08/02/12 - Statements submitted for the Congressional Record on Cyprus - Mr. Speaker, there is a need to respond to recent comments that have been made by some of my colleagues involving issues of concern to Cyprus .
We all agree that a comprehensive and sustainable resolution of disagreements about Cyprus is long overdue. Such a solution must allow both the Greek and Turkish Cypriot communities to participate in all aspects of the island's national life and government while respecting the rights and political equality of all Cypriots preserved in a renewed partnership state.
Of concern to me are statements by some that Turkish Cypriots, and the Republic of Turkey itself, are obstacles to any forward progress.
Without rehashing the history that brought about the current situation on Cyprus, it should be made clear that the Turkish government has, on multiple occasions, welcomed the resolution of these issues which guarantees the equal rights of the Turkish Cypriot community. Turkish Cypriots voted overwhelmingly in favor of the U.N. Comprehensive Peace Plan (known as Annan Plan) in 2004, demonstrating their sincere desire to move beyond the painful past. Despite this genuine determination to incorporate, not only within the life of the island, but within the wider European and global communities, the U.N. proposal was overwhelmingly rejected by the Greek Cypriot side. Incredibly, one week after missing one of the most significant opportunities to reach a comprehensive solution to these longstanding problems, the Greek Cypriots were awarded with membership in the European Union.
As a result, the Greek Cypriot community, as the Republic of Cyprus , now enjoys full membership status in the European Union including all associated rights and privileges as well as membership in the wider, global community. It is time to end the isolation and embargoes imposed upon the Turkish Cypriot community and secure a negotiated political settlement, agreed to by both parties, that allows all Cypriots to build a common future together.
07/23/12 - Remarks offered on the House floor on H. R. 2362 - I thank the gentleman from Washington for yielding time.
I want to associate myself with the words of my very capable and articulate colleague from Oklahoma (Mr. Cole), the author of this legislation. As he said, this should be a routine bill to be passed on suspension on the basis of his comments alone. However, some have chosen to try to divert, to take us away from the subject at hand of this bill.
I support H.R. 2362, an important bill designed to bolster global economic cooperation by making it easier for Native American tribal communities to strengthen ties with foreign trading partners.
Even though Native American communities suffer from the highest unemployment rate in the United States, economic development on tribal lands is stifled by a restrictive and archaic leasing system, requiring applicants to succumb to a multilayered review process, taking up to 6 years to complete.
These unnecessary hurdles have compromised important tribal economic development in the past. For example, the Round Valley Indian Housing Authority continues to wait, after 9 years, for the Bureau of Indian Affairs to process a lease for a large housing project. And in 2006, the Swinomish and Walmart agreed to build a store on the reservation while the BIA regional office stalled for 2 years before Walmart withdrew from the deal following the 2008 financial crisis.
This bill helps correct these problems by authorizing select tribes to develop guidelines for leasing land and services to both foreign and domestic companies for economic development purposes. The bill further provides for only one approval of the land leasing guidelines by the Interior Secretary, thereby reducing current multilayer, prohibitive land leasing laws.
Without imposing any new costs, these changes will promote tribal job growth and economic empowerment, encourage foreign and domestic investments in Indian Country, all the while, inviting foreign and domestic companies to explore commercial opportunities with tribes. It's for these reasons that I urge my colleagues to support this legislation.
05/31/12 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record on Azerbaijan - Mr. Speaker, I invite my colleagues to join me today in tribute to the 94th Anniversary of the Republic Day of Azerbaijan this week.
Republic Day celebrates Azerbaijan's declaration of its independence from the Russian Empire in 1918, becoming the region's first Muslim democratic secular republic in Central Asia.
While that independence was short lived, from 1918 1920, the young Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan made tremendous strides, granting women the right to vote and laying the foundation for architecture and formal education for future Azeris.
But the new Democratic Republic of Azerbaijan was soon occupied by the Soviet Union, losing the hard-won independence, and forced to become a republic in the U.S.S.R.
In 1990, as the U.S.S.R. crumbled, Azerbaijan regained its independence from the Soviets, ending a 70 year nightmare, but the journey to freedom was a bloody one.
In January 1990, referred to as ``Black January'' by Azeris, the Soviet army crushed peaceful demonstrations in the streets of the capital Baku.
On August 30, 1991, Azerbaijan's Parliament restored its country's independence for the second time in a century and weeks later adopted their Constitution.
A valuable international ally, Azerbaijan was among the first nations offering unconditional support to the United States in the war against al Qaeda, providing a safe transit route to resupply our troops in Afghanistan.
Azerbaijan leads the Central Asian area in regional economic cooperation and is a key player in European energy security matters.
Mr. Speaker, I ask the House to join me in thanking the people of Azerbaijan for their friendship and in congratulating Azerbaijanis around the world on the anniversary of Republic Day.
05/07/12 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record on Shusha - Mr. Speaker, given the significance of this week to the U.S.-Azerbaijan bilateral relationship, it is important to commemorate the 20th Anniversary of the Occupation of Shusha in Azerbaijan. Shusha lies within the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and is another painful reminder of the ongoing conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia in the region.
Twenty years ago today, Armenian forces stormed the strategically important town of Shusha, which lies on a hill just over three miles away from the Nagorno-Karabakh capital of Stepanakert. The town was attacked at the break of dawn from three sides, trapping Azeri military units and civilians on their hilltop.
For hours the town was shelled, killing and wounding thousands of men, women, and children, and the attacking forces have occupied it ever since.
As a result of this tragic incident, the rich history and culture of Shusha remains inaccessible to the Azeri people who are prohibited from visiting the ancient Azeri museums, religious sites, musical schools, and historical sites of their past.
Despite four United Nations resolutions insisting that the Nagorno-Karabakh region - and by extension, the town of Shusha - legally belongs to Azerbaijan, the region remains war-torn and steeped in conflict.
Today we remember those who died defending their homeland and support those who are still affected, unable to return to the homes from which they were separated.
My hope is that this anniversary will provide another opportunity to work together to ensure a peaceable, lasting resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict so that people from both nations will no longer suffer.
02/27/12 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record on Khojaly - Mr. Speaker, since declaring its independence from the Soviet Union, Azerbaijan has been a valuable ally to the United States in a turbulent region. In the true spirit of friendship, it seems appropriate for Congress to note the 20th anniversaries of two important events in their country's history which take place in late-February.
February 26 marked the 20th anniversary of the Khojaly Tragedy which is the largest of Azerbaijani civilians in the country's history.
The town of Khojaly is located in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and was then home to some 7,000 Azerbaijani citizens. On February 25 26, 1992, in a period of less than 12 hours, 613 citizens were slain at the hands of Armenian forces.
In the wake of these atrocities, Human Rights Watch described the advancing forces as committing ``unconscionable acts of violence against civilians as they fled.'' Given our deepening ties with Azerbaijan it is important for American citizens to remember this event.
February 28 is the 20th anniversary of the establishment of Azerbaijani-American diplomatic relations, which is an event forming a partnership which of importance to both countries.
The initial focus of these relations was on trade between the two countries and, in particular, Azerbaijan's abundant natural resources. Today, Azerbaijan is a full partner to the United States, working with us and our allies to safeguard our combined security and prosperity.
One of the most telling examples of their commitment to this partnership came in the wake of the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, when Azerbaijan pledged to stand by the United States as in our efforts to secure the homeland and bring justice to the perpetrators of this tragedy.
True to its word, Azerbaijan has supported allied efforts in the War on Terror by allowing unrestricted access to its territory for American aircraft, troops and supplies, as well as committing its own troops to fight alongside our own.
As these two important anniversaries come to pass, I join Azerbaijan in mourning those who died in Khojaly, celebrating 20 years of shared diplomatic relations, and hoping for the continued security and prosperity of our nations in an ever-more dangerous world.
09/29/11 - The Turkish Coalition of America (TCA) hosted a dinner on September 29 for a congressional delegation led by Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe in Istanbul.
The delegation included Rep. Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee, Rep. Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC), Co-Chair of the Caucus on US-Turkey Relations and Turkish Americans, Rep. Steve King (R-IA), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN) and Rep. Wally Herger (R-CA). The dinner was hosted by TCA Chairman Yalcin Ayasli.
09/23/11 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record on Azerbaijan - Mr. Speaker, I rise today to honor the distinguished service of His Excellency Yashar Aliyev, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Azerbaijan to the United States of America. Mr. Aliyev is completing his term as Ambassador to the United States after five years of service. Before he accepted his assignment to come to the United States in 2006, he served as Azerbaijan's Permanent Representative to the United Nations.
Ambassador Aliyev has worked tirelessly and effectively to strengthen the strategic partnership between Azerbaijan and the United States.
Through frequent and productive communications with the United States Congress, Ambassador Aliyev has helped raise awareness of the issues pertaining to Azerbaijan and foster mutual understanding between the peoples of the two countries.
I ask my colleagues to join me today in recognizing Ambassador Aliyev for his exemplary service and valuable contributions to promoting bilateral relations and in extending best wishes for continued success in his future endeavors.
05/24/11 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record on Azerbaijan - Mr. Speaker, as it celebrates its 93rd anniversary of independence from the Russian Empire, I would like to take the opportunity to honor the Republic of Azerbaijan on the occasion of its May 28th Republic Day. Later this year, Azerbaijan will also celebrate the 20th anniversary of its freedom from the Soviet Union and the start of diplomatic relations with the United States.
Azerbaijan has made incredible progress in the last 20 years and has become a key ally of the United States in a strategically important region.
Azerbaijan is located between Russia and Iran in the strategic region between Europe and Asia. A stable and secular country, it is one of the few places in that part of the world where Muslims, Jews and Christians live together in peace.
The U.S.-Azerbaijan partnership is based on shared values and common goals and is a key component to regional security. As highlighted by Secretary of Defense Robert Gates during a recent visit to Azerbaijan , Azerbaijan provides multi-faceted support for U.S. and NATO operations in Afghanistan and is a key part of the Northern Distribution Network providing ground and naval transit for roughly 25 percent of the Coalition's supplies bound for Afghanistan.
Beyond support for U.S. security interests in the region, Azerbaijan plays a paramount role in strengthening U.S. and European energy security and is expanding its commercial and economic ties with the United States. Azerbaijan is a secular Muslim country that maintains close friendly ties with Israel and supplies roughly a quarter of Israel's oil.
My colleagues are encouraged to join me in honoring Azerbaijan on the occasion of its 93rd Republic Day and celebrating a robust U.S.-Azerbaijan relationship.
02/08/11 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record on Khojaly - Mr. Speaker, I rise today in remembrance of the 613 ethnic Azerbaijani civilians who were killed during the massacre at Khojaly, in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Azerbaijan, on February 25-26, 1992. According to Human Rights Watch, Memorial Human Rights Center, and other international observers, the Khojaly tragedy was committed by the ethnic Armenian armed forces, reportedly with the assistance of the Russian 366th Motor Rifle Regiment. At the time, the massacre at Khojaly was described by Human Rights Watch as ?the largest massacre to date in the conflict? over Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Largely condemned by the international community, in 2001 at least 30 members of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe stated in Written Declaration No. 324 that the ?Armenians massacred the whole population of Khojaly and fully destroyed the town.' Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in remembering the town and people of Khojaly who died on those fateful days and in offering our deepest condolences to Azerbaijan on this tragic anniversary.