Senators Revise Amendement Which Singled Out Armenia

WASHINGTON–Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) and Sen. Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.) were joined Wednesday by Senate colleagues Spence Abraham (R-Mich.)–Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Joseph Biden (D-Md.) in successfully revising a Committee amendment to the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty which would have unfairly singled out Armenia for scrutiny of its compliance with the Treaty’s limits on conventional arms–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

"We would like to thank Senators Kerry–Sarbanes–and the others who acted to restore balance and equity to the Senate’s efforts to ensure compliance with the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA. "Although we remain opposed to the inclusion of an inaccurate and misleading reference to a ?secessionist movement in Azerbaijan,’ we are gratified that the full Senate–in adopting the Kerry Amendment–recognized and corrected an attempt to unfairly single out Armenia."

First adopted in 1990–the Conventional Forces in Europe treaty established a network of limitations on the number of heavy armamen’s and military personnel for each of the 30 signatory states with troops in Europe. A review of CFE provisions at a conference held in May 1996 adjusted arms limits in the Caucasus region. Treaty signatories had one year to review changes and ratify it with amendmen’s. Armenia ratified the treaty earlier today while Azerbaijan has yet to accept its conditions.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee–during a closed executive session last week–added language to the Treaty which called on the President to report to Congress regarding "whether Armenia was in compliance with the [CFE] Treaty in allowing the transfer of conventional armamen’s and equipment limited by the Treaty through Armenian territory to the secessionist movement in Azerbaijan." The Committee also called on the President to cite the actions taken to implement sanctions against Armenia in the event that violations were found.

Following the Committee action–a bipartisan group of Senators voiced their opposition to the amendment for unfairly singling out Armenia–particularly when Azerbaijan has admitted to substantial Treaty violations. On the Senate floor Wednesday–Sen. Kerry announced that a compromise had been reached which broadened the amendment to include all the states of the Caucasus. He then introduced an amendment–which was co sponsored by Senators Sarbanes–Abraham–Feinstein and Biden–which included the compromise language. The Kerry Amendment was adopted without objection in a voice vote. The entire Treaty was then subsequently adopted unanimously by the Senate.

During debate on the Senate floor–Senator Kerry argued that–"If we are to carefully examine alleged violations of treaty provisions in one specific location in this conflicted region–we should direct the same level of inquiry at all portions of the region. We know that arms buildups in other Caucasus locations have violated provisions of the CFE Treaty. Some of those violations–in fact–have been openly acknowledged."

Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd agreed–asking–"Why should we single out Armenia? Without the amendment–the language assumed that Armenia and only Armenia violated the CFE Treaty and should suffer sanctions. This amendment was added in the interest of fairness and simply asks the President to examine compliance of all States Parties located in the Caucasus region rather than singling out Armenia for special treatment."

"Armenia has had a tough go of it in its short period of independence. It is landlocked–its ethnic population is geographically divided–and it has suffered egregiously in the past from the crimes of others who condemned them simply because of their heritage," stated Senator Spence Abraham. "Add on top of that a 70-year legacy of abuse and political game playing by the Soviet Union–and it is understandable that Armenia may find itself hard-pressed to execute the policies that we Americans would like to see in a perfect world. But it is not a perfect world–and sometimes we must understand the realities of a situation–and make the best of it."

The senior senator from Michigan–Carl Levin (D-Mich.) argued that "I would have much preferred that it not make any reference to any particular country. More importantly–I am very concerned with the word ?secessionist’ in condition 5(f). The situation in this troubled area has a long and unfortunate history–and I am disturbed that this condition would seek to so characterize a conflict there."

Senator Biden noted that "I regret that this provision was included in the resolution at the insistence of the majority–but I am pleased that we have reached an agreement through the efforts of Senator John Kerry and Senator Sarbanes . . . to mitigate the one-sided nature of this original agreement."

Regarding reports that Azerbaijan’s weapons stockpile exceeds limits set by the CFE treaty–Sen. Feinstein stated "There are questions regarding Azerbaijan’s compliance with the CFE’s Treaty Limited Equipment limits–for example–and recent experience with civil war and ethnic strife in Georgia–Ossetia–Chechnya–Abkhazia–and elsewhere in the region all suggest that a condition calling for region-wide compliance reports would be in order."

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