Ambassador Sargisian Delivers Speech at US Capitol Hill Celebration of Artsakh’s Independence Day

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WASHINGTON, DC—On December 2, the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian National Committee and the Armenian Caucasus of the US House of Representatives celebrated the 23rd Anniversary of Artsakh’s independence, at the Rayburn House Building hall, with the presence of Speaker of the Republic Ashot Ghoulian, who was visiting the US, and the Ambassador of Armenia in the US Tigran Sargisian.

A dozen of representatives voiced their support and spoke during the celebration with strong messages of peace, freedom and self-determination of the people of Artsakh, along with Ghoulian, Sargisian also gave a very effective speech. Below are excerpts.

“I am very glad to note that the meetings in Congress devoted to the anniversary of Nagorno-Karabagh have become a tradition. When I looked through the records about the previous meetings, I noticed that, as a rule, all speeches delivered here have been inspired by the spirit of freedom and democracy. I believe that it is not accidental. The Congress of the United States is an institution, which was set up to serve the highest and the noblest aspirations of human civilization — cause of freedom and democracy.

I also noticed, however, that unfortunately there was another “tradition” here — the tradition of protesting against these meetings. Like in previous times the members of the Congress received letters urging them to refrain from attending today’s event.

Indeed the people who are protesting against this wonderful event are professing other values. I believe, therefore, that the very problem of the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict can be epitomized by a single expression — a conflict of values. This conflict is not about a contradiction between two principles of international law — right for self-determination and territorial integrity — as presented by our opponents. It is about a fight between two opposing concepts of human dignity.

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Indeed, on one side of the conflict we have the people of Nagorno-Karabagh which 25 years ago raised the flag of freedom. Who believed in democratic transformations of that time and raised their voice against totalitarianism. Who believed in equality and sparked a liberation movement with one single objective in mind — to exercise their right to self-determination and build their own home in accordance with the values they are devoted to.

On the other side of the conflict we had and unfortunately still do have a classic oil-revenue-based authoritarian regime, which is completely alien to the values of freedom. About half-century-long ruling dynasty of Azerbaijan cannot tolerate such bright manifestation of self-determination rightfully exercised by the people of Nagorno-Karabagh.

In this regard, I would like to draw your attention to the recent publication of Mr. David Kramer, the executive director of Freedom House, in American Interest magazine, where he called on the US authorities to exercise sanctions against Aliyev family, freeze their assets overseas and even deny them access to the West. Freedom House, in its report of 2014, for the tenth time in a row, has given a status of not free country to Azerbaijan assessing the situation on human rights, liberties and fundamental freedom with three sixes in a scale where seven is the worst.

Dear colleagues, I am confident that just, sustainable and lasting solution to a conflict is possible when the parties come to reconciliation. The reconciliation, however, is possible only when two sides of barricades share the same set of values. The reconciliation will become possible only when the leadership of Azerbaijan, which is currently suppressing any sign of pluralism in its country, begins to recognize the whole idea of freedom. When it understands that, a generation of young people has already born and grown up in the independent Nagorno-Karabagh who never saw Azeri rulers on their land; today they cannot even imagine any subordination or obedience to a foreign power. The reconciliation is possible when Azerbaijan eventually recognizes the value of self-determination and the right of the people of Nagorno-Karabagh to live in their own way.

Unfortunately, today we are still far from a reconciliation and final solution to the conflict. Moreover, we again are very close to the renewal of hostilities. Armenia, as always, remains committed to the exclusively peaceful resolution of the conflict. However, Azerbaijan does not only reject any attempt of international community and the OSCE Minsk Group to find a common ground for the settlement of the conflict, but also undertakes steps, which are threatening to undermine the negotiation process.

The recurrent events of past summer, which repeated just a few days ago when Azerbaijani troops shot down Nagorno-Karabagh Defense Army helicopter during announced military exercises, clearly demonstrated the belligerent intentions of Azerbaijan. Anti-Armenian hysteria unfolded in this country, its skyrocketing military budget and the continuing militaristic bravado are unequivocally testifying that the Azerbaijani leadership wants to prepare its society to military resolution of the conflict.

The international community and the co-chair countries of the OSCE Minsk Group should send a clear message to the leadership of Azerbaijan that they would never tolerate any steps, any action, which could lead to the renewal of hostilities. In this regard, the role of the United States is of immense importance. Therefore, taking this opportunity I would like to call the US congressional representatives to continue their efforts aimed at maintaining peace and stability in our region and supporting the just cause of the freedom-loving people of Nagorno Karabagh.

In conclusion, I would like to express my gratitude on to our friends in the Congress of the United States of America and to the members of Armenian-American community for their active support and assistance rendered to Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.