WASHINGTON–As part of the increasingly evident US diplomatic tilt in support of Azerbaijan–Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs Stuart Eizenstat were joined this week by a range of oil industry lobbyists and former government officials in calling for the repeal of the ban on US aid to the government of Azerbaijan–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
"These attacks on Section 907 are part of a broad based campaign by the Azeri government to buy political influence and manipulate US foreign policy toward its own ends," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA. "Aliyev’s visit simply represents yet another troubling example of a foreign ruler using money and high-priced lobbyists to pressure the Administration and Congress. Such efforts threaten the integrity of our political institutions and skew the debate about our legitimate national security interests."
In a July 21st speech at the Central Asia Institute–Talbott argued that "[Section 907] has had the negative effect of limiting our leverage with Baku and complicating our ability to be as effective as we could otherwise be as an honest broker." Speaking to an audience of government officials–energy lobbyists–oil industry executives–and think tanks–public relations and law firm representatives–Talbott laid the groundwork for a major working visit to the US by Azerbaijan’s President Gaidar Aliyev–during which he will meet with President Clinton as well as members of Congress–the State Department and other officials.
These same themes were echoed the following day during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing featuring representatives of the State Department and prominent think tanks. Each witness called for the lifting of Section 907. In addition to Stuart Eizenstat–the other witnesses were Caspar Weinberger–CEO of Forbes–Inc. and former Defense Secretary; Lt. General William Odom–USA (ret.)–Director of National Security Studies at the Hudson Institute; Paul Goble–Director of the Communications Department for Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty; and Dr. Martha Olcott Senior Associate Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Following are excerpts of their testimony and from responses to questions from the panel.
"We (the United States) have to be honest brokers. To be honest brokers–we need the capacity to relate directly technical assistance not only to Armenia–which certainly deserves it and is getting it–but we also have to do it with Azerbaijan. What concerns me there is that it impedes our ability to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh issue and to be honest brokers if we are perceived as being able to only help one of the countries to that dispute. That is why we continue to oppose Section 907 limitations on our ability to provide assistance. Much of that assistance will go to help Azerbaijan itself develop required institutions–democratic institutions–the courts–the judiciary–which would make them an even better partner."
– Amb. Stuart Eizenstat–Undersecretary of State for Economic Affairs
"As a NATO ally–Turkey is an important partner for US and European influence in both regions (the Caucasus and Central Asia). President Ozal–before he died–worked out the basis for a rapprochement with President Ter-Petrossyan of Armenia–but Russian agents and Diaspora Armenia’s from the Middle East blocked it. US efforts to restore this endeavor should be pursued. It will be much harder to succeed today–however–because Armenia is now wrapped in the embrace of the Russian army and intelligence services which want the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to continue and hostile relations with Turkey to remain permanent. The losers in this outcome are the Armenian people."
– Lieutenant General William. E. Odom–USA (retired) Director of National Security Studies–Hudson Institute
"[Section ] 907 I think really should go. I think it really ties the hands of the US. not just with Azerbaijan but it really makes us a less effective agent in Central Asia more generally because we are seen as partial on the Armenian Azeri conflict. So I think it helps us to throw it out."
–Dr. Martha Olcott–Senior Associate Carnegie Endowment for International Peace
"I think that while it is important to try to open the Armenian-Azeri border there are other things around and still are other things around–I believe–such as opening the Armenian Turkish border would be terribly important. 907 is really a blunt instrument. This is one of the problems that we have–is that we sometimes do something that is directed at one thing but has these broader consequences. Like Martha [Olcott] I am far more worried about what 907 says to people in central Asia than I am in what it says in terms of our ability or inability to function in the Minsk project."
–Paul Goble–Director Communications Department– Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty