SAN FRANCISO–Congressman Adam Schiff (D-Glendale)–who recently returned from a trip to Armenia–spoke at a community gathering in San Francisco’s Vaspouragan Hall–on the need to maintain Section 907 and on Armenian Genocide Recognition.
Rep. Schiff cited America’s loss of security–a wartime atmosphere–and the Armenian Assembly’s decision to accept a presidential waiver of Section 907 (the ban on aid to Azerbaijan)–as reasons why the ban was severely weakened by Congress earlier this month. "We hoped and worked diligently so that the Senate would not waive Section 907–but were not successful. The Administration was pushing very hard–and many were reluctant to resist in a time of war. In effect–the policy in place is such that we will allow you [Azerbaijan] to receive our aid and to blockade Armenia. This is destructive and hurts our relationships with democratic nations in the region."
During her update on the situation–ANC member Roxanne Makasdjian thanked Rep. Schiff for taking an active role in the issue–personally expressing his opinion to House Foreign Operations Committee Chairman–Rep. Kolbe–and Senate-House Conference Committee Chairman–Rep. Lowey. "We don’t have faith that the waiver is temporary–nor that it won’t be used against Armenia’s," said Makasdjian. "We are very concerned how it will play out."
Schiff said the main reason for the administration’s position on relations with Azerbaijan stems from oil. While commending President Bush on his response to the September 11 terrorist attacks–he said he was strongly opposed to the administration’s energy policy.
"The Administration is backward looking–focused on how to get more oil and the need to use more. This causes us to always be dependent on other countries," said Schiff. "We need to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. This is doable. If the administration has enough faith to build a missile defense–it has the resources to end the distortive importance on oil."
In his introductory remarks–ANC member Haig Baghdassarian spoke about Rep. Schiff’s principled representation of his Armenian-American constituency. Congressman Schiff not only understands our issues–but advocates for them as the only moral thing to do." Baghdassarian played an ANC television story about the Congressman’s recent trip to Armenia facilitated by the ANC.
Congressman Schiff spoke also of the positive changes taking place in Armenia–noting the recent Memorandum of Understanding between the Republic of Armenia and Great State of California–signed by Governor Davis and Foreign Minister of Armenia–which further strengthens ties and facilitates trade
"The transformation is dramatic," said Schiff. "It is interesting to see the firming up of democratic institutions–the freedom of the press. Some years ago members of the opposition were jailed. Today that is unthinkable. Against all odds–Armenia is thriving in contrast to other nations in the region. While Armenia may not be blessed with oil and natural resources–it is blessed with the people of Armenia." He went on to say that Armenia could become an intellectual property capital of the region–like Silicon Valley.
Congressman Schiff was impressed by the members of Parliament of the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh and the daunting task ahead of them. He referred to them as the "founding fathers and mothers" who were teachers–actors–scientists–engineers–and now are the Washingtons and Jeffersons of the Republic.
The independence of Nagorno Karabagh was quite evident and he said he felt very secure there. On the subject of negotiations–Schiff speculated that Aliyev was reluctant to make commitmen’s he could not maintain. He said that the waiver of Section 907 takes pressure off of Azerbaijan to come to the negotiating table.
Unfortunately–his trip to Armenia demonstrated that American aid not as efficient as should be. "Fifty percent of the aid never actually gets there–eaten by ‘beltway consultants," said Schiff. He added that the aid is spread too thin–among a variety of undertakings with no demonstrable impact.
Describing his visit to Dzidzernagapert–the Armenian Genocide monument–he spoke of his awe of the trees planted in honor of those who visited the monument–many of his predecessors–and spoke with conviction that "the time will come–before the trees grow too large–we’ll celebrate the resolution in Congress recognizing the Genocide." Schiff said–"It is simply a matter of time–and the greater our will–the shorter the time. We will get through the current impasse." He said he believes that many of America’s current allies are only illusory and transitory–and allies of value and with a common sense of history will last. He said the United States’ relationship with Armenia is based on culture and values–and a shared recognition of the importance of democratic institutions.