Pallone, Knollenberg, Crowley Urge State Department to Clarify Misrepresentation of Nagorno Karabakh

WASHINGTON–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) were joined by House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Joe Crowley (D-NY) this week in urging the State Department to clarify inaccurate language in its 2006 human rights report that dramatically mischaracterizes the fundamental realities of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, reported the Armenian National Committee of America. "Armenian Americans appreciate the leadership of Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Joe Knollenberg and Frank Pallone and Congressman Joe Crowley in seeking clarification from the Department of State concerning its patently inaccurate and entirely unprecedented misrepresentation of Armenia as an occupier of Nagorno Karabakh and Azeri territory," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We look forward to the State Department’s timely response to their questions and to learning of the steps that the Secretary intends to take to rectify the damage that this ill-advised and destructive misrepresentation has already caused to the peace process." The controversy began earlier this year with the inclusion, for the first time, of language in the Armenia and Azerbaijan sections of the State Department’s 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, which asserted that Armenia is occupying Nagorno Karabakh and Azeri territory. While the State Department initially made a correction to this text, albeit not a fully accurate one, it later reverted to its original wording following public threats by Azerbaijan to cancel bilateral security talks in Washington. During a May 2 House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee hearing on the human rights report, Congressman Crowley, a senior and well-respected member of the panel, submitted the following question to the State Department’s witness, Assistant Secretary for Human Rights Barry Lowenkon: "The statement that ‘Armenia continues to occupy the Azeri territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azeri territories’ in the 2006 State Department Human Rights report on Armenia has created significant controversy among the US, Azerbaijan, Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Can you confirm that the references to Armenia’s forces and Nagorno Karabakh’s status do not reflect the facts on the ground and are contrary to current US policy?" Rep. Crowley went on to "urge that this factually incorrect statement be removed forthwith" from the report in an effort to preserve its integrity. In a separate letter to Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, issued on Thursday, May 3, Reps. Pallone and Knollenberg expressed "strong concerns regarding inaccuracies in the recent series of changes to the Armenia’section of the 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices." They argued that, "in addition to the troubling precedent set by allowing a foreign state to shape the assessmen’s of our human rights report, we are deeply disturbed that the State Department’s mischaracterization of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict is inaccurate, unprecedented, and counter-productive to our government’s goal of actively promoting constructive engagement in the peace negotiations in the region." The Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs specifically called on Secretary Rice to publicly clarify that: 1. The report’s language describing Armenia as an occupier of Azeri territory and Nagorno Karabakh is inaccurate and does not reflect US foreign policy; 2. The United States views the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as fundamentally about the self-determination of the people of Nagorno Karabakh; and 3. This misrepresentation would not appear in future reports or other official documen’s.

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