The American concept of states’ rights is acting like yet another fly in the ointment of the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.
While many people in the coastal state of Massachusetts have been transfixed by a Great White shark attack on a man in the waters off Cape Cod, state legislators approved on August 6 a resolution calling for the federal government in Washington to push for recognition of Karabakh’s independence.
One particularly controversial passage of the resolution says that Karabakh, a territory with a predominantly ethnic Armenian population, was “arbitrarily severed from Armenia and forced under Soviet Azerbaijani administration.”
The measure induced howls of disapproval in Azerbaijan, which has been struggling to regain the territory ever since it lost a 1988-1994 conflict to Armenian forces. Azerbaijani diplomats accused Massachusetts lawmakers of pandering to Armenian-American lobbying groups and to the state’s significant Armenian community. A Foreign Ministry statement
stressed that the state lawmakers’ “position did not reflect that of the US government.”
The Washington, DC-based Armenian Assembly of America, meanwhile, applauded the resolution’s sponsor State Rep. Jonathan Hecht, a Democrat representing the Boston suburb of Watertown. “We appreciate the leadership of Representative Hecht,” the Assembly wrote.
Massachusetts is not the first state to insert itself into the longest running frozen conflict in the Caucasus. The neighboring state of Rhode Island also endorsed a similar Karabakh’s resolution last May.
While perhaps nettlesome to Azerbaijani diplomats, the states’ actions are unlikely to exert significant influence over the Karabakh peace process, which is currently stalemated.