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Schiff Warns Warlick to not encourage Baku to ‘act with impunity’

Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the US House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence called on the State Department to refrain from responding to future acts of Azerbaijani aggression with statements suggesting a “false equivalence between Azeri and Armenian behavior,” reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

In a letter addressed to Ambassador James Warlick, the State Department’s representative to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group’s Nagorno Karabakh peace process, Representative Schiff warned that any “unwillingness to speak plainly about the aggressor in this conflict sends the message to Azerbaijan that it can act with impunity.”

“We join with friends of Armenia from across California and throughout the United States in thanking Representative Schiff – a leading Congressional voice on foreign affairs and intelligence issues – for challenging Ambassador Warlick’s continued refusal to directly confront Azerbaijan’s escalating aggression,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We share Congressman Schiff’s concern about the very real dangers of State Department’s reckless and irresponsible policy of artificial evenhandedness. We join his call for a transition from this demonstrably failed approach to an accountability-based model of peacekeeping that will help save lives, prevent war, and create the conditions for a just and durable peace.”

Rep. Schiff noted, in this letter, the “disturbing increase in Azeri violations of the cease fire along the Line of Contact,” citing Azerbaijan’s unscheduled military exercises along the border and the September 2nd shelling of Armenia, which led to the death of two soldiers and a number of injured civilians. “Simply put, it is evident that Azerbaijan continues to be the aggressor along the Line of Contact, terrorizing civilians and military forces with shelling and snipers,” explained Schiff. “This has been the case throughout the period of the cease fire, in which Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have readily agreed to measures such as international observers or the withdrawal of sniper positions, while Azerbaijan rejects such steps.”

Congressman Schiff added that, while he joins with Ambassador Warlick in seeking a peaceful and durable resolution to the Karabakh issue, “I do not believe the cause of peace is served by ignoring Azerbaijan’s increasing belligerence and the suggestion that both parties are equally to blame for violence along the Line of Contact when that is not the case.”

The complete text of Congressman Schiff’s letter is provided below.

The ANCA has long been on record protesting the artificial-evenhandedness displayed by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs, and has organized advocacy campaigns to encourage U.S. leaders to directly challenged Azerbaijan’s escalating aggression. Most recently, the ANCA has called for the international funding for the purchase and placement of a gunfire locater system along the Armenia, Artsakh and Azerbaijan line of contact. Such equipment, when deployed, will empower mediators and on-the-ground observers by reliably and quickly identifying the source and direction of gunfire and artillery attacks.

Text of Congressman Adam Schiff’s Letter to OSCE Minsk Group CoChair, Ambassador James Warlick

Dear Ambassador Warlick,

As you know, over the past few weeks there has been a disturbing increase in Azeri violations of the cease fire along the Line of Contact. Artillery and mortar barrages have reportedly killed multiple military personnel and injured civilians. Azerbaijan has announced unscheduled military exercises with 65,000 troops along the border. And on September 2nd, Azeri forces shelled Armenian territory, killing two soldiers and injuring civilians. This pattern of escalation is dangerous, and threatens to cause an already unstable situation to spiral into open conflict.

In light of these actions, and the increasingly bellicose rhetoric coming from Baku, I am dismayed that your statements have suggested a false equivalence between Azeri and Armenian behavior. This posture is perhaps best typified by a photo you tweeted on September 4th of unexploded ordinance within Nagorno-Karabakh, while neglecting to mention that it was fired by Azeri forces.

Simply put, it is evident that Azerbaijan continues to be the aggressor along the Line of Contact, terrorizing civilians and military forces with shelling and snipers. This has been the case throughout the period of the cease fire, in which Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh have readily agreed to measures such as international observers or the withdrawal of sniper positions, while Azerbaijan rejects such steps.

I appreciate your service on the OSCE Minsk Group, and your commitment to securing a diplomatic solution to Nagorno-Karabakh’s status. I also share your support for a peaceful settlement of the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh’s status. But I do not believe the cause of peace is served by ignoring Azerbaijan’s increasing belligerence and the suggestion that both parties are equally to blame for violence along the Line of Contact when that is not the case. To the contrary, any unwillingness to speak plainly about the aggressor in this conflict sends the message to Azerbaijan that they can act with impunity.

The people of Artsakh deserve to live free from the dangers of artillery barrages, mines, and the constant threat of war. I hope that you will work to reduce tensions and pursue a permanent settlement, but I also urge you to be forthright regarding Azeri aggression and provocation.

Thank you for your consideration, and I look forward to hearing from you.

Sincerely,
Adam B. Schiff

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