Washington, D.C. – During the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) confirmation hearing on Thursday, April 15, 2021, of Ambassador Victoria Nuland to serve as U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, SFRC Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) raised key issues relating to the Armenian people, including the Armenian prisoners of war still unjustly held captive by Azerbaijan and the need for robust humanitarian assistance, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).
Referring to the 44-day war launched by Azerbaijan, with the full and open support of Turkey, against the Armenian people in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) on September 27, 2020 as an “unspeakable tragedy” and the “inexcusable” absence of top-level United States diplomacy throughout the war, Chairman Menendez stated that the “U.S. must press Azerbaijan to release the prisoners of war members that it has – which [Azerbaijan] is refusing to release them – in violation of international law.”
Amb. Nuland confirmed that the U.S. has to “get the prisoners released.”
“I’ve worked on Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh issues for some 25 years, and the way things went down last year was absolutely tragic for so many in the region,” Amb. Nuland continued.
During the afternoon hearing, Chairman Menendez also spoke about the significance and urgency of U.S. humanitarian assistance to Artsakh and the importance of “ensuring that the Armenians displaced from their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh get the assistance they need.”
Amb. Nuland replied in full agreement about committing to robust humanitarian assistance, including demining funds, and to ensuring the “sovereignty and territorial integrity of Armenia, and that it can make its own decisions.”
In reply to Chairman Menendez’s question about how to revitalize the OSCE Minsk Group, in order to create a more sustainable peace process, Amb. Nuland discussed having conversations with Turkey.
“The Secretary [of State Antony Blinken] has spoken about needing to be clear-eyed regarding trends in Turkey,” said Amb. Nuland. “We’ve got a lot of work to do there in our bilateral relationship to make clear our concerns about not only what Turkey’s doing outside its country, but also what it’s doing inside its country.”
Amb.Nuland emphasized the importance of conveying “strong support for the Caucasus countries, being active diplomatically, getting high-level leadership there, and using all of our economic and humanitarian tools.”
“We commend Chairman Menendez’s ongoing leadership,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “The release of the POWs is paramount as are the compelling humanitarian needs of the Armenian people. We continue to press forward on all fronts,” Ardouny added.
The Assembly strongly supports bipartisan legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives calling on Azerbaijan to immediately release and repatriate Armenian POWs and captured civilians.