* Urges Pres. Clinton to invite Armenian President Kocharian to Washington; calls on Azerbaijan to agree to direct negotiations with Nagorno Karabakh.
WASHINGTON–As President Clinton prepared to meet with Azeri President Haydar Aliyev in Washington Tuesday–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) spoke on the House Floor–urging Administration officials to call on Aliyev to "accept the direct participation of representatives from Nagorno Karabakh in the [peace] negotiations" and to stress the US commitment to maintaining aid restrictions on Azerbaijan until that country lifts its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.)
Rep. Pallone–an outspoken leader in support of self-determination for Nagorno Karabakh–argued that while it is imperative that the Armenian and Azeri presidents continue their dialogue to find a peaceful solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict–for "the final settlement–the people of Karabakh who have their own democratically elected government must have a seat at that table. After all–it is their homeland and their lives that are at stake in this peace process. No one else should be allowed to make these life and death decisions for them."
"Armenian Americans from New Jersey and throughout the nation thank Congressman Pallone for his principled remarks–his hard work–and his courageous leadership," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We look forward to working with him and our many other friends in Congress to reverse the Administration’s proposed reduction in aid to Armenia–to defend Section 907–and to support a negotiated settlement that fully respects Nagorno Karabakh’s fundamental right to self-determination within secure borders."
Expressing concern about the Administration’s recently announced FY 2001 budget–which would decrease US aid to Armenia by 23 percent–Rep. Pallone noted that "Congress will have an opportunity to reverse this–and I intend to work hard to make sure the assistance is increased." Commenting on President Aliyev’s unsuccessful efforts to secure the repeal of Section 907–Rep. Pallone remarked–"I truly hope Mr. Aliyev will hear this message–and [does] not continue to believe that he can play the ‘oil card,’ trying to use Azerbaijan’s presumed oil reserves as a way of getting the US to sell out the principle behind Section 907."