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Senator Bob Menendez Slams U.S. Assistance to Azerbaijan as “Morally Repugnant”

During the November 16 hearing of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee focusing on the Caucasus, committee chairman Senator Bob Menendez described continued U.S. defense assistance to Azerbaijan “morally repugnant and inexcusable” given Baku's recent aggression against Armenia and the threat of ethnic cleansing Armenians in Karabkah face.

“How on earth can we justify sending any support, security or otherwise, to the regime in Baku?” Menendez asked, criticizing repeated waivers of Article 907 of the 2001 Freedom Support Act that bans all assistance to Azerbaijan until Baku is seen to take demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Menendez also said he was skeptical that the “authoritarian rtegimes in Turkey, Russia and Azerbaijan will allow Armenia to choose its own destiny.

He said continued U.S. assistance and training helped tip the military balance in Baku’s favor.

U.S. Department of State Senior Adviser for Caucasus Negotiations Philip Reeker said the joint efforts of the United States, EU, and partner countries have paved the way for a series of meetings between Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders to discuss peace.

Reeker testified that despite recent hostilities, the U.S. is encouraged by the pace of engagement by Armenian and Azerbaijani leadership in the peace process.

“As with any peace negotiations, these are difficult discussions that focus on issues complicated by layers of history. But the pace and depth of the current discussions demonstrates a clear potential for a settlement that could end decades of conflict,” Reeker said according to an official transcript.

Reeker said that while the U.S. and the EU are “facilitating” negotiations between Yerevan and Baku, the substance of these talks is led by Armenian and Azerbaijani representatives.

While the resolution of contentious issues remains the responsibility of Armenia and Azerbaijan, I have made it clear the international community has a specific responsibility to ensure that the rights and security of ethnic Armenians are addressed credibly and in line with a peace settlement. To that end, I have repeatedly encouraged the leaders in both countries to consider an international mechanism to ensure, monitor, and report on any agreement involving Nagorno-Karabakh,” Reeker said.

Karen Donfried Assistant U.S. Secretary of State for European Affairs, echoed Reeker’s remarks, adding supporting peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan is both the right thing to do and in the national security interest of the U.S.

Donfried said the U.S. views Turkish-Armenian normalization dialogue positively and has let both sides know that it wants to assist the process.

“We want to play a helpful role. It has the potential to increase regional stability, deter malign influence, and lead to greater economic development,”

(A video of yesterday’s hearing, chaired by Senator Bob Menendez, can be accessed HERE)

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