Two more members of the U.S. House of Representatives visited Nagorno-Karabakh on Wednesday in a show of support for the Armenian-populated territory’s pursuit of international recognition.
Representatives Frank Pallone and Tulsi Gabbard met with government officials and lawmakers in Stepanakert after touring the nearby historical town of Shushi (Shusha).
Pallone, who is one of the co-chairs of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, reaffirmed his pro-Armenian views on the Karabakh conflict. “We believe that the people of Artsakh (Karabakh) must be able to exercise their right to self-determination and have mechanisms for ensuring their security,” the Artsakhpress news agency quoted him saying at the meeting.
“We are going to do our best within the Congress or within the confines of the [OSCE] Minsk Group … to see if we can play some role in creating some confidence-building measures and obviously pushing along a process that would lead to a peaceful settlement,” Pallone told reporters afterwards.
“But all of that necessitates that Karabakh continue to be Armenian and have its own self-determination. That, we will always insist on,” added the New Jersey Democrat who has repeatedly visited Karabakh in the past.
Both Pallone and Gabbard, a Democrat of Hawaii, praised the Karabakh authorities’ human rights and democracy records. Karabakh shares “important values” with the United States, Gabbard said.
The two lawmakers were accompanied by the chairmen of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and the Armenian Assembly of America, the two main Armenian lobby groups in the U.S. “As our congressional friends saw today, Artsakh is a very American story: the victory of a free people over foreign rule, the well-deserved and hard-earned triumph of democracy over dictatorship,” said the ANCA’s Raffi Hamparian.
Pallone and Gabbard were part of a six-member U.S. congressional delegation that held talks with Armenian lawmakers and senior government officials in Yerevan on Tuesday. Another member of the delegation, David Valadao, travelled to Karabakh on Monday to inspect U.S.-funded demining activities there.
Earlier this month, Valadao and other pro-Armenian lawmakers pushed through House of Representatives legislation mandating continued U.S. government funding for the humanitarianeffort. The U.S. Congress has financed it since 2001 as part of direct economic assistance to Karabakh allocated over strong Azerbaijani objections.