Washington, D.C. Newsroom, Oct 17, 2020 / 14:00 pm
Christian human rights leaders have called on the Trump administration to issue sanctions on Turkey in response to its actions in the Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict, and warned that Turkish actions were guided by "animus" against Christians.
The calls came during a panel discussion, hosted by the group In Defence of Christians Friday, titled “Turkey is Committing Another Christian Genocide. Why is the Trump Administration Silent?” The event focused on Turkish actions in the recent conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia.
The historic conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan has reignited in recent weeks. The two countries, formerly part of the Soviet Union (USSR), fought a six-year war over the territory from 1988 to 1994 after the fall of the USSR, ending in a ceasefire. The United Nations currently recognizes the territory as part of Azerbaijan, but administered by ethnic Armenians. Turkey has been accused of actively exporting Syrian Islamist extremists to Azerbaijan to fight Armenia.
Friday’s discussion featured panelists Toufic Baaklini, president of In Defense of Christians; Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America; Robert Avetisyan, Permanent Representative of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic to the United States; Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute; Rich Ghazal of In Defense of Christians; and Endy Zemenides of the Hellenic American Leadership Council.
Turkey, said Baaklini, is a dangerous actor, and “We expect the Trump Administration to take action.” He said that the current policy towards Turkey is not working, and that “President Trump and Congress need to heavily sanction Turkey” in light of their hostility towards Christians.
Several of the panelists called for sanctions in response to Turkish violations of international agreements.
In October 2019, explained Ghazal, sanctions were lifted after Turkey agreed to a cease-fire in northeast Syria. Since then, however, “Turkey has violated this U.S.-brokered ceasefire over 800 times,” Ghazal said.
On Oct. 8, militants shelled a cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, destroying part of the roof and damaging the walls of Holy Savior Cathedral in Shusha. Nagorno-Karabakh officially belongs to Azerbaijan, but it is also claimed by the unrecognized Republic of Artsakh.