Praises Azeri President for “Good Faith” Efforts
WASHINGTON–A senior State Department nominee, under questioning from Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA) as part of his Senate confirmation process, avoided her direct question about Azerbaijan’s pattern of military threats against Nagorno Karabakh, choosing instead to respond by praising Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev for cooperating in “good faith” with the Karabakh peace process, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“Remaining silent on Azerbaijan’s war threats – particularly when these warnings of war are raised in such a direct, well-documented, and public manner before the United States Senate – only emboldens leaders in Baku to continue down the path to renewed aggression,” said Aram Hamparian, ANCA Executive Director. “The unwillingness of our State Department to publicly confront these open threats is inconsistent with our role as an honest broker in the Nagorno Karabakh peace process, and, ultimately, undermines the prospects for a durable settlement of this conflict.”
The nominee, Andrew Shapiro appeared before the panel, which was chaired by Senator Boxer, on June 3rd, and submitted his written responses to her questions earlier this week. Shapiro has been nominated by President Obama to serve as Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military affairs at the State Department. He currently serves as a Senior Advisor to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Prior to this position, he served for eight years as the Senior Defense and Foreign Policy Advisor for then-Senator Clinton.
Senator Boxer also asked Shapiro about the Administration’s proposal to break the longstanding Congressional policy of maintaining military aid parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Shapiro responded by justifying this recommendation that the Congress enact an unprecedented tilt in military aid toward Baku by noting that, unlike Armenia, “Azerbaijan has a large naval and maritime security component in order to help secure energy transit routes, and to counter proliferation and drug trafficking on the Caspian Sea.”
The full text of the Boxer-Shapiro written exchange is provided below.
Questions for the Record Submitted to Assistant Secretary – Designate Andrew Shapiro by Senator Barbara Boxer (#1) Senate Foreign Relations Committee June 3, 2009
In October 1992, Congress enacted the FREEDOM Support Act, which authorizes assistance to the independent states of the former Soviet Union.
The Act included a restriction on U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan until the President determines, that “the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”
But the 2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act included language giving the President the authority to waive this restriction if he determines and certifies to Congress that U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan will, among other things, “not undermine ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
Many of my constituents are concerned that this waiver continues to be used despite the fact that the Government of Azerbaijani has repeatedly suggested that violence should be used to resolve the longstanding conflict with Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh.
In March 2008, Azerbaijani President Aliyev said that his country was ready to take back Nagorno-Karabakh by force if necessary and that “we have been buying military machinery, airplanes and ammunition to be ready to liberate the occupied territories, and we are ready to do this.”
In June 2008 at a military parade, President Aliyev stated that “we should be ready to liberate our territories by military force at any moment.”
And in an October 2008 speech, President Aliyev pledged to “follow a policy of a total offensive” against neighboring Armenia in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
I find these statements extremely disconcerting, particularly as President Obama’s budget calls for an increase from $18.5 million to $22.1 million in U.S. aid to Azerbaijan.
Do you believe President Aliyev’s comments undermine efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan?
Are you concerned by Azerbaijan’s repeated calls to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by military means? What, if anything, does this mean for continued U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan?
Since November of 2008, there has been an unprecedented diplomatic effort by the OSCE Minsk Group, of which the United States is a co-chair, to advance a political settlement of the conflict. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev has cooperated in good faith with all of these efforts. In November 2008, President Aliyev joined Armenian President Serzh Sargsian and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev in signing a declaration reaffirming their commitment to a political settlement of the conflict – the first document signed jointly by Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents since 1994. Since then, President Aliyev has met personally with President Sargsian in Switzerland on the margins of the World Economic Forum, in Prague at the EU Eastern Partnership Summit, and in St. Petersburg.
We are committed to working with both sides on the issue of Nagorno Karabakh to find a peaceful, just, and lasting settlement. Assistance provided to Armenia and Azerbaijan in the interim will not undermine ongoing efforts to negotiate a settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan, but will instead contribute to shared security interests like peacekeeping operations, maritime security, and defense reform and modernization.
Questions for the Record Submitted to Assistant Secretary – Designate Andrew Shapiro by Senator Barbara Boxer (#2) Senate Foreign Relations Committee June 3, 2009
In its FY 2010 budget request, the Administration requested $4 million in Foreign Military Financing for Azerbaijan and only $3 million for Armenia. It also requested $900,000 in
International Military Education and Training funding for Azerbaijan and $450,000 for Armenia.
This appears to break the longstanding congressional policy of maintaining military aid parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan. What is the justification for these aid levels?
Military assistance levels for both Armenia and Azerbaijan are carefully considered to ensure they do not affect the region’s military balance or undermine efforts for a peaceful settlement in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Our assistance to Azerbaijan has a large naval and maritime security component in order to help secure energy transit routes, and to counter proliferation and drug trafficking on the Caspian Sea. Military assistance to Armenia does not have a naval component. The requested military assistance levels for Azerbaijan recognize this fact.