WASHINGTON–DC–In a legislative reaffirmation of the 2001 agreement between Congress and the White House to maintain military aid parity to Armenia and Azerbaijan–Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) secured this week the adoption of an amendment adding Armenia to the list of nations receiving Department of Defense counter-drug assistance–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Commenting to the ANCA following the adoption of his amendment–Senator Reed said–"I am pleased that the Senate Armed Services Committee recognized the importance of providing military aid to Armenia for training and equipment in light of its decision to provide funding to Azerbaijan. It is essential that we maintain parity between the two nations–and I am happy that my amendment was accepted."
The amendment was offered by the Senator–a senior members of the Armed Services Committee–to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2007 (S.2507). The measure added Armenia to the list of eligible nations for a Defense Department counter-drug assistance program. Azerbaijan was among the nations listed in the original version of the Authorization bill authored by Committee Chairman John Warner (R-VA).
The Armed Services Committee report advises the Defense Department that the panel "expects that the authority granted in this section will be administered in the spirit of maintaining current military parity between Azerbaijan and Armenia." The Committee report language refers to the agreement between Congress and the White House in 2001 to maintain military aid parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan. In 2001–Congress granted the President limited waiver authority over Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–which restricts US assistance to Azerbaijan as long as it continues to blockade Armenia and Karabagh–with the understanding that the Administration will not provide more military assistance to Azerbaijan than to Armenia.
"We join with the Armenian American community of Rhode Island in thanking Senator Reed for helping to ensure parity in the provision of US defense assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We will–in the coming weeks–continue to share with legislators in both houses of Congress the negative implications for peace and regional stability of the Administration’s ill-advised proposal to break the military aid parity agreement that has been in force for the past five years."
The House Armed Services Committee has also finalized its version of the National Defense Authorization Act for fiscal year 2007 (HR 5122)–which does include Azerbaijan–but not Armenia as an eligible country. The two versions of the bill will eventually be reconciled after passage in both chambers. The ANCA will urge the conference committee to accede to the amended Senate version of this provision–and–more broadly–to work toward overall military aid parity to Armenia and Azerbaijan.