Reps. Bilirakis, Deutch Sign Letter in Support of Karabakh Peace
October 21, 2015
By Taniel Koushakjian
Florida Armenians Managing Editor
Florida Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) have signed a letter that will be sent to U.S. Ambassador James Warlick later this week calling for increased security measures and confidence building mechanisms along the Nagorno Karabakh-Azerbaijan border, reported FLArmenians.com. Congressman Bilirakis serves as Co-Chair of the Hellenic Caucus, Co-Chair of the Hellenic Israel Alliance Caucus, and Vice-Chair of the Armenian Caucus.
“When violence and aggression become a pattern in a historically turbulent region, we, as American policy leaders, should speak out strongly to dispel further hostilities,” Congressman Bilirakis told FLArmenians.com. “That is why I joined my colleagues in a letter to James Warlick, U.S. Co-Chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group urging a just and peaceful resolution to the conflict. Azerbaijani aggression must stop so that peace and security can return to the region as swiftly as possible,” he said.
Congressman Deutch, whose Palm Beach County district is home to the largest Armenian community in Florida, serves with Bilirakis as the Co-Chair of the Hellenic Israel Alliance Caucus.
“I want to thank our Florida Representatives, Gus Bilirakis and Ted Deutch, for their support in calling for an end to the escalating violence against Armenia and Karabakh,” stated District 21 resident and Florida Armenians Boca Raton Chair George Sarkisian.
As FLArmenians.com previously reported, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY) are circulating a bipartisan letter asking their Congressional colleagues to support renewed U.S. leadership in the South Caucasus.
The two senior legislators are currently collecting signatures on a letter addressed to Ambassador James Warlick, U.S. representative to the OSCE Minsk Group which is responsible for mediating a resolution of the conflict over Nagorno Karabakh. The Royce-Engel letter specifically calls for the U.S. and OSCE to abandon the failed policy of false parity in responding to acts of aggression, noting that: “The longstanding U.S. and OSCE practice of responding to each new attack with generic calls upon all parties to refrain from violence has failed to de-escalate the situation. Instead, this policy of artificial evenhandedness has dangerously increased tensions. There will be no peace absent responsibility.”
The legislators propose three concrete steps that would, “in the short-term, save lives and help to avert war. Over the longer term,” the letter says, “these steps could contribute to a comprehensive and enduring peace for all the citizens of the region:”
Specifically, the letter calls for:
1. An agreement from all sides not to deploy snipers along the line of contact;
2. The placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire-locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact; and
3. The deployment of additional OSCE observers along the line of contact to better monitor cease-fire violations.
According to sources familiar with the negotiations, the governments of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh have both pledged their support for these confidence-building measures, while Azerbaijan has repeatedly opposed them.
CONGRESSIONAL SUPPORT GROWS
Over fifty-five members of Congress have signed the Royce-Engel letter to Ambassador Warlick. In addition to the House Foreign Affairs Committee leadership, the letter has the support of House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Chairman Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA) and Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA), U.S. Helsinki Commission Chairman Chris Smith (R-NJ), Appropriations Committee Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY), and former Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee chairman Steve Israel (D-NY).
Congressman Schiff wrote a separate letter to Ambassador Warlick earlier this month warning, “unwillingness to speak plainly about the aggressor in this conflict sends the message to Azerbaijan that it can act with impunity.” “I do not believe the cause of peace is served by ignoring Azerbaijan’s increasing belligerence and the suggestion that both parties are equally to blame for violence along the Line of Contact when that is not the case,” Schiff’s letter states.
TEXT OF THE ROYCE-ENGEL LETTER TO AMBASSADOR WARLICK:
The Honorable James Warlick
OSCE Minsk Group
Dear Ambassador Warlick:
We are writing out of concern over the escalation of violence in Nagorno-Karabakh, resulting in deaths on both sides of the conflict. It is our hope that the United States, through its role in the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group, as well as through direct diplomacy with both Armenia and Azerbaijan, will immediately advocate for several steps to promote peace in the region.
We believe that securing the full and public support of Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Nagorno-Karabakh for the following steps would, in the short-term, save lives and help to avert war. Over the longer term, these steps could contribute to a comprehensive and enduring peace for all the citizens of the region.
— An agreement from all sides not to deploy snipers along the line of contact.
— The placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire-locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.
— The deployment of additional OSCE observers along the line of contact to better monitor cease-fire violations.
We also urge you to publicly condemn specific acts of aggression along the line of contact. The longstanding U.S. and OSCE practice of responding to each new attack with generic calls upon all parties to refrain from violence has failed to de-escalate the situation. Instead, this policy of artificial evenhandedness has dangerously increased tensions. There will be no peace absent responsibility.
Thank you for your consideration of these recommendations. We continue to support your efforts to reach a durable and just resolution to this conflict and look forward to your response.
Ed Royce (R-CA); Eliot Engel (D-NY); Gus Bilirakis (R-FL); Mike Bishop (R-MI); Earl Blumenauer (D-OR); Madeleine Bordallo (D-GU); Dave Brat (R-VA); Tony Cárdenas (D-CA); Judy Chu (D-CA); David N. Cicilline (D-RI); Katherine Clark (D-MA); Mike Coffman (R-CO); Jim Costa (D-CA); Suzane DelBene (D-WA); Jeff Denham (R-CA); Ted Deutch (D-FL); Robert Dold (R-IL); Daniel Donovan, Jr. (R-NY); Anna Eshoo (D-CA); Scott Garrett (R-NJ); Richard Hanna (R-NY); Joe Heck (R-NV); Michael Honda (D-CA); Steve Israel (D-NY); Jim Langevin (D-RI); Sandy Levin (D-MI); Ted Lieu (D-CA); Dan Lipinski (D-IL); Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Nita Lowey (D-NY); Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); Jim McDermott (D-WA); James McGovern (D-MA); Grace Napolitano (D-CA); Devin Nunes (R-CA); Frank Pallone (D-NJ); Mike Quigley (D-IL); Charles Rangel (D-NY); Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA); Peter Roskam (R-IL); Linda Sanchez (D-CA); Loretta Sanchez (D-CA); John Sarbanes (D-MD); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Adam Schiff (D-CA); Kurt Schrader (D-OR); Brad Sherman (D-CA); Adam Smith (D-WA); Chris Smith (R-NJ); Jackie Speier (D-CA); Dina Titus (D-NV); Dave Trott (R-MI); Niki Tsongas (D-MA); David Valado (R-CA); Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Peter Welch (D-VT)
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