June 22, 2023 - 13:51 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - A bipartisan group of 54 U.S. Representatives, led by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) demanded the Biden Administration stop all military assistance to Azerbaijan and urged a stronger U.S. response to Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade and aggression against Artsakh’s 120,000 indigenous Armenian Christian population, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We would like to thank Rep. Barbara Lee and the bipartisan group of U.S. Representatives from across the U.S. for taking a powerful stand against the Biden-Harris Administration’s appeasement of Azerbaijan’s ongoing anti-Armenian aggression,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan emboldens the corrupt Aliyev regime to continue to their brutal Artsakh blockade, strangling Artsakh’s Christian population.”
In the Congressional letter sent to Secretary of State Antony Blinken today, an initiative strongly supported by the ANCA, U.S. lawmakers noted, “Azerbaijan’s behavior has undoubtedly been emboldened by the impunity it has been afforded since the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh War – during which Azerbaijani forces perpetrated horrific human rights abuses including the ongoing detention and torture of Armenian prisoners of war, and the deliberate targeting of homes, schools, churches, and medical facilities with prohibited weapons.”
The U.S. Representatives went on to caution, “Azerbaijan’s prolonged blockade of Nagorno-Karabakh and its continued occupation of Armenian sovereign territory not only threatens to jeopardize tenuous conflict resolution efforts, but gravely endangers the security and welfare of Nagorno-Karabakh’s Armenian population.”
The U.S. Representatives urged the Biden Administration to cut all military assistance to Azerbaijan by enforcing Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act. “In the context of this ongoing blockade and President Aliyev’s continuing threats, extending the Presidential waiver of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act would send a dangerous message to Azerbaijan’s government – that there will be no repercussions for its attempts to impose its will on the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh by intimidation, starvation and deadly force,” stated lawmakers.
The Biden Administration is currently deciding whether to reauthorize of the Presidential waiver of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act. Enacted in 1992, the law establishes statutory restrictions on US assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan “until the President determines, and so reports to the Congress, that the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.” Congress included a Section 907 waiver in the FY2002 Foreign Operations, Export Financing, and Related Programs Appropriations Act.
The Section 907 waiver and subsequent extensions require a number of certifications, including that granting the waiver “will not undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.” A US Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, issued in 2022, 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.
U.S. presidents – Republican and Democrat – have waived Section 907 annually since 2001, including President Biden, who, as a candidate, called on the Trump Administration to enforce Azerbaijan sanctions and apply the measure.
The Congressional letter also expressed “dismay” at the State Department’s reticence to forcefully reject President Aliyev’s recent threats against the Artsakh’s authorities. “President Aliyev’s May 28 threat is an affront to our democratic and humanitarian values, and is even more shocking coming from a nation that receives generous U.S. military assistance,” stated the lawmakers.
Over the past week, over 50,000 pro-Artsakh advocates used the ANCA’s advocacy platform to urge their U.S. Representatives to co-sign Rep. Lee’s letter to cut all military aid to Azerbaijan. ANCA Leo Sarkisian, Maral Melkonian, and Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program Summer fellows met with Congressional staff from over 400 offices to share the latest information about Azerbaijan’s brutal Artsakh blockade and ongoing anti-Armenian aggression.