House Panel Votes to Lift Secyion 907

* Full House will vote on controversial measure to lift Azeri aid ban

WASHINGTON–The House Appropriations Committee–Thursday–following extensive debate–adopted an amendment offered by Chairman–Bob Livingston (R-La.)–which would lift the ban on US assistance to Azerbaijan–despite that country’s ongoing illegal blockades of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

"Today’s committee vote threatens to set back the cause of peace in the Caucasus. It can and should be reversed," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The intense anti-907 pressure being applied on Congress by the oil industry and the State Department has only encouraged the Azerbaijani government to maintain its blockades and to remain inflexible on the peace talks and other regional issues. This point was illustrated dramatically earlier this week in Baku where Azerbaijan and Turkey flatly rejected visiting Armenian Prime Minister Armen Darbinian’s offers to open transportation routes and develop economic cooperation initiatives."

The move to repeal Section 907 took place during the House Appropriations Committee mark-up of the fiscal year 1999 foreign aid bill. The Committee–prior to considering Livingston’s amendment to repeal Section 907–first considered a substitute amendment offered by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman John Porter (R-Ill.) and Rep. Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.). This measure–which would have reaffirmed the restriction on US aid to Azerbaijan–was extensively debated and then defeated by a vote of thirty to nineteen–with eleven abstentions.

Speaking in support of the Porter-Visclosky substitute were Representatives Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)–Steny Hoyer (D-Calif.)–Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.)–Frank Wolf (R-Va.) and Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.). Livingston–who grew increasingly enraged during the course of the one hour debate–was joined in his attacks on Section 907 by Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairman Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.) and Ohio Democrat Marcy Kaptur. Livingston–at several points during the debate–lost his temper–launching into attacks against Armenia and sharply criticizing international commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. Following the defeat of the Porter-Visclosky substitute–the Livingston Amendment to repeal Section 907 was adopted by a voice vote.

In the days leading up to the Appropriations Committee mark-up.

The State Department and oil industry lobbyists redoubled their efforts to repeal section 907. Subcommittee Chairman Sonny Callahan noted during the markup that Secretary of State Madeleine Albright called him personally earlier in the day to press for

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