State Department Revises Misstatement Regarding Nagorno Karabakh

WASHINGTON–The US Department of State has revised the mistaken assertion, within the Armenia’section of its recently released annual human rights report, that, "Armenia continues to occupy the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories," reported the Armenian National Committee of America. The amended language, released this week, has been posted on the Department’s website. It reads as follows: "Armenian forces occupy large portions of Azerbaijan territory adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh. Armenian officials maintain that they do not ‘occupy’ Nagorno-Karabakh itself." The Azerbaijan section, which included nearly identical language, has yet to be revised. "We take note of the fact that the State Department has responded to our concern that the report’s mischaracterization of Nagorno Karabakh’s status would be detrimental to the US government’s role as an impartial mediator of the Minsk Group negotiations," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We remain concerned that the amended text continues to fall short of accurately describing the situation, as well as by the fact that the Azerbaijan section of the report continues to make incorrect assertions, thus making its text inconsistent with the State Department’s own revision of the Armenia’section." ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, in an April 3 letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, expressed the Armenian American community’s profound concern that, "such statemen’s fundamentally misrepresent the well-documented reality in the region, contradict the Department’s previous human rights reports, and undermine the credibility of the United States as an impartial arbiter destined to a leadership role in the OSCE Minsk Group peace process." He added that, "These unprecedented assertions are both factually inaccurate and counter-productive to our government’s aim of reaching a durable resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. To say that Nagorno Karabakh is an Azerbaijani territory and that Armenia occupies Nagorno Karabakh and other territories is to ignore the very fundamentals of this conflict. These statemen’s only serve to send the wrong message to the Azerbaijani side and further complicate the peace negotiations." The Armenia report can be viewed online at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78799.htm The Azerbaijan report can be viewed online at: http://www.state.gov/g/drl/rls/hrrpt/2006/78801.htm The full text of the ANCA letter is provided below. April 3, 2007 The Honorable Condoleezza Rice Secretary of State US Department of State Washington, DC 20520 Dear Secretary Rice: I am writing to share with you our profound concern that serious misstatemen’s, portraying Armenia as an occupier of Azerbaijani territory, have made their way into the Armenia and Azerbaijan sections of the 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, recently released by the Department of State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor. Such statemen’s fundamentally misrepresent the well-documented reality in the region, contradict the Department’s previous human rights reports, and undermine the credibility of the United States as an impartial arbiter destined to a leadership role in the OSCE Minsk Group peace process. I refer specifically to the following sentence in the Armenia’section (Respect for Human Rights; Section 1: Respect for the Integrity of the Person; Section A: Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life): "Armenia continues to occupy the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories." I also refer to the equivalent sentence in the Azerbaijan section (Respect for Human Rights; Section 1: Respect for the Integrity of the Person; Section A: Arbitrary or Unlawful Deprivation of Life): "Armenia continued to occupy the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories." These unprecedented assertions are both factually inaccurate and counter-productive to our government’s aim of reaching a durable resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. To say that Nagorno Karabakh is an Azerbaijani territory and that Armenia occupies Nagorno Karabakh and other territories is to ignore the very fundamentals of this conflict. These statemen’s only serve to send the wrong message to the Azerbaijani side and further complicate the peace negotiations. To the Department’s credit, it does appear that, in the weeks since the initial release of the 2006 Report, there has been an effort, albeit an awkward and insufficient one, to recognize this fact by adding an asterisk modifying the word "Armenia" with the phrase "Armenian forces." Unfortunately, rather than clarifying the situation, this modification has only added to the confusion surrounding this issue. In the interest of truth and for the sake of an effective peacemaking role by the United States, it is imperative that these sentences be struck in their entirety from both the Armenia and Azerbaijan sections, thus reaffirming US policy on the side of fairness and lasting peace. I look forward to learning of your prompt action on this matter and would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss this issue in greater detail. Sincerely yours, [signed] Kenneth V. Hachikian Chairman cc: Paula Dobriansky, Under Secretary for Democracy and Global Affairs Daniel Fried, Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs Barry Lowenkron, Assistant Secretary for the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Matthew Bryza, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs

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