Senators reissue calls for enforcing Section 907 restrictions on US assistance to Azerbaijan

Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Bob Menendez was joined on Thursday by Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) in pressing the State Department to enforce Section 907 restrictions on US military assistance to Azerbaijan.

“I have repeatedly expressed my deep opposition to waiving Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, allowing the United States to send assistance to his regime. This clearly alters the balance of military power between Azerbaijan and Armenia in Aliyev’s favor. I think Azerbaijan’s actions over the past three years have vindicated my skepticism,” stated Chairman Menendez.

“When you routinely give the waiver under Section 907, saying that Azerbaijan has demonstrated steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia when that’s just not the case,” stated Sen. Cardin, “we lose credibility when that happens, when we aren’t prepared to take decisive steps based upon our values.”

Senator Van Hollen stressed that the waiver of Section 907 should not only be based on national security considerations, but as the law states, the impact of the waiver on the Azerbaijan-Armenia peace process.  “Based on your statements from April, the State Department’s statements from April, it’s pretty clear that at least as of then, in your own words, in the State Department’s own words, it was undermining confidence in the peace process. And I don’t see anything that’s changed from that day to this.”

Acting Assistant Secretary Kim defended previous waivers of Section 907, noting that assistance has been used for counter-terrorism and other purposes.  She confirmed that President Biden’s 2022 waiver had expired in June. “We have not submitted a new waiver request yet because we are reviewing the situation very carefully,” stated Acting Assistant Secretary Kim.

Senator Chris Murphy (D-CT) was skeptical of the State Department’s effectiveness in addressing the Artsakh crisis. “This is obviously a crisis, an active difficult, question regarding the pressure points on Azerbaijan but at this point I think you have to put all possible tools on the table because gentle diplomacy does not seem to be working,” stated Senator Murphy.  He also commented on Azerbaijan’s growing ties with Russia in the energy sector and asked, “So what are the implications for the U.S. and for Europe as Azerbaijan and Russia draw closer; what is the nature of that relationship, and did we make the wrong bet?”

Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) noted that she shares “the concerns that have been expressed about Azerbaijan’s continued obstruction of the Lachin Corridor. In New Hampshire, we have a large Armenian diaspora, and we hear consistently from them about their concerns that Azerbaijan’s blockade has resulted in severe humanitarian suffering, that it should be lifted immediately.”

Other Senators participating in the hearing included Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member James Risch (R-ID) and Senators Pete Ricketts (R-NE) and Tim Kaine (D-VA).

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