Azerbaijan International

Spring 1998 (6.1)
Page 67

Peace Proposal In Jeopardy?
Azerbaijani-Armenian Conflict

by Hafiz M. Pashayev
Azerbaijan's Ambassador to the United States

Azerbaijan is very concerned about recent events in Armenia and their implications for the peace process between Armenia and Azerbaijan. After former President Levon Ter-Petrossian accepted the peace proposal put forward by the three Minsk Group co-chairs of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) specifically Russia, France and the U.S., the hardliners within Armenia forced the President and Speaker of Parliament to resign from office.

So now, rather than being on the verge of a peace proposal to settle the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the Azerbaijani region of Nagorno-Karabakh, we have in effect a coup d'etat against the OSCE peace proposal.

Make no mistake about it, President Ter-Petrossian's removal from office was forced. Days before he announced his resignation, his Deputy Interior Minister and his Chief of Personal Security survived assassination attempts. All of this came about because of President Ter-Petrossian's belief that compromise was necessary to settle the conflict with Azerbaijan. These actions halting the OSCE are directly contrary to the interests of the United States government, which stated on January 26, 1998

"The actions taken by the government of Armenia in the context of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh are inconsistent with the territorial integrity and national sovereignty principles of the Helsinki Final Act. Armenia supports Nagorno-Karabakh separatists in Azerbaijan both militarily and financially.

Nagorno-Karabakh forces, assisted by units of the Armenian armed forces, currently occupy the Nagorno-Karabakh region and surrounding areas of Azerbaijan. This violation and the restoration of peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan have been taken up by the OSCE."

Let me speak now about the U.S. Congress' denial of direct American assistance to the government of Azerbaijan. It has been five years since the enactment of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act (FSA), a section of law that prohibits direct American assistance to the government of Azerbaijan.

What has been achieved by this provision? Nothing positive, that's for sure. It has impeded development of bilateral relations between the United States and Azerbaijan; it has made Armenian forces (which currently occupy 20 percent of Azerbaijan) more reluctant to endorse compromise OSCE peace proposals; and it has hampered the ability of the U.S. to act as an impartial intermediary in this conflict.

In fact, the Congressional support of Section 907 means, in the words of Congressman Peter King, that Azerbaijan is the only non-terrorist state in the world deprived from U.S. humanitarian assistance.

But consider, what has taken place in Azerbaijan during these five years during which U.S. aid has been denied?

  • We have begun the process of democratization, holding elections for two presidents and one parliament, with the next presidential and local elections scheduled for 1998.
  • Azerbaijan has signed nine oil contracts worth $30 billion with oil companies throughout the world, including major U.S. companies.
  • Azerbaijan has already privatized small businesses and 80 percent of major state enterprises are scheduled to be privatized during next year.
  • Azerbaijan has developed very friendly relations with the United States and other Western democracies.
  • And most important of all, Azerbaijan has solidified its independence.
  • And what has the aggressor, Armenia, done in the past five years as a recipient of nearly $700 million of U.S. government aid?
  • Armenia has occupied most of western Azerbaijan.
  • Armenia stands as the only country out of 54 members of the OSCE that refused to recognize territorial integrity of Azerbaijan and to endorse a set of principles upon which the conflict could be settled.
  • Armenia received about $1 billion in illegal arms shipments - including SCUD missiles - from Russia during the period of its offensives in 1993-1994.
  • Armenia has signed a 25-year agreement on deployment of Russian military bases.

Given these facts, it seems clear to me that 1998 should be the year in which Congress repeals Section 907. In the last two years, it is true, Congress has liberalized Section 907 by allowing aid to be designated in Azerbaijan for programs designed to combat the spread of weapons of mass destruction and for democracy-building efforts, and for efforts related to activities of the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Trade and Development Agency, and the Foreign Commercial Service.

But the fact remains, over 1 million Azerbaijani refugees and internally displaced persons created by the Armenian offensives still are not eligible for direct U.S. humanitarian assistance. That means no U.S. aid for health care or education or for programs to help implement free market reforms.

It should be clear to all members of Congress that Section 907 is contradictory to American foreign policy goals and objectives. It has been strongly opposed by both the Bush and Clinton Administrations. Almost every significant American foreign policy expert opposes Section 907. The international community as well condemns the Armenian aggression in the several resolutions passed by the United Nations. But worst of all, Section 907 tilts American foreign policy toward Armenia, the aggressor, and against Azerbaijan, the victim of that aggression.

From Azerbaijan International (6.1) Spring 1998.
© Azerbaijan International 1998. All rights reserved.

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