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State Department's Human Rights Report

Floor Speech

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Date:
Location: Washington, DC

STATE DEPARTMENT'S HUMAN RIGHTS REPORT -- (House of Representatives - May 07, 2007)

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, each year, the Department of State issues a report outlining the human rights practices of various Nations, and I object this evening to the inaccuracies in the Armenia section of the 2006 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices.

Originally, the State Department issued erroneous language about Armenia being an occupier of Azerbaijani territory and Nagorno-Karabakh, the report was substantively revised with more balanced, although still not fully accurate, wording and then revised again to restore the original inaccurate language.

I am deeply disturbed by the State Department's mischaracterization of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. It is unprecedented and counterproductive to our government's goal of actively promoting constructive engagement in the peace negotiations of the region. It also sets a troubling example by allowing a foreign State, in this case Azerbaijan, to shape the assessments of our human rights report.

To assert that Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijani territory or that Armenia occupies Nagorno-Karabakh and other territories is simply wrong. This version ignores the reality that the current conflict is about the self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Like many other ethnic autonomous regions with the status of Oblast under
the Soviet Constitution, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh declared their independence. They then conducted a referendum as set forth in the same Soviet Constitution, and they are now an independent republic and should be recognized as a Nation, just like Azerbaijan, Armenia and any other former Soviet Republic. The situation has absolutely nothing to do with Armenia. The only role Armenia plays in this conflict is that country's part in peace negotiations.

Mr. Speaker, I am concerned that Armenia is being characterized as an abuser of human rights in the region when it is Azerbaijan who continues to maintain a blockade of both Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia, and regularly threatens a new wave of violence against Nagorno-Karabakh.

Such misrepresentations will undermine our Nation's credibility as an impartial mediator and jeopardize prospects for successful peace negotiations. It could also have a negative impact on U.S.-Armenia relations.

Our common aim as a country should be to focus on workable diplomacy that brings parties together in the spirit of conflict resolution, not to cause additional tension by introducing new and controversial elements into an already complex negotiating process.

Mr. Speaker, the United States has a long history of supporting Nagorno-Karabakh's democracy and its right to live in freedom and peace. The State Department has never made assertions in previous reports about Armenia being an occupier of Azerbaijani territory and Nagorno-Karabakh.

Last week, I sent a letter to Secretary Rice with my concerns over the State Department report's language, and I urged her to quickly reverse the State Department's mischaracterization.


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