WASHINGTON–DC–The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) today expressed its disappointment over the Bush Administration’s decision to extend its waiver of the Section 907 restriction on US assistance to Azerbaijan. Section 907 was enacted by Congress in 1992 in response to that nation’s continuing blockade of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. The presidential determination waiving this provision of law was released by the White House on Friday–January 17th.
In 2001–the ANCA led a broad based coalition of Armenian American organizations in opposing the weakening of Section 907–but was unable to overcome a powerful campaign orchestrated by the White House–Azerbaijan–and Caspian energy interests. In the wake of the September 11th terrorist attacks–these forces succeeded in pressuring Congress to enact a limited waiver authority–which the President is authorized to unilaterally extend on a yearly basis. He first exercised this waiver authority on January 25th of last year. This most recent waiver will extend for a period of 12 months.
Armenian American opposition to the granting of waiver authority to the President was based on the concern that this action rewards Azerbaijan for its illegal blockades. The coalition of Armenian American groups also stressed that a waiver would hinder the stabilization of the region by encouraging Azerbaijan to maintain its blockades and other offensive uses of force–secure in the knowledge that such aggressive actions would not encounter any meaningful opposition on the part of the US government. Finally–they noted that Azerbaijani President Geidar Aliev should not be allowed to exploit the September 11th terrorist attacks against the United States to force the repeal of Section 907 as a condition of Azerbaijan’s cooperation in the war on terrorism.
"The reasons put forth initially by the Administration for the waiver of Section 907 no longer exist – namely the need to use Azerbaijani airbases to support major military operations in Afghanistan," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA. What remains in place–however–now without any meaningful response on the part of the US government–is Azerbaijan’s 14-year blockade of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh–and the growing calls for war by Azerbaijan’s President and the senior leaders of his armed forces.
"Looking back now–with the perspective offered by more than a year of experience–we can see that the Section 907 waiver had–in fact–very little to do with the war on terrorism–as it was initially argued. Rather–this waiver represents–very simply–a successful effort by Azerbaijan to take advantage of the September 11th terrorist attacks to force the United States into retreating from our long-standing commitment to open borders–free trade–and economic integration in the Caucasus region," added Hamparian.
The Presidential determination justifying the extension of the Section 907 waiver certified that the President considers this action "necessary to support United States’ efforts to counter international terrorism," and "necessary to support the operational readiness of United States Armed Forces or coalition partners to counter international terrorism. The determination also affirmed that the waiver extension was " important to Azerbaijan’s border security," and "will not undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used for offensive purposes against Armenia."