WASHINGTON–House International Relations Committee member Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)–an early leader in the effort to secure direct US aid to Nagorno-Karabakh–welcomed the decision Wednesday by a joint Senate-House panel to adopt a $12.5 million Karabakh aid package–and called upon the Administration to move rapidly to deliver this assistance–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
"Our long battle to send direct US assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh was won this week with the adoption of an unprecedented $12.5 million aid package," said Congressman Sherman. "While I was disappointed earlier this year when the International Relations Committee did not adopt the original amendment I had introduced–I was deeply gratified that our efforts were ultimately successful in the Foreign Operations conference. The Administration must now act quickly to ensure that this assistance is delivered as rapidly and efficiently as possible to meet the humanitarian needs of the people of Karabakh."
On May 1 of this year–Rep. Sherman led an effort in the International Relations Committee to add language to the Foreign Policy Reform act which would have mandated that funds "may be made available for the purpose of providing humanitarian assistance to refugees–internally displaced individuals–and needy civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh." After more than an hour and a half of debate–the Committee voted 23 to 14 against the amendment. A joint Senate-House appropriations panel acted this week to adopt a $12.5 million Karabakh aid package crafted by Congressman Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.).
Both the Sherman Amendment and the language agreed to during the Appropriations conference were the subject of intense opposition by the Azeri Embassy and its allies in the oil industry.
Azeri Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev–in the weeks leading up to the Sherman amendment vote–circulated a series of strident letters warning Members of the Committee that the "relationship between the US and Azerbaijan would be severely damaged should Congress pass such legislation."
"The Sherman Amendment was a key step in building the support we needed to prevail this week in securing direct aid to Karabakh," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA. "We value Brad Sherman’s early leadership and deeply appreciate the efforts of all those like Reps. Knollenberg–Porter–Wolf–Pelosi–Torres–Lowey and the many others who made this victory possible. It is a tribute to their determination that we overcame the intense opposition of the oil industry–which in a misguided effort to satisfy the politically motivated and often arbitrary dictates of the Azeri government–worked night and day against providing even humanitarian relief supplies to the needy in Karabakh."
California Republican Representative George Radanovich called upon the Clinton Administration today to maintain the ban on aid to Azerbaijan–arguing that any steps by the President to waive this law would "threaten" US interests in the Caucasus–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
"Azerbaijan must realize that there will be consequences for their blockade of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. To date–they have failed to receive that message," stated Rep. Radanovich in letter to the President Friday. "There is neither grounds for the blockades–nor any overriding policy objective cited by the Administration which legitimizes these injustices."
Rep. Radanovich’s letter follows the decision by the joint Senate-House foreign aid panel to maintain the 1992 provision which restricts government-to-government assistance to Azerbaijan until that country lifts its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.
Section 907 was maintained despite intense pressure from the Administration–the Azerbaijani lobby and oil interests. Rep. Radanovich pointed out that "US foreign policy objectives in the Caucasus region are stability–peace–democracy and economic prosperity. If you choose to waive Section 907–our objectives for the region will be threatened."
"Azerbaijan and its oil industry partners have failed in their bid to rewrite the Freedom Support Act. Section 907 remains the law and we fully expect the Administration to strictly enforce this law," said Hamparian. "We will vigorously challenge any efforts by the Administration to disregard or circumvent the will of Congress by providing Azerbaijan with OPIC assistance or other forms of economic aid which continue to be prohibited by the terms of the Freedom Support Act."