Smith hearing calls attention to plight of Armenians in Nagorno-Karabakh
Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, chaired a congressional hearing today calling attention to the plight of ethnic Armenians who are being blockaded and threatened by the government of Azerbaijan.
“Our country simply cannot accept a risk of ethnic cleansing or genocide in Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Smith, who called for the United States and international community to commit to supporting Nagorno-Karabakh before it is too late.
Smith’s hearing—entitled “Safeguarding the People of Nagorno-Karabakh”—comes as the U.S. State Department participates in efforts to pressure the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh to make dangerous concessions to the government of Azerbaijan, which has frequently declared its intention to ethnically cleanse the region of Armenians.
“Since 2020, Azerbaijan has been tightening the noose on Nagorno-Karabakh, its forces have occupied much of the former territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, and even territory of Armenia proper,” Smith said.
“The government of Azerbaijan has repeatedly broken agreements to permit access to Nagorno-Karabakh, via the Lachin Corridor, and for the past seven months has permitted only minimal medical necessities and humanitarian food supplies—with an evident intention to create a humanitarian crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Smith.
Smith’s congressional hearing included compelling testimony from Ambassador Sam Brownback—the former Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom and former US senator—who said the United States has the responsibility to hold the government of Azerbaijan accountable for its actions.
“We have the capacity to stop this religious cleansing. We must use it,” said Ambassador Brownback, who made it clear that the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh have “the right not to be driven out, starved out or blockaded by the government of Azerbaijan.”
Michael Rubin, senior fellow at American Enterprise Institute testified, “What sets Nagorno-Karabakh apart is that with a more agile and realistic strategy, the United States can not only do the right thing and safeguard a community that dates back two millennia, but it can simultaneously also enhance America’s position and national security.”
David Phillips, the Director of the Peace-Building and Human Rights Program at Columbia University warned in his testimony that “The overall goal of Azerbaijan was -- and remains -- the cultural erasure of Armenians.”
“While the United States has been engaged in attempts to find a peaceful solution to this frozen conflict, along with Russia and France, the process appears to be breaking down, and pressure is vastly ramping up on Armenians to give way to Azerbaijan and its partner Turkey,” said Smith.
“Now more than ever, the United States and international community must bolster efforts to safeguard and sustain the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” Smith said.