WASHINGTON DC–In the latest of a series of legislative initiatives designed to lift the restrictions on US aid to Azerbaijan enacted by Congress in response to Azerbaijan’s blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–Sen. Sam Brownback today introduced stand-alone legislation that would broaden the president’s authority to waive Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In a short speech this evening on the Senate floor–Sen. Brownback acknowledged that it would be a "tough issue" to pressure Congress into retreating from the law it enacted in 1992 in response to Azerbaijan’s aggression and blockades against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Under current law–the President can only lift Section 907 by formally reporting to Congress that Azerbaijan has taken demonstrable steps to lifts its blockades and cease all offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
He stressed that his legislation would not eliminate Section 907–but rather allow the President to waive this provision if he determines that it is in the national security interest to do so. Encouraging his Senate colleagues to co-sponsor his legislation–he explained that–"this is providing the President with waiver authority–national security waiver authority…there has to be a national security interest. If it is not needed–if it is not there–the President does not have the authority to exercise it…But we should provide him that authority."
"Recognizing the lack of support in Congress for his earlier attempts to secure the outright repeal of Section 907–Senator Brownback has now apparently turned to a second strategy to accomplish his goal of ensuring the free flow of US taxpayer funding into the government of Azerbaijan," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA. "In light of the State Department’s recent escalation of its anti-Section 907 campaign–it is clear that this legislation represents a focused and coordinated attempt to effectively eliminate this law–against the express will of Congress."
Armenian President Robert Kocharian–in a letter today to President George W. Bush–stressed that "Section 907 and the Turkish-Azerbaijani blockade of Armenia have been interlinked through the life of this conflict–and are part of the overall package of issues which require resolution. Removing one element–dealing with it independently–will irreparably damage the peace process."
Bipartisan Congressional support for Section 907 was reaffirmed in Senate and House floor votes in June of 1999 and September of 1998–respectively.
Local ANC chapters and activists have worked with Armenian Americans from throughout the United States in educating members of Congress about the dangers of facilitating the weakening–repeal–or waiver of Section 907. Any such moves–they have explained–would:
*Reward Azerbaijan for its illegal blockades and destabilize the region by encouraging Azerbaijan to maintain its blockades and other offensive uses of force–secure in the knowledge that such aggressive actions will not meet any meaningful opposition on the part of the US government.
*Allow Azerbaijani President Heydar Aliyev to exploit the terrorist attacks against the United States to force the repeal of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act as a condition of his cooperation in the war on terrorism.
*Tilt the military balance in the region in favor of Azerbaijan and threaten the seven-year cease-fire in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.