For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
tel: (202) 775-1918
BROWNBACK CALLS ON PRESIDENT BUSH TO WAIVE SECTION 907
Praises Azerbaijan for "Stabilizing" Region; Applauds Aliyev for doing "Whatever it Takes" in the War on Terrorism
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator Sam Brownback (R-KS), in a letter which twice praised Azerbaijani President Geidar Aliyev for promising to do “whatever it takes” in the war on terrorism, called today on his Senate colleague to join him in urging President George W. Bush to waive Section 907, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In recent weeks, President Aliyev has sought to take advantage of the terrible September 11th terrorist attacks by conditioning his cooperation with the war on terrorism on the elimination by the U.S. government of this restriction. Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, first enacted in 1992, restricts certain types of U.S. assistance to the government of Azerbaijan until it has lifted its illegal blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.
“Senator Brownback, rather than suggesting a retreat from our principles of open borders, peaceful conflict resolution, and regional economic integration, should instead be pressing Azerbaijan to actually live up to his pledge to do ‘whatever it takes’ to help the United States in our war on terrorism,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“First and foremost, he should be demanding that President Aliyev lift his illegal blockades and abandon the offensive use of force against Armenia and Karabagh. This would, in a single step, satisfy the conditions set forth in Section 907, make Azerbaijan eligible for the full range of U.S. assistance, and open transport and communications corridors which may prove critical in the war on terrorism, continued Hamparian.
In a letter to President Bush earlier this week, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian outlined concerns about reported ties between Azerbaijani President Geidar Aliyev and bin Laden’s terror network. In this letter, he noted that, according to Yossef Bodansky, staff director of the Congressional Task Force on Terrorism and Unconventional Warfare, “An ongoing study by Defense & Foreign Affairs has cited a significant number of highly-placed sources in Russia and the Caucasus who advise that radical Islamist forces are expanding their infrastructure in Azerbaijan in preparation for a sustained escalation… Planned terrorist “spectaculars” include the use of suicide bombers.” (Defense & Foreign Affairs’ Strategic Policy, “The New Azerbaijan Hub: How Islamist operations are targeting Russia, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” October 1999) In light of this, Hachikian argued that instead of lifting sanctions, “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.”
Last week Sen. Brownback filed an amendment to the Defense Authorization bill that called for a repeal of Section 907. This move sparked a ground-swell of grassroots activism on the part of the Armenian American community and increased legislative activity by Senators opposed to Brownback’s initiative. The Kansas Senator declined yesterday to introduce his amendment. Sources in Congress have indicated to the ANCA that he and other opponents of Section 907 are now looking for other avenues, including a possible presidential waiver, to lift the aid restriction on Azerbaijan.
In June of 1999, an amendment offered by Senator Brownback to repeal Section 907 was defeated on the Senate floor. A similar effort in the U.S. House in September of 1998 was also defeated.
Additional background information on Sen. Brownback’s campaign to eliminate Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act can be found at:
President George W. Bush
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President,
It goes without saying that the world in the wake of the September 11th attacks is a profoundly different place. We comment the speed with which the Administration has adjusted to the new landscape and the precision with which it has formed a coalition in our war on terror. As you continue in your efforts to build upon this coalition, we would like to offer as much assistance as the administration can employ.
In particular, we offer our assistance in building good will in, and freeing the Administration’s hand with, countries that may become the most pivotal in the coming war. As you are no doubt aware, many of the nations that will be most important to a coalition victory are currently penalized by archaic sanctions which have been rendered irrelevant in the new geo-political landscape. In particular, we would like the opportunity to help the administration dispense with Section 907 sanctions on Azerbaijan.
The strategic importance of Azerbaijan’s geographic location is well known. Many Central Asian states, including Azerbaijan, are offering the tangible support that will be crucial to our operations in this war. What is less well known is the important role the Azeris have played in stabilizing this region of the world. In Spring of 1999, Azerbaijan intercepted a shipment of several unregistered Russian made fighter jets whose destination is still unclear. On several occasions, the Azerbaijani government has cooperated with U.S. intelligence agencies in detaining and arresting terrorists and extremists who transited its territory. In the wake of the September 11th attack, President Aliyev committed to provide the coalition with “whatever it takes” to win the war on terrorism. It is very important to ensure that, if needed, Azerbaijan is able to play a role in the imminent war on terrorism.
One stumbling block to our ability to take up the Azeris generous offer is Section 907 sanctions. Since 1992, the U.S. has been restricted in providing various forms of direct assistance to Azerbaijan because of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act (FSA). Ironically, the Act was intended to assist the newly formed republics of the former Soviet Union with democratic reform and the transition to market economies. Yet, Azerbaijan alone was precluded from receiving U.S. assistance because of its ongoing conflict with Armenia. Since Section 907 has been in place, the government in Baku has accepted the role of the Minsk Process and the United States in peace negotiations with neighboring Armenia over the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh. Indeed, the disputed region is now held primarily by ethnic Armenians.
Outdated, Section 907 sanctions now serve only to muddle the United State’s relationship with this key country. While the Azerbaijani people will provide us with “whatever it takes” to win the war on terrorism, we are unable to provide their country with any foreign assistance. This lopsided arrangement is bad for the people of Azerbaijan, it is bad for our military in the region, and it is bad diplomacy.
The Administration has signified that it shares our view of Section 907 sanctions on Azerbaijan. We offer whatever support we can to assist you in the coming days as you work to waive these sanctions, either by legislative action, or by the authority currently vested in you by the FSA. Please let us know what we can do to be helpful.