WASHINGTON, DC –In a powerful statement on the House floor this evening, Congressional Armenian Caucus Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) spoke about the dangers posed by increasingly inflammatory Azerbaijani statements by President Ilham Aliyev and his Cabinet Members, calling for a military takeover of neighboring Armenia and the decimation of its population in the coming decades, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In his remarks, Rep. Pallone cited statements “made by officials in the government of President Aliyev calling into question the very existence of Armenia. For example, as reported by Radio Free Europe, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman called for Azerbaijan’s takeover of the entire territory of Armenia and removal of the entire Armenian population from the Caucasus. He went so far as to say, and I quote, ‘Within the next 25 years there will exist no state of Armenia in the South Caucasus.’ Given Azerbaijan’s history of aggression against Armenians, these remarks can’t be dismissed as mere rhetoric.”
Rep. Pallone continued to highlight Azerbaijan’s refusal to allow Armenian troops to participate in NATO exercises in Azerbaijan, despite Armenia’s willingness to allow similar participation by Azerbaijan in exercises last year.
Noting Armenia’s ongoing commitment to the “peace process and the terms agreed to in the Key West summit,” and “the crucial role that the United States plays in the negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh,” Rep. Pallone called on the Administration to take action. “A failure on our part to forcefully and publicly confront the Azerbaijani government over these destabilizing threats would, in our view, send extremely dangerous signals to Azerbaijan,” explained the Congressman.
Last week, Rep. Pallone joined his Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) in urging their House Colleagues to ask President Bush to publicly condemn Azerbaijan’s war rhetoric and other increasingly bellicose remarks against the Republic of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. In a “Dear Colleague” letter sent to the 141 Armenian Caucus members, Reps. Pallone and Knollenberg cited the dangers of Azerbaijan’s ongoing war statements. The letter to President Bush, which currently has 35 cosigners, states:
“Efforts to reinforce stability and reduce the risk of conflict are in the best interests of the United States and the region. The Nagorno Karabakh peace process will achieve nothing if Azerbaijan is allowed to risk war and predict ethnic cleansing with impunity. To this end, we urge that you condemn these remarks and call upon the government of Azerbaijan to desist in making any further threats against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.”
September 28, 2004
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to bring your attention to recent statements made by high-ranking government officials in Azerbaijan that directly and significantly threaten the security of Armenia, as well as efforts towards a peaceful settlement over the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict.
This issue, if not compellingly addressed by the Administration, has the potential to undermine U.S. interests and American values in the strategically important Caucasus region.
I refer to the recent remarks made by officials in the government of President Aliyev calling into question the very existence of Armenia. For example, as reported by Radio Free Europe, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman called for Azerbaijan’s takeover of the entire territory of Armenia and removal of the entire Armenian population from the Caucasus. He went so far as to say, and I quote, “Within the next 25 years there will exist no state of Armenia in the South Caucasus.” Given Azerbaijan’s history of aggression against Armenians, these remarks can’t be dismissed as mere rhetoric.
Furthermore, Azerbaijan recently blocked key NATO exercises in the country, due to their opposition towards having Armenian officers taking part in the exercises. In fact, in June of 2003, Armenia served as the host country for similar exercises, to which Azerbaijani military forces were invited, yet refused to participate. This year, Armenia was one of several dozen countries due to participate, yet the initiative was blocked by Azerbaijan, who is continuing its efforts to undermine the prospects for peace in the Caucasus region.
Azerbaijan’s threats against Armenia’s survival reinforce our commitment to maintaining parity in U.S. military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan. This arrangement means even more today than when it was first put in place, particularly in light of Baku’s increasingly aggressive posture towards Armenia. Any tilt in military spending toward Azerbaijan could, in our view, destabilize the region by emboldening the new Azerbaijani leadership to continue their threats to impose a military solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
Just last week, the Republic of Armenia celebrated its 2nd Independence, marking 13 years of freedom from Soviet rule. We have seen considerable economic growth in the country. Despite the continued illegal blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan, a recent Wall Street Journal study found that Armenia remains the most economically free nation in the region. Today, Armenia is steadfast in its support of the U.S, as exhibited by their recent announcement of plans to send a unit of deminers, doctors and 50 trucks, including staff and drivers, to assist the coalition forces in Iraq.
It is critical to note that Armenia is today, as it has always been, committed to the peace process and the terms agreed to in the Key West summit. Since the beginning of the Nagorno-Karabagh and Azerbaijan conflict, Armenia has been committed to finding a peaceful resolution. Moreover, I can’t stress enough, Mr. Speaker, the crucial role that the United States plays in the negotiations over Nagorno-Karabakh, to help the people of this region find a lasting and equitable peace. So, these threats by Azerbaijan undermine these efforts and seriously complicate our diplomacy in the region. A failure on our part to forcefully and publicly confront the Azerbaijani government over these destabilizing threats would, in our view, send extremely dangerous signals to Azerbaijan.
So, Mr. Speaker, I hope that the United States takes action to condemn these remarks, and we here, in this Chamber, do everything that we can to ensure that all parties involved in this conflict make a genuine commitment towards peace and stability in the region.