Rep. Scott Peters urges Secretary Blinken to help secure Azerbaijan’s release of Armenian POWs

San Diego, CA area Congressman Scott Peters (CA-50) urges U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken to prioritize re-engaging the U.S. in the OSCE Minsk Group negotiations for Artsakh peace; providing U.S. humanitarian to help displaced Artsakh Armenians; help secure Azerbaijan’s release of Armenian POWs; demining of Artsakh and protecting cultural heritage sites throughout the Caucasus and Middle East

The full text of Rep. Peters’ letter to Secretary Blinken is below:

Congratulations on your recent confirmation. It is past time to re-emphasize the importance of our foreign diplomats and return to working with our international allies. I look forward to working with you to re-establish our nation’s role in building security and prosperity around the globe.

Over the past six months there has been a humanitarian crisis developing in the Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) area between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The situation significantly deteriorated last September as fighting erupted between various military forces until a Russia brokered ceasefire ended combat in November. While this temporary reprieve gives residents a much needed break from hostilities, there are ongoing concerns over the continued detention of prisoners of war and civilians. On behalf of the United States, I urge you to prioritize reengaging the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group process in order to craft a long-term peace agreement which protects the interests of Armenia, Azerbaijan, and the right to self­determination of those living in the region.

In addition, the United States should play a leading role in rebuilding through the provision of humanitarian aid and ensuring all parties protect innocent civilians. Independent estimates suggest more than 100,000 people were forced to flee their homes. Without proper intervention, a refugee crisis can quickly tum into security crisis. It is imperative people have access to shelter, food, clean water, and sanitation to contain the situation and avoid any possible negative externalities, especially in the midst of a global pandemic.

Similarly, there is urgent work to be done removing unexploded ordinances from the region, which indiscriminately harm civilians and provide a particular danger to young children. The United States Agency for International Development (USAID) previously supported the HALO Trust whose work focused on this effort. Conflict cannot end until those who call this region home feel safe and secure in returning. Plus, an untimely explosion could result in a reignition of all out fighting.

Finally, I hope there is wide-spread agreement on the need to protect important cultural heritage sites. Recent conflicts throughout the Caucasus and Middle East have left many of these sites destroyed beyond repair, and buildings and artifacts which have existed since the dawn of civilization are now gone forever. There is a tremendous amount of history still left in this region; we must protect it.

Great strides have been made in building the United States-Armenia relationship since Armenian independence in 1991. We should continue our support for the Armenian people as they develop a stable democracy which can last far into the future.

If you have any questions, please feel free to call or email Jason Bercovitch of my staff at (858) 455-5550 or [email protected].

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