WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) was joined by a bipartisan group of 35 US House members in calling on the Biden administration to “use all tools at its disposal to ensure the safety of the people of Artsakh,” including cutting aid and imposing sanctions on Azerbaijan, which continues its over 110-day blockade of Artsakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The Congressional letter, backed by the ANCA, comes in response to a public statement by the recently appointed US point person on Armenian-Azerbaijan issues, Louis Bono, who ruled out US sanctions against Azerbaijan. On March 8, during his first official visit to Armenia and over 80 days into Azerbaijan’s Artsakh blockade, Bono announced, “This is not a time for sanctions… Sanctions would be counter-productive. It’s not even under consideration at this point.”
“Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations, Mr. Louis Bono’s reckless statement, taking Azerbaijani sanctions off the table, sets the stage for a second Armenian Genocide, by sending a green light to the corrupt Aliyev regime to continue their blockade and anti-Armenian aggression,” said ANCA Government Affairs director Tereza Yerimyan. “We appreciate Rep. Schiff and his bi-partisan colleagues’ leadership on this letter calling for concrete US action – including cutting aid to Azerbaijan and imposing sanctions – to break the 100-plus day Artsakh blockade.”
Joining Rep. Schiff in issuing the call to the Biden administration on Azerbaijan sanctions are: Representatives Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Kevin Mullin (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Eric Swalwell (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Lori Trahan (D-MA), and David Valadao (R-CA).
The Schiff-led Congressional letter states, in part: “We are deeply concerned by your reported comments during the trip ruling out the use of economic and diplomatic sanctions against Azerbaijan for their clear aggression. It was reported that you stated, “this is not a time for sanctions … it’s not even under consideration at this point.” As 120,000 innocent people remain deprived of their basic rights in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) for a third month, due to a blockade that the International Court of Justice (World Court) has ordered Azerbaijan to lift, this is not the time to take any tools off the table.”
In closing, the signatories affirm that: “The United States, the President of the United States, the U.S. State Department, and entire Administration must use all tools at its disposal to ensure the safety of the people of Artsakh, now and in the future, including cessation of financial support to Azerbaijan and imposition of sanctions.”
Over 50,000 advocates responded to the ANCA’s call to support the Congressional letter through the action portal. Earlier this week, participants of the ANCA Rising Leaders program participated in the Lucine Kouchakdjian Capitol Hill day, during which they visited with over 400 Congressional offices in support of the Schiff-led letter and a number of pro-Artsakh/Armenia priorities including securing passage of the anti-blockade resolution (H.Res.108), cutting military aid to Azerbaijan and increasing aid to Artsakh.
The full text of the Schiff-led Congressional letter is provided below.
March 31, 2023
The Honorable Lou Bono
Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations
United States Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520
Dear Senior Advisor Bono:
Congratulations on your appointment as Senior Advisor for Caucasus Negotiations at the Department. As you know, we are at an inflection point for the region, Armenia and Artsakh.
As such, it is imperative that we leverage every opportunity to reiterate strong United States engagement to ensure a swift end to Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor and lasting peace in the region. Your appointment and visit to the region this month sent an important signal that the United States is still engaged and wants to play a critical role in ending the conflict.
However, we are deeply concerned by your reported comments during the trip ruling out the use of economic and diplomatic sanctions against Azerbaijan for their clear aggression. It was reported that you stated, “this is not a time for sanctions … it’s not even under consideration at this point.” As 120,000 innocent people remain deprived of their basic rights in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) for a third month, due to a blockade that the International Court of Justice (World Court) has ordered Azerbaijan to lift, this is not the time to take any tools off the table.
Since December 12, 2022, Azerbaijan has imposed a blockade of the Lachin Corridor, the only road connecting Artsakh to Armenia. The effect has been devastating to the population, rendering 120,000 individuals without access to food, medical supplies, consistent gas and electricity, and essential human rights such as freedom of movement. Tens of thousands have been left without heating amid plummeting winter temperatures, which forced schools to close and deprived children of access to education. Plainly speaking, it’s a humanitarian disaster.
Azerbaijan is once again weaponizing basic human necessities to further degrade already strained living conditions for the Armenians living in Artsakh. Despite the February 22 World Court decision ordering Azerbaijan to “take all measures at its disposal to ensure unimpeded movement of persons, vehicles and cargo along the Lachin Corridor in both directions,” Azerbaijan continues to try to leverage this humanitarian crisis of its own making to seek concessions from Armenia.
Azerbaijan’s actions are a direct violation of the trilateral ceasefire statement of November 9, 2020  , which outlines an obligation to guarantee the secure movement of citizens, vehicles, and cargo in both directions through the Lachin Corridor. The events of March 5, when Azerbaijani armed forces attacked a Nagorno Karabakh police passport and visa directorate patrol car, killing three officers and wounding another, further underscore the need to end the blockade immediately and hold Azerbaijan accountable.
These are only the most recent examples of Azerbaijan’s belligerence, which has followed a well-documented pattern of war and provocation against Armenia and Artsakh, motivated by the bombastic rhetoric of President Aliyev and his regime. We have long passed the time for continued appeasement of Azerbaijan.
The United States, the President of the United States, the U.S. State Department and entire Administration must use all tools at its disposal to ensure the safety of the people of Artsakh, now and in the future, including cessation of financial support to Azerbaijan and imposition of sanctions. We cannot allow Azerbaijan’s policy of aggression and intimidation to continue.
It appears none of these “measures” ever work.