WASHINGTON, DC – 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 Karabagh conflict, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“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 Karabagh and Azerbaijani 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 Karabagh and Azerbaijani 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, DC.
During a May 2nd 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 Lowenkron: “The statement that ‘Armenia continues to occupy the Azerbaijani territory of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding Azerbaijani territories’ in the 2006 State Department Human Rights report on Armenia has created significant controversy among the U.S., Azerbaijan, Armenia and NK. Can you confirm that the references to Armenia’s forces and NK’s status do not reflect the facts on the ground and are contrary to current U.S. 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 3rd, 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 assessments of our human rights report, we are deeply disturbed that the State Department’s mischaracterization of the Nagorno Karabagh 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 Azerbaijani territory and Nagorno Karabagh is inaccurate and does not reflect US foreign policy;
2) The United States views the Nagorno Karabagh conflict as fundamentally about the self-determination of the people of Nagorno Karabagh; and
3) This misrepresentation would not appear in future reports or other official documents.
The text of the complete letter is provided below.
ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, in an April 3, 2007 letter to Secretary Rice, expressed the Armenian American community’s profound concern that, “such statements fundamentally misrepresent the well-documented reality in the region, contradict the Department’s previous human rights reports, and undermine the credibility of the United States as an impartial arbiter destined to a leadership role in the OSCE Minsk Group peace process.” He added that, “These unprecedented assertions are both factually inaccurate and counter-productive to our government’s aim of reaching a durable resolution to the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. To say that Nagorno Karabagh is an Azerbaijani territory and that Armenia occupies Nagorno Karabagh and other territories is to ignore the very fundamentals of this conflict. These statements only serve to send the wrong message to the Azerbaijani side and further complicate the peace negotiations.”
The Armenia report can be viewed online at:
The Azerbaijan report can be viewed online at:
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Secretary Rice:
We are writing to express our strong concerns regarding inaccuracies in the recent series of changes to the Armenia section of the 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.
Over the course of the past several weeks, the Department of State has issued erroneous language about Armenia being an occupier of Azerbaijani territory and Nagorno Karabagh. The report was subsequently revised with more balanced, although still not fully accurate, wording and then revised again to restore the original language. These changes were made following widely reported threats and pressure by the Azerbaijani government, including its public declaration that it had postponed planned bilateral security talks in Washington, DC.
In addition to the troubling precedent set by allowing a foreign state to shape the assessments of our human rights report, we are deeply disturbed that the State Department’s mischaracterization of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict is inaccurate, unprecedented, and counter-productive to our government’s goal of actively promoting constructive engagement in the peace negotiations in the region.
It is simply wrong to assert that Nagorno Karabagh is Azerbaijani territory or that Armenia occupies Nagorno Karabagh and other territories. This formulation frames the conflict solely in terms of land, ignoring the reality that the current conflict is about the self-determination of the people of Nagorno Karabagh. Furthermore, the State Department has never made similar assertions in previous reports.
We are concerned that such misrepresentations, rather than bringing the parties together, will undermine our nation’s credibility as an impartial mediator and jeopardize prospects for successful negotiations. It could also have an impact on US-Armenia relations.
Therefore, we call upon you to publicly clarify that:
1) the report’s language describing Armenia as an occupier of Azerbaijani territory and Nagorno Karabagh is inaccurate and does not reflect US foreign policy;
2) the United States views the Nagorno Karabagh conflict as fundamentally about the self-determination of the people of Nagorno Karabagh; and
3) this misrepresentation would not appear in future reports or other official documents.
Our common aim should be to focus on workable diplomacy that brings the parties together in the spirit of conflict resolution, not to cause additional tension by introducing new and controversial elements into an already complex negotiating process.
Thank you for your consideration of this important matter. We look forward to your prompt response.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress
Member of Congress