US Senator Bob Menendez, Chairman of the SFRC, and bipartisan colleagues introduced sanctions against Azerbaijan over the Nagorno-Karabakh attack on Friday.
Along with Menendez, Senators Bill Cassidy (R-La.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Alex Padilla (D-Calif.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Gary Peters (D-Mich.), introduced the Supporting Armenians Against Azerbaijani Aggression Act.
The legislation responds to the actions of the government of Azerbaijan by providing humanitarian assistance to Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh after Tuesday’s fatal attack against them.
The act is to prevent additional security assistance from going to the government of Azerbaijan. It calls for additional accountability for alleged atrocities committed against Armenians.
Specifically, the bill would repeal the waiver authority for section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, banning most assistance to the government of Azerbaijan.
Furthermore, it would also authorize foreign military financing for Armenia, develop a strategy to ensure the security of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, and impose sanctions on the Ilham Aliyev regime.
On Tuesday, Azerbaijan launched a deadly military operation in the disputed region, with Nagorno-Karabakh’s human rights commissioner saying that at least twenty-five people were killed. Another 138 individuals were wounded.
On Wednesday, the two sides agreed to a Russia-brokered ceasefire, including a commitment to take part in talks on the future of the region and the ethnic Armenians who live in the area.
Menendez, US Senators on Aliyev and Nagorno-Karabakh
“President Aliyev has repeatedly shown he will stop at nothing to eradicate Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and threaten his neighbors,” said Senator Menendez.
“This urgent bipartisan legislation both solidifies our collective support for Armenians and sends a clear message to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh that the United States will not stand idly by while the Aliyev regime carries out its brutal campaigns of starvation and military action,” he explained.
“The Azeri government and President Aliyev used first a blockade and then an attack to force their will upon Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Dr. Cassidy.
“Armenians suffered the first genocide of the 20th century, which opened the door for many of the horrors in this century. This is the latest episode of the use of force to resolve things which should be done diplomatically,” he added.
“Azerbaijan’s renewed attacks on Nagorno-Karabakh are unacceptable,” said Senator Van Hollen. “The US and international community must act to end the blockade, halt Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenians and hold those responsible accountable.”
This legislation sends a clear signal that we will not stand idly by in the face of these attacks,” he said.
“We cannot stand idly by as Azerbaijan takes escalatory steps to ethnically cleanse Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh, said Senator Padilla.
“We must swiftly pass this legislation to provide immediate support to Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh and to ensure the Azerbaijani regime is held accountable for its grave human rights violations and unprovoked acts of aggressions on Armenians,” he added.
“America can’t stand idly by as brutal violence perpetrated by the authoritarian regime in Azerbaijan raises the specter of genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Senator Whitehouse.
“This legislation imposes stiff sanctions that will help hold the Azerbaijani government accountable for its clear human rights violations, while authorizing much-needed humanitarian assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh and the people of Armenia,” he said.
The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan is an ethnic and territorial conflict for the disputed region, inhabited mostly by ethnic Armenians.
The conflict started in the early 20th century, but the present conflict began in 1988, when the Karabakh Armenians demanded the transfer of the region from Soviet Azerbaijan to Soviet Armenia.
There are seven surrounding districts. These were inhabited mostly by Azerbaijanis until their expulsion after a full-scale war in the early 1990s following the dissolution of the Soviet Union.
The Nagorno-Karabakh region is entirely claimed by the breakaway Republic of Artsakh but is recognized internationally as part of Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan controls the remainder of the Nagorno-Karabakh region as well as the seven surrounding districts.
The First Nagorno-Karabakh War led to tens of thousands of casualties. The war was won by Armenia, which subsequently occupied regions around Soviet-era Nagorno-Karabakh.
The ceasefire that ended the first war was signed in 1994 in Bishkek. Ethnic Azerbaijanis were expelled from the Armenian-controlled areas, while ethnic Armenians were expelled from Azerbaijan.
After more than twenty years of relative peace, a four-day escalation in April 2016 resulted in hundreds of casualties but only minor changes to the territorial lines.
In late 2020, the large-scale Second Nagorno-Karabakh War resulted in thousands of casualties and a significant Azerbaijani victory.
An armistice was established by an Azerbaijan – Armenia – Russia ceasefire agreement on November 10th, resulting in Azerbaijan regaining all of the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh as well as capturing one-third of Nagorno-Karabakh itself.
US Senator Bob Menendez has been active in supporting the Armenians of the region in the struggle against the Aliyev regime.
Sources: US Senate Foreign Relations Council, Council on Foreign Relations, BBC