USAN CONDUCTS A FACT-FINDING MISSION IN THE CURRENTLY ILEGALLY OCCUPIED REGIONS OF AZERBAIJAN BY ARMENIA AND AT THE ARMENIA-AZERBAIJAN BORDER
The Azerbaijani-Americans have been very concerned by the rising tensions and intensification of border skirmishes in the vicinity of the Armenia-occupied Nagorno-Karabakh (NK) region of Azerbaijan, which bring about continuing human loss and economic hardship on both sides. To this effect, the U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) has, since March 2008, spearheaded three public action campaigns, which resulted in thousands of letters from concerned Azerbaijani-Americans being sent to their elected officials and mass media. The USAN has also submitted two testimonies for the record to the U.S. Congress hearings on related subjects in March and April of 2008.
Despite the commitment to peace and being the victim of territorial aggression and ethnic cleansing by Armenia since 1988 - which escalated into a full-scale war in 1992 and resulted in 16% of Azerbaijan occupied and a 1994 fragile cease-fire agreement - Azerbaijan continues to endure daily sniper fire, grenade attacks and usage of land mines by Armenian military in the almost entire length of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border and the so-called “Line of Contact”, which separates Azerbaijan’s defense forces from Armenia’s occupational forces in and around the occupied NK region of Azerbaijan. In recent months the situation on the border has dangerously escalated, in major part due to rising internal problems in Armenia, stemming from crack-down on democratization supporters in its capital, Yerevan, on March 1, when some 20 people were killed, hundreds arrested and/or wounded.
To better understand the situation in the volatile region and see first-hand the hardship of the Azerbaijani civilians living under constant enemy fire in their ancestral lands, on May 7-8, 2008, the USAN delegation, led by its Managing Director, has gratefully accepted a unique invitation to travel to the border regions of Azerbaijan, along with a Members of Azerbaijan’s Milli Mejlis (National Parliament), Ms. Ganira Pashayeva (Tovuz region), Mr. Rovshan Rzayev (Khanlar / Goy-Gol region) and Mrs. Khava Mammadova (Khankendi city / Nagorno-Karabakh region).
After meeting and speaking with the local journalists, farmers, mayor’s office, drivers, policemen, musicians, teachers, schoolchildren and other people of the border regions of Tovuz, Qazakh and Khanlar/Goy-gol, the USAN delegation was taken to the military unit stationed in the area, and later to the mountainous border between the two countries, where Armenian military posts were clearly visible within 200 meters.
Despite extreme hardship endured by the local Azerbaijani civilians, internally displaced (IDPs) and refugees from Armenia, the people persevered, refusing to relocate to safer locations, away from their ancestral lands. Improved financial and economic situation in the country has allowed for significant improvement in the lives of the local people region-wide, from less interruptions in electricity, water supply and phone service, to reconstruction of the river dam and care for the historic cemetery in the Agdam village of the Tovuz region. Meanwhile, the Azerbaijani military has also seen considerable improvements in their supply and stocks of military equipment, communications gear and uniforms, all of which is corresponding to NATO standards. Photos from the fact-finding mission are enclosed.
In the days preceding and after the visit to the border regions by the USAN delegation, the armed forces of the Republic of Armenia, continued to escalate the tensions by firing at Azerbaijani border positions and civilian infrastructure throughout May 7-10, specifically from the villages of Nerkin, Karmigakhpur and Chinarly in Berd region of Armenia and unnamed hilltop in Krasnoselsk region of Armenia in the directions of Qaraveliler village of Gedabek region, and Kokha Nebi, Alibeyli, Asrik Jirdakhan and Aghdam villages of Tovuz region of Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani army has returned fire, suppressing enemy attacks. No casualties were reported. All members of the delegation returned back safely. The USAN is commending the people of Azerbaijan for their perseverance and the Azerbaijani Army for the high-level professionalism displayed, in spite of the tremendous challenges, military and security risks. At the same time, the USAN and the Azerbaijani-Americans, are condemning Armenia for its occupation of a sovereign state, and ask for immediate withdrawal of all occupying forces from Azerbaijan and preventing the slide towards greater regional instability.
According to the CIA World Factbook and all other U.S. government sources, including the White House, State Department and the Congressional Research Service (CRS), Armenia is currently militarily occupying 16% of neighboring Azerbaijan (including the NK region), displacing 800,000 ethnic Azeris in the process, placing a hard moral and financial burden on Armenia’s own population, to sustain and support its military occupation machine. Indeed, Congress and CRS note, “Armenia’s shift away from a war footing would also further U.S. interests in Armenia’s economic development and improved standards of living (Congressional Budget Justification for Foreign Operations, FY2007)” (RL30679, Updated Jan 31, 2008, p. 29).
Official U.S. government position on the Armenia-Azerbaijan conflict over NK region of Azerbaijan: “The actions taken by the government of Armenia in the context of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh are inconsistent with the territorial integrity and national sovereignty principles of the Helsinki Final Act. Armenia supports Nagorno-Karabakh separatists in Azerbaijan both militarily and financially. Nagorno-Karabakh forces, assisted by units of the Armenian armed forces, currently occupy the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding areas in Azerbaijan. This violation and the restoration of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been taken up by the OSCE.” (Presidential Determination (PD) No. 99-8 of December 8, 1998, and PD No. 98-11 of January 26, 1998, Memorandum for the Secretary of State, Re: "Assistance Program for the New Independent States of the Former Soviet Union"). To read more on the official reaction to Armenia’s occupation of Azerbaijan, please read the relevant Fact sheets at the USAN website.
Azerbaijan’s one-of-a-kind record as a predominantly Muslim nation that sent peacekeepers to Kosovo, Afghanistan and Iraq, was among the first to offer assistance after the tragedy of September 11, offered aid to the Katrina victims, extradited international terrorists, prevented nuclear and arms smuggling and proliferation, etc., speaks for itself. However, in light of recent escalation of violence between the Azerbaijani army and the Armenian occupational army stationed in Nagorno Karabakh region of Azerbaijan and seven other Azerbaijani regions adjacent to it, the U.S. Congress and the greater American public and policy makers, should remain actively engaged in:
1) defusing the tensions by pressuring Armenia to stop the harassment of the Azerbaijani civilians;
2) compliance with all UN Security Council and General Assembly resolutions, calling for withdrawal of all Armenian occupational forces from Azerbaijan, and,
3) conditioning U.S. military aid to Armenia on compliance with international law,
4) while stopping all direct assistance to the NK separatist authorities.
The USAN will remain actively ceased in the matter.
The U.S. Azeris Network (USAN) (www.USAzeris.org <http://www.usazeris.org/> ), is a registered non-profit, non-partisan,
non-sectarian genuine grassroots advocacy and voter education network
that is facilitating political activism and efforts by the
Azerbaijani-Americans and other Turkic-Americans and their associations,
organizations, councils, conferences, and other formal, semi-formal and
informal groups, on federal, state and local levels. USAN is the first
nationwide grassroots organization uniting Azerbaijani-Americans, being
created by the grassroots, for the grassroots.
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