NEWARK – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, issued the following statement regarding the Russia-negotiated agreement to cease fighting in the south Caucasus region:
“This is a tragic moment for ethnic Armenians everywhere. The agreement signed earlier this week strengthens the hand of Russia, Turkey and Azerbaijan in the south Caucasus and could destabilize the region for years to come. After top Trump administration officials decided to remain largely absent throughout this conflict, the security of the Armenian people, who have already suffered brutal violence at the hands of Presidents Aliyev and Erdogan, now rests with ‘peacekeepers’ sent by Putin. Going forward, the United States must reengage seriously in the region and ensure that the OSCE Minsk Group, and not this trio of authoritarians, drives the peace process.
“Similarly, I am deeply concerned by the role U.S.-provided defense articles may have played in this conflict and especially in attacks on Armenian civilians. In addition to thoroughly investigating these reports and responding appropriately to any violations of U.S. law, the United States must immediately suspend provision of defense articles to Turkey and Azerbaijan so that we do not enable any future abuses. Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act remains the law of the land, and this conflict underscored the need for the Administration to actually enforce it.
“At my request, the Government Accountability Office is currently conducting a review of the impact of U.S. security assistance to Azerbaijan, which has skyrocketed under the Trump Administration. The insights from that review will be critical, but we cannot wait until it is completed to act. That is why I have introduced two Senate resolutions requiring Secretary Pompeo to report on human rights abuses by Azerbaijan and Turkey and on the role U.S. security assistance and arms transfers may be playing in those abuses. Those resolutions can be used at any point to halt U.S. security assistance and arms transfers to Azerbaijan and Turkey if the Trump Administration fails to take that step itself.
“The United States must also address the humanitarian needs created by this violence, particularly the needs of the tens of thousands of ethnic Armenians who now find themselves forcibly displaced from their homes by the six-week war. With winter approaching and the COVID-19 pandemic raging, Congress and the Trump administration must move quickly to ensure humanitarian assistance reaches those who need it most.”