Coalition calls on Chairman McCaul to advance legislation to stop aid to Azerbaijan and sanction Aliyev officials

ANCA, HALC and IDC urge House Foreign Affairs Committee to allow a vote on the bipartisan Armenian Protection and Azerbaijan Sanctions Review Acts

WASHINGTON—Leading national organizations representing Hellenic, Armenian and Christian Americans today called upon Chairman Michael McCaul (R-TX) of the U.S. House Foreign Affairs Committee to allow his panel to consider two pending bipartisan bills — H.R.7288, the Armenian Protection Act, and H.R.8141, the Azerbaijan Sanctions Review Act, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), the Hellenic American Leadership Council (HALC) and In Defense of Christians (IDC).

H.R.7288, introduced by Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY), is the House counterpart to S.3000, introduced by Senator Gary Peters (D-MI) and passed unanimously by the Senate last year. It aims to end U.S. military aid program to Azerbaijan. The ANCA brief on this bill is available at: https://anca.org/lawlerbrief

H.R.8141, introduced by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), supports the application of Global Magnitsky Sanctions against Azerbaijani officials guilty of human rights abuses and war crimes. The ANCA brief on this bill can be found at: https://anca.org/sanctionsbrief

The full text of the letter is provided below.

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May 30, 2024

Hon. Michael McCaul
Chair of the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs
2300 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Chairman McCaul:

In light of Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and ongoing aggression against the Republic of Armenia, we are writing to respectfully request the U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs schedule a full committee markup of H.R.7288 — the Armenian Protection Act — and H.R.8141 — the Azerbaijan Sanctions Review Act.

H.R.7288 would prohibit the president of the United States from exercising his waiver authority over Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act for two years, enforcing statutory prohibitions on U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan. Its Senate companion bill — S.3000 — was introduced by Senator Gary Peters last year and passed the Senate by unanimous consent.

H.R.8141 would require the President and the State Department to review the applicability of Global Magnitsky Act and other sanctions against Azerbaijani officials responsible for war crimes including the arbitrary detention and torture of Armenian prisoners of war, the summary execution of captives and other human rights violations.

As you know, last year Azerbaijan imposed a 10-month blockade of the Lachin Corridor — the only road connecting the Armenian-majority region of Nagorno-Karabakh with the Republic of Armenia. Having deprived the local population of 120,000 Christian Armenians access to food, fuel, medicine, electricity and humanitarian goods, Azerbaijan launched a military assault on the region, forcibly displacing its entire Armenian population in what legal experts have defined as ethnic cleansing. Since its military subjugation of Nagorno-Karabakh, Azerbaijan has undertaken a systematic campaign of cultural destruction, threatening the survival of the world’s oldest churches and monasteries.

In testimony before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee last year, Acting Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia Ambassador Yuri Kim stated “the United States will not countenance any action or effort — short-term or long-term — to ethnically cleanse or commit other atrocities against the Armenian population of Nagorno-Karabakh.” Despite this, Azerbaijan has faced no material consequences for its aggression — emboldening its authoritarian regime, which currently occupies Armenian sovereignty territory and regularly resorts to the threat and use of force to impose demands on Armenia.

The United States has historically furnished Azerbaijan with security assistance out of a misplaced belief that its regime has a role to play in U.S. security interests in the region. Azerbaijan has interpreted this material support as a green-light to pursue a brutal campaign of aggression against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh for decades — threatening one of the region’s only democracies. At the same time, Azerbaijan has bolstered its energy and security ties with Russia and Iran — undermining U.S. efforts to contain the malign influence of these two regional threats, and serving as a conduit for their regimes to evade international sanctions.

It is clear that in the absence of accountability and material consequences, Azerbaijan will continue unabated in its aggression against Armenia — undermining efforts to ensure an equitable and durable peace in the region.

The United States has the tools to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its aggression. Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act was enacted into law in 1992 in response to Azerbaijan’s blockade and use of military force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Successive administrations have routinely waived Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act under a waiver authority intended to secure Azerbaijan’s support for U.S. security interests in the region. However, in light of Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh — and its cooperation with Russia and Iran — the United States must reevaluate its military ties with Azerbaijan.

Furthermore, given the significant human rights violations perpetrated during the conflict, the United States must take action to hold individuals responsible for war crimes. The Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act authorizes the U.S. to impose sanctions on foreign officials responsible for gross human rights violations. Given Azerbaijan’s ongoing detention of dozens of Armenian prisoners of war, Nagorno-Karabakh’s civilian leadership and countless political prisoners, sanctions represent an important mechanism for deterring the credible risk of torture and abuse in custody and securing a pathway to their unconditional release as mandated under international law.

Enforcing prohibitions on security assistance to Azerbaijan and imposing sanctions on those responsible for war crimes would not only ensure Azerbaijan’s regime faces material consequences for its flagrant violations of international law — it would also apply pressure on Azerbaijan to end its practice of coercive diplomacy, reducing the risk of a new war in the region.

As long as Azerbaijan continues to benefit from impunity amid its ongoing aggression and occupation of sovereign Armenian territory, its regime will believe there is more to gain from aggression and war than through negotiations. Given the role the United States has taken in facilitating peace talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, we have a responsibility to take action to constrain Azerbaijan’s aggression and ensure it comes to the negotiating table in good faith.

As such, we once again respectfully urge you to ensure an expeditious full-committee markup of H.R.7288 and H.R.8141. Amid the growing threat of authoritarian expansionism across the world today, the failure to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its assault on Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh will set a dangerous precedent and signal to U.S. rivals that the United States is only prepared to defend the principles of democracy, human rights and rules-based order when convenient.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of this request. We look forward to your response and welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss further.

Sincerely,

[signed]
Aram Hamparian
Executive Director
ANCA

[signed]
Endy Zemenides
Executive Director
Hellenic American Leadership Council

[signed]
Richard Ghazal
Executive Director
In Defense of Christians

ANCA
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

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