Senator Menendez Blasts Commerce Plans to Permit Export of Lethal Weapons to Azerbaijan

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee,  sent a letter to Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo vehemently opposing the Commerce Department’s apparent plans to consider granting a license to permit the export of rifles – possibly including assault-style or sniper semiautomatic rifles – to Azerbaijan. Highlighting well-documented and credible allegations of Azerbaijan’s atrocities against Armenians – including the deaths and displacement of thousands of Armenians in the wake of the 2020 Nagorno Karabakh War and the 2022 invasion of Armenia, in addition to Baku’s ongoing blockade of the Lachin Corridor – Chairman Menendez urged Secretary Raimondo to ensure that no lethal weapons are sent to any persons or entities in Azerbaijan.

“The export of weapons to an authoritarian country that wages war against a neighbor, blockades a vulnerable population, and commits rampant human rights violations at home is not consistent with the Administration’s commitment to democracy and human rights,” Chairman Menendez wrote. “I am strongly opposed to sending any deadly weapons to Azerbaijan.”

Requesting an immediate response from Secretary Raimondo concerning guarantees from Azerbaijan that U.S. weapons are not used to commit further atrocities against the Armenians and will not be diverted to government military, security, or paramilitary forces, Chairman Menendez also inquired into the extent to which Commerce consulted with State Department on whether to grant Azerbaijan an export license.

“the consideration of this export license further compounds my dismay that the Administration continues to allow the export of assault-style and sniper rifles abroad – even while supporting an assault-style rifle ban domestically – and deepens my reservations about the Department of Commerce having jurisdiction over such exports,” Chairman Menendez added. “As you know, it remains my firm belief that such jurisdiction should be returned to the State Department to ensure the appropriate foreign policy considerations integral to such decisions are taken into account.”

Find a copy of the letter HERE