GARABAGH SEPARATISTS TO BE STRIPPED OFF US AID
May 13 2009
The US government intends to sever aid to the self-proclaimed republic
operating in Upper (Nagorno) Garabagh, an Azerbaijani region currently
under Armenian occupation, in line with Azerbaijan`s interests. At
the same time, it plans to increase the volume of military aid to
Azerbaijan and reduce planned military aid to Armenia for the 2010
fiscal year, although the measure still requires Congressional approval
which may be hard to secure.
Washington has proposed allocating $30 million to Armenia in 2010
instead of $48 million designated for 2009, the Panarmenian news agency
reported. Moreover, the US administration is seeking to allot $3m in
military assistance to the country in 2010, compared to $4m planned
for Azerbaijan. The U.S. plans to allot $450,000 to Armenia as part
of its military training program, while the figure for Azerbaijan
will be double that amount.
But the most noteworthy is the fact that the US government did not
include a provision on providing humanitarian aid to Upper Garabagh
in its assistance package. This follows the approval of such aid,
worth $8m to the self-styled republic in the 2009 fiscal year, by a
decision of the US Congress.
It is worth mentioning that the measure is merely a draft, not a final
approved budget. Therefore, it is not time for Armenians to panic,
nor should Azerbaijanis rejoice.
In any case, it should be admitted that the U.S. has always paid
attention to Azerbaijan`s defense industry and it has recently
further increased this attention. This is happening mainly for two
reasons. First, key transnational energy supply routes, which represent
one of the priorities for America in this vitally important region,
lie through Azerbaijan. Second, the country is located on the coast
of the Caspian Sea, which is flush with hydrocarbon resources.
However, analysts suggest that the US administration will face
challenges in convincing Congressmen that increasing military aid to
Azerbaijan is appropriate, despite Washington`s being upbeat about
the idea. In fact, it is Congress, not the administration, that will
have the final say, and the legislature will, most likely, focus on
pertinent legal norms in dealing with the issue.
The point is that, with the suspension of Section 907 of the Freedom
Support Act restricting US assistance to the Azerbaijani government,
which has long been harmful to Baku`s interests, the US Congress
pledged not to violate parity in the allocation of military assistance
to Azerbaijan and Armenia. Therefore, it is quite likely that Congress
will actually equalize the amount of funds designated by the White
House for the two countries` defense spending.
As a result of the adoption of Section 907, which was considerably
influenced by the Armenian lobby, Azerbaijan became the only republic
of the former Soviet Union and the entire post-Communist bloc that
had been deprived of the US government`s aid through legislative
restrictions. This lack of balance was reinforced by the fact that
nations unfriendly to the U.S., such as North Korea, for instance,
were, for some reason, entitled to this assistance.
The congressional research service estimates that, from 1992 to 2002,
Armenia received aid worth $1.337 billion from the US government,
while Azerbaijan only received $337.7 million.
Of note, the US Congress has been providing direct humanitarian aid
to Upper Garabagh since 1998. US assistance to the self-proclaimed
entity amounted to $3 million in the 2006 fiscal year and $5 million
each in 2007 and 2008.
This assistance, as a rule, is directed to the solution of social
problems, including the construction of water pipes, medical aid
and socially oriented services and facilities. Work on designating
the spending of the funds is carried out by organizations that win
tenders announced by the US Agency for International Development
(USAID). Thus, in the initial years, these activities had been
undertaken by a Catholic aid union and, further, by a foundation
dealing with assistance to Armenians. In recent years, a part of those
funds have been channeled into mine clearing operations in Garabagh,
which is being carried out by Britain`s Halo Trust group.
For Azerbaijanis, the allocation of even a single dollar for the
separatist regime from the US budget is naturally considered as
support for the Armenian position on the settlement to the Garabagh
conflict. It is for this reason that the lack of a provision
on US humanitarian aid to Upper Garabagh in 2010 comes as such a
surprise. This sentiment is strengthened by the fact that the incumbent
White House team could be, essentially, regarded as more pro-Armenian
in comparison with its predecessor, the Bush administration.
A valid question therefore arises: does this mean that the U.S. has
decided to drastically revisit its position on the Garabagh
settlement? Political analyst Hikmat Hajizada believes that two
possible scenarios could be considered in this respect.
"It`s either that the Azerbaijani lobby and the government of
Azerbaijan have succeeded in persuading Americans that they should
not support pro-Russian Armenia, or this is nothing but a mere
intention by White House politicians to create a `smoke-screen`
before the eyes of the Azerbaijani government saying, `look, guys,
we did want to support you, but Congress has decided its own way.`"
From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress