Amid an Escalation of Azerbaijani Aggression, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Calls for Concrete Action by the Obama Administration
WASHINGTON—The State Department has officially welcomed proposals by U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.) and more than 80 of their House colleagues to check Azerbaijan’s escalating aggression, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The Department’s support for the Royce-Engel peace proposals comes during a year that has already seen 40 Armenians killed by the Azerbaijani military—four just last week. On Dec. 15, Azerbaijani Minister of Defense Zakir Hasanov publicly pledged renewed anti-Armenian aggression, stating, “We are going to inflict even more devastating attacks.”
In the Nov. 12 State Department response to the Royce-Engel letter, a copy of which has been shared with the ANCA, Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs Julia Frifield explained: “The United States supports proposals to withdraw snipers, expand OSCE’s role via an OSCE investigation mechanism and deploy sensors along the line of contact and the Armenia-Azerbaijan international border. […] Without a mechanism to verify ceasefire allegations, or sensors to pinpoint the location of gunfire, it is difficult for the co-chairs to make specific accusations against one side’s use of force.”
Armenia and the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh have agreed to all three provisions advanced in the Royce-Engel letter. The Obama Administration and the OSCE also support these initiatives. Only Azerbaijan opposes their implementation.
At the Dec. 9 Capitol Hill celebration of Karabagh freedom last week, Royce condemned Azerbaijan’s attacks and urged concrete international action to ramp down regional violence.
“Why are the snipers not pulled back? […] Why have we not deployed those special [gun fire] direction finders?” asked Royce, citing reports of unprecedented Azerbaijani tank fired shelling and high-powered rifle fire, which claimed the life of 24-year-old Garik Gurgen Avanesyan earlier that day.
Royce then announced a special Congressional briefing with U.S. Ambassador James Warlick—the State Department official responsible for the Nagorno-Karabagh peace talks—to get concrete answers to his concerns.
Royce concluded his remarks, noting, “I retain hope that one day the people of Nagorno-Karabagh will be able to live in peace, enjoying security and a flourishing trade with its neighbors in the region, and I give thanks to those of you here who are committed to that peace and who are committed to stay engaged to see that that happens.”
“We join Chairman Royce in welcoming the Department of State’s willingness to go on the record in support of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, and echo his urgent call for immediate action by the Obama Administration to implement these life-saving initiatives—even over the objections of the Azerbaijani government,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Words alone won’t save lives. The United States and our international partners need to demand accountability and hold Azerbaijan responsible for its aggression.”
The complete text of the State Department’s response to Royce is available at: http://anca.org/assets/graphics/2015/Royce_Engel_StateDept_Response_111215.pdf
The text of the Royce-Engel letter for Karabagh peace is available at: https://anca.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/Royce_Engel_Karabakh_Peace.pdf
Video of Royce’s remarks at the Capitol Hill celebration of Karabagh peace and freedom is available on the ANCA YouTube channel at: https://youtu.be/fgpJhTxanDI