ANCA chapters, local activists and student groups lead the charge urging concrete steps to end Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia and Karabakh
WASHINGTON, DC – Congressional meetings from Washington state to Virginia, national call-in days, letter writing campaigns, and classroom civic initiatives were all part of a nationwide grassroots groundswell in support of a pro-peace initiative, led by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel, calling for an accountability-based approach to stop Azerbaijani aggression and save lives, as international negotiators continue their efforts toward a fair and enduring Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) peace, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The effort began following the devastating Azerbaijani attacks against Armenia and Artsakh at the end of September that led to over 7 deaths in 2 days. Border area shelling and snipers have taken over 60 Armenian and Azerbaijani lives this year, making 2015 amongst the bloodiest since the Artsakh ceasefire was signed in 1994.
Thousands of Armenian American and pro-peace activists from across the U.S. used the ANCA’s online action portal – anca.org/nkpeace – emailing and calling their legislators regarding the Royce-Engel letter, which gained the support of 85 U.S. House members, including senior members of the Armed Services, Intelligence and Appropriations Committees.
For the 11th and 12th grade students at Rose and Alex Pilibos Armenian School in Los Angeles, CA, the increased aggression along border villages – and the need for concrete measures to de-escalate the violence – particularly hit home. During their annual trip to Armenia and Artsakh, they had seen, first hand, the devastation of Azerbaijani aggression and its effects on the civilian population – young and old. After calls and emails to their individual U.S. Representatives, students added their voices to the over 80 Congressional leaders cosigning the Royce-Engel letter, echoing letter in a poignant video message to Ambassador Warlick. The video is available at: https://youtu.be/jrRWVdbo1F0
ANCA Western Region Chairwoman Nora Hovsepian and Eastern Region Chair Steve Mesrobian explained the importance of clear and targeted action for Artsakh peace in a joint op/ed. “Aliyev needs to be held responsible. It’s time for the United States and our international partners to abandon our policy of false parity, a failed approach that answers every Azerbaijani military escalation against Artsakh and Armenia with a only a generic call on all parties to refrain from new attacks. That’s worse than weak. It’s surefire a recipe for more violence,” explained Hovsepian and Mesrobian.
The Royce-Engel letter, addressed to Ambassador Warlick – the U.S. representative to the OSCE’s Minsk Group tasked with reaching a resolution of Nagorno Karabakh-related security and status issues – specifically calls for the U.S. and OSCE to abandon their failed policy of false parity in responding to acts of aggression, noting that: “The longstanding U.S. and OSCE practice of responding to each new attack with generic calls upon all parties to refrain from violence has failed to de-escalate the situation. Instead, this policy of artificial evenhandedness has dangerously increased tensions. There will be no peace absent responsibility.”
The letter outlines three concrete pro-peace steps that would, “in the short-term, save lives and help to avert war. Over the longer term,” the letter notes, “these steps could contribute to a comprehensive and enduring peace for all the citizens of the region:”
— An agreement from all sides not to deploy snipers along the line of contact.
–The placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire-locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.
— The deployment of additional OSCE observers along the line of contact to better monitor cease-fire violations.
Ambassador James Warlick has voiced the Obama Administration’s support for common-sense measures, as have Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Azerbaijan has not.