YEREVAN (Combined Sources)—Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged that she will press Azerbaijan with “serious questions” regarding the killing of three Armenian soldiers ahead of her visit on Monday, reported panorama.am
Hours before her scheduled arrival in Yerevan, Azeri soldiers violated the cease fire and killed three Armenian soldiers in the Tavush district of Armenia.
“I was saddened to hear the latest news,” Clinton told a news conference at the Presidential Palace in Yerevan, commenting on the ceasefire violation by Azerbaijan recorded on Monday.
Clinton expressed concern over death of soldiers. “Force cannot resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, force must be ruled out.”
“I will visit Baku the day after tomorrow, and I have serious questions to ask the Azerbaijani leader. Both me and the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group are convinced that the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict can be resolved exclusively by peaceful means, and a way should be found in this direction,” the senior U.S. official noted.
She called on the sides to refrain from use of force, because there is no military solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
“The only path for a solution is through the negotiating table,” Clinton added.
Armenia’s Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandian also spoke about the cease fire violations at the press conference.
“We strongly condemn the violent provocations that are organized by the Azerbaijani side on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border which, unfortunately, resulted in victims and wounded, and that Azerbaijan is not satisfied by the fact that every day there are violations by Azerbaijanis on the line of contact of Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh. They are trying to transfer the tension, to sharpen the situation onto the border between Armenia and Azerbaijan which greatly undermines the negotiation process, as well as it is threatening the regional stability. The responsibility of all the possible consequences of all this lies on Azerbaijan,” said Nalbandian.
Congressional Leaders Urge Strong Condemnation
Outraged at the latest cease-fire violation and the death of three Armenian soldiers, Rep. Adam Schiff issued a statement urging Clinton to condemn the attacks.
“This latest outrage by Azerbaijan’s military makes it even more important that Secretary Clinton condemn these belligerent actions during her visit to Baku later this week. Azerbaijani provocations along the Line of Contact are a direct result of the war mongering rhetoric of the Aliyev regime and they must cease. We should fully apply Section 907 and prohibit the transfer of any arms or dual use items to Azerbaijan,” said Schiff.
Rep. Frank Pallone, co-chair and founder of the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus, issued a statement after Monday’s killing of three soldiers in Armenia.
“I strongly condemn the violent attacks in the Tavush region of Armenia today by Azerbaijani forces, which, tragically, killed three and wounded five Armenian soldiers. This act of aggression is one in a pattern of escalating attacks by Azerbaijan against both Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Violence by Azerbaijan impedes peace efforts and has the potential to lead to greater regional instability and violence,” said Pallone.
“This type of aggression warrants a forceful condemnation of Azerbaijan’s actions by the Administration. It is my hope that Secretary of State Clinton, who is currently visiting the Caucuses and will meet with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev in Baku on Wednesday, delivers a strong message that the United States will not tolerate this type of violence and will hold Azerbaijan accountable. I join with the Armenian people at this time to call for an immediate end to these senseless attacks,” added Pallone.
Rep. Howard Berman, the ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs committee, also expressed his outrage about the attacks and called for strong condemnation of Azerbaijan.
“I am deeply disturbed by press reports about a brazen, unwarranted cross-border attack by Azerbaijan that resulted in the tragic deaths of three Armenian soldiers and the wounding of five others. This outrageous action underscores the critical importance of preventing the recently proposed sale of U.S. military equipment to the Government of Azerbaijan – a sale I recently requested Secretary Clinton to halt. Aside from the possible military application of this equipment against Armenia, such asale would send entirely the wrong message to Azerbaijan, particularly in light of this horrifying incident. I offer deepest condolences to the families of the slain Armenians and my best wishes for a speedy recovery to the others. ”
Last week, Rep. Berman wrote a letter to Clinton, urging the Secretary to reconsider the proposed sale of military equipment to Azerbaijan.
Rep. Brad Sherman also condemned the attack and called on Clinton to publicly do the same.
“I strongly and unequivocally condemn Azerbaijan’s recent attack on the Armenia-Azerbaijan border killing three Armenian soldiers. The timing of this brazen attack — on the same day Secretary of State Clinton visits Armenia — highlights Baku’s utter contempt for its neighbors and its lack of commitment to the peace process between Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Azerbaijan,” said Sherman.
“I call on the Administration not only to publicly condemn the attack but to enforce Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act without exercising its waiver provisions. We cannot provide any type of aid to Azerbaijan as long as Baku blockades Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and rebukes peace with its neighbors. We must also block the sale of any arms to Azerbaijan, especially as these can be used against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh,” added Sherman
Nalbandian and Clinton were also asked about the Turkey-Armenia protocols.
Clinton reiterated her position that the “ball is in Turkey’s court.”
“Negotiations are not conducted, negotiations cannot be conducted, as the negotiations are over and they had resulted in signing of the protocols, which Turkey refuses to respect and implement, trying to put forward preconditions. Turkey has no right to put preconditions in this issue. This position is shared by the international community,” explained Nalbandian.
Clinton arrived in Armenia Monday afternoon and after a reception at the US Embassy (see below) she met with President Serzh Sarkisian.
“Historic ties between the two nations, large Armenian community of U.S. as well as the ideas of freedom, justice and democracy have promoted establishment of good relations between the states,” Sarkisian told Clinton, adding that in the 20 years of diplomatic relations between the two countries, relations had been developing gradually.
In assessing the US role in the region, Sarkisian said bilateral relation are built on the basis of mutual respect and confidence, the presidential press service reported.
“I want once again thank the United States for assisting Armenia during the last 20 years,” he said.
In her turn, Secretary Clinton noted it is honor to her to visit Armenia in the year marking the 20th anniversary of diplomatic relations between the states.
Clinton said that Washington greatly values its partnership with Armenia, and continues to support the development and increasing welfare of the Armenian people.
Clinton stressed that she, personally, and President Obama appreciate contacts with Armenia and expect continuation of the dialogue. Clinton added that she was well aware of how hard the president has worked to find solutions to regional problems concerning Armenia.
Thus, the United States is committed to assist and support his ongoing activities as an excellent leader, she emphasized.
Clinton Honors Rights Advocates
Clinton, joined the U.S. Embassy, Counterpart International, the British Embassy, the OSCE, and the EU to honor individuals working to promote human rights, accountable governance, and free speech in Armenia at the Universal Rights Awards Ceremony at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan. Secretary Clinton delivered remarks at the event and met privately with the award recipients. The Universal Rights Awards Ceremony was the first multi-mission initiative to highlight the contributions of Armenia’s civil rights activists, government officials, and media representatives to the promotion of human rights. Armenian government officials, foreign diplomats, NGO representatives, and the press attended the event.
USAID/Armenia Mission Director, Jatinder Cheema, opened the ceremony and awarded Artur Sakunts with the Freedom Defender Award. “Artur defends all minorities, especially those that are the target of intolerance, such as ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities. He is not afraid to take unpopular stances, working constantly for a more tolerant Armenia,” said Director Cheema.
Counterpart International’s Chief of Party, Alex Sardar, presented the Woman of Courage Award to Tsovinar Nazaryan for her military reform efforts. “Tsovinar should be proud of her role in encouraging the military to embrace reform, which will lead to a more modern, effective, and humane force for Armenia,” Mr. Sardar said.
The British Ambassador to Armenia, Jonathan Aves, recognized the Deputy Chief of Police, Major-General Artur Osikyan, for his contributions to police reform, especially regarding improvements to the police educational system. “Artur Osikyan has helped lay the foundation for transparent and accountable police force that works for the citizens of Armenia,” Ambassador Aves said.
Presenting the award for media excellence to the editors of Epress.am — Sonya Apresova, Yuri Manvelyan, and Armen Melikbekyan — the Head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan, Ambassador Andrey Sorokin, commended them for their fair and balanced coverage and commitment to human rights reporting. Ambassador Sorokin stated, “Epress’s coverage of human rights plays an important role in informing the public and contributing to public debate. This type of reporting is an important element in Armenia’s democratic transformation.”
The EU Head of Delegation to Armenia, Traian Hristea, awarded environmental activists — Apres Zohrabyan, Yeghia Nersesyan, Gor Hakobyan, Mary Khachatryan, and Ruzanna Grigoryan — for their grassroots campaign to promote environmental conservation in Armenia. “It is the commitment and perseverance of many civic activists that led to important victories for the environment this year. With this award, we would like not only to honor their work, but also to promote their future efforts in Armenia,” said Ambassador Hristea.