WASHINGTON, DC – Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chair Bob Menendez (D-NJ) pressed the Departments of State and Defense on the Administration’s failure to meet statutory reporting requirements to Congress on the impact of U.S. assistance on the military balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan, as mandated by Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“It’s deeply concerning as Azerbaijan’s actions in the Nagorno-Karabakh region have led to the deaths of more than 6000 people extracted a steep toll on Armenians, uprooting them from others thousands from their homes,” stated Chairman Menendez during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing earlier today, which featured testimony by Department of Defense Assistant Secretary for Strategy, Plans, and Capabilities Dr. Mara Karlin and State Department Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs Jessica Lewis.
Referencing a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, released last week, which revealed that the State Department consistently failed to inform Congress of the impact of over $164 million in assistance to Baku on the military balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia, Sen. Menendez asked Secretary Lewis: “do you commit to review State’s compliance with the nine or seven waiver requirements for providing assistance to Azerbaijan?”
Secretary Lewis responded, “it’s a priority for me to look into that and ensure that we provide the information required.”
Sen. Menendez continued, “I don’t want to see this anymore. I shouldn’t have had to commission a report to get what we all know that there has been a failure to justify this assistance.”
“We join with Senator Menendez in demanding answers and accountability,” ANCA National Board Member and New Jersey resident Ani Tchaghlasian. “Our Congress, our community, and our coalition partners deserve full transparency regarding the U.S. laws that have been bent and broken in recklessly shipping tens of millions of U.S. tax dollars to Azerbaijan’s violently anti-Armenian Aliyev regime.”
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair and House Armed Services Committee member Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) shared similar concerns on March 1st during a committee hearing featuring Assistant Secretary Lewis and Assistant Secretary Karlin.
“Between 2018 and 2020, the country of Azerbaijan received $120 million in Section 333 partner capacity-building funds despite its authoritarian government and armed aggression towards its democratic neighbor, Armenia,” stated Rep. Speier. “In contrast, Armenia received zero dollars during that same period. So, Secretary Karlin, you testified that the department seeks to ‘cultivate security partners who can appropriately and effectively be regional security anchors, especially during crises.’ Given the conflict in Nagorno Karabakh in which Azerbaijan initiated it and it costs thousands of lives and hundreds of thousands of people being displaced. I mean, I don’t think anyone could argue that Azerbaijan has lived up to that ideal.”
After some evasive answers, the State Department and Defense Department representatives offered to respond to Rep. Speier in writing “to ensure that they are really meeting the intent of her important question.”
Adopted in 1992, Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act restricts U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan until that country takes demonstrable steps to end its aggression and lift its blockades against Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). In 2002, the President was given waiver authority of Section 907, if they determined and certified that, among other items, providing US assistance will not “undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.” Section 907 has been waived annually since then.
The waiver authority requires that State submit a report to appropriate congressional committees within 60 days of exercising the waiver, specifying (1) the nature and quantity of all training and assistance provided to the government of Azerbaijan pursuant to the waiver, (2) the status of the military balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the impact of U.S. assistance on that balance, and (3) the status of negotiations for a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan and the impact of the U.S. assistance on those negotiations. The statute also requires consultation with the Committees on Appropriations prior to the provision of assistance made available pursuant to the waiver.
The GAO report is available at: https://anca.org/assets/pdf/013122_Sec907_GAO.pdf
Highlights from the GAO report are available at: https://anca.org/assets/pdf/013122_Sec907_GAO_highlights.pdf