Congressional Armenian Caucus founding Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) was joined by a dozen of his U.S. House colleagues in introducing the U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution, a bipartisan measure that aims to break down artificial barriers to unrestricted travel and open communication between the United States and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Joining Rep. Pallone as original co-sponsors of the legislation are Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Jackie Speier (D-CA), Vice-Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), and Brad Sherman (D-CA).
"We thank Congressman Pallone and his House colleagues for their bipartisan leadership in support of a durable and democratic peace between the republics of Artsakh and Azerbaijan,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian. “Outdated and obsolete U.S. restrictions, adopted decades ago under pressure from Azerbaijan, prevent direct dialogue - artificially handcuffing our diplomats and blocking the path to peace.”
Similar to the resolution introduced in the previous Congress, the U.S. - Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution praises the Artsakh Republic for having "developed democratic institutions, fostered a pluralist political system, and, over the past quarter-century, held parliamentary and presidential elections that have been rated as free and fair by international observers." It also highlights Artsakh's commitment to common-sense peace initiatives, first advocated by former House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and current Chairman Eliot Engel (D-NY), calling for the removal of snipers and heavy artillery from the Artsakh-Azerbaijan line of contact, the deployment of additional Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) monitors, and the placement of gun-fire locator systems along the lines of contact. The measures, which have been embraced by Armenia, Artsakh, and the OSCE Minsk Group peace negotiators, have been thus far blocked by Azerbaijan.
The U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution notes that current State Department policies place "self-imposed restrictions on travel and communications between the United States and Artsakh, limiting oversight of United States taxpayer-funded assistance programs and discouraging the open dialogue and discourse that can contribute to a peaceful resolution of Artsakh-related status and security issues."
The measure calls for a U.S. policy which would:
1) allow officials at all levels of the United States Government, including cabinet-level national security officials, general officers, and other executive branch officials, to travel to the Artsakh Republic and openly and directly communicate with their Artsakh counterparts;
2) encourage ongoing open communication, meetings, and other direct contacts between officials of Artsakh and the Executive and Legislative branches of the United States, state and local governments, and American civil society; and
3) seek the full and direct participation of the democratically-elected government of the Artsakh Republic in all OSCE and other negotiations regarding its future.