Why is the RI House going out of its way to anger Azerbaijan?May 23rd, 2012 at 5:00 am by Ted Nesi under Nesi's Notes, On the Main Site
And you thought Woonsocket had problems at the State House?
Last Thursday, the R.I. House of Representatives unanimously passed a resolution “supporting the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic’s efforts to develop as a free and independent nation.” House Speaker Gordon Fox himself was the lead sponsor and 33 Democrats and Republicans seconded the motion; nobody objected.
Nagorno-Karabakh is a breakaway region of Azerbaijan with a mostly Armenian population that experienced a brutal civil war in the early 1990s. Azerbaijan – a key U.S. military ally – wants the region back but Armenia isn’t budging, and peace talks are stalled.
Rhode Island has a sizable Armenian population, and Congressman David Cicilline is among the politicians who’ve taken an active interest in their concerns. But the Azerbaijani government is apparently less pleased with local lawmakers’ meddling.
“Attempts to achieve recognition by the legislature of Rhode Island are only attempts by Armenians themselves, who thus try to deceive the U.S. public,” Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elman Abdullayev was quoted as saying by ArmeniaNow (which calls the Assembly “the parliament of the U.S. state of Rhode Island”).
On hand in the House chamber for Thursday’s vote was Robert Avetisyan, the republic’s permanent representative to the United States, along with local Armenian-American activists Hagop Donoyan, Levon Attarian, Stephen Elmasian and Ani Haroian.
House lawmakers directed Secretary of State A. Ralph Mollis to send certified copies of their Nagorno-Karabakh resolution to President Obama and the four members of Rhode Island’s congressional delegation.
Zikret Hasan, a Portsmouth resident, sent a letter to The Providence Journal this week criticizing the resolution. “The resolution is not only factually incorrect, but contradicts U.S. government’s position and national interests, damages U.S. international standing and relations with key allies, and even contradicts Rhode Island’s own laws on lobbying and lobbyists,” he wrote.
Steve Nielsen contributed to this report.