WASHINGTON–DC–US Reps. Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone–Jr. (D-NJ)–cochairmen of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues–called on the US State Department to formally renounce remarks by a State Department official in Moscow that described the government of Mountainous Karabagh Republic as "criminal secessionists."
The lawmakers made the request in a letter to Secretary of State nominee Condoleezza Rice–referring to a statement made by Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones during a January 13 digital video-conference with journalists at US Embassies in Moscow–Rome–and Bratislava.
Expressing serious concern about the inaccurate characterization of Karabagh–the co-chairs said–"These unfounded and incendiary accusations undermine the very principles underlying our role as an honest broker in the Organization for Security and Cooperation’s Minsk Group Nagorno-Karabakh peace process."
The letter also stresses the damage of such remarks as it "unfairly denigrates the tremendous progress that the people and government of Nagorno-Karabakh have made in establishing democratic institutions–even as they have struggled to rebuild their homes–schools and farms destroyed by years of brutal Azerbaijan aggression."
Jones’s false charge that the government is "criminal," the lawmakers said–"only serves to further encourage irresponsible senior Azerbaijani leaders that are already calling for a military solution to the Karabakh issue."