California’s Fresno County has become entangled in a conflict from another world.
Late last month, on the eve of the April 24 anniversary of the 1915 slaughter of ethnic Armenians in Ottoman Turkey, the county government felt the urge to weigh in on the decades-long dispute over the predominantly ethnic-Armenian Nagorno-Karabakh region and recognize Karabakh's independence from Azerbaijan. Soon enough, angry Azerbaijan, which has vowed to reclaim the territory, came knocking on the county’s door.
The Fresno Bee has the story:“The resolution [supporting Karabakh's independence], even if symbolic and from a seemingly irrelevant county government, undermines Azerbaijan’s sovereignty, wrote the nation’s officials in a recent letter to the county. The [county] supervisors’ support, they wrote, contradicts even the US government’s official position that Nagorno-Karabakh is rightfully part of Azerbaijan.”
But Fresno has snapped its fingers back at Azerbaijan, saying the energy power picked the wrong guy. “We will not be muscled by a well-funded lobbying effort by the Azerbaijanis," Supervisor Andreas Borgeas, who penned the Karabakh resolution, proudly commented to The Fresno Bee.
Fresno’s Karabakh demarche may sound straight out of the bizarre news category, but despite more than an 8,000-mile distance, there is a connection between the Californian county and the disputed Caucasus region. California, and Fresno county in particular, is home to a large Diaspora Armenian community. The city of Fresno even has an Armenian deli called Gg Karabakh.
Armenia and Azerbaijan have been courting support for their positions on Karabakh around the world, including in the US, but it is the first time that the lobbying has resulted in a decision by a state county.
Yet supervisor Borgeas believes this is just the beginning. First, Fresno, then the state capital, Sacramento, and, eventually Washington, DC, Borgeas said, according to the Asbarez news service.
Nonetheless, some supervisors now seem to be wondering why they did what they did.
The board's chairperson, Henry Perea, has qualms about the county making a foreign-policy decision. “What we are going to do next, declare wars on nations?” he commented to The Fresno Bee.
Good question, as who knows how far the confrontation can go. Azerbaijan is angry. Fresno’s got attitude. Sounds like a recipe for trouble. If only in words.