Biden should make US a force for democracy and human rights in Nagorno-Karabakh – Reps. Speier and Schiff

President Joe Biden has the opportunity to reshape a U.S. foreign policy that under President Donald Trump has departed from core democratic interests and values, Members of Congress Jackie Speier and Adam Schiff write in an opinion piece for San Francisco Chronicle.

According to them, Nagorno Karabakh could be an early test for President Biden.

Until September. Following years of tension, sporadic violence over the region’s status, and the Azerbaijani government’s frequent threats of military force and ethnic cleansing, Azerbaijan, with the assistance of Turkey, launched a full-scale assault with devastating consequences. Over the course of a brutal six-week war, sophisticated drones targeted Armenian soldiers from the air, mercenaries sent by Turkey fortified Azeri ground forces, and Azerbaijan overran Armenian defenses,” Speier and Schiff say.

The remind that after violating three internationally negotiated ceasefires, Azerbaijan’s forces advanced to within miles of the capital city of Stepanakert before a Russian-brokered agreement ended the fighting.

“The cost of peace to protect Armenian civilians was high. Armenia was forced to relinquish control over large portions of Nagorno-Karabakh, with only the presence of a small Russian peacekeeping force to prevent further bloodshed and attacks on Armenian civilians,” the lawmakers note.

Sadly, they say, as this devastating outcome played out, the United States made only a half-hearted and ineffectual effort to end the fighting and ceded the primary leadership role to others. “Russia stepped into the void. It will now be up to the Biden administration to unwind this disastrous outcome.”

“Biden has signaled he will focus on restoring the United States as a force for democracy and human rights around the world. This conflict and its aftermath represent an opportunity to do just that. It pits a democratic Armenia and Artsakh against autocratic regimes in Baku and Ankara who abuse human rights, imprison reporters and dissidents, and crush dissent. We must lead with our values instead of perpetuating a transactional foreign policy that looks the other way as Azerbaijan invades its neighbors and commits human-rights violations at home and abroad,” Reps. Schiff ans Speier continue.

They believe that as a first step the US must reinvigorate and reengage with the Minsk Group process and seize the opportunity to secure the release of over 150 Armenian prisoners of war still held by Azerbaijan, demand the protection of historic Christian churches and cultural landmarks throughout Nagorno-Karabakh, and seek accountability for apparent war crimes against Armenian civilians and soldiers.

They also stress the need to provide additional humanitarian assistance to the tens of thousands of displaced people who have fled for fear of their lives.

Second, the lawmakers say “we must end our silence on Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s regional aggression and halt military aid to Azerbaijan, which has totaled over $100 million in the past two years. A country that shatters international norms to threaten and invade its neighbor is not one that U.S. taxpayers should be aiding and abetting.”

“We must also reassess our relationship with Turkey, which has always been complex, but has become increasingly untenable as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has amassed autocratic powers while undermining U.S. interests. In addition to encouraging, arming, and supplying Syrian mercenaries to wage war in Nagorno-Karabakh, Turkey’s actions in Syria have set back U.S. interests and endangered our forces. Turkey even recently tested a new Russian anti-aircraft system that could weaken NATO’s military advantage over Russia, despite our strong objections and threat of sanctions,” the Members of Congress conclude.

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