Following a letter from a local Armenian group, the Burbank City Council will consider a proposal to recognize the disputed territory of Artsakh as an independent state.
Councilman Nick Schultz, who requested the item from city staff members at the end of Tuesday’s meeting, also asked for an option to terminate Burbank’s friendship city relationship with Hadrut, a city in Artsakh. The two municipalities declared that relationship in 2014.
An estimate for when the items would be presented to the council was not available this week.
Schultz’s requests were made after the Burbank chapter of the Armenian National Committee of America sent a letter to the City Council last week. The letter notes that, following last year’s fighting between Turkey-backed Azerbaijan and Armenia, Azeri forces now occupy Hadrut.
Artsakh, also called Nagorno-Karabakh, is a region located between Armenia and Azerbaijan that both countries claim as their territory. The vast majority of Artsakh’s population is Armenian and its leadership previously voted to join Armenia, but after armed conflict between the two nations resumed late last year, ending in November with a Russian-brokered peace deal that involved the cession of some territories to Azerbaijan, many Armenians fled the region.
In its letter to the City Council, ANCA Burbank asked the panel to recognize Artsakh’s right of self-governance, writing, “the people of Artsakh deserve their freedom, the basic human right of self-determination and living free from occupation and fear of annihilation and conquest by Azerbaijan and Turkey.”
Several states and cities have recognized Artsakh, including Glendale, Los Angeles, West Hollywood, Orange County and the state of California.
ANCA Burbank added that continuing the friendship city relationship with Hadrut would be a “mockery of the concept” after its capture by Azerbaijan. Burbank’s friendship with Hadrut is with its people, the letter argues, many of whom have been displaced.
“Once the people are not living in that city anymore, it’s not worth it,“ said Sarkis Simonian, chairman of ANCA Burbank.
Simonian said ANCA Burbank was pleased that the City Council is considering their requests, but explained that the past several months have been especially difficult for local Armenian residents.
“You have to remember, a lot of Burbank Armenian residents, they have either immediate family members living in Artsakh or have family … and friends [there],” he said. “I think it’s affecting everyone because everyone knows somebody there.”
The City Council and Burbank Unified School District both voted to condemn Azerbaijani aggression in Artsakh last October. Hundreds of pro-Armenia demonstrators also gathered in front of City Hall last year to raise awareness of the conflict.