Senate Panel Adopts Silk Road Bill

*Measure would repeal the Section 907 Ban on US aid to Azerbaijan.

WASHINGTON–The Senate Foreign Relations Committee today approved Sen. Sam Brownback’s (R-Kan.) Silk Road Strategy Act (S.579)–which would effectively remove the ban on US aid to the government of Azerbaijan–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Senator Brownback was joined by fellow Republican Gordon Smith (Ore.) and Connecticut Democrat Chris Dodd in calling for the adoption of the measure. Sen. Dodd had been against similar legislation last year.

Maryland Senator Paul Sarbanes (D-Md.)–led efforts to maintain Section 907–arguing that foreign aid should be given to those countries who reflect the values and principles of the United States. Sen. Sarbanes was joined by New Jersey Senator Robert Torricelli and California Senator Barbara Boxer in stressing the need for Section 907 to be maintained until Azerbaijan lifts its illegal blockades of Armenia and Karabakh.

"We share the concerns voiced by Senators Sarbanes–Torricelli and Boxer that this legislation–by opening the door to direct US assistance to the government of Azerbaijan–will embolden Azerbaijan to maintain its illegal blockades and to continue to reject international mediation efforts of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The Silk Road bill remains a fundamentally misguided effort by the Caspian oil lobby to reward Azerbaijan for refusing to lift its illegal blockades–to support the OSCE peace process–or to hold direct peace talks with Nagorno Karabakh. As in the past–we will educate legislators in both houses of Congress about the dangers of advancing narrow Azerbaijani and oil industry interests at the expense of our national security interest in bringing lasting peace and prosperity to this critically important region."

Following extensive discussion both for and against the legislation–the Silk Road Strategy Act was approved by a voice vote. The initiative will now be reported for consideration by the full Senate.

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