Azeri Aid Ban Diaspora Blasted at Oil Conference

*ANCA raises questions about Turkey’s role in Karabakh talks and Azeri blockade of Armenia WASHINGTON–The ban on US aid to Azerbaijan came under attack by the oil industry for a second time in as many months during a high-level briefing Tuesday sponsored by the US-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Government officials–oil industry executives–and ambassadors–including Armenian Ambassador Rouben Shugarian–were joined at the event by representatives of think tanks–human rights groups and the ethnic media. In all–more than 200 people participated in the three-hour program–entitled "Caucasus: Choosing Conciliation Over Confrontation." The program opened with briefings by former National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski and US State Department official John Herbst. Former US mediator to the Karabakh negotiations John Maresca moderated a panel discussion featuring Jirair Libaridian–National Security Advisor to the President of Armenia; Vafa Guluzade–Foreign Affairs Advisor to the President of Azerbaijan; and David Soumbadze from the Embassy of Georgia.

During the question and answer period following the formal presentations–ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian questioned Guluzade regarding Turkey’s inability to act as an impartial mediator in the Karabakh conflict given its blockade of Armenia and extensive diplomatic–military and economic support it provides to Azerbaijan. Guluzade denied that Azerbaijan had received any such military assistance and down-played the role of Turkey in the negotiations.

After Guluzade’s response–Libaridian–however–explained that "Turkey has sided completely with Azerbaijan and I can provide information–my friend–not only about political and diplomatic support but of military support Turkey has given to Azerbaijan. We have a problem with Turkey. And Turkish military leaders have in the past made nasty noises with regard to Armenia." US Administration and Azeri Government Officials Call for Repeal of Section 907 During his remarks–Herbst voiced the State Department’s opposition to the ban on direct government to government assistance to Azerbaijan–which was enacted by Congress in 1992 as Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act in response to Azerbaijan’s blockades and aggression. "This legislation has limited our aid to Azerbaijan since independence to under $90 million–clearly hampering our ability to address the pressing humanitarian needs of the 780,000 refugees and internally displaced people. I can think of no single action that would advance our interests in the Transcaucasus as quickly as the repeal of 907," he said Herbst explained that the US is committed to "support the independence–the territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the NIS [New Independent States] and encourage their rapid progress toward becoming stable–secure and prosperous members of the world community." After the panel discussion–Guluzade responded to inquiries from an ANCA representative regarding the ongoing Azeri blockade of Armenia. Guluzade stated: "Azerbaijan is not arranging any blockade against Armenia or Karabakh. Because of the war situation–constructive cooperation between neighboring Armenia and Azerbaijan is impossible. The Armenian Diaspora succeeded in the American Congress to shape this decision–punishing Azerbaijan. That’s why we are against section 907." Armenian Diaspora Attacked A theme throughout the program was the impact of the Armenian Diaspora. Guluzade noted that–"Armenia’s have very good support–much bigger support within the international community than Azerbaijan. Azerbaijan is very new in this area. The Armenian Diaspora–of over one hundred years–is very well organized. They have their own political organizations. They are good citizens of the United States–of France and many other European and Oriental countries." He then blamed the Armenian Diaspora for imposing its views on the Republic of Armenia–"I think that as a nation Armenia’s don’t have such goals–but they have old mentalities–such as this idea that they must take back all historical Armenian lands. I am not blaming Yerevan for this. I am blaming the Armenian Diaspora. They are cherishing this idea–and Armenia’s in Yerevan are dependent on their Diaspora." Georgian Embassy official David Soumbadze referred to the Armenian Diaspora–stating–"I can only hope that my Armenian colleagues–who enjoy a strong and vital Diaspora community in the United States and Europe–do not grow overly confident that the attention they have received in this regard will continue. The signs of a backlash are already evident–which is all the more reason to explore and develop concepts that underlie Armenia’s strategic importance as part of this region. Any foreign policy built on the backs of the Diaspora community will ultimately fail." Libaridian responded to these points–explaining that–"The fact that 53 countries in Lisbon agreed to something which Armenia had not agreed to is in fact a sign that despite emotional–sentimental ties–Diaspora–"good citizens in the US–in France," that countries make their decisions on the basis of their national interests. Only on minor issues may they concede to local constituencies or sentimental attachmen’s. Now–if one believes that because there is an Armenian Diaspora in France–or that French and Armenian cultures and spiritual ties have existed–that France–today or at any time–as a mediator to the conflict–or Russia or the United States–will make any decisions which are counter to its own interests–number one–or will take on the side of Armenia because of those affinities–you are badly mistaken and history proves me right."

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