WASHINGTON, DC – As Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh entered its 38th day, Congressional Armenian Caucus leaders urged Biden administration officials to “use maximum pressure on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev” to lift the Artsakh blockade “before the current humanitarian crisis becomes catastrophic,” reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“Azerbaijan has shown time and again that statements of condemnation are insufficient to deter the genocidal Aliyev regime,” stated ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian. “As the Armenian Caucus leaders stated, we need ‘maximum pressure’ by the Biden administration – starting with cutting all military aid to Azerbaijan, sanctioning Azerbaijani leaders for ongoing war crimes and an immediate humanitarian airlift to save the people of Artsakh.”
In a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken and USAID Administrator Samantha Power, Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA) and Armenian/Assyrian Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) were adamant: “The current international strategy to reopen the Lachin Corridor is simply not working. […] The Aliyev regime is taking premeditated steps to remove the indigenous Armenian population from Artsakh and deprive them of the opportunity to live freely, democratically, and with dignity in the land of their ancestors – a clear sign of ethnic cleansing that must not be ignored.”
The Congressional leaders advised, “the United States must also consider all available options to provide humanitarian aid to Artsakh, including a potential airlift of supplies to prevent the very real threat of starvation.” They also argued that “the threat of sanctions such as Magnitsky Sanctions against the authorities behind this blockade is warranted and appropriate given the grave threat the people of Artsakh are currently facing.”
On Wednesday, Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted his “deep concern over the worsening humanitarian situation in Nagorno-Karabakh” but stopped short of announcing any meaningful US steps to stop Azerbaijan’s devastating blockade of the 120,000 indigenous Armenian Christians in Artsakh. On January 13, USAID Administrator Power tweeted, “Each day commercial traffic and humanitarian assistance cannot flow freely to Nagorno-Karabakh, the potential for a humanitarian crisis increases. Free movement through the corridor must be restored.”
While expressing appreciation for the Administration’s remarks, the Congressional Armenian Caucus leaders noted that statements are not enough. “The Aliyev regime’s blatant disregard for these calls to immediately reopen the corridor is deeply concerning and demonstrates the need to urgently increase international pressure.”
Thousands of Artsakh and human rights supporters have flooded the State Department and USAID phone lines over the past week as part of an ANCA nationwide grassroots campaign demanding concrete US action to airlift emergency humanitarian aid to Artsakh and sanction Azerbaijan, starting with an immediate end to US military assistance to Azerbaijan’s genocidal Aliyev regime.
January 18, 2023
Honorable Antony Blinken
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Honorable Samantha Power
1300 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20004
Dear Secretary Blinken and Administrator Power:
We write to urge the American Government to use maximum pressure on Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to end his month-long blockade of the 120,000 people in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). The Lachin Corridor should be opened for unimpeded movement before the current humanitarian crisis becomes catastrophic. If the United States and our international partners fail to act immediately, there is no doubt that President Aliyev will continue to escalate his deadly aggressions against the Armenian people in Artsakh.
This is a man-made humanitarian crisis. In recent days, Azerbaijan has taken dangerous steps that prove the current deterrence strategy used by the United States and others in the international community is wholly insufficient. Reports from this week indicate that Azerbaijan sabotaged and continues preventing the repair of a high-voltage power transmission line that provides much of the Republic’s energy. This has caused rolling blackouts and electricity rationing. Further reports indicate that Azerbaijan has also cut the fiber-optic cable that provides most of the fixed-line internet to the region.
These escalatory actions are taking place under the guise of an environmental protest. However, this is clearly a deliberate attempt to severely worsen the quality of life for the people living in Artsakh, including 30,000 children, 20,000 elderly and 9,000 people with disabilities. Children and adult patients, many in critical medical condition, suffer in local hospitals from the lack of access to required medical supplies and services outside of the Republic. Individuals have died as a result. Additionally, a shortage of food and other necessary essentials has resulted in the closure of 120 schools and other educational institutions throughout the region.
We fear these actions and the lack of civilian access to water, food, and medical care caused by the blockade are a precursor to even worse human rights abuses. A recent report from the Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention shares our deep concerns about the deteriorating quality of life and what it might mean for the future.
The current international strategy to reopen the Lachin Corridor is simply not working. Despite clearly documented evidence of the blockade and the tragic impact it is having on innocent civilians, President Aliyev continues to lie to the United States and the international community by stating that there is no blockade. Alarmingly, Aliyev has also stated that the road is open to leave for all those in Artsakh who do not want to become Azerbaijani citizens. The Aliyev regime is taking premediated steps to remove the indigenous Armenian population from Artsakh and deprive them of the opportunity to live freely, democratically, and with dignity in the land of their ancestors – a clear sign of ethnic cleansing that must not be ignored. Meanwhile, the Russian peacekeepers stationed in the region have done little to disperse the Azerbaijanis blocking the corridor or deescalate the situation.
We appreciate the statements coming from the State Department and USAID and the efforts of our diplomats, in line with the U.S. Co-Chairmanship in the OSCE Minsk Group, as well as our commitment to protect and advance global human rights and democracy. Yet, the Aliyev regime’s blatant disregard for these calls to immediately reopen the corridor is deeply concerning and demonstrates the need to urgently increase international pressure.
The people of Artsakh need the international community to immediately intervene and avert this potential humanitarian catastrophe. We urge you to work swiftly with our partners, including authorities in Artsakh, and use whatever diplomatic tools necessary to compel Azerbaijan to reopen this vital lifeline, as well as send international observers to the Lachin Corridor and Artsakh to explore opportunities for more effective and sustainable guarantees of security and peaceful development for the people of Artsakh. The United States must also consider all available options to provide humanitarian aid to Artsakh, including a potential airlift of supplies to prevent the very real threat of starvation.
Additionally, we believe that the threat of sanctions such as Magnitsky Sanctions against the authorities behind this blockade is warranted and appropriate given the grave threat the people of Artsakh are currently facing.
We appreciate your consideration of these requests and look forward to your timely reply.
FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress
GUS M. BILIRAKIS
Member of Congress
ADAM B. SCHIFF
Member of Congress
DAVID G. VALADAO
Member of Congress
Member of Congress