WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has learned from senior White House officials that President George W. Bush, this afternoon, exercised the authority granted to him in the fiscal year 2003 foreign aid bill to waive Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, despite Azerbaijan’s failure to meet the conditions of this law by lifting its illegal blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.
During consideration of the foreign aid bill last year, the ANCA, along with a broad-based coalition of Armenian American groups, defended Section 907 and sought to secure as many safeguards as possible to ensure that Azerbaijan would not be able to use increased military capabilities acquired from the United States in aggression against either Armenia or Nagorno Karabagh. Also participating in this community-wide effort were the Apostolic Exarchate for Armenian Catholics; Armenian Evangelical Union of North America; Armenian Missionary Association of America; Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Eastern Region ;Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Western Region; Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Eastern Region; Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church – Western Region; Armenian American Democratic Leadership Council; Armenian Bar Association; Armenian General Benevolent Union; Armenian National Committee of America; Armenian Relief Society; Armenian Youth Federation of America; Hamazkayn Armenian Cultural and Educational Association; Homenetmen Armenian General Athletic Union; Knights of Vartan; National Organization of Republican Armenians.
The fiscal year 2003 foreign aid bill allows the President to indefinitely suspend Section 907 without having to certify, as the law requires, that Azerbaijan has lifted its blockades against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. It also includes non-binding report language accompanying the foreign aid bill that specifically stipulates that U.S. assistance provided under the Presidential waiver cannot be used against “Armenian communities in the Caucasus.” In a setback to the State Department, which has sought a free hand in extending the Presidential waiver indefinitely, the panel affirmed that Congress would review and reserve the right to amend the waiver language in the fiscal year 2003 foreign aid process. Since then, several members of Congress have indicated their intention to review this issue during the coming foreign aid cycle.
The foreign aid bill also includes a hard earmark for Armenia that guarantees a minimum of $90 million in assistance to Armenia, an additional $4 million in foreign military financing and $300,000 in military training. Armenia was alone among the states of the former Soviet Union in receiving its appropriation as a guaranteed “hard earmark.”