As the Senate Foreign Relations Committee met to consider President-Elect Donald Trump’s Secretary of State Nominee Mr. Rex Tillerson, former ExxonMobil CEO, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) highlighted key policy issues in a letter sent to Chairman Bob Corker (R-TN) and Ranking Member Ben Cardin (D-MD).
“We need a Secretary of State committed to strengthening the permanent bonds between Armenia and the United States, two countries that share common values and beliefs, and who will see in Armenia, which remains an island of stability, a vital ally in the region,” Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian said in their letter to the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “United States-Armenia relations have been consistently characterized by friendship and reciprocity and an active Armenian American community strongly supports further expanding the United States partnership with the Republic of Armenia,” they added.
Assembly Co-Chairs highlighted several areas of concern, including Azerbaijan’s flagrant violations of the 1994/5 cease-fire agreement with respect to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, intentionally escalating the violence as pressure for Armenian concessions and launching a 4-day war last April.
“Such behavior makes it clear that Azerbaijan cannot be trusted to honor its commitments and must be held accountable for its egregious human rights violations,” the Co-Chairs said in the letter. “All Americans should be deeply troubled by…reports of Azerbaijan’s ISIS-inspired mutilations of civilians and beheadings of soldiers.”
“Now is the time to strengthen the OSCE process and ensure vigorous U.S. engagement to bring about a lasting and durable settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict that is agreeable to all parties, and based upon America’s founding commitment to the principles of democracy, rule of law, and self-determination,” they continued.
Barsamian and Krikorian also noted the Assembly’s concerns with respect to Turkey’s more than 20-year blockade of Armenia and its ongoing campaign of genocide denial. “Within Turkey, its treatment of minority communities, repression of basic freedoms, ties to ISIS, and its ongoing failure to return confiscated Armenian churches as well as its continued denial of the Armenian Genocide remain troubling trends,” Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian stated.
In his opening statement, Secretary of State Nominee Tillerson said that “Our approach to human rights begins by acknowledging that American leadership requires moral clarity. We do not face an ‘either or’ choice on defending global human rights. Our values are our interests when it comes to human rights and humanitarian assistance…But our leadership demands action specifically focused on improving the conditions of people the world over, utilizing both aid and economic sanctions as instruments of foreign policy when appropriate.”
Both Azerbaijan and Turkey have a history of human rights abuses, especially in recent reports by international organizations such as Human Rights Watch and the U.S. Helsinki Commission. America and its next Secretary of State need to uphold America’s core values and protect fundamental freedoms and human rights.
As the confirmation process continues, the Assembly will continue to advance key priorities and look for ways to further expand U.S.-Armenia relations.