In a strongly-worded op-ed published on Monday in the San Francisco Chronicle, representatives Jackie Speier and Adam Schiff cited President Joe Biden’s stated desire to restore the United States as a force for democracy and human rights around the world and urged him to end America’s “silence on Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s regional aggression” and halt U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan.
“Following years of tension, sporadic violence over the region’s status, and the Azerbaijani government’s frequent threats of military force and ethnic cleansing, Azerbaijan, with the assistance of Turkey, launched a full-scale assault with devastating consequences. Over the course of a brutal six-week war, sophisticated drones targeted Armenian soldiers from the air, mercenaries sent by Turkey fortified Azeri ground forces, and Azerbaijan overran Armenian defenses. After violating three internationally negotiated ceasefires, Azerbaijan’s forces advanced to within miles of the capital city of Stepanakert before a Russian-brokered agreement ended the fighting,” said the two California Democrats in introducing readers to events of last fall.
“Sadly, as this devastating outcome played out, the United States made only a half-hearted and ineffectual effort to end the fighting and ceded the primary leadership role to others. Russia stepped into the void. It will now be up to the Biden administration to unwind this disastrous outcome,” said Speier and Schiff who are co-chair and vice-chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus respectively.
“Biden has signaled he will focus on restoring the United States as a force for democracy and human rights around the world. This conflict and its aftermath represent an opportunity to do just that. It pits a democratic Armenia and Artsakh against autocratic regimes in Baku and Ankara who abuse human rights, imprison reporters and dissidents, and crush dissent. We must lead with our values instead of perpetuating a transactional foreign policy that looks the other way as Azerbaijan invades its neighbors and commits human-rights violations at home and abroad,” added Speier and Schiff.
The two lawmakers outlined what the U.S. should do in Armenia and Artsakh, citing the urgent need for the U.S. to reassert itself diplomatically.
“The OSCE Minsk Group, consisting of the United States, Russia, and France, was established in 1992 as the forum for diplomatic resolution of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status. We must reinvigorate and reengage with the Minsk Group process and seize the opportunity to secure the release of over 150 Armenian prisoners of war still held by Azerbaijan, demand the protection of historic Christian churches and cultural landmarks throughout Nagorno-Karabakh, and seek accountability for apparent war crimes against Armenian civilians and soldiers. We must also provide additional humanitarian assistance to the tens of thousands of displaced people who have fled for fear of their lives,” said Speier and Schiff.
“Second, we must end our silence on Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s regional aggression and halt military aid to Azerbaijan, which has totaled over $100 million in the past two years. A country that shatters international norms to threaten and invade its neighbor is not one that U.S. taxpayers should be aiding and abetting,” added the lawmakers.
“We must also reassess our relationship with Turkey, which has always been complex, but has become increasingly untenable as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has amassed autocratic powers while undermining U.S. interests. In addition to encouraging, arming, and supplying Syrian mercenaries to wage war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey’s actions in Syria have set back U.S. interests and endangered our forces. Turkey even recently tested a new Russian anti-aircraft system that could weaken NATO’s military advantage over Russia, despite our strong objections and threat of sanctions,” stressed Speier and Schiff.
They also recalled the 2019 Congressional passage of the Armenian Genocide resolution by an overwhelming majority and said that “Biden can make a strong and early endorsement of human rights by recognizing the Armenian Genocide in April.”
“The Armenian Genocide’s wounds can never heal, but they are particularly painful at a time when Armenians once again face threats of ethnic cleansing, as both Erdogan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev echo the genocidal language of a century ago. Presidential recognition of the Armenian Genocide will reverberate across the world, making clear that America stands for human rights and against denial,” said Speier and Schiff.
“As the values of human rights, democracy and freedom increasingly come under assault by autocrats, America’s leadership is needed more than ever. Our allies and adversaries are watching closely,” concluded the lawmakers.