CR: Internally Displaced Persons in Nagorno-Karabakh

[Congressional Record: June 6, 2006 (House)]
From the Congressional Record Online via GPO Access [wais.access.gpo.gov]

INTERNALLY DISPLACED PERSONS IN NAGORNO-KARABAKH

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the
gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.
Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, I rise this evening to bring attention to
the problem of internally displaced persons, or IDPs in Nagorno-
Karabakh in the Caucus. The situation is disheartening because aid is
needed and, unfortunately, the United Nations refuses to allow its
organizations like UNHCR and UNICEF to operate in the country largely
due to Azerbaijan’s opposition.
Because internally displaced persons remain within the borders of
their home country, primary responsibility for protecting and assisting
them rests with their national authorities. However, I strongly believe
there is also a responsibility that lies with the United States and the
international community to bring rightful attention to this issue and
consider ways to ease and eventually end the plight of these displaced
individuals.
Mr. Speaker, in the late 1980s and early 1990s, as the Soviet Union
was collapsing the people of Nagorno-Karabakh made a peaceful request
to reunite with Armenia, from which they were arbitrarily separated by
Joseph Stalin in 1921.

Azerbaijan responded with a campaign of ethnic cleansing and full-
scale military attack on Nagorno-Karabakh.
As a result of Azerbaijan’s aggression, 30,000 people died, and
hundreds of thousands fled the region. About 36,000 Armenian refugees
from Azerbaijan and some 71,000 displaced ethnic Armenians now reside
in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Though the fighting has ended, ceasefire violations continue, and the
victims are still suffering.
IDPs still face hardships, including lack of economic opportunity and
inadequate shelter. Refugees and displaced individuals and families
deserve humanitarian support independent of their location. However
those in Nagorno-Karabakh have not received adequate international
assistance.
The International Committee of the Red Cross and Doctors Without
Borders are the only major international organizations operating in
Nagorno-Karabakh. Besides Armenia, the United States is the only other
government providing them assistance.
Now recognizing the ongoing need for humanitarian assistance, the
U.S. Congress has provided funds to Nagorno-Karabakh since 1998.
Through various organizations, USAID has implemented critical projects,
including the construction of homes, improved access to water supplies
and school reconstruction.
Although these programs have helped improve living conditions, much
more is still needed. So, Mr. Speaker, the UN unfortunately refuses to
operate in Karabakh and does not send aid or organizations like UNHCR
and UNICEF there for assistance.
The reason given by the UN is that they do not work in “politically
unrecognized territories”. Yet it is my understanding that there are
several other disputed territories where the UN currently operates. For
example, the UN has been providing assistance to refugees in the West
Bank and Gaza since 1950. In fact, the UN created a specific
organization, the United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine
refugees in the Near East to help Palestinian refugees.
They have also undertaken work in other unrecognized or disputed
areas, including Kosovo, Somaliland, Abkhazia, South Ossetia and
Transnistria. The Karabakh authorities have made repeated requests for
help to the UN for assistance but have been unsuccessful.
The UN’s refusal to work in Karabakh is unfair and hard to comprehend
since the UN has been providing substantial assistance to refugees and
IDPs residing in Armenia and Azerbaijan, while overlooking the needs of
similar groups residing in Karabakh.
It is encouraging that the United States is committed to finding a
peaceful solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh crisis. But as Members of
Congress, we must provide the leadership necessary for the UN and other
relevant organizations to find ways to support these refugees and IDPs.
I plan to send a letter urging the UN to reconsider its misguided
policies that are depriving suffering people in Karabakh of urgently
needed humanitarian assistance. I hope that my colleagues will join me
in this effort when I send the letter, and that we can get the UN to
turn around its position.

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