WASHINGTON—Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) recently congratulated the 25th anniversary of the Karabagh liberation movement and pledged ongoing support for the democratic and economic development of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR), reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In a letter sent to NKR President Bako Sahakian, timed to coincide with the Feb. 20, 1988 launch of the Artsakh (Karabagh) liberation movement, Pallone noted that “Artsakh’s path was challenged by various ordeals and your nation refused to allow these obstacles to break your will and determination. The tragedy of Sumgayit and the violence that occurred in other Azerbaijani cities 25 years ago proved the virtue of Nagorno-Karabagh’s choice to preserve its people’s unique identity by establishing a sovereign democracy.”
Schiff, who has been a perennial champion of increased U.S. assistance to Karabagh, concurred, noting, “You have my support as you work to strengthen your democracy, and I will continue to stand with the people of Artsakh in their struggle towards international recognition. I join you today in looking forward to the day when Artsakh will achieve the recognition it deserves among the community of nations.”
In 2012, Schiff spearheaded efforts in the House Appropriations Committee to secure at least $5 million in U.S. assistance to Karabagh in 2013. The Senate and House have yet to finalize the FY 2013 foreign aid budget, and are currently continuing foreign funding based on FY 2012 levels.
The NKR is an integral part of historic Armenia that was arbitrarily carved out in 1921 by Joseph Stalin and placed under Soviet Azerbaijani administration, but with autonomous status, as part of the Soviet divide-and-conquer strategy in the Caucasus. During seven decades of Soviet Azerbaijani rule, the Armenian population of Karabagh was subjected to discriminatory policies aimed at its removal. Even after these efforts to force Armenians from their land, Karabagh’s pre-war population in 1988 was over 80 percent Armenian.
Following a Feb. 20, 1988 vote by Karabagh’s legislative body to reunite the region with Armenia, Azerbaijan launched an ethnic cleansing campaign against individuals of Armenian descent with pogroms in several towns, including Sumgait and Baku. On Sept. 2, 1991, the people of Karabagh declared independence from the Soviet Union and became the Nagorno Karabagh Republic. On Dec. 10, 1991, Karabagh held an independence referendum, in which 82 percent of all voters participated, 99% voting for independence. In response, Azerbaijan launched an all-out war against the Nagorno Karabagh Republic, targeting civilians and recruiting Islamic extremist mujahadeen from Afghanistan and Chechnya to join the Azerbaijani army against Christian Armenians. A ceasefire was signed in May 1994, with negotiations continuing under the auspices of the Organization for the Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to find a lasting peace in the region that respects the right to self-determination of the people of Artsakh.
To read the ANCA Fact Sheet on the NKR and its democratic and economic development over the past 25 years, visit www.anca.org/assets/pdf/misc/ANCA_NKR_FactSheet.pdf.