Azerbaijan International

Winter 2000 (8.4)
Page 57


Effects of U.S. Law - No Peace

"First of all, I don't think that either side, neither the U.S. nor Azerbaijan, gains anything from the existence of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, which prohibits direct aid from the U.S. to the Azerbaijani government.

"I'm convinced that, in reality, Section 907 actually hinders the resolution of the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict in regard to Nagorno-Karabakh. Furthermore, it works against the interests of the United States in the region. The only side that benefits at all is Armenia. Let me explain.

"Armenians are convinced that Section 907 puts pressure from the U.S. on Azerbaijan. They're under the impression that they can maintain the status quo, and that they don't need to work to find any peaceful solution to this conflict. If there were no 907, Armenians would realize that the U.S. is truly a neutral broker, and that the U.S. really doesn't support Armenia in its current policy against Azerbaijan. I think it would push the Armenians to do their best to try to resolve this conflict.

"Most Azerbaijanis know about this piece of U.S. legislation. Ask any refugee, he'll tell you about 907. How can we explain to our people that there is a difference between the attitude of the U.S. Administration and that of the U.S. Congress?

"To the average person, the U.S. government, the Congress and all other governmental and non-governmental structures are all the same - one entity. They don't differentiate between the branches of the U.S. government. They can't understand how it is that the U.S. government supports Azerbaijan while Congress votes against us. It's too complicated for the average person.

"So, the average Azerbaijani believes that the U.S. is restricting assistance to Azerbaijan. How can you explain, 'No, it's not true, the U.S. is our friend - our strategic partner.'

"I'm convinced that Section 907 is working against America's interests in the region more than any other country's. It hurts the U.S. more than it hurts us.

"Look, Azerbaijan can live without direct U.S. governmental assistance. We've been doing it for the past nine years. Of course, we would like this assistance. We want the technical and professional expertise that comes with these funds, especially during this transitional period. We don't want these restrictions. But even if Congress maintains 907 for many more years, I think we can live without it, without that $10-30 million each year. That's how I see it.

"The question impinges upon our concepts of friendship and loyalty. In our situation during this transitional period, with the deep problems that we are facing with our nearly 1 million refugees, the first thing that people think about is: 'What have my friends done to help me out in this complicated situation?' With our Eastern mentality, we judge our friends by their actions.

"As an official person, of course, I understand that the U.S. has done so much for Azerbaijan in so many spheres - international politics, economy and energy, and we appreciate that very much. I'm convinced that there are great possibilities for bilateral relations between us in the future.

"But, believe me, it's quite difficult to convince the people in the streets who don't have such detailed information. What they say is: 'Karabakh has existed now for nearly nine years. Our refugees are still refugees. We have so many unresolved problems. So, where are our friends when we need them?'

"I think that if the United States would lift 907, it would strengthen the Armenian President's hand in being able to help resolve this problem. Armenians are living in euphoria. They are convinced that because they had a military victory and took our territories, they won't need to give them back. That's why whenever any of the Armenian leaders make overtures towards some kind of peaceful solution, it's quite difficult for them to explain that they must do it now, because tomorrow may be too late.

"If the U.S. would lift 907, the Armenian leaders could say to their people: 'You see, now the U.S. doesn't view Azerbaijan as the aggressor. Look, the U.S. is taking a neutral position, so we have to do something to find a solution. It's not same as it was in 1992 or 1993. The world is changing, and they are demanding that we find a solution to this conflict. The international community is not interested in the continuation of this conflict.' Lifting 907 would demonstrate this reality to the Armenians.

"But, unfortunately, nothing changes for the moment. I don't think that the problem lies with America's perception of Russia's sphere of influence. Simply, there are Senators and Representatives who don't want to lose the Armenian voice (money) in Congressional elections. Simply, many of them - not all of them, of course - don't have the moral courage or the integrity to do the right thing and lift this unjust piece of legislature."

Agshin Mehdiyev
Azerbaijan Ministry of Foreign Affairs
Head of the Department of Europe, U.S. and Canada

Azerbaijan International (8.4) Winter 2000.
© Azerbaijan International 2000. All rights reserved.

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