Silk Road Bill Fails in Senate 907 Maintained

WASHINGTON–The foreign aid bill approved Wendesday on the Senate floor includes a $90 million earmark for Armenia but not "Silk Road" legislation repealing the Section 907 restriction on US aid to Azerbaijan–dissapointing the State Department–Azerbaijan and its oil industry allies–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Despite heavy pressure from the Caspian oil lobby–the State Department–and the Azeri government–the Senate did not take up any measures to weaken or repeal Section 907–which mandates that US aid to Azerbaijan move through non-governmental channels until the Azeri government lifts its illegal blockades of Armenian and Nagorno Karabakh.

Apparently sensing that he lacked the votes to win approval for an anti-907 amendment–Sen. Sam Brownback–the author of the "Silk Road" bill–declined to seek Section 907’s repeal on the Senate floor. The "Silk Road" bill–which was approved by the Senate Foreign Relations Committee this June–would repeal Section 907 and open the door to direct US aid to the Azeri government.

"The defeat of Sen. Sam Brownback’s ‘Silk Road’ bill reflects our success–as a community working together–in educating Senators about the harm that repealing Section 907 would inflict upon US interests in the Caucasus and Caspian regions," said Chris Hekimian–ANCA Governmental Affairs Director. "But–our work is not done–especially with a key battle remaining in the House of Representatives–where–as early as next week–Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston will offer an amendment to strike Section 907. The 60 members of that Committee will then vote to either keep 907 in place or to reward the corrupt and undemocratic Azeri government with US tax dollars for its illegal blockades of Armenia and Karabakh."

The Senate’s version of the fiscal year 1999 foreign assistance bill–passed with a vote of 90 to 3–allocates a total of $740 million in assistance to the Newly Independent States. In addition to the $90 million set aside for Armenia–$95 million of this amount would be allocated to Georgia. The Senate also approved language–drawn from last year’s foreign aid bill–which creates certain exemptions for US assistance to democracy building and humanitarian programs in Azerbaijan.

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