WASHINGTON–DC–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) on Tuesday–criticized the State Department’s pressure upon Congress to provide the President with authority to waive restrictions on US aid to Azerbaijan–urging his colleagues to maintain Section 907 in its current form–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.)
In a speech on the House floor–Rep. Pallone argued that–"efforts to weaken or repeal Section 907 only serve to legitimize Azerbaijan’s immoral blockade and would make its position at the negotiating table even more intransigent. "His remarks come in response to a letter circulated yesterday by Secretary of State Colin Powell which urged key Senate and House members to adopt legislation allowing President Bush to waive the 1992 law–without having to certify to Congress that Azerbaijan has taken demonstrable steps to lifts its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
Characterizing the State Department letter as "unfortunate," Rep. Pallone noted that it is "particularly troubling to think that Secretary Powell would want to provide military assistance to Azerbaijan–a nation which has a history of aggression and blockades against Armenia and which continues–to this day–to make threats of renewed aggression against Nagorno Karabakh under the cover of the international war on terrorism."
"Rather than pressuring Congress to retreat from Section 907–the Administration should instead direct its energies to the source of its problem – the Azerbaijani government’s refusal to meet the conditions of this law by ending its brutal thirteen-year blockade against Armenia and Artsakh," said Aram Hamparian. "As Congressman Pallone noted in his remarks–it would be irresponsible-and detrimental to our long-term interests in the stability of the Caucasus-to place US military hardware in the hands of an Azerbaijani government that has – in just the past few day–at very senior levels – threatened renewed aggression against the Armenian people."
Last week Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS) introduced legislation that would allow President Bush to waive the Section 907 without having to certify that Azerbaijan has met its obligations outlined in the law.
The ANCA is working through its network of local chapters and activists–and in coordination with a broad range of Armenian American organizations–to defeat Senator Brownback’s legislation–S.1521–and oppose other related efforts to repeal–waive–or otherwise weaken this provision of US law.
The following is the complete text of Congressman Pallone’s statmen’s: Mr. Speaker I come to the House floor this evening to urge this Congress to maintain Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act in its current form and oppose efforts to repeal this important provision of law. Section 907 places reasonable conditions on U.S. assistance to the government of Azerbaijan–until Azerbaijan has shown that it has taken "demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh."
I am concerned that the Administration is using the tragedies on September 11th and our nation’s war against terrorism as a way to convince the Members of Congress of the need to waive these sanctions. Referring to Powell’s letter–Pallone made the following remarks:
Well–Mr. Speaker–this letter is unfortunate–although I am not surprised because the State Department has always opposed Section 907. But it is particularly troubling to think that Secretary Powell would want to provide military assistance to Azerbaijan–a nation which has a history of aggression and blockades against Armenia and which continues–to this day–to make threats of renewed aggression against Nagorno Karabagh under the cover of the international war on terrorism.
Let me give you some recent examples of these threats:
*Azerbaijani Defense Minister Colonel General Safar Abiev who was cited recently by the Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Caucasus Report as an advocate of renewed aggression against Nagorno Karabagh.
*Radio Free Europe has also reported that Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Vilayat Quliev has said that if Azerbaijan decides "to liberate Karabagh from "terrorists," then the international community would have no right to condemn that move as aggression."
*Azerbaijani Parliamentarian Igbal Agazadeh–who has said that–"The time has come to start hostilities on liberation of Azeri territories occupied by Armenia," a direct reference to a new war on Nagorno Karabagh.
Taking any steps to weaken–waive–or repeal Section 907 will give Azerbaijan the green light and the means to renew its aggression against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. In his letter–Mr. Speaker–Secretary Powell says that Section 907 must be repealed so that the Azerbaijani government can fight terrorist organizations in its own country. What the Secretary does not say is that there are credible reports that the Azerbaijani government invited Osama Bin Laden and his network into its country. Given this information–the U.S. government should carefully review its relationship with Azerbaijan not reward it with repeal of Section 907. At a minimum–I believe U.S. interests are best served by insisting that Azerbaijan arrest and turn over those involved in Al Qaeda cells operating there with the government’s approval since the early to mid 1990s. These cells threaten all of us–the United States–but in particular on the front line in this battle.
To date–Azerbaijan had done nothing to warrant repeal of Section 907 including continuing its war rhetoric–rejecting U.S./European Union calls for cooperation with Armenia–rejecting specific proposals by Armenia for economic and regional cooperation–and backing away from the commitmen’s made by Azerbaijani President Aliyev during peace negotiations this year in Paris and Key West earlier this year.
Given the ongoing–sensitive peace negotiations–efforts to weaken or repeal Section 907 only serve to legitimize Azerbaijan’s immoral blockade and would make its position at the negotiating table even more intransigent.
Moreover–repeal of Section 907 is no way to reward Armenia’s solidarity with America’s campaign against international terrorism. Armenia’s early response to the World Trade Center attack was to fist assist American staff at our U.S. Embassy in Armenia’s capital to insure the Embassy’s security. Armenia’s President–speaking on behalf of the members of the Collective Security Treaty (CST) of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS)–called for join action against international terrorism. Armenia currently holds the rotating presidency in this six-member defense group and Armenia has also offered and the U.S. has already used Armenia’s airspace.