties should not be dictated by outside forces but rather should be guided by the shared values of our two nations. [] We should build on this success by investing in developmental and good governance programs that will strengthen Nagorno-Karabakh’s economy, democratic institutions, and promote even greater cooperation on a range of regional and security issues." Despite the overwhelming challenges of the past 15 years, Artsakh has registered impressive achievemen’s: successful defense of its freedom against Azeri military aggression, nearly complete restoration of its war-devastated economy, continued strengthening of its democracy, unprecedented economic growth and constructive partnership with the international community to bring about lasting peace and stability to the South Caucasus. "Everyday, we are advancing in building a country of our dreams–a free, democratic and prosperous Artsakh. Fifteen years of independent statehood have proved the righteousness of the historic path chosen on September 2, 1991. Throughout these years, the people of Artsakh have been truly blessed to enjoy the political and economic support of the US Congress. We are deeply thankful to the American people for their generous economic assistance that helped restore dozens of war-torn villages, drinking water supplies and medical facilities," said Karabakh Representative in the United States Vardan Barseghian. Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), who co-chairs the Armenian Caucus, said: "The United States stands for freedom and democracy, values that have vividly triumphed in Nagorno Karabakh, Artsakh, without any international support. I am proud to support this nation as it works to achieve formal international recognition of its well-deserved independence. The US economic assistance to Nagorno Karabakh should be continued."Time and again, the people of Nagorno Karabakh have demonstrated their firm commitment to values of liberty and peace. They have also worked hard to establish a developing democracy and growing market economy. The United States should expand its political and economic engagement with the Nagorno Karabakh Republic," echoed fellow Armenian Caucus Co-chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). Congressmen Knollenberg and Pallone also thanked their colleagues, the co-signers of this congressional letter to President Bush, for supporting this critical initiative. "In its quest for freedom and its efforts to strengthen its democracy and develop its economy, Nagorno Karabakh enjoys a broad-based congressional support. Our collective aim was to convey this message to President Bush as the Nagorno Karabakh Republic celebrates the 15th Anniversary of Independence," the congressmen’said. This congressional effort enjoyed strong support of the two Armenian-American advocacy groups in Washington. "The Armenian Assembly commen’s Congressmen Knollenberg and Pallone for their initiative and leadership in urging the US to strengthen relations with Karabakh as it celebrates 15 years of independence," said Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. "As we mark this special occasion, we are reminded of the accomplishmen’s the people of Karabakh have already achieved. The Assembly will continue to work with its friends in Congress and the Administration to advocate for Karabakh’s right to self-determination."We want to thank Congressmen Knollenberg and Pallone and all those who joined with the Armenian Caucus in marking this milestone of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s continued contribution to the growth of democracy, economic development, and the prospects for an equitable and lasting peace in the Caucasus," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. On behalf of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Government, Barseghian thanked the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee of America for their effective work on Capitol Hill. "We are also grateful to our congressional friends for their continued support of Nagorno Karabakh on our path towards freedom, democracy and prosperity–universal values that have been guiding Artsakh since independence," said Representative Barseghian. The Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the United States is based in Washington, DC and works with the US government, academia and the public representing the official policies and interests of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic. The following is the full text of the congressional letter sent to President George W. Bush on September 29, 2006. September 29, 2006 The Honorable George W. Bush President of the United States The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue Washington, D.C. 20500 Dear Mr. President: We write to recognize the 15th anniversary of the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and to call your attention to their ongoing efforts in furthering their democracy and creating an independent state. The United States has a long history of supporting Nagorno-Karabakh’s democracy and its right to live in freedom and peace. Since 1992, our government has taken part in international efforts to reach a sustainable resolution to the conflict between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan. A durable cease-fire has been in place since 1994, bringing relative stability to the region. However, a comprehensive peace agreement has not been reached and the continued standoff could lead to yet another cycle of violence. The democratically elected leaders of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic have repeatedly offered to implement mutual confidence-building measures, for which the US government has continued to allocate funding. These leaders have consistently demonstrated a willingness to make difficult compromises in the interest of a lasting peace. However, in contrast, Azerbaijan has rejected confidence-building measures and demonstrated a consistent pattern of inflexibility in the negotiating process. To further destabilize the region, Azerbaijan continues to maintain a blockade of both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia and regularly threatens a new wave of violence against Nagorno-Karabakh. We have every reason to believe this threat is realistic given their rapidly increasing military budget. An arms race or new violence in the South Caucasus region goes specifically against US interests in the region. The key to preventing this outcome is for the United States to send a clear message to Azerbaijan that we will not tolerate renewed aggression against Nagorno-Karabakh. Earlier this year, we were pleased with Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried’s statement that, "the will of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh has to be respected." We wholeheartedly share this view and hope that you will build upon this constructive approach to a long-term settlement. Our interest is in working, in a manner consistent with fundamental democratic principle, to bring a durable resolution, acceptable to all parties, to the region. As the world’s greatest force for freedom, we should always champion values of liberty, democracy, and peace. As we work towards peace, the United States can and must expand its engagement with the lawfully and democratically established Nagorno-Karabakh Republic. These ties should not be dictated by outside forces but rather should be guided by the shared values of our two nations. Our decision in 1988 to aid Nagorno-Karabakh has become one of the most effective assistance efforts anywhere in the world, providing thousands of people with housing, water, and healthcare needs. We should build on this success by investing in developmental and good governance programs that will strengthen Nagorno-Karabakh’s economy, democratic institutions, and promote even greater cooperation on a range of regional and security issues. Mr. President, as we mark the 15th anniversary of independence of Nagorno-Karabakh, we urge you to join with us in celebrating this nation’s courageous choice for freedom, its strong commitment to democratic values, and its sincere desire to work toward lasting peace. We appreciate your consideration of our concerns. Sincerely, [signed] Robert Andrews (D-NJ), Joseph Baca (D-CA), Charles Bass (R-NH), Melissa Bean (D-IL), Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Loi Capps (D-CA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Michael Honda (D-CA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Jesse Jackson (D-IL), Sue Kelly (R-NY), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), James Langevin (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sander Levin (D-MI), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Doris Matsui (D-CA), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), James McGovern (D-MA), Howard McKeon (R-CA), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Martin Meehan (D-MA), Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA), Candice Miller (R-MI), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Norton (D-DC), Devin Nunes (R-CA), John Olver (D-MA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Collin Peterson (D-MN), George Radanovich (R-CA), Michael Rogers (R-MI), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Jim Saxton (R-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Joe Schwarz (R-MI), E. Clay Shaw (R-FL), Chris Shays (R-CT), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Robert Simmons (R-CT), Hilda Solis (D-CA), Mark Souder (R-IN), Fortney Stark (D-CA), Ted Strickland (D-OH), John Sweeney (R-NY), John Tierney (D-MA), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Peter Visclosky (D-IN), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Frank Wolf (R-VA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Albert Wynn (D-MD)

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