Dem Rep Wants To Send Millions To Nation Accused Of Ethnic Cleansing Amid Intense Foreign Lobbying Campaign

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Robert Schmad Contributor
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Democratic Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee is pushing to send millions in foreign aid to Azerbaijan, a nation accused of ethnic cleansing, according to recent disclosures.

Cohen, who co-chairs the Congressional Azerbaijan Caucus, wrote a letter in April pushing for $15 million in aid to the country, according to emails revealed in Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA) filings earlier this month. The letter was then circulated to congressional staff by a lobbyist paid by the Azeri government. Western experts, along with Armenia’s government, have accused Azerbaijan of ethnic cleansing over its actions toward ethnic Armenians living in the region of Nagorno-Karabakh in September 2023. (RELATED: Nations Accused Of Human Rights Violations Lecture World At Davos)

Cohen’s letter, which was addressed to top Democrats on the House Appropriations on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs Subcommittee ahead of discussions on the 2025 foreign appropriations bill, requests $15 million for Azerbaijan to remove mines from “conflict-affected regions” of the country.

The letter cites Azerbaijan’s support of Ukraine and Israel, as well as the country’s cooperation with the United States in tackling international crime, as among the reasons to provide it with taxpayer-funded aid.

Mark Tavlarides, a lobbyist with BGR Group, sent an email to other congressional offices on April 22 urging them to sign onto Cohen’s letter, echoing the congressman’s reasons for supporting Azerbaijan, according to the FARA filings.

BGR Group, which has been registered as a foreign agent of Azerbaijan since 2001, has made millions representing Azerbaijan since 2017, lobbying disclosures show. The firm has sent numerous emails to a multitude of House and Senate offices echoing talking points from the Azerbaijani Embassy and seeking favorable additions to legislation for Azerbaijan, according to FARA records.

Moreover, Tavlarides has donated thousands of dollars to Cohen’s reelection campaign over the past few years, according to Federal Election Commission records.

The Friedlander Group, another lobbying firm, is also working aggressively to promote Azerbaijani interests on the hill.

The Friedlander Group scheduled meetings with staffers in more than a dozen congressional offices on behalf of the Foreign Ministry of Azerbaijan, including those of Republican Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, Democratic Delaware Sen. Chris Coons and Republican Ohio Sen. J.D. Vance, according to FARA filings. The firm also sent over 100 emails to congressional offices for the Azerbaijani government, FARA filings show.

Azerbaijan is paying The Friedlander Group $41,666 per month, according to their most recent agreement.

Armenia Azerbaijan Shutterstock/Cartarium


The Friedlander Group sent out a blast of emails to dozens of senators following Azerbaijan’s September 2023 military action in Nagorno-Karabakh urging them to oppose S.2900, a bill that would “protect and provide humanitarian assistance to Armenians in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh impacted by actions taken by the Government of Azerbaijan,” FARA filings show.

Of the 120,000 ethnic Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh, 100,000 fled after Azerbaijan launched a large-scale offensive in late 2023 and seized the territory. Many feared violence at the hands of the invading Azerbaijanis, according to Human Rights Watch.

“These men, women, and children, terrified for their lives, left behind entire worlds: their schools and shops; their fields, flocks, and vineyards; the cemeteries of their ancestors,” Harvard University professor Christina Maranci wrote of the exodus. “The United States and the European Union speak loftily of universal human rights, but did nothing for nine months while the people of [Nagorno-Karabakh] were denied food, medicine, fuel, and other vital supplies,” she continued.

Armenians are largely Christians, whereas Azerbaijanis tend to be Muslims.

“Azerbaijan—an oil-rich, single-family dictatorship fresh off a genocide of Christian Armenians—doesn’t need or deserve a signal dollar from the American taxpayer,” Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America Aram Hamparian told the Daily Caller News Foundation.

Before launching the offensive, during which civilians were killed, Azerbaijan imposed a nine-month-long blockade on the territory, restricting the flow of food, fuel and medicine into the area. One former International Criminal Court prosecutor said at the time that the blockade could amount to genocide, according to Reuters.

Cohen, BGR Group and The Friedlander Group did not immediately respond to the DCNF’s requests for comment.

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