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U.S. House Curbs Military Aid To Azerbaijan


Members of the U.S. House of Representatives are sworn in on the House floor on the first day of the new session of Congress at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, U.S. January 3, 2017.

The U.S. House of Representatives voted late on Wednesday to restrict U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan because of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

A bipartisan amendment co-sponsored by about two dozen pro-Armenian lawmakers blocks any such aid that can be provided under Washington’s Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training programs.

“This bill sends a clear signal that we will not aid or tolerate authoritarian regimes that threaten peace and security, especially when those actions are aimed at a fellow democracy,” said congressman Frank Pallone, the main author of the measure hailed by Armenian-American lobby groups.

“The House today took a principled, bipartisan stand against Azerbaijan, overwhelmingly voting down U.S. military aid in response to Baku’s ethnic-cleansing of Artsakh (Karabakh) and ongoing aggression against Armenia,” said Raffi Hamparian, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“This amendment sends the right message that Azerbaijan will not be rewarded for its hostile actions against the Armenian people,” said Mariam Khaloyan of the Armenian Assembly of America.

Nagorno-Karabakh - U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone (R) and Tulsi Gabbard meet officials in Stepanakert, 20Sep2017.
Nagorno-Karabakh - U.S. Representatives Frank Pallone (R) and Tulsi Gabbard meet officials in Stepanakert, 20Sep2017.

The bill does not bar the U.S. Department of Defense from continuing to transfer military equipment to Azerbaijan.

The U.S. Congress had banned any kind of direct assistance to Baku through Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act passed in 1992. But a decade later it allowed U.S. administrations to waive the ban to help Azerbaijan’s military and security agencies.

The administration of former President Donald Trump significantly increased the security aid to Baku, reportedly providing over $100 million worth of equipment and other assistance to Azerbaijan’s State Border Guard Service in 2018-2019 alone.

Azerbaijani border guards also participated in last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani war in Karabakh. Many of them are now deployed along Azerbaijan’s border with Armenia where serious cross-border skirmishes have been a regular occurrence for the last two months.

During the autumn war, then Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden urged the Trump administration to freeze U.S. aid and “stop the flow of military equipment to Azerbaijan.”

But Biden too waived Section 907 in April this year three months after being sworn in as U.S. president. The U.S. House expressed concern over the waiver on Wednesday.

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