A bipartisan group of American congressmen and women called on U.S. President Joe Biden to cut off military and economic aid to Azerbaijan until Baku opens up the passage to an Armenian-majority enclave where 120,000 residents have been blockaded since Dec. 12.
The newly formed “Save Karabakh Coalition” demanded that the U.S. government put pressure on Azerbaijan to lift the blockade, which is creating a “humanitarian disaster,” according to Rep. Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) – a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“The tactic is blockade. The effect is civilian deprivation. The purpose is ethnic cleansing,” Sherman said. “I urge the administration to impose real consequences that I have for plunging the people of Artsakh into this humanitarian disaster. The administration must enforce Section 907 and stop all military assistance to Azerbaijan. Actions are needed. The words are good, but there’s no time to act.”
Under the guise of an environmental emergency, Azerbaijan blocked the Lachin Corridor on Dec. 12 depriving the 120,000 Armenian Christians who live there of food, medicine and energy supplies. According to reports, Azerbaijan has also cut off natural gas, electricity and telecommunications to the region.
At the press conference, Sherman was joined by representatives David Valadao (R-Calif.), Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Lou Correa (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.) and Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.). The news conference was led by Rev. Canon Justin Murff, executive director of the Anglican Office for Government and International Affairs who announced the formation of the Save Karabakh Coalition. The Azeri name for Artsakh is Nagorno-Karabakh.
Former U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sen. Sam Brownback called for tough sanctions as well.
“They need to be effective against Azerbaijan,” he said. “Azerbaijan could cause this blockade to stop today.”
Valadao said it is incumbent upon the U.S. to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its ongoing aggression against Artsakh.
“Azerbaijan is once again weaponizing critical infrastructure and manufacturing humanitarian crisis for Armenians living in the Nagorno Karabakh.” Valadao said. “The U.S. must use every single diplomatic tool we have available to end this blockade and ensure the safety of Armenians living in Artsakh. I continue to work with my colleagues in Congress to raise awareness about this very important issue and work to hold Azerbaijan accountable.”
Lee called the blockade “illegal,” describing the Lachin Corridor as Artsakh’s only humanitarian lifeline to Armenia. And Costa also used the words “ethnic cleansing.”
Meanwhile, Azerbaijan has filed a lawsuit against Yerevan for “wartime environmental damage,” claiming that Armenia destroyed its environment and biodiversity during the three decades of” occupation” of the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region.
The lawsuit, filed under the scope of the Bern Convention, blames Armenia for “extensive destruction” of the environment and wildlife during its 30 years of “occupation” of the Karabakh region.
“Armenia’s widespread deforestation, unsustainable logging, and pollution through significant construction and mining in areas that were protected nature reserves prior to occupation has put over 500 wildlife species at risk in Azerbaijan,” the statement said.