Azerbaijan Accuses US of Double Standards

BAKU (Reuters)–Azerbaijan accused the US Congress on Friday of "double standards" for refusing to lift a measure barring government assistance to the former Soviet republic.

"Forbidding direct US government aid to Azerbaijan since 1992 while waiving sanctions every year against Armenia is a policy of double standards," a foreign ministry statement said.

Azerbaijan is the only ex-Soviet republic to be excluded from receiving direct US government assistance.

An amendment to the Freedom Support Act was passed in 1992 at the peak of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Azeri officials say the measure was adopted due to heavy lobbying from the large Armenian community in the United States.

"Every year–the US Congress waives sanctions forbidding assistance to Armenia on grounds of violating Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity but continues to penalize Azerbaijan for blockading Armenia," the statement said. "It is imperative to lift these sanctions in order to develop US-Azeri relations."

Critics say the provisions penalize US firms which have invested in Azerbaijan’s oil and gas sector and related areas.

Earlier this year–the American Chamber of Commerce in Azerbaijan tried unsuccessfully to have the amendment repealed.

A one-year exemption to the amendment was extended through this year for the US Export-Import bank and the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC).

The waiver allows the agencies to finance projects and give "political risk" insurance to protect firms unable to repatriate profits. Washington expects the agencies to provide financial assistance and insurance for a controversial $2.4 billion pipeline planned to bring Caspian crude oil to Western markets.

Last week at an Istanbul summit on European Security–Azerbaijan–Turkey and Georgia signed four agreemen’s setting out the legal framework for the 1,730-kilometer pipeline from Baku in Azerbaijan to Ceyhan in Turkey. The pipeline route is favored by the United States.

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