The letter, initiated by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), cited specific recent threats by Azerbaijan's President Ilham Aliyev and stressed that, "these fear tactics and threats of war go directly against the United States' goal of peace and stability in the South Caucasus region. Azerbaijan has been threatening war with Armenia for years. However, these recent public comments made by high-ranking government officials prove that their rhetoric has turned into a very real and dangerous threat."
The signatories of the letter, in addition to Reps. Pallone and Knollenberg, were: Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Danny Davis (D-IL), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Elton Gallegly (R-CA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Charles Gonzalez (D-TX), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Michael Honda (D-CA), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Mark Kirk (R-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Sander Levin (D-MI), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Frank LoBiondo (R-NJ), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), James McGovern (D-MA), Buck McKeon (R-CA), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Candice Miller (R-MI), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Colin Peterson (D-MN), George Radanovich (R-CA), Mike Rogers (R-MI), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Paul Ryan (R-WI), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Chris Shays (R-CT), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Mark Souder (R-IN), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Tim Walz (D-MN), Diane Watson (D-CA), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), and Albert Wynn (D-MD).
The complete text of the letter to Secretary Rice follows. In a related matter, the Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen yesterday circulated a letter inviting members of the Caucus to offer public remarks honoring the 20th anniversary of the Nagorno Karabakh liberation movement. In their letter, they underscored that, "as Americans, we value and appreciate the courage shown by the people of Nagorno Karabakh in standing up for democracy and sparking the popular movements that spread throughout the Soviet Republics and the Warsaw Pact, and eventually brought down the Soviet empire. We commemorate this movement not only for the liberty it brought to the people of Nagorno Karabakh, but also for the profound contribution it made to helping to create a safer world." They added that, "in the two decades since this historic movement began on February of 1988, the men and women of Nagorno Karabakh--in the face of aggression, blockade, and other truly daunting challenges - have built a vibrant democracy, fostered a free market economy, and constructively engaged with the international community to advance regional peace and cooperation."
Congressman Michael McNulty, a longstanding and highly regarded Armenian Caucus member, issued a statement yesterday honoring the birth of the Nagorno Karabakh freedom movement. In his remarks, the Congressman, who recently announced his retirement, reminded his colleagues that "On February 20, 1988, the people of Nagorno Karabakh officially petitioned the Soviet government to reunite with Armenia and reverse the injustice perpetrated by the Soviet dictator, Joseph Stalin. This peaceful and legal request was met with violent reaction by the Soviet and Azerbaijani leadership and escalated into full military aggression against Nagorno Karabakh. The people of Nagorno Karabakh bravely defended their right to live in freedom on their ancestral land. Today, Nagorno Karabakh continues to strengthen its statehood with a democratically elected government, a capable defense force, and an independent foreign policy. I stand with the people of Nagorno Karabakh in celebrating their continuing freedom and democracy."
Text of Congressional Letter To Secretary Rice
February 15, 2008
The Honorable Condoleezza Rice
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street, NW
Washington D.C., 20520
Dear Secretary Rice:
We write to encourage you to hold the government of Azerbaijan accountable for the recent vitriolic comments made by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev in regard to the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh. It is important the United States condemn these comments that go directly against the United States stated policy in the South Caucasus region.
It was reported that during a meeting with his cabinet ministers President Ilham Aliyev stated, "In 2008 we will see, if the conflict could be solved by peaceful means, or not and after that we will make decisions" in regard to the ongoing conflict with Armenia over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. President Aliyev went on to take pride in the fact that his government has completely isolated Armenia from regional projects and will continue to isolate them until "they voluntarily leave our territories." Furthermore, President Aliyev was quoted at the opening of a sports facility that "The war has not ended yet, it is just its first stage that has finished."
These fear tactics and threats of war go directly against the United States' goal of peace and stability in the South Caucasus region. Azerbaijan has been threatening war with Armenia for years. However, these recent public comments made by high-ranking government officials prove that their rhetoric has turned into a very real and dangerous threat.
Armenia continues to be a strong ally of the United States. They have supported our efforts in Iraq by sending Armenian troops to the country, they have expressed interest in sending troops to Afghanistan, and they continue to strive for peace with their neighbors. Furthermore, Armenia continues to advocate for a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
We implore you to challenge the Azeri government on their comments and ask that you advocate for a retraction of the comments made by President Aliyev.