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 Wednesday, June 12 2024 14:43
Marianna Mkrtchyan

Senator Markey demands that Azerbaijan release Armenian hostages

Senator Markey demands that Azerbaijan release Armenian hostages

ArmInfo.Massachusetts Senator Ed Markey called on the U.S. and the international community to use  every available diplomatic tool - including the upcoming COP29 Climate Summit planned for Baku - to secure the release of Armenian hostages being illegally detained and tortured by Azerbaijan's dictatorial Aliyev regime, reported the Armenian National Committee  of America (ANCA).  

"We join with Senator Markey in demanding decisive American  leadership to secure the release of Armenian hostages illegally held  by Azerbaijan," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "For all  the Biden Administration's big talk about no business-as-usual with  Aliyev, all we have seen from the President is business-as-usual -  normalizing Azerbaijan's genocide of Artsakh, abuse of prisoners, and  desecration of holy sites. It's time for Joe Biden to stop appeasing  Aliyev and to start holding this dictator accountable." 

In powerful remarks on the Senate floor, Senator Markey condemned  Azerbaijan's forced deportation of Artsakh's ethnic Armenian  population in September 2023, and the subsequent illegal arrest and  detention of former Karabakh government leaders, including former  State Minister Ruben Vardanyan, ex-presidents Arkady Ghoukasian, Bako  Sahakyan, and Arayik Harutunyan, former Foreign Minister David  Babayan, Parliament Speaker Davit Ishkhanyan, and former generals  Levon Mnatsakanyan and David Manukyan.  The Senator went on to detail  the various forms of torture Vardanyan has been subject to, including  "punitive extended stays in solitary confinement, poor prison  conditions, denial of water and clean clothing, and orders that   require him to stand for hours on end." 

"Azerbaijan has routinely resorted to hostage diplomacy, prolonging  unlawful detention and using prisoners of war as bargaining chips to  impose its demands on Armenia, in clear violation of international  law. In fact, Azerbaijan is still holding dozens of Armenian  prisoners of war and civilian political prisoners that it took  captive during the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war," stated Sen. Markey.  

Among the actions Congress has already taken to address these  concerns, Sen. Markey referenced an April 2024 bi- partisan Senate  letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken, cosigned by Senators  Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Thom Tillis (R-NC), Gary Peters (D-MI), and  himself, calling for Azerbaijan's immediate release of the Armenian  hostages and supporting the right of return of Artsakh's indigenous  Armenian population.  "Forcefully removing and detaining the  political leadership of an ethnic group is a well-known tactic of  those committing ethnic cleansing. Denying their freedom and ability  to participate in the peace process means that peace is being  negotiated without the voice or perspective of those with key  knowledge of those affected by Azerbaijan's atrocities," the   Senators.  

Senator Markey went on to argue that Azerbaijan's illegal detention  of Armenian hostages and anti-Armenian aggression should not be  rewarded by the US and international community with the privilege of  hosting this year's international climate summit, COP29.  "We must  ensure that we take this opportunity to put the spotlight on all of  those political prisoners who are being held wrongly by the  Azerbaijan government," argued Sen. Markey, calling for their release  prior to the November COP29 summit in Baku, Azerbaijan.  

Sen. Markey has been an outspoken voice of justice for the people of  Artsakh for decades.  In February, he and Sen.  Cassidy introduced a  bipartisan resolution (S.Res.540) requesting a report on Azerbaijan's  human rights practices pursuant to Section 502B(c) of the Foreign  Assistance Act. The resolution requests information from the State  Department on Azerbaijan's human rights abuses both within the  country, as well as during its sustained military assault against  Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) that last year resulted in the ethnic  cleansing of its entire indigenous Armenian population. 

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