Over 30 US Reps. Press Bush to Maintain Armenia Azerbaijan Military Parity

"WE STRONGLY BELIEVE THAT PROVIDING UNEQUAL MILITARY ASSISTANCE TO AZERBAIJAN AND ARMENIA WILL CONTRIBUTE TO INSTABILITY IN THE REGION AND COULD UNINTENTIONALLY TIP THE MILITARY BALANCE." — TEXT OF CONGRESSIONAL LETTER TO PRES. BUSH

WASHINGTON–DC (ANCA)–Over thirty Members of the US House joined Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) today in expressing concern about a provision of President Bush’s FY 2005 budget proposal that would undermine the agreement between the White House and Congress to maintain parity in military aid levels to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

If the Administration’s request is eventually adopted by Congress–Azerbaijan would receive $8.75 million in US military assistance–$6 million more than neighboring Armenia.

"We thank Congressman Pallone and his colleagues for urging the President to honor his commitment to maintain parity in military aid levels to Armenia and Azerbaijan," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The need for this balance has been made all the more clear in recent weeks–with the growing calls from the Azerbaijani government for renewed aggression and its increasingly violent anti-Armenian rhetoric. The recent brutal murder of an Armenian soldier by his Azerbaijani counterpart during a NATO training program underscores this point. In this environment–the Bush Administration–rather than rewarding Azerbaijan with additional military aid–should be taking serious measures to press the new leadership in Baku to step back from the dangerous and destabilizing path they have chosen."

In their letter to President Bush–House Members note they are–"troubled that the Administration is abandoning its own agreement with Congress and a decade long US policy of maintaining parity in foreign military aid levels to Armenia and Azerbaijan. We strongly believe that your request in this area would undermine the stability in the South Caucasus region–and would weaken the ongoing peace negotiations regarding the Karabagh conflict."

House Democrats joining Rep. Pallone in co-signing the letter to the President include: Rob Andrews (D-NJ)–Xavier Becerra (D-CA)–Sherrod Brown (D-OH)–Michael Capuano (D-MA)–John Conyers (D-MI)–Joseph Crowley (D-NY)–Bob Filner (D-CA)–Barney Frank (D-MA)–Maurice Hinchey (D-NY)–Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)–Dale Kildee (D-MI)–James Langevin (D-RI)–Sander Levin (D-MI)–Carolyn Maloney (D-NY)–Edward Markey (D-MA)–James McGovern (D-MA)–Michael McNulty (D-NY)–Martin Meehan (D-MA)–Grace Napolitano (D-CA)–Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)–Collin Peterson (D-MN)–Steve Rothman (D-NJ)–Adam Schiff (D-CA)–Brad Sherman (D-CA)–Stephanie Tubbs-Jones (D-OH)–Edolphus Towns (D-NY)–Peter Visclosky (D-IN)–Diane Watson (D-CA)–Henry Waxman (D-CA)–and Anthony Weiner (D-NY).

On February 11th–Representatives McCotter–Napolitano–Schiff–and Sherman pressed Secretary of State Colin Powell to explain the Administration’s reasoning for the proposed break in Armenia-Azerbaijan military parity in spoken and written statemen’s submitted during his testimony before the House International Relations Committee. In a letter to Secretary Powell–Rep. McCotter explained–"With the new untested government in Azerbaijan and the uncertainty they have brought to the peace process–the continuation of the Armenia-Azerbaijan military aid parity agreement means even more today than when it was first put in place. By tilting the military balance toward the Azerbaijani leadership–they may be emboldened to carry out threats of a military solution to the Karabagh conflict."

Prior to FY 2002–military assistance to Azerbaijan was prohibited according to Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–a provision that restricted US assistance to Azerbaijan due to its ongoing blockades of Armenia and Karabagh. Following the terrorist attacks on September 11–2001–Azerbaijan conditioned its cooperation with the United States in the war against terrorism on the removal of Section 907. In response–the Administration pressed Congress to provide the President with the authority to waive Section 907 annually. Part of the understanding reached between the White House and Congress was an unwritten agreement that military aid levels to Armenia and Azerbaijan would remain even. As a result of this agreement–in FY02–FY03–and FY04 the military aid levels proposed by the Administration and appropriated by Congress have been identical.

On release of the President’s FY 2005 budget proposal–the ANCA issued a briefing paper–distributed to Congressional offices and other elemen’s of the Washington–DC foreign policy community–outlining the negative implications of the budget figures for stability in the Caucasus and the prospects for a negotiated settlement of the Karabagh conflict.

The President’s FY 2005 budget allows both Armenia and Azerbaijan to receive Excess Defense Articles (EDA). These are surplus or obsolete US weapons that are given away for free or at a dramatically reduced cost to foreign governmen’s.

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