WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) was joined by Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chair David Valadao (R-CA), House Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee Ranking member Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) in calling on the Biden Administration to stop US military aid to Azerbaijan and send emergency aid to Artsakh in response to the devastating humanitarian crisis in Artsakh caused by Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (a leading partner in the broad-based Save Karabakh coalition).
The Capitol Hill press conference, held in the Press Triangle at the foot of the US Capitol Building, featured the participation of former US Ambassador for Religious Freedom, Senator Sam Brownback, Artsakh Representative to the US Robert Avetisyan, and representatives of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and a diverse group of non-government organizations led by the Anglican Office of International and Government Affairs, Christian Solidarity International, the Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury and founder of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), the Vulnerable Peoples Project, and supported by the Genocide Watch, Hellenic American Leadership Council, and In Defense of Christians, who announced the launch of the Save Karabakh Coalition. The press conference was moderated by Reverend Canon Justin Murff, Executive Director of the Anglican Office for Government and International Affairs.
“This is a diverse coalition with a laser focus – saving Artsakh,” said ANCA executive director Aram Hamparian. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our coalition and in solidarity with our Congressional friends advancing anti-blockade legislation, set to be introduced in the US House. Now, more than ever, Armenian and allied Americans need to stand up, and speak out – and that starts with taking action today at www.anca.org/blockade.”
The press conference was live-streamed on the ANCA Facebook page.
Rep. Brad Sherman: “The tactic is blockade. The effect is civilian deprivation. The purpose is ethnic cleansing.”
House Foreign Affairs Committee senior member Brad Sherman (D-CA), who spoke on the US House floor just a day before condemning Azerbaijan’s Artsakh blockade, hosted the Capitol Hill press conference and called for concrete US action. Azerbaijan’s “tactic is blockade. The effect is civilian deprivation. The purpose is ethnic cleansing,” explained Rep. Sherman. “I urge the Administration to impose real consequences that I have for plunging the people of Artsakh into this humanitarian disaster. The Administration must enforce Section 907 and stop all military assistance to Azerbaijan. Actions are needed. The words are good, but there’s no time to act.”
Rep. Judy Chu: Save Karabakh Coalition launch “an inspiring show of support” for Artsakh
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) shared fond memories of her visit to Artsakh, condemned Azerbaijan’s blockade and reiterated her call on the “Biden administration to use all the tools at its disposal, including sanctions, to ensure the safety of those in danger.” She went on to praise the Save Karabakh Coalition launch as an “inspiring show of support for the 120,000 Armenians living in Artsakh peacefully but suffering at the hands of the Aliyev regime. I will continue to work with my colleagues here in Congress to make sure that the United States stands up for the ideals of democracy and self-determination and, to that end, stands with the people of Artsakh.”
Rep. David Valadao: We must work “to hold Azerbaijan accountable”
Congressional Armenian Caucus co-chair David Valadao (R-CA), who had visited Artsakh in 2017, also condemned the Artsakh blockade, noting, “Azerbaijan is once again weaponizing critical infrastructure and manufacturing humanitarian crisis for Armenians living in the Nagorno Karabakh.” Rep. Valadao stated, “The US must use every single diplomatic tool we have available to end this blockade and ensure the safety of Armenians living in Artsakh. I continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to raise awareness about this very important issue and work to hold Azerbaijan accountable.”
Rep. Barbara Lee: “This is now a dire humanitarian crisis.”
House Foreign Operations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations, former chair, and Ranking member Barbara Lee noted, “I have long been a strong advocate for humanitarian support and recovery needs arising from the Artsakh conflict,” explained Rep. Lee. “As we all know, Artsakh is enduring a major and growing humanitarian crisis caused by Azerbaijan’s illegal, illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor, Artsakh’s only humanitarian lifeline to Armenia. So yes, like all of you, I strongly condemn Azerbaijan’s blockade of the vital corridor of connecting Armenia and Artsakh and call for the immediate opening. Rep. Lee applauded the leadership of the Armenian American community for working with her committee to include language in the Fiscal Year 2023 Omnibus funding bill calling for a comprehensive strategy to address Artsakh’s humanitarian needs. “I’m looking forward to continuing to work with the Administration to get this done,” stated Rep. Lee.
Rep. Nicole Malliotakis: “I’m here today to continue to stand with the Armenian community”
Hellenic-American Congresswoman Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), citing the shared history of genocide during the Ottoman Empire, noted that the Greek and Armenian people have “experienced a lot together, and so that is why I’m here today to continue to stand with the Armenian community” and urged the Administration to work with the United Nations to break Azerbaijan’s blockade.
Rep. Jim Costa spotlights “continued ethnic cleansing on behalf of Azerbaijan”
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), discussing the deepening humanitarian crisis in Artsakh, noted, “This is a horrific impact on this continued ethnic cleansing on behalf of Azerbaijan. Failure to resolve this current dispute will only result in their suffering and isolation and will prevent new unrest. And therefore, we call upon the Administration and our coalition partners in Europe to put all the diplomatic pressures on Azerbaijan to comply with the OSCE Minsk support.”
Rep. Lou Correa committed to “bring justice to the Armenian people”
Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA), speaking to Armenian Americans and coalition partners, summed up the situation, noting, “our job is to make sure that we bring justice to the Armenian people. Your job is to make sure that we don’t forget to make sure that we’re reminded that the struggle continues. As we move forward, I know we will reach a place. I know a continuity record to reach a place where the Armenian people can enjoy freedom, human rights, and religious freedom.”
Amb. Sam Brownback: [Section 907] “Sanctions need to go back in place”
Former US Senator and Ambassador-At-Large for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, who had been an early opponent of Section 907 restrictions on US aid to Azerbaijan, offered powerful remarks at the Congressional press conference calling on the Biden Administration to sanction Azerbaijan in response to their ongoing blockade of Artsakh. Sen. Brownback, who now serves as the Chairman of the National Committee for Religious Freedom, stated, “Those sanctions need to go back in place. They need to be effective against Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan could cause this blockade to stop today. They’re not allowing it to continue. And those sanctions need to go back on Azerbaijan if this blockade is not lifted.”
Robert Avetisyan: “This is a civilizational issue”
Artsakh Representative to the US Robert Avetisyan described Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh as not simply an issue of 120,000 Armenians. “This is a civilizational issue, and everyone has their say in this. We very much welcome the fact that the resolution will be introduced next week. We hope it will become one of the next solid steps by the US legislature to break this blockade and bring normal life to our Artsakhsis. I want to convey my gratitude to every one of you here for forming this coalition, and this is indeed a very important manifestation for us that the international community, the international community of nations and organizations which care about our rights, about our rights to education, about our rights to religion, our rights to live, our rights to be one of the members of the safer and more prosperous world.” concluded Avetisyan.
Avetisyan and Congressional referenced their support for the anti-blockade legislation, spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus founding co-chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Sherman, and the Congressional Armenian Caucus leadership. The legislation strongly condemns Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh, calls for US sanctions and enforcing Section 907 restrictions on US aid to Azerbaijan, and urges immediate humanitarian assistance to Artsakh.
For over 40 days – since December 12 – the government of Azerbaijan has been blocking the Lachin Corridor, the only road linking Nagorno Karabakh and its 120,000 Armenian Christian residents to the Republic of Armenia, and to the outside world. Under the blockade, supplies of food and medicine are dwindling, and local authorities have been forced to begin strict rationing of meager supplies. Azerbaijan has also cut natural gas, electricity, and telecommunications to the region, leaving large parts of the population in the cold and dark in freezing winter temperatures.
The Save Karabakh Coalition, launched at the Capitol Hill press conference, calls on the US government to take all necessary measures to safeguard the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh, to apply economic pressure on Azerbaijan – including the suspension of military and economic aid – to pressure it to lift the blockade and to work within the framework of the UN Security Council to provide for adequate peacekeeping in the region to protect the people of Nagorno Karabakh.
The Coalition is directed by a central committee composed of the Anglican Office of International and Government Affairs, Christian Solidarity International, the Baroness Cox of Queensbury, the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust, the Vulnerable Peoples Project, and the ANCA.
The Save Karabakh Coalition is made up of the following organizations and activists:
— Christian Solidarity International
— The Baroness Cox, Independent Member of the House of Lords
— American Friends of Kurdistan
— Anglican Office for Government and International Affairs
— Armenian Bar Association
— Armenian National Committee of America
— Genocide Watch
— Hellenic American Leadership Council
— Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust
— In Defense of Christians
— International Christian Concern
— The Lemkin Institute for Genocide Prevention
— The Philos Project
— The Vulnerable People Project
— Lela Gilbert, Fellow, Hudson Center for International Religious Freedom
— Dr. Charles Jacobs, President, American Anti-Slavery Group
— Professor Elisa Von Joeden-Forgey, Endowed Chair, Dept. of Holocaust and Genocide Studies, Keene State College; Co-president, Lemkin Institute
— Professor Irene Victoria Massimino, Co-president, Lemkin Institute
— Sheila Paylan, International Human Rights Lawyer and Activist
— David L. Phillips, Institute for the Study of Human Rights, Columbia University