Congressional Quarterly Sees New Speaker as a Plus for Azerbaijan

FALLS CHURCH–Va.–The influential Capitol Hill publication Congressional Quarterly Daily Monitor reports that Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston’s selection as Speaker is viewed by sources in Congress as paving the way toward direct US financial support for the Azeri government.

"Clearly–the battle to maintain Section 907 is not over," said Zanku Armenian–National Co-Chairman of the AADLC. "As in the past–we will work with our friends and allies–in the Armenian American community and in Congress–to maintain a principled foreign aid policy which neither rewards aggression nor subsidizes governmen’s which violate the basic rights of their own citizens."

"The key to our success–as always–is grassroots participation in the political process–and we hope to continue to serve as a catalyst in mobilizing our Democratic friends and supporters in the community to ensure that the voice of Armenian Americans is heard in the legislative process," added Armenian.

Below is the complete text of the Congressional Quarterly report:

Livingston’s Elevation Seen As Plus for Azerbaijan’s Aid Hopes

BY MILES A. POMPER

From the CQ Daily Monitor

The upcoming election of House Appropriations Chairman Bob Livingston–La.–as Speaker has buoyed Azerbaijan’s hopes of ending six-year old restrictions on US aid to the oil-rich-nation.

Chairman Livingston–who is now Speaker Livingston–had been out in front on this issue–so we’re hopeful that we will soon have the financial support of the United States," Lucian Pugliaresi–executive director of the newly founded America Azerbaijan Partnership Foundation–said last week.

At the behest of Armenian-American groups–Congress in 1992 prohibited aid to Azerbaijan to protest a blockade that the Caucasian nation imposed on trade with Armenia as part of a quarrel over the disputed enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Azerbaijan and the oil companies that invest in it have repeatedly attacked the restrictions as a slap at the country and a damper on foreign investment. They have chipped away at the restrictions; US aid is now permitted for humanitarian purposes and democracy-building –and through trade promotion agencies such as the Export-Import Bank–Overseas Private Investment Corporation and Trade Development Agency.

Under Livingston’s prodding–the House Appropriations Committee this year voted to repeal Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–which prohibits aid to Azerbaijan–as part of the fiscal 1999 foreign operations spending bill (HR 4569). But the full House reinstated the ban by 231-182.

Ilham Aliyev–first vice president of Azerbaijan’s state oil company (and the son of its president)–said that he was optimistic about the chances for a repeal after meetings this week with administration officials and lawmakers–including House Minority Leader Dick Gephardt–Mo.–and Sonny Callahan R-Ala.–chairman of the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee.

"We think there’s a good chance for a repeal either through a vote in Congress or through waiver from the US administration" Aliyev said.

Congressional sources said a waiver was more likely. "There are probably not enough votes to move to overturn a waiver–but there are also not enough votes to move to a repeal," said a knowledgeable congressional aide.

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