U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Outlines Key Priorities
Washington, D.C. - Speaking at the Armenian Assembly of America's Virtual National Advocacy Conference, the chairman of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ), outlined key policy priorities and called on the Biden Administration to revisit and reexamine U.S. policy in the wake of the Artsakh war.
Chairman Menendez stated that we must “prevent further aggression by Azerbaijan and Turkey,” secure humanitarian assistance for the Armenian people, and ensure the release of prisoners of war.
“The State Department must press the Government of Azerbaijan to uphold international law and return all Armenian POWs to their home," Senator Menendez continued.
In his remarks, Senator Menendez highlighted critical issues facing the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, including the displacement from their homes, lack of access to food, shelter and healthcare, and the need for demining activities.
Additionally, Senator Menendez said that the Biden Administration “must move quickly to recalibrate our relationships with Azerbaijan and Turkey.”
He cited Azerbaijan’s violation of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which states in part that Azerbaijan must "cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force” against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh as a condition to receive U.S. assistance. Instead, Senator Menendez stated that Azerbaijan’s “bad behavior has been rewarded” with over $120 million in military assistance provided during the previous Administration.
“This must end,” Senator Menendez stated and has called on the Biden Administration not to renew the waiver of Section 907 and will “hold them to account on this front.”
“The United States cannot be in the business of supporting a corrupt, authoritarian regime that has attacked innocent civilians and committed appalling atrocities in violation of humanitarian law,” he added.
Turning to Turkey, Senator Menendez emphasized the government's aggression that serves as a serious threat to the Armenian people.
“For years I’ve warned that under President Erdogan, Turkey is not a responsible actor on the world stage. It is not a trustworthy ally. And it is not a democracy,” said Senator Menendez, who stated that he will continue to oppose any security assistance or arms sales to Turkey.
In the face of Turkey’s ongoing, state-sponsored denialist campaign of the Armenian Genocide, Senator Menendez reflected on the historic, unanimous passage in December 2019 of the Armenian Genocide resolution (S.Res.150) that he spearheaded, which recognized the truth of the Armenian Genocide despite three attempts by Senators to block it.
“We persisted, and finally the Senate stood up to Turkey’s lies and passed the resolution unanimously,” he said. “It was a truly historic day and made possible in large part by the advocacy of the Armenian Assembly and the greater Armenian American community.”
Looking ahead to April, Senator Menendez has called on President Biden to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide and is currently circulating a letter to garner support among fellow Senators. He praised the “sustained advocacy” of Armenian Americans, which will be vital to “press the executive branch to break its decades of silence and speak the truth of the genocide.”
“On behalf of the Armenian Assembly of America, we commend and thank Chairman Menendez for his tireless leadership in championing these critically important issues including robust aid to help the Armenian people, the need to hold Turkey and Azerbaijan accountable for their actions, ensuring the timely release of Armenian POWs, enforcing Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, and continuing to ensure that the United States stands on the right side of truth in unequivocally affirming the Armenian Genocide,” stated Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.