WASHINGTON–Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) has launched a series of initiatives of concern to Armenian Americans–most notably an effort to prevent the Administration from circumventing Section 907 by providing taxpayer subsidies to US oil firms doing business in Azerbaijan–despite that nation’s continued blockades of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
In a December 4–"Dear Colleague" letter–Congressman Pallone called upon his House colleagues to join with him in writing to Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to "maintain the enforcement of Section 907–and not give in to the oil industry pressure for US taxpayer subsidies for petroleum development in the Caspian Sea." The letter to the Secretary of State stresses that "Section 907 does provide important American leverage in ending the tragic and illegal blockade that continues to strangle the economies of Armenia and Karabakh."
In addition–the letter raises concerns about widespread corruption within the Azeri government and business circles and points out to the Secretary that "there may be serious violations of the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act in Azerbaijan."
Rep. Pallone–who serves as Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus–has also written a letter to Attorney General Janet Reno to express his "serious concerns about the significant number of influential Americans–including many top government officials–who are working as de facto lobbyists for the interests of the Republic of Azerbaijan without registering as foreign agents."
His December 4–letter formally calls upon the Department of Justice to "initiate an investigation into these prominent Americans representing the interests of the Republic of Azerbaijan to determine if violations of the law have occurred." Congressman Pallone goes on to note that–"the concern that arises is that many of these eminent former officials–with wide-ranging contacts in both the Executive and Legislative branches–have advocated policies that would directly contribute to the stated policies of the Government of the Republic of Azerbaijan. Yet these individuals have avoided the usual requiremen’s of registering as foreign agents. Instead–these former officials have presented themselves as simply working to advance US economic or strategic interests."
In a December 5 letter to Lynn Pascoe–the State Department’s negotiator for Nagorno-Karabakh–Congressman Pallone outlined his concerns regarding US policy toward the ongoing peace talks. He noted that his "primary concern is to ensure that the Minsk Group process does not result in a settlement being imposed upon the people of Karabakh. As you know well from your travels to the region–the determination that the people of Karabakh demonstrated in fighting to defend their homeland is not going to dissipate at the negotiating table.
A strategy of trying to isolate Karabakh is counter-productive and will not work."
He added that it is unreasonable to expect Nagorno-Karabakh to accept a "front-loaded agreement" that would endanger its security with no firm guarantee of gaining anything of substance in return.
"Practically speaking–the people of Karabakh are not about to negotiate the very factors that enhance their bargaining position–the occupied areas–without ironclad provisions governing their status and a clearly stated mandate for safeguarding the security of a future status arrangement," he stated.
Congressman Pallone also called for the strict enforcement of Section 907 and the timely delivery of the $12.5 million appropriated by Congress for Nagorno-Karabakh. He argued strongly against the presence of any Turkish troops as part of a peace-keeping force–given the fact that Turkey has openly sided with Azerbaijan–while blockading Armenia. He also stressed "the importance of full participation by the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic in all aspects of the peace process," adding that "Direct talks between Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh are the key to peace."
He also called into question the imbalance in US pressure on the parties to the conflict–noting that "the State Department expects Karabakh to settle for something less than full independence–a huge concession–given the fact that Karabakh Armenia’s won the war and control the territory. But what concessions does the State Department seek from Azerbaijan? I have not seen any indication of significant concessions coming from Azerbaijan."
He specifically called upon Pascoe to ensure that the Administration prevents "Another Lisbon," which "created an extremely negative tone in the already tortuous Karabakh negotiating process. The lesson of Lisbon is–in my opinion–that trying to impose on Karabakh and Armenia a controversial proposal by using the combined weight of the international community as a form of leverage will not succeed."
In a letter sent the UCLA History Department on the eve of its December 5 decision to reject a $1 million Turkish studies endowment from the Turkish government–Congressman Pallone cautioned against accepting funding from a government which has used similar academic endowmen’s "as a means of repudiating the Armenian Genocide and to revise the historical record of the Ottoman Empire and the Republic of Turkey."
The New Jersey Congressman also played a leading role in opposing the Turkish government’s efforts to manipulate scholarship at Princeton University through funding and the hiring of Heath Lowry–a former Turkish government employee whose denials of the Armenian Genocide have been widely documented.