Congressmen Call for No Preconditions in Karabakh Talks

WASHINGTON–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–Representatives Joe Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Patrick Kennedy (D-RI) urged the Administration "to push for direct negotiations between Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan–without preconditions," during a meeting last week with Deputy Secretary of State Strobe Talbott and other key State Department officials–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

In a June 18 statement on the House floor–Rep. Pallone explained that he and his colleagues held the meeting because they are "concerned that US diplomatic efforts have either stalled or are going in the wrong direction. We are concerned that our diplomatic priorities are being eclipsed by commercial interests in the region and that the traditional American mission of promoting democracy is being diverted by the desire to develop oil resources."

They urged the Administration to play a constructive role in the peace talks by helping to strengthen the current cease-fire–and considering new models to resolve the conflict–similar to those used during the Bosnian and Cyprus negotiations.

According to Rep. Pallone–"the State Department officials that we met with seemed to be open to new ideas coming from the parties to the conflict–and that created a certain amount of optimism. There was a clear understanding on the part of the State Department that the earlier Minsk Group proposal that did not address the status issue was no longer acceptable to Armenia or Karabakh."

In a June 22 House floor statement–Rep. Pallone urged his colleagues to join him in calling on House International Relations Committee Chairman Benjamin Gilman (R-NY) to investigate recent media accounts of illegal F-16 aircraft and howitzer-type artillery transfers by Turkey to Azerbaijan.

"Any use of American weaponry by Turkey that violates US foreign policy and national security interests must be met with a swift and vigorous change in US policy," he explained.

In a June 24 statement–Rep. Pallone outlined his vision of US foreign aid policy for the Caucasus–urging the Foreign Operations Subcommittee to adopt "an earmark of not less than $100 million to Armenia to promote economic development–trade and increase US investment." He went on to call on Congress to "build upon its historic achievement in the fiscal year 1998 bill to earmark aid to Nagorno-Karabakh at $20 million."

Expressing concern over the State Department’s misinterpretation of the 1998 law which allowed for earmarked assistance for Nagorno-Karabakh to be diverted to Azerbaijan–Rep. Pallone urged a fiscal year 1999 aid package which specifies that these "funds are targeted for use within Nagorno- Karabakh and further broadening the scope of assistance to Karabakh to include the reconstruction of infrastructure damaged during the war."

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