October 1, 2001
For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
tel: (202) 775-1918

ANCA CALLS ON PRESIDENT BUSH TO DEFEND SECTION 907; PRESS AZERBAIJAN TO LIFT BLOCKADES ON ARMENIA AND KARABAGH

Congressional Armenian Caucus Asks Secretary of State to Maintain Restrictions on U.S. Aid to Azerbaijan

WASHINGTON, DC -– The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has called on President George W. Bush to support Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act and to press Azerbaijan to end its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh, opening transportation and communication corridors that may prove critical in the international campaign against terrorism.

The October 1st letter, signed by ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian, comes as Armenian Americans across the country mobilize to stop efforts by Azerbaijani President, former KGB General Geidar Aliyev, to exploit the September 11th terrorist attacks to seek the repeal of Section 907. In recent days, Aliyev has sought to condition Azerbaijan’s support for the war on terrorism on the repeal of this long-standing provision of U.S. law.

First enacted in 1992, Section 907 limits certain types of direct U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan until it has lifted its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. This restriction was reaffirmed in floor votes in the U.S. Senate and House, in 1999 and 1998 respectively.

In the letter, Hachikian mourned the victims of the September 11th terrorist attacks on the U.S., noting that the Armenian American community is “keenly aware of the consequences of failing to stand up against violence, intolerance and intimidation.” He noted that the “failure, based on shortsighted political considerations, to hold the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide accountable paved the way for a century of additional atrocities, including the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, and the Balkans.”

Hachikian went on to urge President Bush to maintain Section 907, which, “has stood as our government’s most powerful instrument to end Azerbaijan’s crippling blockades of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, which, for all intents and purposes, is the equivalent of economic terrorism.” He argued that the current statute “requires that any presidential waiver of Section 907 be supported by your certification assuring Congress that Azerbaijan has indeed taken demonstrable steps to cease all blockades against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. Unfortunately, the government of Azerbaijan has given no evidence whatsoever that it is prepared to fulfill this vital condition.”

Concerned about the timing of Azerbaijan’s efforts to repeal Section 907, as the United States steps up efforts to eradicate terrorism, Hachikian noted that, “We, as a nation, have a right to expect that all our friends will offer us their unconditional cooperation in this critical effort – as Armenia has done – without trying to bargain for advantage against U.S. law. Indeed, in these circumstances, Azerbaijan must demonstrate that it is a responsible member of the international community by lifting its blockades, consistent with the fundamental premise of Section 907.”

Referring to extensive reports of Azerbaijani collaboration with terrorist leader Osama Bin Laden, Hachikian expressed caution about the inclusion of Azerbaijan in the international coalition to battle terrorism. “A better solution would be to ask Azerbaijan to turn over the terrorists to the U.S., close down their bases of operation, and to end the economic blockade of Armenia,” stressed Hachikian. (See below for the full text of the ANCA letter.)

Congressional Armenian Caucus:

In a letter to be sent to Secretary of State Colin Powell as early as tomorrow morning, the Congressional Armenian Caucus, under the leadership of Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), is urging the Secretary to support the restrictions on assistance to Azerbaijan. In its letter, the Caucus urges Secretary Powell to “maintain Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act in its current form and oppose efforts to repeal this important provision of law.” The letter goes on to state that, “given the ongoing, sensitive peace negotiations, efforts to weaken or repeal Section 907 only serve to legitimize Azerbaijan’s immoral blockade and would make its position at the negotiating table even more intransigent. Moreover, repeal of Section 907 is no way to reward Armenia’s solidarity with America’s campaign against international terrorism. (See below for the full text of the Armenian Caucus letter.)

Joining Reps. Knollenberg and Pallone as signatories to the letter, to date, are Representatives: Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Rod Blagojevich (D-IL), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Jerry Costello (D-IL), Joseph Crowley (D-NY), Bob Filner (D-CA), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Steny Hoyer (D-MD), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Constance Morella (R-MD), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), George Radanovich (R-CA), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Adam Schiff (D-CA), James Saxton (R-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Mark Souder (R-IN), John Sununu (R-NH), John Sweeney (R-NY), John Tierney (D-MA), and Peter Visclosky (D-IN).


TEXT OF ANCA LETTER TO PRESIDENT BUSH

October 1, 2001

The Honorable George W. Bush
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
Washington, DC 20500

Dear Mr. President:

In the weeks and months ahead, as you lead our nation’s response to the September 11th terrorist attacks upon our nation and our freedoms, please know that you have the prayers and full support of the Armenian-American community. We join with you in mourning those lost in this terrible tragedy and in your efforts to ensure that they did not die in vain, but rather in the first battle of a comprehensive campaign to end the scourge of terrorism upon the people of the United States and the world.

As a community, we are keenly aware of the consequences of failing to stand up against violence, intolerance, and intimidation. The failure, based on short-sighted political considerations, to hold the perpetrators of the Armenian Genocide accountable paved the way for a century of additional atrocities, including the Holocaust, Cambodia, Rwanda, and the Balkans.

In this regard, I would like to address the matter of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which, as you know, was adopted by Congress and signed into law in 1992. This law represents a concrete manifestation of our nation’s enduring belief in open borders, free trade, and the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts in the face of ethnic intolerance and violence. For close to a decade, it has stood as our government’s most powerful instrument to end Azerbaijan’s crippling blockades of Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, which, for all intents and purposes, is the equivalent of economic terrorism.

It is our understanding that the Administration has in recent days supported efforts by members of Congress to repeal Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. We understand, as well, that the Department of State has indicated that, in the event that the Congress does not take this action, the State Department will recommend that you waive this provision of law.

Mr. President, the current statute requires that any presidential waiver of Section 907 be supported by your certification assuring Congress that Azerbaijan has indeed taken demonstrable steps to cease all blockades against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. Unfortunately, the government of Azerbaijan has given no evidence whatsoever that it is prepared to fulfill this vital condition. On the contrary, Azerbaijan and Turkey have maintained a brutal, coordinated stranglehold over the Armenian economy.

Nor are there any grounds for Congress to repeal Section 907. It has been suggested by the State Department that, in the present circumstances, the U.S. government needs Section 907 to be repealed by Congress to ensure that Azerbaijan’s cooperation is secured in our war against terrorism. We, as a nation, have a right to expect that all our friends will offer us their unconditional cooperation in this critical effort – as Armenia has done – without trying to bargain for advantage against U.S. law. Indeed, in these circumstances, Azerbaijan must demonstrate that it is a responsible member of the international community by lifting its blockades, consistent with the fundamental premise of Section 907. There can be no gray areas in dealing with this principle.

While the State Department may well be arguing for the inclusion of Azerbaijan in the international coalition the U.S. is assembling in the battle against terrorism, we are troubled that, in the process, we appear to be overlooking the responsibilities of “friends” such as Azerbaijan, which, according to Yossef Bodansky director of the U.S. Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and an acknowledged expert on Osama bin Laden, harbors and supports international terrorists trained by bin Laden and which accepts “large quantities of cash from diverse [terrorist] sources…” A better solution would be to ask Azerbaijan to turn over these terrorists to the U.S., close down their bases of operation, and end the economic blockade of Armenia.

We look forward to an ongoing dialogue with the Administration over this and other issues of critical importance to the 1.5 million Armenian-Americans in our country.

Respectfully,

[signed]
Kenneth V. Hachikian
Chairman


TEXT OF ARMENIAN CAUSUS LETTER TO SECRETARY OF STATE POWELL

October 1, 2001

Dear Secretary Powell:

We are writing to urge you to maintain Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act in its current form and oppose efforts to repeal this important provision of law. Section 907 places reasonable conditions on the use of U.S. assistance to the government of Azerbaijan, until Azerbaijan has shown that it has taken “demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.”

We are concerned about credible reports that the Azerbaijani government invited Osama Bin Laden and his network into its country. Given this information, the U.S. government should carefully review its relationship with Azerbaijan – not reward it with repeal of Section 907. At a minimum, we believe U.S. interests are best served by insisting that Azerbaijan arrest and turn over those involved in the Al Queda cells operating there with the government’s approval since the early to mid 1990s. These cells threaten all of us, and Armenia is on the front line of this battle.

To date, Azerbaijan has done nothing to warrant repeal of Section 907 including continuing its war rhetoric, rejecting U.S./European Union calls for cooperation with Armenia, rejecting specific proposals by Armenia for economic and regional cooperation, and backing away from the commitments made by Azerbaijani President Aliyev during peace negotiations in Paris and Key West.

The effects of the Azerbaijani blockade on the east of land-locked Armenia, in coordination with Turkey’s blockade on the west, should not be underestimated. The blockade has affected the entire population of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh, making the transport of much needed food, fuel, medicine and other commodities prohibitively expensive. Not only does the blockade defy U.S. law, but it also violates OSCE mandates calling for the re-opening of closed borders. Additionally, the effects of the blockade continue to stall Armenia’s economic development, impacting the mix of U.S. inputs and indefinitely setting back the process of economic integration among the nations of the south Caucasus and Central Asia.

Given the ongoing, sensitive peace negotiations, efforts to weaken or repeal Section 907 only serve to legitimize Azerbaijan’s immoral blockade and would make its position at the negotiating table even more intransigent. Moreover, repeal of Section 907 is no way to reward Armenia’s solidarity with America’s campaign against international terrorism.

Armenia’s early response to the attack was to first assist American staff at our U.S. Embassy in Armenia’s capital to insure the Embassy’s security. Armenia also offered to send an expert rescue team to help with the rescue efforts underway in New York City and at the Pentagon. Armenia’s President, speaking on behalf of the members of the Collective Security Treaty (CST) of the post-Soviet Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), called for joint action against international terrorism. Armenia currently holds the rotating presidency in this six-member defense grouping. Armenia has also offered and the US has already used Armenia’s airspace. In addition, Armenia has offered intelligence sharing and other unspecified offers of support.

In its current form, Section 907 constitutes a focused, appropriate message to the government of Azerbaijan that the U.S. will not support efforts to marginalize, via blockade, entire populations of neighboring states. This law was enacted with the overwhelming support of Congress and with the support of the Bush Administration in 1992. Since enactment Congress, has affirmed the value and importance of Section 907 as demonstrated in the floor votes in the House and Senate in 1998 and 1999 respectively. Now, more than ever, Congress must uphold the fundamental and enduring U.S. principles of justice, democracy, and human rights.

Sincerely,

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