In 1992, Congress responded to Azerbaijan's attempts to isolate and cripple Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh by enacting Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, a law prohibiting certain types of direct U.S. assistance to the government of Azerbaijan until it has ended its aggression and lifted its blockades against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.
This law represented a concrete manifestation of our nation’s enduring belief in open borders, free trade, and the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts. While restricting certain types of direct government-to-government aid, including military aid, this law has not prevented over $200 million in humanitarian, democracy-building, anti-crime, and anti-proliferation aid to Azerbaijan. For more than nine years, Section 907 stood as our government’s most powerful statement against Azerbaijan’s illegal blockades.
In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on the United States, Azerbaijan took advantage of a tragic situation to demand the repeal of this long-standing provision of law in exchange for its cooperation in the U.S.-led war on terrorism. The Congress, under intense pressure from the Administration, Azerbaijan and its oil industry allies, approved an amendment to the fiscal year 2002 foreign aid bill giving the President open-ended authority to waive Section 907 despite Azerbaijan's failure to meet its conditions. The amendment includes certain limitations and several reporting requirements for the use of U.S. aid provided under the waiver and the conference manager's report accompanying the bill states that Congress intends "to review and reserve[s] the right to amend the waiver language in the FY2003 appropriations process."
The waiver authority granted to the President undermines U.S. interests in the region by encouraging Azerbaijan to maintain its blockades and remain intransigent in the peace talks. The exercise of this waiver, in addition to representing a retreat from a principled stand against aggression and blockades, sends the dangerous signal to Azerbaijan that the U.S. will not respond decisively to renewed aggression against Karabagh or Armenia.