BERMAN BLOCKS US MILITARY SALE TO BAKU

Asbarez
Thursday, June 28th, 2012

Rep. Howard Berman State Department takes Azerbaijan off proposed
list of recipient countries for upcoming sale of helicopter equipment

WASHINGTON--In response to Congressional concerns first raised by
House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Democrat Howard Berman (D-CA),
the State Department has removed Azerbaijan from a list of countries
eligible to purchase U.S. military hardware which could be used by
the Aliyev regime in its ongoing attacks against Armenia and Nagorno
Karabakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

"This decision by Secretary Clinton is in the best interests of the
Armenian people and for peace in the region," said Rep. Berman, upon
receiving the modified formal notification from the State Department
late on June 27th.

"We would like to thank Rep. Berman for taking immediate action
to block this proposed arms sale, particularly given the Aliyev
regime's recent attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh that
coincided with Secretary Clinton's visit to the Caucasus," stated ANCA
Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian. "Military equipment sales
to Azerbaijan only serve to arm and embolden a belligerent Azerbaijani
government, whose threats and acts of aggression undermine the Karabakh
peace process and stability in the region overall."

In a May 29th letter to Secretary Clinton, Rep. Berman referenced
announcements of a sale of military hardware which would be used in
conjunction with Azerbaijan's military helicopter fleet for "border
surveillance and 'police-type' activities." In addition to possible
attacks against Armenia, Rep. Berman expressed concern about the
"message that such a sale would send to the regional parties, both in
terms of perceived U.S. even-handedness and in terms of our seriousness
about persuading Baku to cease its bellicose rhetoric and agree to
Minsk Group co-chair demands that it remove its snipers from the
'line of contact' in the Nagorno-Karabakh region."

The ANCA expressed its opposition to the sale as part of a seven-point
memo sent to Congressional offices and the White House immediately
after the June 4 - 6 Azerbaijani attacks against Armenia and Karabakh
that left some 10 soldiers dead. "The Obama Administration should
suspend all military aid to Azerbaijan, and stop the sale or transfer
to Baku of any military equipment or dual-use items (including the
proposed sale of advanced helicopter-based surveillance equipment -
DDTC 12-002)," explained Nahapetian in the memo.

Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) subsequently raised concerns about this
proposed military hardware sale during Senate Foreign Relations
Committee consideration of the nomination of Richard Morningstar for
U.S. Ambassador Azerbaijan.

In his questions to Morningstar, Sen. Menendez called specific
attention to recent cross-border attacks by Azerbaijan against Armenia,
threats by President Aliyev that "Armenians will live in fear," and
the assertion that "Our [Azerbaijan's] main enemies are Armenians of
the world." Menendez continued, asking "do you think, based upon those
types of statements, that the proposed sales of military hardware to
be used in conjunction with Azerbaijan's military helicopter fleet
is really in the national interest of the United States?"

Morningstar argued, in part, that "There are increasing tensions
with respect to other neighbors, in particular with Iran. And we
have to provide, I think, security assistance, possibly military
assistance in ways that cannot be used to exacerbate any situation
with respect to Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh." Menendez was quick
to respond, reminding Morningstar that "I didn't hear President
Aliyev say 'My main enemy or security concern is Iran,' he said that,
'Our main enemies are the Armenians of the world.' [. . .] I have a
real problem with going ahead and selling military hardware to the
Azerbaijanis based upon what has happened."

Below is the text of Rep. Berman's letter to Secretary Clinton:

The Honorable Hillary Rodham Clinton Secretary of State U.S. Department
of State 2201 C Street NW Washington, DC 20520

Dear Secretary Clinton:

I am writing to express my concern over a proposal by the Department
of State to allow the sale of military equipment to Azerbaijan. This
proposal is included in case "DDTC 12-002[email protected].

Two months ago, my staff inquired as to the possible use of this
equipment by Azerbaijan. Just last week, they were informed that it
would be used on existing helicopters to aid in border surveillance
and "police-type" activities.

As Azerbaijan shares a border with Armenia, this equipment could be
used to identify and possibly target Armenians in the border area for
surveillance or for attack. I am also concerned about the message
that such a sale would send to the regional parties, both in terms
of perceived U.S. even-handedness and in terms of our seriousness
about persuading Baku to cease its bellicose rhetoric and agree to
Minsk Group co-chair demands that it remove its snipers from the
"line of contact" in the Nagorno-Karabakh region.

I therefore urge you to alter the proposal and prevent this military
equipment from being sold to Azerbaijan.

Sincerely, Howard L Berman Ranking Member