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Resolution condemning Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh introduced in California Assembly

California Assemblymember Chris Holden (D-Pasadena) – working with Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) California local chapters – has introduced a bipartisan anti-blockade resolution (AJR 1) to the California State Assembly condemning Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh and calling for the Biden Administration to take tangible action to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its unabated aggression against the Armenian people.

“On behalf of ANCA Pasadena, I express our community’s gratitude to Assemblymember Holden for his powerful leadership in the effort to lift Azerbaijan’s genocidal blockade of Artsakh,” remarked ANCA Pasadena Chair Shoghig Yepremian. “Many members of our community are descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide – and we can’t help but see the parallels between that great crime against humanity and Azerbaijan’s attempts to starve the Armenians of Artsakh into extinction. We were glad to work closely with Assemblymember Holden to introduce this resolution, and look forward to working together to ensure the urgent passage of this crucial measure.”

The ANCA Pasadena chapter worked closely with Assemblymember Holden on the resolution, which condemns Azerbaijan’s blockade of Artsakh and urges the Biden Administration to immediately enforce Section 907 restrictions on military assistance to Azerbaijan, and ensure the provision of emergency humanitarian assistance to the Armenians of Artsakh. The resolution also reaffirms the State of California’s recognition of the Republic of Artsakh, and calls on the U.S. to play a proactive role in ensuring a lasting conflict settlement that guarantees the inalienable right to self-determination for Artsakh’s indigenous Armenian population.

“California is home to a large diaspora of Armenian Americans, many whose family and friends are being impacted by the continued blockade,” said Assemblymember Chris Holden. “I may not be Armenian but my heart aches alongside the Armenian diaspora community as their homeland continues to be under attack by Azerbaijani forces.”

The resolution was introduced to the California State Assembly by Assemblymember Chris Holden, with Assemblymembers Laura Friedman, Wendy Carillo, Lisa Calderon, Megan Dahle, Mike Gipson, Mike Fong, Tom Lackey, Cottie Petrie-Norris, Eloise Gomez Reyes, Luz Rivas, and Blanca Rubio as co-authors. The resolution is being introduced jointly in the California State Senate by Senator Anthony Portantino, with Senators Bob Archuleta and Scott Wilk as co-authors.

The resolution comes amidst mounting pressure in the U.S. Congress on President Biden to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its brazen aggression against the Armenian people. Just this week, Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ), along with Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and David Valadao (R-CA) and over 60 Congressional colleagues introduced a bipartisan House Resolution condemning the blockade and urging immediate action be taken to guarantee vital humanitarian assistance to Artsakh’s 120,000 Armenians, who have been denied access to food, fuel, medical supplies, and other vital humanitarian goods for 60 days in freezing conditions.

“Assemblymember Holden has been a longtime friend of the Armenian community. He once again has shown his unwavering support during these trying times, when Armenians in Artsakh are facing extermination by the Azerbaijani government. The Armenian American community is thankful for Mr. Holden presenting a joint resolution calling on the Azeri government to end its illegal blockade and to hold Azerbaijani government accountable for its relentless aggression,” said ANCA National Board Member Aida Dimejian.

Assemblymember Holden has been a stalwart friend and ally of the Armenian community throughout his time in office. Earlier in January of this year, he joined his colleagues in the California Armenian Legislative Caucus in a letter to the Biden Administration, urging them to make every effort to open the Lachin (Berdzor) Corridor.

Last year, Assemblymember Holden successfully led efforts to establish a sister-state relationship between the State of California and the Armenian province of Syunik. The measure came amidst Azerbaijan’s escalating territorial claims against the region, and its constant recourse to terrorizing the region’s residents – culminating in its military assault and occupation of significant portions of Syunik’s territory in September 2022, which displaced several thousand residents, and saw horrific human rights abuses perpetrated against prisoners of war. The passage of the ACR 105 resolution by the California State Legislature on the establishment of sister state relationship between the State of California and Syunik province of Armenia was a milestone step in empowering the region’s population amidst Azerbaijan’s brazen threats.

Since the first day of the blockade, the ANCA and its local chapters have been working with the White House, State Department, and Congressional leaders – urging them to stop U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan and to send emergency humanitarian assistance to Artsakh. Thousands have already used the ANCA online portal to call, tweet, and write the White House and Congressional leaders to immediately address this enfolding Artsakh humanitarian crisis.

The full text of the joint resolution is provided below.

Assembly Joint Resolution No. 1
Relative to the Republic of Artsakh

This measure would condemn Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Republic of Artsakh.

WHEREAS, Artsakh is the ancestral homeland of the Armenian people and has been a center of Armenian language, culture, and religion, having maintained its autonomy for over two millennia; and

WHEREAS, The Armenians of Artsakh were targeted during the Armenian Genocide of 1915 by Azerbaijani nationalists with the backing of the Ottoman Empire, where they massacred over 30,000 Armenians in Baku, over 20,000 Armenians in Shushi, and over 10,000 Armenians in Nakhichevan; and

WHEREAS, Artsakh was an integral part of the First Republic of Armenia founded in the wake of the Armenian Genocide due to the advocacy of United States President Woodrow Wilson, who recognized the independence of the fledgling Armenian state; and

WHEREAS, Despite Artsakh’s distinctly Armenian identity, it was arbitrarily and illegally separated from Armenia by the Soviet Union at the direction of Joseph Stalin in 1921 and placed under the administrative control of Soviet Azerbaijan; and

WHEREAS, For over 70 years, the Armenians of Artsakh suffered routine discrimination and persecution at the hands of Soviet Azerbaijani authorities culminating in anti-Armenian pogroms in Sumgait (1988), Kirovabad (1988), and Baku (1990), resulting in hundreds of deaths and the forced displacement of over 400,000 Armenians; and

WHEREAS, In response to escalating anti-Armenian violence, the Armenians of Artsakh exerted their right to self-determination and declared their independence on September 2, 1991, which was reaffirmed by referendum on December 10 of the same year, recognizing that the Azerbaijani government was unable and unwilling to ensure the fundamental rights of the Armenian people; and

WHEREAS, Azerbaijan shortly thereafter launched a war of aggression against Armenia and Artsakh that saw Azerbaijani lay siege to Armenian towns and cities, and perpetrate human rights violations, which ended in Armenian victory with a ceasefire brokered by Russia; and

WHEREAS, For the next 25 years, the Armenians of Artsakh consolidated a free and democratic society despite constant attempts by Azerbaijan to undermine the security and prosperity of the region; and

WHEREAS, In September 2020, Azerbaijan abandoned decades of multilateral diplomacy and launched a war of territorial expansion against the Armenians of Artsakh that resulted in the ethnic cleansing of over to 70 percent of Artsakh territory; and

WHEREAS, Azerbaijan perpetrated widely documented human rights abuses, including the unlawful targeting of schools, homes, hospitals, and churches with prohibited weapons, the execution of Armenian civilians, and torture of Armenian prisoners of war; and

WHEREAS, Following a ceasefire agreement in November 2020, Azerbaijan’s aggression has continued unabated, including routine incursions in Artsakh’s territory and the full-scale assault on the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia in September, 2022; and

WHEREAS, Azerbaijan has maintained a total blockade of the Republic of Artsakh since December 12, 2022, completely severing Artsakh’s only humanitarian lifeline to Armenia, preventing the transport of food, fuel, medicine, and other vital humanitarian supplies to the region, and leaving Artsakh’s 120,000 Armenians facing critical shortages of life-sustaining goods; and

WHEREAS, The State of California is home to the largest Armenian American population in the United States, and Armenians living in California have enriched our state through their contributions in business, agriculture, academia, government, and the arts; and

WHEREAS, The State of California recognized the independence of the Republic of Artsakh in 2014 and has been at the forefront of efforts to raise awareness of the plight of its indigenous Armenian population amidst Azerbaijan’s relentless aggression;  and

WHEREAS, The United States acknowledged the threat Azerbaijan poses to the Armenians of Artsakh with the passage of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act in 1992, which prohibited the provision of United States assistance to Azerbaijan until the time it ceases the offensive use of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh; and

WHEREAS, Azerbaijan remains committed to enacting a policy of ethnic cleansing against the Armenians of Artsakh to impose its will on the Armenian people through the use of coercion, intimidation, and the use of force; now, therefore, be it

Resolved, By the Assembly and the Senate of the State of California, jointly, That the State of California unequivocally condemns the illegal and inhumane blockade enforced by Azerbaijan against Artsakh; and be it further

Resolved, That the Legislature respectfully calls on the President of the United States and the United States Department of State to condemn Azerbaijan’s blockade against the Armenian people and immediately take action to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its human rights abuses and war crimes through the enforcement of restrictions on the provision of military assistance to Azerbaijan pursuant to Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and through the imposition of targeted sanctions on Azerbaijani officials involved directly in the commissioning of war crimes; and be it further

Resolved, That the Legislature calls on the President of the United States and the United States Agency for International Development to work to immediately facilitate the provision of urgent humanitarian assistance by way of airlift to the Armenians of Artsakh in order to prevent an impending humanitarian catastrophe; and be it further

Resolved, That the Legislature reaffirms its recognition of the Republic of Artsakh and calls on the President of the United States and the United States Department of State to engage proactively in multilateral conflict resolution efforts to ensure a lasting resolution to this conflict that ensure the fundamental right to self-determination for the Armenians of Artsakh; and be it further

Resolved, That the Legislature condemns Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Republic of Artsakh and urges the United States government to take immediate action to assist the Armenians of Artsakh; and be it further

Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly transmit copies of this resolution to the President and Vice President of the United States, to the Secretary of State, to the United States Agency for International Development’s Administrator, and to the Speaker of the House of Representatives.

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