Senate amendment lacks effective "Sunset" clause; Senate amendment includes no prohibition on Azerbaijan’s use of US arms against Karabakh WASHINGTON–The Armenian National Committee of America continues to educate legislators about the dangers to Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia–and the damage to US regional interests that would occur if an anti-Section 907 amendment recently adopted in the US Senate survives the conference committee process and is enacted into law.
On October 24th–the Senate–under extraordinary pressure from the State Department–adopted a broadly worded waiver of Section 907 that would effectively provide the President with nearly unrestricted authority to provide military aid to Azerbaijan–despite that nation’s recent threats of renewed aggression toward Nagorno Karabakh and its long-standing refusal to comply with the terms of this law. The Senate action took the form of an amendment to the fiscal year 2002 foreign aid bill. Since it was first adopted into law in 1992–Section 907 has restricted certain types of direct US aid to the government of Azerbaijan due to its blockades against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
The ANCA is currently educating members of Congress on this issue through its office in Washington–DC–regional offices in Boston and Los Angeles–more than 45 local chapters–and activists in all 50 states. Specifically–they are explaining that the enactment into law of the Senate amendment would: Effectively amount to the repeal of Section 907. Open the door to US military aid to an Azeri government that has harbored terrorists tied to Osama bin Laden and–very recently–threatened to launch a renewed war on Nagorno Karabakh; Set back the cause of lifting Azerbaijan’s dual blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh; Send the dangerous signal to Azerbaijan that the US and the international community will stand on the sidelines if the Azeri military attacks what it is now terming the "terrorists" of Nagorno Karabakh. Destabilize a strategically important region and significantly complicate the US-led war on terrorism.
The next step in the legislative process will be for a conference committee of Senators and Representatives to reconcile the Senate’s version of the foreign aid bill with the House version–which does not include any language weakening Section 907. The key players in the conference committee are already meeting on this subject and are scheduled to finalize their deliberations in a meeting as early as Wednesday–October 31 or Thursday–November 1. Kocharian Wrote to President Bush Outlining the Dangers of Weakening Section 907
In an October 9th letter to President Bush–Armenian President Robert Kocharian outlined the negative impact that weakening Section 907 would have on the OSCE Minsk Group mediated Nagorno Karabakh peace process. In this letter–he explained that Section 907 and the Turkish and Azeri blockades of Armenia have been interlinked through the life of this conflict–and are part of the overall package of issues that require resolution. He noted that removing one element independently would irreparably damage the peace process.
Following the Senate vote–Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian expressed his hope that "additional precautions will be built in" during the conference committee process.
According to Tuesday’s Radio Free Europe’s Caucasus Report–Azeri Foreign Minister Vilayat Guliev has described the Senate’s decision as a major foreign policy success. The Baku daily Zerkalo–in its October 26 edition–quoted an unnamedofficial from the Azeri Embassy in Washington as saying that Azerbaijan can now get "unlimited assistance in any sphere." Major Armenian American Organizations Wrote to Bush in Defense of Section 907
On October 23–the seventeen leading Armenian American political–religious–and humanitarian institutions–representing essentially the entire organized Armenian American community wrote a letter to President Bush voiced their "unambiguous support for Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act as a vital element of US policy toward the Caucasus and a key instrument of stability in a region of great strategic significance to our nation during this time of crisis." They noted in their collective letter that–"retreating from the principles of Section 907 will–in our view–lead to a destabilization of the regional balance of power–to the detriment of the peoples of the region and the international community."
Co-signers of the letter to President Bush were: Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics; Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; Armenian Missionary Association of America; Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Eastern Region; Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Western Region; Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Eastern Region; Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Western Region; Armenian American Democratic Leadership Council; Armenian Bar Association; Armenian General Benevolent Union; Armenian National Committee of America; Armenian Relief Society; Armenian Youth Federation of America–Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural and Educational Association; Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union; Knights of Vartan–and; National Organization of Republican Armenia’s. Nationwide Grassroots Activism:
In recent weeks–tens of thousands of Armenian Americans–from all reaches of the community–have communicated their commitment to maintaining Section 907 to their legislators through Congressional WebFaxes–letters–phone calls–visits–and petitions. Among the concerns raised by defenders of Section 907 were the dangers posed by the Senate amendment–specifically: 1. The lack of a meaningful "sunset" provision places no limits on the term of the waiver and represents an effective repeal of Section 907. This provision–as it now stands–would prevent Congress from exercising its oversight responsibility and undermine its legislative prerogatives. 2. The amendment does not state that the President must certify that Azerbaijan will not use US assistance for offensive uses against Nagorno Karabakh.
The amendment does requires that the President certify that Azerbaijan will not use US assistance against Armenia–but–very significantly–does NOT include Nagorno Karabakh. Both the State Department and Sen. Brownback insisted upon the exclusion of Nagorno Karabakh from this provision of the Senate amendment.
This wording sends the dangerous signal to the Azeri government that the United States–while still seeking to deter Azeri aggression against Armenia–will not oppose renewed Azeri aggression against Nagorno Karabakh. The implication of this language is that Azerbaijan’s actions against Nagorno Karabakh are an internal Azeri matter and that–accordingly–the United States would remain on the sidelines in the event that Azerbaijan follows through on its recent threats to launch a new offensive against Nagorno Karabakh. 3. The absence of a specific requirement of incremental parity between assistance provided to Armenia and Azerbaijan threatens to contribute to the destabilization of the region. 4. The phrase regarding the provision of US assistance to support the "operational readiness of US Armed Forces or coalition partners" is so broadly worded that it would allow almost any form of US military hardware or training–including official American material and technical support for the stationing of Turkish "coalition partners" on Azeri soil–which is–increasingly–a distinct possibility. 5. The amendment does not specifically enumerate the types of assistance that can be provided to Azerbaijan under the general heading of "counter terrorism," leaving the door open to Azerbaijan’s using this aid in what it has recently begun calling its "anti-terrorism" war against Nagorno Karabakh. Nor does it in any way limit the provision of such assistance to the US-led effort to bring to justice the perpetrators of the September 11 attacks on the United States. 6. The reporting requirements are too limited and do not include specific demands for updates on
a. The use of aid provided under this waiver against Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh–and
b. The Administration’s efforts to encourage Azerbaijan to comply with the terms of Section 907 by lifting its blockades against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh