Mr. LANGEVIN. Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge my colleagues to remember and support the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.
It is first worth highlighting the history at work in this tragic situation. Historically, the majority of the population in Nagorno-Karabakh has been Armenian, and the people have always had close ethnic, religious, and familial ties with Armenia. However, in 1921, Joseph Stalin, then the commissar for nationality affairs in the Transcaucasia Bureau of the Communist Party, declared Nagorno-Karabakh to be an autonomous region controlled by Azerbaijan as part of his strategy to divide and rule.
In 1987, as the Soviet Union teetered on the edge of dissolution, the Karabakh Armenians petitioned for the inclusion of Nagorno-Karabakh in the state of Armenia. In 1991, they petitioned for independent state status. Sadly, the situation remains unresolved.
After the Soviet Union dissolved, Armenians in Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh endured great hardship, including horrific violence in Sumgait (February 1998), in Kirovabad (November 1988) and in Baku (January 1990). These pogroms were only part of a pattern of anti-Armenian activities occurring throughout Azerbaijan, and thousands of people lost their lives and hundreds of thousands of Armenians were displaced as a result. Such targeted violence is as deplorable today as it was two decades ago--yet, tragically, the region is no closer to peace. A cease-fire agreement, brokered in 1994, remains in place, but continued incendiary actions and statements threaten to destabilize peace talks. In January 2008, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev warned Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, ``We are reinforcing our army because we must be ready to free our lands ..... at any moment and by any means.'' Such rhetoric can only be poison to the peace process.
U.S. policy toward the South Caucasus states has included promoting the resolution of the conflict surrounding the independent Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh. It is more important than ever that the United States maintain a principled stand for peace in this region, show that democracy can be born from conflict, and support Nagorno-Karabakh. It is my sincerest hope that Nagorno-Karabakh's right to self-determination can be affirmed without further loss of life.