Elected officials from the Los Angeles area gathered at L.A. City Hall Monday to demand U.S. action to halt Azerbaijan’s attacks against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Rep. Adam Schiff had strong words for Turkey, which has intervened and is helping Azerbaijan after it launched a military attack on Sept. 27 in the autonomous enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh, also called Artsakh — a mountainous region bordering Armenia and Azerbaijan.
“We have a strong bipartisan message for Turkey and Erdogan: You’re a member of NATO. Start acting like one,” Schiff said during the press conference. “And we have a message for Azerbaijan: Cease the hostilities or there will be consequences.”
The condemnation follows the biggest escalation in a decades-old conflict over the autonomy of the region, which is home to about 150,000 people — about 95% of whom are ethnic Armenians, according to a 2015 census. And across L.A. in recent days, cars flying the Armenian flag and bearing messages of support for Artsakh could be seen driving on streets and freeways.
Los Angeles, home to the largest Armenian population outside of the country itself, has seen several demonstrations over the last week, with thousands of Armenian Americans and their allies calling for international intervention in the conflict.
Over the weekend, thousands of protesters came together, gathering outside the buildings of news outlets in Hollywood, including CNN and KTLA, in an emotional call for media coverage and recognition of the escalating violence in the region. Demonstrators carrying Armenian flags also walked onto freeways, blocking traffic as a form of protest and a plea for a stop to bloodshed in the region.
“Americans should never tolerate the use of cluster bombs against civilian targets and other war crimes that carry with them the echoes of the Armenian Genocide,” L.A. City Councilman Paul Krekorian said Monday. “Americans should never tolerate fascist Turkish expansionism in this part of the world.”
The Armenian American community in L.A. has decried the escalating violence as a massacre against Armenians and is calling for international intervention.
“For our Armenian brothers and sisters, nothing can truly ease the pain and the worry that you’re feeling right now, the echoes of history,” Mayor of L.A. Eric Garcetti said. “Lives have been lost to acts of unnecessary violence and unwarranted assaults on innocent families in an invasion of Artsakh’s cities and communities.”
The mayor said L.A. will use its status as a “global crossroads” to facilitate international dialogue and to call for immediate peace. He called on the Trump administration to conduct the diplomacy necessary to bring peace to the region by denouncing Azerbaijan’s actions and by calling for Turkey to disengage from the conflict.
Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke to President Donald Trump’s national security adviser, Robert O’Brien, the New York Times reported, and questioned why nothing is being done to stop Turkey, a longtime U.S. ally, from using American fighter jets against ethnic Armenians in the region.
O’Brien “heard and acknowledged” Pashinyan’s concerns and promised to set up a phone conversation between the Armenian prime minister and Trump, the Times reported.
In the meantime, Schiff and Rep. Jackie Speier of San Mateo proposed Resolution 1165, calling for the U.S. to condemn Azerbaijan’s military operation in Nagorno-Karabakh and to denounce Turkish interference in the conflict.
Other elected officials who were present in solidarity with the Armenian community Monday included state Sen. Maria Durazo, Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon, state Assembly members Adrin Nazarian, Chris Holden, Richard Bloom, Tom Lackey, Jesse Gabriel, L.A. City Council members Mitch O’Farrell, Nury Martinez, Monica Rodriguez, David Ryu, Paul Koretz, John Lee, and L.A. City Attorney Mike Feuer.
Nazarian called for the federal government to “step up” and he equated the current violence to that of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, saying, “If we really mean what we say by saying, ‘Never again,’ this this is the time to act.”
Amid widespread demonstrations in L.A. over the weekend, the consul general for Azerbaijan in L.A. released a video-recorded statement saying, “peace can only be achieved when Armenia leaves the occupied regions.”
Some worry that the clashes can escalate to a proxy war between Russian, Turkey and Iran if other nations, particularly the U.S., do not act soon.
On Monday, Armenia accused Azerbaijan of firing missiles into Stepankert, the capital of Nagorno-Karabakh, while Azerbaijan said several of its towns and its second-largest city were attacked.
About 220 servicemen have died in Nagorno-Karabakh since the clashes began last week and 21 civilians have been killed with 82 others were wounded, according to Nagorno-Karabakh officials and state-run Armenian Unified Infocenter.
Azerbaijani officials have not given details about their military casualties but have said 25 civilians were killed and 127 were wounded.