Dozens of U.S. House members joined Rep. David G. Valadao (R-CA) and fellow Congressional Armenian Caucus leaders in a bipartisan call upon the Biden Administration stop all U.S. military assistance that contributes directly or indirectly to Azerbaijan’s military operations, activities, or capabilities, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). The May 24th Congressional letter also requests an urgent review of the deeply flawed U.S. waiver authority for Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to the corrupt Aliyev regime
“Not a single American tax dollar should be sent to the armed forces of oil-rich Azerbaijan – a country that ethnically cleansed Artsakh, holds Armenians POWs, and now occupies territory in the Republic of Armenia,” said Congressman David Valadao. “President Biden should immediately withdraw his waiver of Section 907 and, if he won’t, Congress should statutorily prevent any and all U.S. arms or aid to the Aliyev regime. The alternative – continuing to ship U.S. military aid to Baku despite its ongoing anti-Armenian aggression – sends Aliyev the green light to escalate his attacks,” concluded Rep. Valadao.
“Armenian Americans from Fresno and across California’s Central Valley join with our community and coalition partners across America in thanking Congressman Valadao and his fellow Co-Chairs of the Armenian Caucus for working to stop all U.S. arms and aid to Azerbaijan’s oil-rich Aliyev regime,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Amid Baku’s escalating aggression, we are especially appreciative of the strong bipartisan leadership of Congressman Valadao, who has traveled to Artsakh, witnessed first-hand the challenges its people face, and championed U.S. aid to this at-risk population.”
Congressional co-signers of the letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken are asking for the “immediate termination of all U.S. military or security aid to Azerbaijan.” The letter expresses concern about the Biden Administration’s waiver of the Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, which restricts U.S. aid to Azerbaijan based on their blockade of and aggression against Armenia and Artsakh. “We are concerned that the State Department did not fully consider Azerbaijan’s lack of progress in ceasing its blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), and instead moved forward with this waiver without detailing serious national security concerns,” stated the letter.
Joining Representative Valadao and Congressional Armenian Caucus leaders Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Adam Schiff (D-CA) in cosigning the letter are Representatives: Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Andy Levin (D-MI), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and Dina Titus (D-NV).
The Congressional letter was delivered amid Azerbaijan’s dramatic escalation of tensions in the South Caucasus, with reports of 1000 Azerbaijani soldiers having invaded Armenia’s Kegharkunik and Syunik provinces. In the wake of ANCA and alarm bells regarding President Aliyev’s latest anti-Armenian aggression, the U.S. State Department issued a statement calling on Azerbaijan to “pull back all forces immediately and cease further provocation.” President Aliyev also continues to illegally imprison and torture over 200 Armenian prisoners of war, with 19 reportedly having been murdered.
Text of Armenian Caucus Letter to Secretary Blinken
Dear Secretary Blinken,
We wish to register our concern with your decision on April 26 to waive the longstanding statutory restriction on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan under Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. This action is particularly distressing following Baku’s hostilities last fall against the Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and the delayed release of the remaining Armenian prisoners of war and detainees. While we appreciate the willingness of State Department officials including Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent and Ambassador Andrew Schofer to discuss these issues, we believe the issuance of this waiver is a mistake and is not in line with Congressional intent. We will consider legislative action in response to clarify the waiver authority.
We are concerned that the State Department did not fully consider Azerbaijan’s lack of progress in ceasing its blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), and instead moved forward with this waiver without detailing serious national security concerns. This year’s waiver comes despite last year’s 44-day war, Azerbaijan’s embrace of Al Qaeda-linked Syrian mercenaries, and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s renunciation of further diplomacy to resolve outstanding issues. These actions are inconsistent with provisions of the Section 907 waiver and demonstrate the dire need for changes to the Administration’s waiver process to prevent further aid from going to Azerbaijan until they make demonstrable changes to their behavior.
In light of the Section 907 waiver, we urgently request that you suspend any existing military or security assistance to Azerbaijan, including aid provided under Section 333 Building Partner Capacity programs, and block any new U.S. aid that directly or indirectly contributes to Azerbaijan’s military operations, activities, or capabilities. The more than $100 million in such aid from U.S. taxpayers provided to Azerbaijan in recent years materially developed Baku’s military and border monitoring capabilities, allowing the Aliyev government to shift resources toward offensive operations against Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) and Armenia. While it was positive to hear on a recent call that the Administration does not foresee providing additional Section 333 assistance beyond what has already been provided, the amount provided to date is itself disturbing.
The oil-rich Aliyev government, which continues to illegally hold Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians six months after the end of hostilities, neither needs nor deserves U.S. assistance. American taxpayers should not be asked to subsidize Azerbaijan so long as they continue to take destabilizing action in the region, attack Armenians living in their indigenous homeland, and hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the conflict. As such, we ask for the immediate termination of all U.S. military or security aid to Azerbaijan.