ASSISTANT SECRETARY ELIZABETH JONES DEFENDS 4 TO 1 MILITARY AID IMBALANCE IN FAVOR OF AZERBAIJAN; CLAIMS PARITY AGREEMENT NEVER EXISTED
WASHINGTON–DC–The Bush Administration–which–earlier this year proposed breaking its three-year old commitment to maintain parity in US military aid levels to Armenia and Azerbaijan–this week entirely disowned its agreement with Congress and the Armenian American community–claiming that such an arrangement has never existed–reported the Armenian National Committee Of America (ANCA).
The State Department outlined its new posture in response to questions directed to Secretary of State Colin Powell by Senator George Allen (R-VA) during a March 2 hearing of the Foreign Relations Committee. Senator Allen’s question read–in part:
"As part of the 907 waiver–there was an agreement made between the Administration and Congress to continue ensuring military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan. How does this budget request not undermine that understanding and not contradict the Administrations previously held position?"
Responding for Secretary Powell–Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones wrote:
"We do not have a policy that FMF funding levels for Armenia and Azerbaijan should be identical–but we are determined to ensure that our military assistance to these two countries does not alter the military balance between them. We are confident that increased FMF funding for Azerbaijan will not alter the military capability or offensive posture of Azerbaijan–nor will it perturb the military balance between it and Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict."
Assistant Secretary Jones’ commen’s run contrary to the agreement to maintain equal military aid levels struck in late 2001 between the White House and Congress during negotiations over granting the President the authority to waive Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. The agreement was shared with representatives of the Armenian American community during a February 21–2002 meeting at the White House with National Security Council official Dan Fried and Presidential advisor Karl Rove.
In February of this year–as part of its FY 2005 budget–the Bush Administration proposed breaking the parity agreement by sending four times more Foreign Military Financing assistance to Azerbaijan ($8 million) than to Armenia ($2 million). The President’s budget also includes a proposed $62 million allocation in economic aid to Armenia–a $13 million decrease from the $75 million approved by Congress as part of the FY 2004 aid bill.
"Our deep disappointment with the Administration’s failure to honor its three-year old commitment to maintain military aid parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan was compounded this week by the news that a senior State Department official is now claiming that such an agreement never existed in the first place," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "This breach of faith–this disavowal of their own agreement–undermines the confidence of Armenian Americans in the willingness of the Bush Administration to maintain a balanced policy toward Armenia and the surrounding region."
In letters and briefing papers provided to Members of Congress–the ANCA has explained that breaking the parity agreement will tilt the regional military balance in favor of Azerbaijan–reward the Azerbaijani government’s increasing violent calls for renewed aggression–and undermine the role of the United States as an impartial mediator of the Karabagh talks.