State Department Denies U.S. Military Aid to Baku Violates Section 907
WASHINGTON—In response to a Congressional Armenian Caucus inquiry regarding Azerbaijan’s May 18-22 war games, the State Department, this week, revealed that it has warned Azerbaijan regarding its lack of transparency regarding large-scale military exercises, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
“We welcome the news that the State Department has warned Azerbaijan over its large-scale military exercises and encourage increased U.S. vigilance against Baku’s reckless arms build-up, military escalation, and cross-border attacks against both Artsakh and Armenia,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “However, in light of President Aliyev’s own stated intentions, the fungible nature of security assistance, and the resources that U.S. aid frees up in Baku’s military budget, we do take strong issues with the patently false assertion that the $120 million U.S. aid package to Azerbaijan does not violate Section 907 by contributing to its offensive capabilities. The U.S. military aid package to Azerbaijan represents a clear cut violation of Section 907.”
The June 23 Department of State letter, signed by Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs, Mary Elizabeth Taylor, states that “The United States has conveyed its concerns to Azerbaijan previously about the lack of transparency regarding large-scale exercises and will continue to highlight with Azerbaijan, bilaterally and at OSCE meetings, the importance of complete and timely notification of military activities in accordance with VD11 commitments, particularly annual notification of at least one exercise or activity in the absence of any that exceed Chapter V thresholds.” However, the letter notes that “after reviewing the available information, to date the United States has not determined that the Azerbaijani military exercises that concluded on May 22 at any point exceeded VD 11 notification thresholds.”
Further still, the letter discounts concerns about the possible use U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan against Armenia, stating, “The United States reviews such assistance thoroughly to ensure it will not undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan and will not be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) disputed that assertion in a May 20th letter, addressed to both the State Department and Pentagon, that raised alarms about Baku’s reckless escalation during the global COVID-19 pandemic. “The aid appears to have allowed Azerbaijan to shift resources toward offensive capabilities and further threaten Armenian lives and regional stability as the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues warned in letters sent to you in September and November of 2019. We cannot allow Azerbaijan to use the global coronavirus pandemic as cover for these dangerous military operations,” stated the Congressional Armenian Caucus letter, which, in addition to Rep. Pallone, was cosigned by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), Vice-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), T.J. Cox (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and Juan Vargas (D-CA). A separate letter on this same subject was sent to the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs.
Azerbaijan’s Armed Forces held large-scale “offensive” tactical military exercises from May 18th to 22nd, featuring, according of official announcements, “massive artillery, air, and high-precision weapons.” The Armenian Defense Ministry condemned the exercises noting that they “exacerbate the security environment in the region, under the conditions of a global imperative for joint actions against the COVID-19 pandemic and despite the call for UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres to establish a global ceasefire.”
In May of this year, the ANCA issued an online call to action urging Americans to contact Congress to raise concerns that Baku risks starting a regional war amid a global pandemic with these actions and ongoing sniper attacks along the Artsakh and Armenia lines of contact.