Washington, 1 August 1997 (RFE/RL) - A group of U.S. Congress members has expressed what it calls reservations about today's scheduled White House meeting between President Bill Clinton and Azerbaijani President Heidar Aliyev.
In a letter sent to Clinton last night, the legislators ask Clinton to make clear to Aliyev what they say is the fundamental commitment of the American people to the right of self-determination within secure borders for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, a predominantly ethnic Armenian enclave in Azerbaijan.
The letter was written by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-New Jersey) and Congressman John Porter (R-Illinois), the co-chairmen of the Congressional Armenian Caucus. It was signed by 65 other members of the House of Representatives. The House has 435 members, and there is increasing support in the House for repeal of a Congressional ban on U.S. economic aid to Azerbaijan because of its economic blockade of Armenia.
Senior White House and State Department officials have said the U.S. wants a stronger relationship with Azerbaijan. The White House also wants the Congressional aid ban lifted.
Pallone and Porter contend Aliyev has a long history of human rights violations. They also contend that his White House welcome will encourage him to harden Azerbaijan's negotiating stance at the international talks on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.