A panel of foreign policy experts pressed the Biden administration to address the human rights abuses against 120,000 Armenians living in the Nagorno-Karabakh region of Asia during a hearing held by the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission on Wednesday.
The government of Azerbaijan has imposed a blockade against the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory, in effect creating a genocide by preventing food and medicine from being imported and starving Armenians inside the territory of essential goods, according to Luis Ocampo, former prosecutor of the International Criminal Court, Reuters reported. Ocampo and David Phillips, policy expert and adjunct professor at Georgetown University, testified that the Biden administration has not properly labeled the situation as a genocide during Wednesday’s hearing. (RELATED: War Breaks Out Again Between Two Countries)
“Why are we denying this genocide?” Ocampo said during the hearing. “You need no more proof. … President Biden can call [Azerbaijan’s president], Secretary Blinken can call [Azerbaijan’s president]: ‘Mr. Aliyev, remove [the blockade] or you have [committed] genocide.’ That’s it. And that could be done in a week.”
“By being silent, by not acting, the Biden administration is making a statement that it values Azeri oil and gas more than it does the lives of Armenians. Hard stop,” Phillips said.
The disputed Nagorno-Karabakh territory is internationally recognized as part of Azerbaijan, but its population is largely made of ethnic Armenians, according to Reuters. The Lachin corridor was first blockaded in December of 2022, and since that time, Armenians living in the region have had restricted access to food, medicine and oil.
Secretary of State Antony Blinken called Azerbaijan’s president, Ilham Aliyev, on Wednesday, and implored him to lift the blockade while underscoring “the need for a dialogue and compromise and the importance of building confidence between the parties,” according to a statement from the State Department. Blinken’s phone call was too concessionary, Ocampo said during Wednesday’s hearing.
“Blinken called him in January, he called him again and today he called him again,” Ocampo said Wednesday. “[Aliyev] is ignoring him. … [Blinken] could say: “Look, I told you not to do it, we consider it genocide – stop it. We consider you [genocidal].”
“My advice would be, if [Aliyev] is coming to New York for the General Assembly, send the paddy wagon to JFK and lock him up in county jail,” Phillips said.
“I’m not against [it]. I’m not against [it] at all,” Ocampo responded.
The State Department did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
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