WASHINGTON—The U.S. Export-Import Bank on April 27 voted to approve a controversial deal to finance Azerbaijan’s purchase of an advanced satellite just weeks after Azerbaijan threatened to shoot down a civilian airliner. The decision came despite serious Congressional reservations and strong opposition by the Armenian American community to U.S. actions that would strengthen Azerbaijan’s military capabilities at a time of increasing threats and acts of aggression by Baku against both Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We are troubled that the Export-Import Bank chose to move forward with this ill-advised deal,” said Aram Hamparian, the executive director of the ANCA. “The Obama Administration’s business-as-usual approach with [Azerbaijani President] Ilham Aliyev, who has been seriously preparing for war, undermines America’s long-term interests in stability in this region. We should not, in any way, use American resources to reward warmongering or add to the capabilities of a dictator, who is openly threatening to use every asset at his disposal to renew his country’s aggression,” he added.
“The bank’s written assurance to us, in the form of a letter from its President Fred P. Hochberg, that the satellite ‘lack[s] military capabilities’ and that it has taken ‘appropriate safeguards’ to keep this satellite out of the hands of ‘military entities,’ falls short of the level of transparency that should be required of a highly sensitive deal of this nature. We continue to call upon the administration to fully disclose this contract, and to publicly reveal the terms of any and all obligations entered into by either the U.S. or Azerbaijani governments regarding this transaction,” he continued.
The Export-Import Bank approval of this satellite deal follows a long string of broken promises by the Obama Administration on issues related to Armenia and the region.
Over the past three months, the ANCA has conveyed the Armenian American community’s serious legal, technical, and political opposition to this transaction in a series of letters and meetings with senior officials of the Export-Import Bank and the State Department. The firm selling this satellite, known as Azerspace/Africasat-1A, is Orbital Sciences Corporation of Dulles, Va. It is being purchased by the Ministry of Communications and Information Technologies of Azerbaijan in Baku, Azerbaijan.
The application for Ex-Im financing was made by BNP-Parabis of New York City, and the loan is being guaranteed by Azerbaijan’s Ministry of Finance.