Pallone Says Aliyev's Willingness to Resort to Force is Reason Enough to Maintain Aid Parity
Washington, D.C. --- U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), cochairman of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, today expressed concern regarding Azeri President Ilham Aliyev's recent statements that Azerbaijan is willing to use military force to resolve the Nagorno Karabagh conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
"Such statements are unsettling and send a message to Armenia, as well as to all those involved in working toward a peaceful resolution, that Azerbaijan is prepared to undertake a military approach to addressing the conflict should recommendations by the Minsk Group not align with Azerbaijan's position," the New Jersey congressman said earlier this week during a speech on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives.
During an interview with the BBC last week, President Aliyev said that while he would continue to try to resolve the Nagorno Karabagh conflict by peaceful means, the Azeri army is able at any moment to free, what President Aliyev called, "our territory." President Aliyev also stated, "We have every right to do that, to restore our territorial integrity."
"President Aliyev's actions and statements do not signal a willingness to negotiate and in fact, I think they illustrate the opposite," Pallone said. "If there is any chance that the parties can move in the direction of a peaceful resolve, President Aliyev must show that he is willing to consider options developed by the Minsk Group without threatening military actions."
During the speech, Pallone also called on President Bush and Congress to not support a military resolution to the Nagorno Karabagh conflict and to restore military aid parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
"I strongly believe we must do everything in our power here in Congress to signal that we will not support the use of military power to address this conflict," Pallone continued in his speech on the House floor. "Amid rising tension and animosity in the region, with two new leaders in both Armenia and Azerbaijan, it is more important today than ever for the United States to be sure that no signal is sent suggesting that one side is being provided a military advantage over the other."
Pallone cited President Aliyev's statement during the BBC interview that the Azeri government's military spending has increased over the last couple of years and "will keep increasing in the future."
"At this time, the U.S. should not be providing resources to Azerbaijan that can, in any measure, be turned into military efforts against Armenia to reclaim Nagorno Karabagh," Pallone said. "President Aliyev's comment regarding current and future increases in Azerbaijan's military funding does not put me at ease that funding from the U.S., either directly or indirectly, will not be used to unleash a military campaign against the people of Nagorno Karabagh,"
Earlier this year, President Bush's budget proposal included unequal military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan. This request dismissed a unilateral policy agreement between the Congress and the Administration that there be military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, language included in the waiver states that any assistance to Azerbaijan should not be used to "undermine or hamper" the Karabakh peace process or "be used for offensive purposes against Armenia or the Armenian communities in the South Caucuses."