For Immediate Release
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
tel: (202) 775-1918
RESEARCH DIRECTOR OF OIL INDUSTRY FUNDED PROGRAM AT HARVARD USES CONGRESSIONAL HEARING AS PLATFORM FOR ATTACKS ON SEC. 907
Rep. Sherman Defends Section 907, Rep. Crowley Criticizes Exclusion of Armenia from Baku-Ceyhan Pipeline Project
WASHINGTON, DC – Dr. Brenda Shaffer, a Harvard scholar employed by an academic program funded by the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce, ExxonMobil, Chevron, and other oil industry firms operating in the Caspian region, used her appearance today before a Congressional hearing to launch repeated attacks against Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The hearing, held before the House International Relations Subcommittee on Europe, featured testimony on U.S. policy toward the Caucasus by three regional experts. The first, Dr. Shaffer, serves as Research Director at Harvard University’s Caspian Studies Program. According to literature available to the press covering the hearing, this program is “made possible by a generous gift from the U.S.-Azerbaijan Chamber of Commerce and a consortium of companies led by ExxonMobil, Chevron, Aker-Maritime, CCC, and ETPM.” Joining Dr. Shaffer were Dr. Charles H. Fairbanks, a respected expert and Director of the Central Asia Caucasus Institute at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced and International Studies, and Ms. Zeyno Baran, Director of the Center of Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) Georgia Forum. Prior to joining CSIS, Baran worked as an assistant to Bulent Aliriza, a leading Washington, DC-based advocate for Turkey and a strident defender of Turkey’s invasion and occupation of Cyprus.
Subcommittee Chairman Elton Gallegly opened the hearing, describing the Caucasus region as a “strategic gateway of energy and trade routes linking east and west.” In a document distributed yesterday to panel members, Chairman Gallegly expressed his concern about “the possible use of Azerbaijani territory by elements of the Al Qaeda organization as a staging area for extremist operations into the Chechen area of Russia or at least as a transit point for arms and manpower to and from Chechnya.” Ranking Democrat Earl Hilliard (D-AL) and Rep. Ben Gilman (R-NY) welcomed participants and addressed the importance of examining and more clearly defining U.S. policy in this vital region.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), in his remarks, commented on recent calls for the repeal of Section 907, which restricts certain types of direct U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan until it has lifted its blockades against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. Dismissing suggestions that the repeal of this law would help the war on terrorism, he explained that, while, “it has been suggested that we need bases in Azerbaijan, I think looking at a map, it is clear that we do not.” He went on to note that Turkey, Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan had committed their support and were strategically better situated to meet American military needs. Rep. Sherman went on to note Russia’s assistance in the fight against terrorism, and, in light of this help, argued that “perhaps a change of foreign policy toward this region is not called for except, as I noted, to thank the Russians for their forthright stance.”
In her testimony and in her response to questions from the panel, Dr. Shaffer repeatedly called for the repeal of Section 907. She stressed that, in her view, “One of the important ways to achieve consistency in policies directed toward the region would be for the Congress to repeal Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act or for the Executive to seek changes in, waive, or circumvent this legislation as much as legally possible.” She also argued that, “Section 907 is prejudicial towards Azerbaijan – and projects an inconsistent U.S. policy toward the region.”
During the question and answer session, New York Democrat Joe Crowley discussed legislation he had introduced earlier this year, along with Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI), requiring that U.S. financial support for a Baku-Ceyhan pipeline be conditioned upon the inclusion of Armenia in this trans-national energy project.