Congressman Sherman urges to remove all barriers to U.S.-Nagorno-Karabakh cooperation

Congressman Brad Sherman outlined concrete steps that the U.S. can take “to demonstrate to Azerbaijan that the United States is committed to peace and to the protection of Artsakh from coercion,” reports the Armenian National Committee of America.

Read Rep. Sherman’s commemorative remarks in in remembrance of the Sumgait, Baku, Kirovabad massacres:

“26 years ago today was the first day in a three-day pogrom perpetrated against the Armenian residents of Sumgait in then-Soviet Azerbaijan. Although official figures reported 30 deaths, it is believed that hundreds were murdered and injured as a result of the pogrom.

Just a week before the violence erupted, the Armenians of Nagorno Karabakh voted to unify region with Armenia–the beginning of the Karabakh movement. In the days immediately after this vote Azeri civilians and local officials in the city of Sumgait held rallies calling for “death to Armenians”.

On the night of February 27, 1988, Armenian residents in Sumgait were targeted and indiscriminately raped, mutilated and murdered. Calls for help from Armenians were ignored by local police and city officials. Journalists were shut out from the area. The violence raged on for three days before Soviet troops were able to put an end to the pogrom.

Witnesses of the horrific massacres later testified that the attacks were planned, as civilians had gathered weapons and the exits of the cities were blocked in advance to prevent Armenians from escaping. The homes of Armenians were marked so that the Azeri mobs could easily target them.

Unfortunately, the perpetrators of the pogrom succeeded in their ultimate goal–driving out Armenians. Fearing more violence, Armenians fled Sumgait. Later that year, another anti-Armenian pogrom occurred in Kirovabad, Azerbaijan from November 21st to 27th, which also forced hundreds of Armenians to flee the region. In January of 1990 violent mobs targeted the Armenian community of Azerbaijan’s capital, Baku.

I would like to honor the memory of Armenians killed in the pogroms of Sumgait, Kirovabad, and Baku. If we hope to stop future massacres, we must acknowledge these horrific events and ensure they do not happen again.

This month also marked the 10th anniversary of the heinous murder of Armenian Army Lieutenant Gurgen Margaryan at a NATO training camp in Budapest, by Ramil Safarov, a Lieutenant of the Azerbaijani Army. Safarov used an axe to hack Margaryan to death while he was sleeping. After being convicted of murder by Hungarian courts, he was transferred to Azerbaijan where he was immediately pardoned and given a hero’s welcome. Several Azerbaijan government officials have hailed Safarov’s actions as patriotism. This is unacceptable, and the international community should hold Azerbaijan accountable for this.

Recognizing the ethnic-cleansing of the Armenians from Azerbaijan is an important step. However, we need to do more–we need to demonstrate to Azerbaijan that the United States is committed to peace and to the protection of Artsakh from coercion.

We must call for an end to all threats and acts of coercion by Azerbaijan’s government against the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.

Congress should strengthen Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act by removing the President’s ability to waive U.S. law prohibiting aid to Azerbaijan because of its continuing blockade against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. In 1992, Congress prohibited aid to Azerbaijan because of its continuing blockade against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. However, in 2001, Congress approved a waiver to this provision and administrations have used the waiver since then to provide aid to Baku. Azerbaijan should not be provided aid from the United States as long as they continue a policy of threats and blockades against Artsakh.

I urge the Administration to remove all barriers to broad-based U.S.-Nagorno-Karabakh governmental and civil society communication, travel and cooperation.”

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