Congressional Leaders Call to Condemn Azeri Military Excercises

WASHINGTON, DC — Spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), along with 17 members of the House of Representatives, the Congressional Armenian Caucus sent out a letter to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs and a separate letter to the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper, regarding Azerbaijan’s large scale military exercises this week and the potential to destabilize security in the South Caucasus at a time when the COVID-19 global pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives.

The letter stressed that the United States “cannot allow Azerbaijan to use the global coronavirus pandemic as cover for these dangerous military operations.” Urging the Secretaries “to immediately condemn the reckless actions of the Azerbaijani military and to work with our allies and international partners to halt the provocative actions being taken by the Aliyev Regime.”

“We applaud Armenian Caucus Chairman Frank Pallone for his decades-long leadership in trying to ensure the safety and security of Artsakh and Armenia,” stated Armenian Council of America (ACA) Representative Taniel Koushakjian. “Azerbaijan breaks international law over and over again, from their near daily cease-fire violations along the Line of Contact and now with a large-scale military exercise, all meant to threaten a war in the South Caucuses that it cannot win. It’s time for the international community to stand with the free and democratic states of Armenia and Artsakh, not the cleptocratic regime in Baku.”

In the letters – the first to Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper, and the second to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group Co-Chairs – the Congressional leaders noted that “these exercises are dangerous, violate diplomatic agreements and have the potential to destabilize security in the South Caucasus at a time when the COVID-19 global pandemic has taken hundreds of thousands of lives and threatened the health of many more.” The letters call on the U.S. Administration and OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs to publicly condemn Azerbaijan’s military exercises.

The letter to Secretary Pompeo and Esper the Congressional leaders expressed their concern with the $100 million U.S. security assistance allocated to Azerbaijan, noting that the aid will allow “Azerbaijan to shift resources toward offensive capabilities and further threaten Armenian lives and regional stability as the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues warned in letters sent to you in September and November of 2019.”

Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces are holding large-scale tactical military exercises this week from May 18th to 22nd. In their announcement regarding the military exercises, the Azerbaijani army stated “massive artillery, air, and high-precision weapons will be fired at the enemy’s operational depth,” going further by calling the exercises “offensive” in nature.