During the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee (SFRC) confirmation hearing on Thursday, April 15, 2021, of Ambassador Victoria Nuland to serve as U.S. Under Secretary of State for Political Affairs, SFRC Chairman Bob Menendez (D-NJ) raised key issues relating to the Armenian people, including the Armenian prisoners of war still unjustly held captive by Azerbaijan and the need for robust humanitarian assistance.
Bob Menendez, in particular, made observations and asked the following questions to Victoria Nuland:
“The 44-day war launched by Azerbaijan, with the full and open support of Turkey, against the Armenian people in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) on September 27, 2020 was an unspeakable tragedy. The absence of top-level United States diplomacy throughout the war is inexcusable. We must do everything possible to prevent such a tragedy in the future. US must press Azerbaijan to release the prisoners of war members that it has – which [Azerbaijan] is refusing to release them – in violation of international law.”
During the afternoon hearing, Chairman Menendez also spoke about the significance and urgency of U.S. humanitarian assistance to Artsakh and the importance of “ensuring that the Armenians displaced from their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh get the assistance they need.”
“Are you committed to protecting the provision of humanitarian aid and demining to Armenians in the South Caucasus who have been displaced from their homes due to Azerbaijani armed attacks? What can the United States do to restore the OSCE Minsk Group and initiate a more lasting peace process?” Menendez asked.
“I’ve worked on Armenia, Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh issues for some 25 years, and the way things went down last year was absolutely tragic for so many in the region,” Amb. Nuland said.
“As you say, prisoners of war must be released, humanitarian aid must be restored. We must ensure Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity; we must also talk to our ally Turkey. I think we have a lot to do,” Nuland said.
“I hope you will support the process of returning the Armenian prisoners of war. This is a gross violation of international law,” said Bob Menendez, to which Victoria Nuland responded positively, saying, “it is an absolute violation.”