Pallone Assails Azerbaijani Leader's Continued Anti-Armenian Propaganda

Apr 2, 2004

Washington, D.C. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, gave the following statement on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives last night assailing anti-Armenian propaganda by the leaders of Azerbaijan.

"Mr. Chairman, I rise today to address the decline in the state of affairs between Armenia and Azerbaijan brought about by Azeri President Ilham Aliyev, and members of his ministry including Namik Abbasov, Minister of National Security through their encouragement of anti-Armenian propaganda that perpetuates anti-Armenian sentiments in the region.

"A few weeks ago, I was disheartened to learn of the brutal murder of an Armenian soldier by an Azeri soldier; both were attending a NATO Partnership for Peace English-language course in Hungary. But I am doubly concerned by additional information that has recently been reported that the Azeri government is actually providing financial awards to individuals and organizations with the "best" propaganda works towards Armenians.

"Recent accounts report that the Azerbaijani Ministry of National Security, a successor to the Soviet-era KGB, has awarded monetary prizes up to $2,000 for the "best" propaganda works targeting Armenians. The Azeri Ministry for instance presented a prize in the books category to the Azerbaijani National Academy of Sciences' Human Rights Institute for an "encyclopedia" entitled "Crimes against humanity perpetrated by Armenian terrorist and bandit formations" and the Minister himself, was honored for funding the publication of this book. The MNS also granted a top monetary prize to two anti-Armenian propaganda films.

"I mention this because I believe it is a blatant effort by the Azeri government to undermine years of effort undertaken to encourage a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict by me and other members of this body, as well as the Minsk group and the former US Administration.

"Three years ago, I was encouraged by developments in the Nagorno Karabakh peace process with the announcement of the Key West Agreement, reached in April 2001 by President Kocharian and former Azeri President Aliyev. I was hopeful that this Agreement would lead to a peaceful resolution of the conflict and a stabilization of peace in the region. However, it was clear that any implementation of the Key West agreement would have to wait until after the various legislative and presidential elections in the region, including Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan, were complete.

"However, shortly after President Ilham Aliyev was elected President of Azerbaijan, the Azeri government rejected all of the advancements made by the Minsk group, the former Azeri President and President Kocharian, and flatly rejected the Key West agreement. Furthermore, President Ilham Aliyev has noted that any negotiations on resolving the Nagorno Karabakh conflict would need to start from scratch and any advancements toward peace made in the past were invalid.

"So, today, instead of witnessing the implementation of the Key West Agreement or even a revival of negotiations of a peaceful solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, we are witnessing a regression toward the type of behavior on behalf of the Azeri government that encourages the violence we saw in the early-to-mid 1990's. I am discouraged by President Aliyev's blatant disregard for the autonomy of Nagorno Karabakh and his country's effort to undermine any chance at a peaceful resolution to this conflict. In fact, President Aliyev has recently said that he is not in any hurry to reach a peaceful resolution to the conflict and recently cancelled a meeting between Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and the Azeri Foreign Minister planned by French, Russian and U.S. mediators that was scheduled for this past Monday -- and his excuse -- that the agenda was not precise enough.

"I am discouraged too, by the current Bush Administration in its failure to actively address a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. During a recent meeting between Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage and Armenian President Kocharian and Foreign Minister Oskanian, Armitage noted that, "our Turkish friends have had their hands full recently," as an excuse to there being little advancements toward opening the boarder between Armenia and Turkey or a move toward better relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

"Finally, I would like to note that Armenian has been tremendously cooperative with the U.S. in its efforts in the war against terror and supportive of the stabilization of both Afghanistan and Iraq. However, rather than press President Aliyev toward considering peaceful resolutions of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, the Bush Administration perpetuates the conflict by failing to maintain military assistance parity between Armenian and Azerbaijan in its FY 2005 budget request to Congress. In fact, the Bush Administration proposed double the military assistance to Azerbaijan than it did to Armenia.

"Today, I call on Azerbaijan President Ilham to stop promoting propaganda against the Armenian people and make every effort to consider the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabahk conflict and begin an open dialogue with Armenian President Kocharian. I also call on the President Bush and the Administration to maintain parity in the region and recognize that pitting these nations against each other will move us further away from a long sought after peace needed in this region."