Berman Blocks US Military Sale to Baku

Rep. Howard Berman

State Department takes Azerbaijan off proposed list of recipient countries for upcoming sale of helicopter equipment

WASHINGTON—In response to Congressional concerns first raised by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA), the State Department has removed Azerbaijan from a list of countries eligible to purchase U.S. military hardware which could be used by the Aliyev regime in its ongoing attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

“This decision by Secretary Clinton is in the best interests of the Armenian people and for peace in the region,” said Rep. Berman, upon receiving the modified formal notification from the State Department late on June 27th.

“We would like to thank Rep. Berman for taking immediate action to block this proposed arms sale, particularly given the Aliyev regime’s recent attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh that coincided with Secretary Clinton’s visit to the Caucasus,” stated ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian.  “Military equipment sales to Azerbaijan only serve to arm and embolden a belligerent Azerbaijani government, whose threats and acts of aggression undermine the Karabakh peace process and stability in the region overall.”

In a May 29th letter to Secretary Clinton, Rep. Berman referenced announcements of a sale of military hardware which would be used in conjunction with Azerbaijan’s military helicopter fleet for “border surveillance and ‘police-type’ activities.”  In addition to possible attacks against Armenia, Rep. Berman expressed concern about the “message that such a sale would send to the regional parties, both in terms of perceived U.S. even-handedness and in terms of our seriousness about persuading Baku to cease its bellicose rhetoric and agree to Minsk Group co-chair demands that it remove its snipers from the ‘line of contact’ in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.”

The ANCA expressed its opposition to the sale as part of a seven-point memo sent to Congressional offices and the White House immediately after the June 4 – 6 Azerbaijani attacks against Armenia and Karabakh that left some 10 soldiers dead.  “The Obama Administration should suspend all military aid to Azerbaijan, and stop the sale or transfer to Baku of any military equipment or dual-use items (including the proposed sale of advanced helicopter-based surveillance equipment – DDTC 12-002),” explained Nahapetian in the memo.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) subsequently raised concerns about this proposed military hardware sale during Senate Foreign Relations Committee consideration of the nomination of Richard Morningstar for U.S. Ambassador Azerbaijan.

In his questions to Morningstar, Sen. Menendez called specific attention to recent cross-border attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenia, threats by President Aliyev that “Armenians will live in fear,” and the assertion that “Our [Azerbaijan’s] main enemies are Armenians of the world.” Menendez continued, asking “do you think, based upon those types of statements, that the proposed sales of military hardware to be used in conjunction with Azerbaijan’s military helicopter fleet is really in the national interest of the United States?”

Morningstar argued, in part, that “There are increasing tensions with respect to other neighbors, in particular with Iran. And we have to provide, I think, security assistance, possibly military assistance in ways that cannot be used to exacerbate any situation with respect to Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh.” Menendez was quick to respond, reminding Morningstar that “I didn’t hear President Aliyev say ‘My main enemy or security concern is Iran,’ he said that, ‘Our main enemies are the Armenians of the world.’ [. . .] I have a real problem with going ahead and selling military hardware to the Azerbaijanis based upon what has happened.”

Below is the text of Rep. Berman’s letter to Secretary Clinton:

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

I am writing to express my concern over a proposal by the Department of State to allow the sale of military equipment to Azerbaijan.  This proposal is included in case “DDTC 12-002″.

Two months ago, my staff inquired as to the possible use of this equipment by Azerbaijan.  Just last week, they were informed that it would be used on existing helicopters to aid in border surveillance and “police-type” activities.

As Azerbaijan shares a border with Armenia, this equipment could be used to identify and possibly target Armenians in the border area for surveillance or for attack.  I am also concerned about the message that such a sale would send to the regional parties, both in terms of perceived U.S. even-handedness and in terms of our seriousness about persuading Baku to cease its bellicose rhetoric and agree to Minsk Group co-chair demands that it remove its snipers from the “line of contact” in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

I therefore urge you to alter the proposal and prevent this military equipment from being sold to Azerbaijan.

Howard L Berman
Ranking Member


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  1. Avery said:

    Thank you Rep. Berman.

    Too bad two great Jewish American Representative friends of Armenian-Americans have to run for the same Congressional seat: we will lose one of our two great friends in the House of Representatives. Maybe the younger Rep. Brad Sherman can run for Sen. Feinstein’s seat if she decides to retire: there is no doubt Rep. Sherman will make a fine California Senator.

  2. Viken Karapetian said:

    Once again, ANCA = results.

    On a side note, what a race its going to be Berman vs Sherman.

  3. With a grain of salt said:

    This is only symbolic, the US has and is still giving Azerbaidjan everything they need via Israel and other middlemen. This is plain BS.

  4. Albert said:

    Mr. Berman is my Jewish hero.Thank God for wonderful Jewish individuals such as Mr.Morgenthau , Mr.Werfel, Mr Schiff Dr.Charney and all other moral and decent Jewish individuals who recognize the Armenian Genocide and realize that Armenians and Jews share a similar history of suffering and there is no reason to be antagonistic. It is a shame that evil people like Jane Harmann , Bernard Lewis and Gunther Lewy exist.

  5. Edgar said:

    azi can buy all the Weapons they want there shouldn’t be
    a block by anyone. It’s not the weapons, they lack intelligence to use it anyway…

  6. nana said:

    Aliyev is not an Azeri. Rumor says he is a Kurd. If he is the son of his father. When his father was born there was no such entity” Azeri”.

  7. Sardar said:

    I hope we can persuade Israel as well to halt arming the murderous azeris. Israel or turkey may jump in to fulfill the order. Huge sums of oil money that can be used to house the displaced, hungry and poor azeris being put into unproductive use.

  8. AraK said:

    So? This is not new. The US and Europe were reluctant to sell arms to Baku but Israel did and will continue to sell in the future. Money talks…

  9. M.S.K. said:

    May God bless Mr.Berman, Mr.Morgenthau, Mr.Werfel, Mr.Schiff, Dr.Charney and other Congressmen and Congresswomen and Senitors who recognizes the Armenian Genocide and supports our issues. Long Live Jews and Israel. Aliyeve what is next on your mind? I never knew Aliyeve’s father was a kurd – was he (his father) born in Pakistan?

  10. Osik said:

    That means just legally is Blocked, the ways that President Reagan was sending to Iraq; then Iran and using those profits for Nicaraguan “Contras” are all still available, also don’t forget that nowadays the economy is “Global”, also we have too many allies around the world with big stashes of our weaponry and there is no need for Congress to be involved or be shipments to be addressed directly from US to Azerbaijan.

  11. Peter Musurlian said:

    Is there any question Howard Berman will be a million times more effective, over the next decade, than Brad Sherman would be? Washington DC is about smarts, seniority and getting along with your colleagues. Howard Berman has all three.

  12. Angela Achikgiozian said:

    This is the letter I sent to congressman Berman:
    Dear Congressman, I am a very proud supporter of yours and live in your district. Thanks for blocking the arms sales deal to Azerbaijan. That’s a great message to send to a government who is supporting attacks and state organized terrorism against the neighboring country and killing soldiers and civilians so often despite the seize fire. Your actions contribute to our firm message about our intolerance towards violation of human rights as well, given the fact the arrests of civilians who think differently than what is pushed upon them by the official government line of Azerbaijan. Your actions definitely contribute to our homeland security as well, since a strong stand of our prinicples, despite supposed “foreign interests” visavie Azerbaijan and Turkey should not show any sign of weakness of USA when it comes to prinicples of democracy, human rights, the rights of nations for self determination, peace in the world and victory of democracy over tyranny.
    Thanks again,

    Always your true supporter.

  13. Ray said:

    We as Armenian Americans of more then 1 million need to take notesd of these Politicions that are 4
    Armenia and also take notes for the “nay” sayers against Armenian intrests and vote them in or out
    Bravo Mr. Berman we are on your team!

  14. Kenan said:

    I hope my post will be published. As an azerbaijani I have been always curious why there are that much level of hatred in your hearts, armenians? We were not generated artificially during one single century, we were not appeared out of nothing or brought into the earth by aliens. Any nation having got its own language, music and tradition gives an idea that these specific indicators have been forming in due course of history.
    We are the nation and we are the Azerbaijan irrespective of the fact you do hate and/or mock this fact or not. We have families, children and community, we have friends around the world, people of different nationalities make friends with us, so we don’t bite but to your greatest surprise we can joke, study, develop and be the part of the community as any other nation. But the groundless hatred you have will not bring you to the right concept, this will always poison your psychology and the psychology of your next generations.
    We are at war with each other, but let’s keep some level of respect without abusing each other. I live and work abroad, I never insulted and mocked about armenian nation as whole, but I don’t deny that I consider your country as a hostile nation to mine. Nevertheless, I can never judge the entire nation it is not manly.
    My wife is a refugee, yes I’m married at the lady who lost her house, some of her relatives and had very bad psychological trauma during the Karabakh war. She lost everything in Shusha, so she is the living memory for me and she is the genuine source of correct information because she has experienced all this tragedy herself. She is the mother of my children. So I want to be manly honest, be there any war tomorrow I will go to fight, but I will never raise any of those arms to innocent people and children, because I’m a human being and I have children and I’m a true azerbaijani man.