54 US Representatives Join Royce-Sherman Call on Obama to Press Aliyev on NKR Peace

Congressional Letter Urges Obama to Demand Sniper Withdrawal; Additional Observers; Deployment of Gun Locators

WASHINGTON—In the days leading up to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s visit to Washington for an international nuclear summit this week, more than 50 U.S. Representatives have joined with leaders of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in calling upon President Barack Obama to leverage this visit to pressure the Azerbaijan leader to stop obstructing the implementation of the life-saving Royce-Engel peace proposals for Nagorno-Karabagh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) conferring with ANCA National and Regional Board members and advocates during the ANCA Fly-In for Peace, Prosperity, and Justice on March 16
House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.) conferring with ANCA National and Regional Board members and advocates during the ANCA Fly-In for Peace, Prosperity, and Justice on March 16

The letter, authored by Chairman Ed Royce and Representative Brad Sherman, a senior member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, builds upon an earlier Congressional letter, sent to the State Department last December, in support of three practical peacekeeping measures, known collectively as the Royce-Engel proposals:

– An agreement from all sides not to deploy snipers, heavy arms, or new weaponry along the line of contact.

– The placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire-locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.

– The deployment of additional OSCE observers along the line of contact to better monitor ceasefire violations.

In response to this earlier letter, the Obama Administration voiced support for the Royce-Engel proposals, specifically commenting that: “…the urgency of implementing such measures has never been greater.” Despite this rhetorical support from the Obama Administration—and the longtime backing for these measures by the OSCE Minsk Group, Armenia, and Nagorno-Karabagh—their implementation has, to date, been blocked by the Azerbaijani government. The authors of the Royce-Sherman letter seek to overcome this impasse by encouraging President Obama to work on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit with all the key stakeholders in a Nagorno-Karabagh settlement to implement these concrete, common-sense peace-keeping measures.

“We want to thank Chairman Royce and Congressman Sherman and all their U.S. House colleagues who joined with them in this bipartisan initiative to deliver a powerful, pro-peace message to Azerbaijani President Aliyev when he visits Washington on March 31: Stop the killing and strengthen the ceasefire,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

Senior House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) with ANCA National Board and Regional leaders and Vardan Tadevosyan, Director of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center in Karabagh.
Senior House Foreign Affairs Committee Member Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) with ANCA National Board and Regional leaders and Vardan Tadevosyan, Director of the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center in Karabagh.

“We are—in light of the Obama Administration’s persistent unwillingness to challenge Aliyev’s aggression—deeply gratified that Congress has stepped up to assert U.S. leadership and offer American solutions—most notably in the form of the Royce-Engel proposals. We are particularly proud that these recommendations—withdrawing snipers and heavy arms, adding OSCE observers, and deploying gunfire locator systems—were born here in the U.S. Congress. They represent practical steps toward peace, supported by the U.S. and the OSCE and accepted by both Armenia and Artsakh, but—sadly, still obstructed by Azerbaijan.”

Joining Chairman Royce (R-Calif.) and Congressman Sherman (D-Calif.) in cosigning the letter to Obama are Representatives Karen Bass (D-Calif.), Don Beyer (D-Va.), Gus Bilirakis (R-Fla.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Katherine Clark (D-Mass.), Yvette Clarke (D-N.Y.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Jeff Denham (R-Calif.), Robert Dold (R-Ill.), Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), Eliot Engel (D-N.Y.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), John Garamendi (D-Calif.), Scott Garrett (R-N.J.), Chris Gibson (R-N.Y.), Raul Grijalva (D-Az.), Janice Hahn (D-Calif.), Steve Israel (D-N.Y.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Sander Levin (D-Mich.), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Tom McClintock (R-Calif.), Bettie McCollum (D-Minn.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), Chellie Pingree (D-Maine), Mike Quigley (D-Ill.), Charlie Rangel (D-N.Y.), Loretta Sanchez (D-Calif.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Adam Smith (D-Wash.), Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), Mark Takai (D-Hawaii), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), Dave Trott (R-Mich.), Niki Tsongas (D-Mass.), David Valadao (R-Calif.), Nydia Velazquez (D-N.Y.), Randy Weber (R-Texas), and Peter Welch (D-Vt.).

The full text of the letter is provided below and available as a pdf at: http://anca.org/assets/graphics/2016/032416_Congressional_Letter_Obama.pdf

Armenian Americans from across the U.S. have reached out to U.S. legislators in support of the Royce-Sherman letter through the ANCA’s online activism portal by visiting anca.org/action and through a national call-in day on March 14.  Later that week, ANCA advocates from across the U.S. arrived in Washington, D.C. for the Fly-In for Peace, Prosperity, and Justice, during which they shared the Royce-Sherman Congressional letter, discussed Karabagh peace, and addressed a broad range of Armenian American community priorities in contacts with over 200 Congressional offices.

***

Mr. President:

We are writing in advance of planned visits to Washington, D.C. by the Presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia for the 4th Nuclear Security Summit, to underscore the importance the United States attaches to ending threats and acts of aggression, deterring a renewed outbreak of war, and creating the conditions for a fair and enduring peace in and around Nagorno-Karabagh.

As supporters of a non-violent, negotiated peace, we appreciated the Department of State’s letter of Nov. 12, 2015 voicing the Administration’s support for our bipartisan appeal, dated Oct. 26, 2015, which was endorsed by 85 Members of the U.S. House of Representatives, recommending specific steps to reduce violence, save lives, and keep the peace process moving forward. As you know, this State Department letter reaffirmed the Administration’s support for “proposals to withdraw snipers, expand OSCE’s role via an OSCE investigative mechanism, and deploy sensors along the Line of Contact and the Armenia-Azerbaijan international border.” We welcome Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh’s support for these peace-keeping measures, and remain hopeful that Azerbaijan will lift its objections and allow for their timely implementation.

It is in this spirit that we urge you to work on the sidelines of the Nuclear Security Summit with all the key stakeholders in a Nagorno-Karabagh settlement to implement concrete, common-sense peace-keeping measures that have been proposed by Members of Congress and supported by your Administration:

– An agreement from all sides not to deploy snipers—or, for that matter, any escalation of heavy arms or new weaponry—along the line of contact.

– The placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire-locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.

– The deployment of additional OSCE observers along the line of contact to better monitor ceasefire violations.

Thank you for your consideration of our request. We will continue to support your Administration’s efforts within the OSCE Minsk Group to reach a fair and durable resolution of status and security issues related to Nagorno-Karabagh, and look forward to hearing of your actions in this regard.

Guest Contributor

Guest Contributor

Guest contributions to the Armenian Weekly are informative articles or press releases written and submitted by members of the community.

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