Azerbaijan denounced the California State Legislature on Thursday for urging the U.S. government to recognize Nagorno-Karabakh as an independent republic.
The California Senate adopted a corresponding resolution on Wednesday, three months after its passage by the lower house of the U.S. state home to hundreds of thousands of ethnic Armenians.
The resolution says that Karabakh was “illegally severed from Armenia by the Soviet Union in 1921” and incorporated into Soviet Azerbaijan despite having “historically been Armenian territory.” “Since proclaiming independence [in 1991,] the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic has registered significant progress in democracy building,” it says.
“The California State Legislature urges the President and Congress of the United States to support the self-determination and democratic independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic and its constructive involvement with the international community’s efforts to reach a just and lasting solution to security issues in that strategically important region,” reads the document strongly backed by Armenian-American lobbying groups.
The U.S. Embassy downplayed the resolution on Thursday, saying that foreign policy is the exclusive prerogative of the federal government in Washington. U.S. policy on the Karabakh conflict will therefore not be affected by the California bill, the embassy said in a statement cited by the APA news agency.
The statement came just hours after the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry dismissed the resolution as a mere “piece of paper.” The ministry spokesman, Elman Abdullayev, told reporters that it is the result of heavy lobbying by “the radical Armenian lobby.”
“That resolution is biased, contradicts the U.S. foreign policy and justifies ethnic cleansing and illegal [Armenian] occupation,” the Azerbaijani Consulate General in Los Angeles said in a statement cited by the Trend news agency.
Predictably, the Armenian government and the Karabakh Armenian leadership welcomed the resolution, with Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian issuing a special statement on the occasion. Nalbandian said that the California bill will help to “pave the way for international recognition of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”
A spokesman for Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, called the resolution a “great and remarkable event for all Armenians.” “It can be said that Karabakh’s independence has been recognized by one of the world’s big states,” Davit Babayan told News.am
“This resolution couldn’t have come at a better time, given the recent escalated level of violence along the Artsakh-Azerbaijan border,” Elen Asatryan of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) said for her part.
The ANCA and other Armenian advocacy groups earlier secured similar legislations by the U.S. states of Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Maine and Louisiana.