Sen. Robert Menendez

Senate Foreign Relations Chair Menendez Asks for Increased Oversight in Wake of US Assistance to Azerbaijan

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WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Bob Menendez (D-N.J.), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, on March 2 released a statement following the Government Accountability Office’s (GAO) publication of a new report that found that the State Department failed to comply with reporting requirements for reviewing U.S. assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan.

Menendez requested the report in June 2020 to review U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan and specifically whether any assistance had been used for offensive purposes against Armenia or Nagorno-Karabakh. For years, the U.S. has continued to make exceptions to bypass a 1992 law banning most U.S. military assistance to the Government of Azerbaijan. Using a waiver under Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, the exemption requires the State Department to certify the purposes of the assistance and report on the impact of that assistance to Congress.

The new GAO report found that over several years, the Department of State and Department of Defense failed to meet statutory reporting requirements to Congress on the impact of U.S. assistance on the military balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

“The human consequences of the terrible war in Nagorno-Karabakh underscore the deep concerns that I have long had about providing U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan,” Chairman Menendez said. “This report finds that, for several years, the State Department consistently failed to provide sufficient details about the quantity of assistance to Azerbaijan, the status of the military balance, and the impact of the assistance on peace negotiations. These findings are further proof that the status quo is unacceptable, and we must exercise additional scrutiny over the U.S. government’s ongoing provision of assistance to Azerbaijan. In the coming weeks, I will be renewing my efforts for the State Department to reconsider any future planned assistance to Azerbaijan, respect Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and improve its reporting to Congress in the future.”

Three months after Senator Menendez requested the report, Azerbaijan launched an egregious attack on Nagorno-Karabakh that led to the deaths of 6,500 people. Today, Armenians continue to grapple with the human costs of that war on a daily basis. Baku continues to hold scores of Armenian prisoners of war in their jails—an open wound for their families who are unsure of their relatives’ fate or condition. The war has uprooted nearly 100,000 ethnic Armenians who lost their homes and livelihoods.

Specifically, the GAO found that:

  • State’s reporting to Congress from FY 2014-FY 2021 did not address required elements, including the impact on proposed assistance on the military balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  • State’s Memorandums of Justification contained limited or no details regarding quantity of assistance, status of the military balance between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the impact of U.S. assistance on the military balance, or the impact of the assistance on peace negotiations.
  • State’s 2021 guidance did not provide detailed instructions to agencies about reporting requirements to Congress.
  • State and DOD did not document their consideration of waiver requirements from FY 2014-FY 2020, including how they determined assistance would not be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.

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