WASHINGTON–DC (Armenpress)–A House International Relations Subcommittee on Europe on Wednesday held hearings on US interests and policy in the Caucasus and Caspian Region–according to the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA). During the hearing several Members of Congress voiced their support for Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.
Congressman Gilman’said the wartime emergency "was attracting a lot of hitchhikers," referring to the fact that some offers of support have been accompanied by deman’s for some return–an oblique reference to deman’s for the removal of Section 907. He said the US should not throw out its standards. "We should not throw out the baby with the bath water," he added.
Congressman Sherman’said that the claim that Azerbaijan’s location is critical to the war effort was wrong since it is Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan that are the important staging areas and closer to the military action. He said he therefore saw no reason that the law should be removed.
Congressman Joseph Crowley indicated that he was in favor of including Armenia in the region’s economic development–something that Azerbaijan has vigorously opposed. Noting that he is a sponsor–along with Congressman Joe Knollenberg of a resolution (H.Con.Res.162) to ensure Armenia’s participation in Caspian oil development–Crowley said that the proposed Baku-Ceyhan route would cost roughly $400,000 to $700,000 less if it traversed Armenia–rather than the current plan which skirts it.
In recent weeks–Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS)–a strong advocate for the repeal of Section 907–has stepped up his assaults on the US law–first filing an amendment to repeal the law–then offer his assistance to President Bush to repeal or waive it–and finally–filing a free-standing bill asking his Senate calls to support waiver authority for the President. The reason for Senator Brownback’s interest in the Caucasus is unclear although major donors in recent political campaigns have been oil and gas.
Section 907 restricts US assistance to Azerbaijan until it removes its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. The blockades have severely hindered economic development in the region–causing high unemployment. It was adopted in 1992 by Congress to address Azerbaijan’s aggression against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Both bodies of Congress have repeatedly affirmed the need for Section 907.