WASHINGTON, D.C. – 85 Members of Congress joined in sending a letter to Ambassador James Warlick, U.S. Co-Chair of OSCE Minsk Group which is tasked with finding a resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The letter, spearheaded by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), urges Ambassador Warlick to “publicly condemn specific acts of aggression along the line of contact. The long-standing 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 even-handedness has dangerously increased tensions. There will be no peace absent responsibility,” the letter states.
The letter campaign began after Azerbaijan mortar fire on September 24th killed 3 Armenian women aged up to 94. Subsequent Azerbaijan military advances over the coming days resulted in several dead in Armenia and along the line of contact between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan. In fact, within 24 hours of the letter’s issuance, OSCE monitors came under repeated gunfire ascribed to Azerbaijan. “During our Line of Contact crossing, repeated gunfire forced OSCE monitors to take cover. This is unacceptable,” Ambassador Warlick, tweeted on Tuesday.
“Violence along the line of contact in Nagorno Karabakh has increased dramatically, and the Administration policy of non-attribution when condemning violations isn’t working. It must change,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce said in a statement released to the Armenian Assembly of America. “In our letter, we propose a few common sense steps for the U.S. and the Minsk Group to take to deter further violence. Specifically, the call for all parties to withdraw snipers, and the proposal to deploy OSCE monitors and equip them with gunfire locator systems, provides tools to increase transparency and accountability for each and every cross-boundary violation. Ambassador Warlick should support these proposals, and press for their adoption by other Minsk Group partners,” Chairman Royce said.
The legislators propose three concrete steps that would, “in the short-term, save lives and help to avert war. Over the longer term,” the letter says, “these steps could contribute to a comprehensive and enduring peace for all the citizens of the region.”
In particular, the letter calls for (1) an agreement from all sides not to deploy snipers along the line of contact; (2) the placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire-locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact; and (3) the deployment of additional OSCE observers along the line of contact to better monitor cease-fire violations.
“As Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus, I am proud to join my colleagues in sending this bipartisan letter to address the growing number of cease-fire violations and condemn specific acts of aggression,” stated Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ). “The steps highlighted in this letter are common sense measures to address the increasing violence and the use of heavy weapons along the border. I am deeply concerned about the escalation of tensions along the contact line, and I will continue to urge my colleagues to support a viable and peaceful resolution in Nagorno-Karabakh,” Pallone said.
In addition to the House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership, the letter garnered the support of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA), U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), House Democratic Caucus Vice Chair Joseph Crowley (D-NY), and former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel (D-NY).