WASHINGTON, DC – As US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo prepared to meet with Azerbaijan Foreign Minister Jeyhun Bayramov earlier today, over 50 US House members called for crippling sanctions against President Aliyev and the country’s top military leaders for war crimes committed against Artsakh civilians during the ongoing Turkish and Azerbaijani attack against the Republics of Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“Sanctions – the strictest of sanctions – need to be enforced immediately against Aliyev and each member of his regime responsible for war crimes and human rights violations against Armenian civilians in Artsakh,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We thank Representatives Cox, Sherman, Costa and Clark for their leadership and express our appreciation to each signatory and all of those in the House and Senate who have so forcefully condemned Ankara and Baku for their unprovoked attack and sustained war against the Armenian people.”
Representatives TJ Cox (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Katherine Clark (D-MA) led the Congressional letter, which specifically targeted Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov, Chief of the General Staff Sadikov Najmeddin Huseynoglu, Deputy Minister of Defense (Army) Mustafayev Kerem Narimanoglu, and Deputy Minister of Defense (Air Force) Tairov Ramiz Firudinoglu and called on the Trump Administration to “impose significant, tangible consequences on the individuals responsible for Azerbaijan’s continuous campaign of aggression against civilians in Artsakh.”
The Congressional letter warned that “without a firm response from the United States, the return of fighting in the region stokes the possibility of a full-blown war embroiling Turkey and Russia. We have already seen Turkey’s heavy hand in this conflict, including the recent deployment of pro-Turkish fighters from Syria and Libya to bolster Azerbaijan’s army and reported use of Turkish F-16s in their ongoing bombing campaign. Any further escalation of fighting runs the risk of a much larger conflict threatening.”
As early as October 4th, the ANCA publicly called for imposing crippling sanctions on President Aliyev and Turkey’s President Erdogan under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (Public Law 114-328), based on reports that Turkish and Azerbaijani forces were deliberately targeting Armenian civilians in their attacks on Armenia and Artsakh. On October 5th, Amnesty International confirmed Azerbaijan’s use of internationally illegal cluster bombs during the shelling of civilians in Artsakh’s capital, Stepanakert.
“This administration needs to act with urgency to bring an end to the perpetual aggression from Azerbaijan towards the Armenian communities of Artsakh. Implementing Global Magnitsky sanctions on Azerbaijani officials is long overdue,” said Rep. Cox. “Not only is this inaction costing hundreds of lives, but it also allows these injustices to be repeated elsewhere and incites the possibility of additional conflicts involving Turkey and Russia.”
“Four weeks on, and the Azeri offensive against Artsakh, continues. International human rights organizations have confirmed Azerbaijan’s use of cluster munitions, in clear violation of international law,” said Congressman Brad Sherman. “Azeri officials must be held responsible for their part in the ongoing human rights abuses taking place in Artsakh. The implementation of sanctions under the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act will send a firm response from the United States that this offensive, and specifically the targeting of civilians, is unacceptable. We cannot risk the fighting in the region devolving into a full-blown proxy war involving Turkey and Russia. Azeri officials must be held to account.”
“It’s important that the U.S. stand against human rights violations,” said Rep. Jim Costa. “Azerbaijan must be held accountable for its aggressive actions against the Armenian people. Implementing sanctions on key officials is an important first step in showing there are consequences to these gross violations of internationally-recognized human rights. I will continue to stand up for the Armenian people.”
“Multiple human rights abuses have been reported following Azerbaijan’s unprovoked attacks on Armenians in Artsakh,” said Congresswoman Clark. “Civilians have been killed, hospitals and churches have been bombed, and thousands have been displaced. Those who are responsible for these atrocities must be held accountable if we are to prevent further bloodshed. The Trump administration must immediately respond with a clear and consequential condemnation of Azerbaijan.”
Joining Representatives Cox, Sherman (D-CA), Costa (D-CA) and Clark (D-MA) in cosigning the letter to Secretary Pompeo are Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Lou Correa (D-CA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Derek Kilmer (D-WA), Steve King (R-IA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Andy Levin (D-MI), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James McGovern (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Lori Trahan (D-MA).
Should the U.S. Department of Treasury enact sanctions called for by Congressional leaders and the ANCA, all of Aliyev’s property and interests in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons would be blocked or frozen and reported to the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC). U.S. regulations generally prohibit any dealings by U.S. persons with blocked or designated persons. Non-U.S. persons that engage in certain transactions with the designated persons may themselves be exposed to this designation. Furthermore, any foreign financial institution that knowingly conducts or facilitates a significant transaction for or on behalf of the persons designated today could be subject to U.S. legal action.