WASHINGTON, DC – House Foreign Affairs Committee member Brad Sherman (D-CA) asked Secretary of State Hillary Clinton today to address the Azerbaijani government’s threats and aggression against Armenia and Karabakh and, more specifically, to identify the “serious repercussions” that Azerbaijan would face from the United States if it renewed its aggression against Nagorno Karabakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The question came during Secretary Clinton’s three hour testimony before the Foreign Affairs panel earlier today. Secretary Clinton will be testifying again tomorrow regarding U.S. foreign aid priorities before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Senate Appropriations Committee Subcommittee of Foreign Operations.
As part of a series of questions he posed on issues ranging from China to the Middle East and the Caucasus, Rep. Sherman asked: “As to the Caucasus, the Defense Minister of Azerbaijan stated recently that his country is seriously preparing for war. I hope you can outline for the record the serious repercussions that Azerbaijan would face if it renewed the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.” Secretary Clinton is expected to respond in writing to this and other questions posed by members of the Committee.
“The Azerbaijani government is arming itself to the teeth and openly threatening to use its arsenal of advanced weaponry to restart the Caucasus war it launched and then lost nearly two decades ago,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “We should, as Americans, be at least as clear in opposing Baku’s march toward war and in laying out – in stark terms – the sanctions and other costs we would impose upon the Aliyev regime and the Azerbaijani government should they decide to restart hostilities.”
Rep. Sherman offered his question amid a growing tide of Azerbaijani threats and outright acts of aggression that have left some 30 dead along the Nagorno Karabakh Republic – Azerbaijan border over the past two years. Azerbaijani Defense Minister Abiyev’s military budget has increased to over $3 billion in 2011, with reports emerging of an additional $1.36 billion to be allocated for local arms production, which would make Azerbaijan’s military budget second only to Russia within the Commonwealth of Independent States.
An updated timeline of Azerbaijani aggression and threats against Armenia and Karabakh is available on the following ANCA fact sheet.
Rep. Sherman’s inquiry comes just one day after a Congressional Commemoration of the Azerbaijani pogroms against Armenians in Sumgait and Baku, during which Congressman Sherman was joined by Nagorno Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Georgi Petrossian and Congressional Armenian Caucus colleagues Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Elliot Engel (D-NY) in marking this solemn occasion. In his remarks, the Foreign Minister explained that the Sumgait massacres in 1988 were the beginnings of broad ethnic cleansing efforts in that the Azerbaijani government intended to extend to Karabakh as well. “Every person, every nation, has the right to live free; every person, every nation has the right to defend itself,” noted Petrossian. “The people of Karabakh asserted that right – that God-given right – and will never give it up.”
To learn more about the Azerbaijani massacres in Sumgait and Baku and the U.S. response, read the ANCA fact sheet.