Asks to be included in Baku’s notorious “black list”
BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
LOS ANGELES—In a rebuke to Azeri efforts to discredit elected officials, California State Assembly Speaker John Perez, who just returned from a visit to Armenia, responded to a threat from Azeri Consul General in Los Angeles of being included in a so-called “black list” of people visiting the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Ahead of the California state and local officials visit to Armenia and Artsakh, the Azeri Consul General Nasimi Aghayev sent a letter to the non-Armenian officials in the delegation threatening that if they travel to the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic, official Baku would deem them personae non gratae and include them in a “black list” that so far boasts more than 300 foreign officials.
Perez was never scheduled to travel to Artsakh due to prior commitments in California. Yet his absence from the Artsakh leg of the trip was characterized by Azeri officials and media as him having caved into Azeri pressures.
In a letter addressed to Aghayev by Perez and obtained by Asbarez, the speaker clarifies his travel itinerary and urges the Consul General to add his name on the “black list” if Baku opts to characterize any member of his delegation as a persona non-grata.
“Please be advised that if the Republic of Azerbaijan does, in fact, add any California official to the list of persona non grata you should immediately add my name as well,” wrote Perez to Aghayev.
“Had you inquired before sending your letter, you would have learned that at no time did my itinerary include visiting Nagorno-Karabakh,” explained Perez.
“That said, I must not let go unanswered any attempt to dictate the travel plans of duly elected representatives of the State of California. Further, raising the threat of making California elected officials persona non grata in your country hardly seems conducive to building a strong and mutually beneficial relationship,” added Perez in direct response to the threats made by Aghayev and Baku.
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic President Bako Sahakian met with Perez and delegation in Yerevan before the speaker’s departure.
“My colleagues and I are fully aware of the circumstances in Nagorno-Karabakh as well as the important relationships that the United States has with both the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Azerbaijan. I unequivocally support our government’s efforts to bring about a peaceful resolution to this situation, and I share the sentiments of President Obama when he joined with the Presidents of France and the Russian Federation to declare their commitment to helping the parties reach a lasting and peaceful settlement. It is in that spirit that I respond to your letter,” explained Perez.
The Perez-led delegation included Assemblymembers Katcho Achajian, Cheryl R. Brown, Adrin Nazarian and Scott Wilk. A Los Angeles City Council delegation also visiting Armenia includes Bob Blumenfield and Paul Krekorian and staff. They arrived in Armenia on September 17 at the invitation of the Armenian government. After Perez left Armenia, the remainder of the delegation visited Artsakh, where they met with government officials and toured the country.
The Armenian National Committee of America-Western Region played a key role in organizing the delegation visit to Armenia and was represented by its board chairwoman Nora Hovsepian and Executive Director Elen Asatryan.