WASHINGTON–Under questioning this week by a Senate foreign aid panel–senior State Department officials acknowledged that ongoing Azerbaijani violations of the Freedom Support Act–in the form of blockades against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh–prevent the Administration from waiving the Section 907 restriction on US aid to the Azeri government.
Appearing on March 31 before the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations–Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and Under Secretary Stuart Eizenstat were questioned at length by panel chairman Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) and ranking Democrat Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) regarding the Administration’s opposition to Section 907. Referring to the State Department’s long-standing but ultimately unsuccessful efforts to pressure Congress to repeal this restriction–McConnell asked Talbott–"Why haven’t you waived it?"
In response to McConnell’s query–Talbott admitted that "the Azerbaijanis–quite simply–under the terms of the legislation–have not met the conditions for a waiver." Under further questioning–Eizenstat pointed specifically to the ongoing Azerbaijani blockades of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. He explained that the Administration could not waive Section 907 because "it is a question of [Azerbaijan] simply not meeting the statutory requiremen’s."
In their prepared remarks–both Talbott and Eizenstat called upon Congress to repeal Section 907–with Talbott specifically urging legislators to "repeal it and take it off the books altogether."
"We welcome the State Department’s belated acknowledgment that it lacks the legal grounds to waive Section 907–which requires that Azerbaijan lift its blockades of Armenia and Karabakh," said Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We are deeply troubled–however–that the Administration continues to press Congress to repeal this statute–in full knowledge of the fact that Azerbaijan’s blockades represent clear violations of US law. This double standard betrays a pro-Azeri bias–further undermining the ability of the State Department to act as an honest broker to the Karabakh peace talks."