Ad blitz aimed at lifting Azerbaijan aid ban

A group advocating for Azerbaijan is banking on a new ad campaign to convince Washington policymakers it’s time to lift the ban on direct foreign aid to the country. 

The Azerbaijan America Alliance is directing the ad blitz mostly at Washington and New York, with fliers, ads in subway systems and full-page newspaper spreads. The campaign also includes an online video that features members of Congress, including Reps. Corrine BrownCorrine BrownDemocrats offer double-talk on Veterans Affairs House Democrats have opportunity for redemption in selecting VA Cmte Leader Women make little gains in new Congress MORE (D-Fla.), Randy Hultgren (R-Ill.) and Adam Kinzinger (R-Ill.). 

The $500,000 ad buy (not including production expenses) is set to run for roughly 10 days and commemorates the Feb. 26, 1992, massacre of Azeris in the village of Khojaly during the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, an unrecognized territory in western Azerbaijan. Both sides have disputed the events of that day, but the date has special significance for Azerbaijan, which has a memorial to the dead in its capital, Baku.

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The ads direct readers to the Alliance website, where they are encouraged to ask Congress to end the ban on direct aid to Azerbaijan and ask President Obama to engage more in diplomacy between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Tensions linger between the two nations over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

“Click here to learn about our campaign to urge Congress to rescind the unfair, irrational ban on direct aid to the government of Azerbaijan,” the group’s website says. “You can also ask President Obama and Secretary [of State Hillary] Clinton to play a much more active role in resolving to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict [sic].” 

Armenian-American groups are bristling at the ads. Aram Hamparian, executive director of the Armenian National Committee of America, said the ads were “misleading” and intended to buy U.S. public opinion.

“Advocates of improved U.S.-Azerbaijani relations should spend less money placing ads, and more time asking officials back in Baku to respect human rights, stop their arms buildup and cease-fire violations and commit to a peaceful resolution of regional conflicts,” Hamparian said in a statement

The Alliance was formed last year and hired lobby firm Fabiani & Co. under a $2.4 million, yearlong contract, according to Justice Department records. The firm has earned more than $1.9 million from the contract so far.