Launches Congressional Letter to Commerce Sec. Raimondo Citing Azerbaijan’s ongoing Anti-Armenian Aggression and 125+ Day Blockade
WASHINGTON—Rep. Adam Schiff is calling on his Congressional colleagues to join him in demanding that the Commerce Department explain why it is considering licensing the sale of high-powered U.S. rifles to Azerbaijan, in the face of Azerbaijan’s 125-plus day blockade of Artsakh and ongoing attacks on Armenia, which left four Armenians dead and six injured just last week, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
“The same Biden Administration that continues shipping military aid to oil-rich Azerbaijan and has yet to investigate the discovery of U.S. parts in the Turkish drones deployed by Azerbaijan against Artsakh is now considering the direct sale of U.S. rifles to Azerbaijan, a dictatorship whose military openly executes unarmed Armenian POWs with rifles, then posts, trophy, videos of these killings on social media,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We join with Congressman Schiff, Senator Menendez, and all those – Democrats and Republicans – in the House and Senate who stand against this reckless arms sale,” concluded Hamparian.
In a “Dear Colleague” letter to U.S. House members, Rep. Schiff is urging his colleagues to co-sign a letter to Secretary Raimondo seeking “additional information from the Commerce Department about the status of any requests for export licenses to send lethal weapons to Azerbaijan and safeguards to prevent U.S. weapons from being used in the commission of human rights violations.”
Rep. Schiff stated, “approving the export of more lethal weapons to be pointed at Armenia would only fuel conflict, especially in the hands of security forces with a history of human rights violations. The State Department’s 2022 Human Rights Report documents ‘credible reports of unlawful killings involving summary executions of Armenian soldiers in Azerbaijani custody,’ torture, and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment with high levels of impunity.”
Members of Congress have until Friday, April 21st to co-sign the letter to Secretary Raimondo. The ANCA is working with regional and local affiliates to encourage broad bi-partisan support for the letter.
News of a possible sale of U.S. rifles – including assault-style and semi-automatic sniper models – to Azerbaijan broke on February 1st when Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Robert Menendez (D-NJ) announced his “deep concern and strong opposition” to the proposed sale.
“The export of weapons to an authoritarian country that wages war against a neighbor, blockades a vulnerable population, and commits rampant human rights violations at home is not consistent with the Administration’s commitment to democracy and human rights,” Sen. Menendez stated in a letter to Secretary Raimondo. “Further, the consideration of this export license further compounds my dismay that the Administration continues to allow the export of assault-style and sniper rifles abroad – even while supporting an assault-style rifle ban domestically – and deepens my reservations about the Department of Commerce having jurisdiction over such exports,” concluded Senator Menendez.
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian and the local ANC chair from Secretary Raimondo’s home state of Rhode Island, Steve Elmasian, expressed similar concerns in a February 13th letter to Secretary Raimondo. “As you know, from your long friendship with Americans of Armenian heritage in Rhode Island and across the United States, our community is deeply troubled by the U.S. military aid program to Baku, and even more shocked by the possibility that American offensive weaponry may be deployed against Armenians in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and Armenia. The victims of Azerbaijan’s attacks are, very often, the relatives and friends of Armenian American citizens,” stated Hamparian and Elmasian.