Armenian American Coalition Urges Bush to Maintain Section 907

WASHINGTON–A coalition of leading Armenian American organizations joined together today in writing a letter to President George W. Bush expressing the Armenian American community’s support for maintaining Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act.

The community-wide letter voiced the Armenian American community’s "unambiguous support for Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act as a vital element of US policy toward the Caucasus and a key instrument of stability in a region of great strategic significance to our nation during this time of crisis."

The 17-member coalition representing a broad spectrum of Armenian American political–religious–cultural and humanitarian organizations stressed that–"knowing of the devastating economic impact on the Armenian people of the dual Turkish and Azerbaijan blockades and the vital role that Section 907 has played in deterring renewed Azerbaijani aggression–we have been extremely troubled by recent steps taken by the Administration and certain members of Congress to weaken–repeal or waive this law." The letter closed by noting that the "entire Armenian-American community is united in this perspective–feels very deeply about these issues and will be extraordinarily disappointed in your Administration if Section 907 is weakened–repealed or waived."

Armenian President Robert Kocharian cited the negative impact that weakening Section 907 would have on the OSCE Minsk Group mediated Nagorno Karabakh peace process. In an October 9th letter to President Bush–he argued that Section 907 and the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades of Armenia have been interlinked through the life of this conflict–and are part of the overall package of issues that require resolution. He noted that removing one element independently would irreparably damage the peace process.

Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–a provision of law enacted in 1992–restricts certain forms of direct US assistance to the government of Azerbaijan until the President certifies to Congress that it has taken "demonstrable steps" to lift its blockades against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

The letter to the President represents an important element of the Armenian American community’s mobilization in defense of Section 907. This nation-wide effort has been characterized by extensive grassroots contacts into Congressional offices and broad-based participation by Armenian Americans from all fifty states.

Recent efforts in Congress to eliminate Section 907 have been spearheaded by Senator Sam Brownback (R-Kan.)–with the strong support of the State Department. Most recently–the Kansas Senator introduced legislation that would allow President Bush to waive Section 907 without having to certify–as is currently required by law–that Azerbaijan has lifted its blockades. Following the introduction of this bill–Secretary of State Colin Powell sent a letter to key Senate and House legislators urging them to support a presidential waiver for US national security interests. According to Secretary Powell–such a waiver would allow US military assistance to Azerbaijan.

Co-signers of the letter to President Bush are: Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics; Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; Armenian Missionary Association of America; Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Eastern Region; Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Western Region; Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Eastern Region; Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Western Region; Armenian American Democratic Leadership Council; Armenian Bar Association; Armenian General Benevolent Union; Armenian National Committee of America; Armenian Relief Society; Armenian Youth Federation of America–Hamazkayn Armenian Cultural and Educational Association; Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union; Knights of Vartan–and; National Organization of Republican Armenia’s.

Text of Armenian American Coalition Letter to President Bush Dear Mr. President: We are writing–as the collective leadershipof the Armenian American community–to voice our unambiguous support for Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act as a vital element of US policy toward the Caucasus and a key instrument of stability in a region of great strategic significance to our nation during this time of crisis.

Knowing of the devastating economic impact on the Armenian people of the dual Turkish and Azerbaijan blockades and the vital role that Section 907 has played in deterring renewed Azerbaijani aggression–we have been extremely troubled by recent steps taken by the Administration and certain members of Congress to weaken–repeal–or waive this law. Any such actions–in the absence of demonstrable steps by Azerbaijan to fully comply with its terms–would undermine the United States’ ability to advance our interests and values in the Caucasus–particularly at a time when Azerbaijan has been exhibiting such a stridently bellicose posture towards Armenia.

Retreating from the principles of Section 907 will–in our view–lead to a destabilization of the regional balance of power–to the detriment of the peoples of the region and the international community. Such sharply asymmetrical treatment of Armenia and Azerbaijan would mark a major shift in US diplomacy in the region. On the one hand–Armenia would see the institutionalization of Turkey and Azerbaijan’s coordinated efforts to economically isolate the Armenian nation. On the other hand–Azerbaijan would be emboldened to continue its blockades–secure in the knowledge that this and other offensive uses of force will not encounter any meaningful opposition on the part of the United States or the international community.

The most direct means of removing the Section 907 restrictions in a manner consistent with our long-term interests in the stability of the Caucasus is for Azerbaijan to immediately cease its blockades and abandon the offensive use of force against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. By taking such actions–the Azerbaijani government will place the Administration in a position to report to Congress that Azerbaijan has met the terms of US law and is therefore eligible for the full range of US assistance programs. Additionally–by lifting its blockades–the Azerbaijani government would open potentially crucial transport and communications corridors through the Caucasus that could prove valuable in the war on terrorism.

Mr. President–rather than calling upon Congress to retreat from the principled stand that Section 907 represents for open borders–free trade–and economic integration–we would encourage the Administration to instead impress upon the Azerbaijani government that it must now demonstrate that it is a responsible member of the international community by lifting its illegal and immoral blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

We are certain that the security concerns of the United States can be readily addressed without resorting to a repeal or waiver of Section 907 and–accordingly–encourage your Administration to enter into direct discussions with the governmen’s of both Armenia and Azerbaijan to facilitate an appropriate resolution of these concerns.

Please understand that the entire Armenian-American community is united in this perspective–feels very deeply about these issues and will be extraordinarily disappointed in your Administration if Section 907 is weakened–repealed or waived.

Thank you for your consideration of our views.

Respectfully yours, Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics–Armenian Evangelical Union of North America–Armenian Missionary Association of America–Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Eastern Region–Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Western Region–Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Eastern Region–Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Western Region–Armenian American Democratic Leadership Council–Armenian Bar Association–Armenian General Benevolent Union–Armenian National Committee of America–Armenian Relief Society–Armenian Youth Federation of America–Hamazkayn Armenian Cultural and Educational Association–Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic–Union Knights of Vartan–National Organization of Republican Armenia’s.

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