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Senator Menendez requests GAO review of skyrocketing U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan

Alarmed by a U.S. military aid program to Azerbaijan that has “skyrocketed” to more than $120 million over the past three fiscal years, Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) today formally requested that the Government Accountability Office (GAO) provide the Senate Foreign Relations Committee with a detailed report on this assistance program and its compliance with Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). 

Enacted in 1992, Section 907 places statutory restrictions and requirements on U.S. taxpayer funding to Azerbaijan until that government takes “demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.”

“We thank Senator Menendez for ensuring that the rapidly and recklessly expanding U.S. military aid program to an increasingly hostile Azerbaijan complies with all relevant provisions of U.S. law,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “His request today for a formal GAO assessment will bring much-needed sunshine – in the form of public scrutiny and Congressional oversight – to a secretive security scheme that, by all accounts, crosses multiple legal, moral, and humanitarian lines.”

Senator Menendez, who serves as the Committee’s Ranking Member, called on the GAO to “initiate an assessment that considers, at a minimum, the following questions:”

1. What is the nature and quantity of all U.S. foreign assistance provided to the Government of Azerbaijan pursuant to the waiver of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, broken down by year, funding account, and implementing agency?

2. Was Congress informed of this assistance prior to its provision, as required by the waiver authority as outlined in the law? Was Congress informed through a formal Congressional notification, through a consult note, or through another procedure?

3. Since 2002, did the extensions to the waiver of Section 907 contain certifications of the elements as outlined in the law?

4. What is known about how assistance provided to the Government of Azerbaijan pursuant to the Section 907 waiver impacted ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan?

5. What is known about whether any of the assistance provided to the Government of Azerbaijan pursuant to the waiver was used for offensive purposes against Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh, or may have enabled such offensive purposes, however indirectly?

6. In addition to the impacts described in questions four and five, what else is known about the impact of foreign assistance provided to the Government of Azerbaijan pursuant to the Section 907 waiver?

Senator Menendez’s letter is the latest in a series of Congressional calls for clarification on increased Azerbaijani security assistance, particularly in the face of increased Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) during the global COVID-19 pandemic.  On May 21st, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Vice-Chairs Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) were joined by over a dozen Congressional colleagues in calling on Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper to condemn Azerbaijan’s large-scale military exercises.  The Congressional leaders were concerned that the over $100 million in military assistance “appears to have allowed Azerbaijan to shift resources toward offensive capabilities and further threaten Armenian lives and regional stability.”  

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