WASHINGTON, DC – Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, today filed an amendment that would block the transfer of U.S. defense articles that strengthen Azerbaijan’s offensive airstrike capabilities, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). The initiative aims to limit Baku’s ability to act upon its standing threat to shoot down civilian aircraft operating out of Artsakh’s Stepanakert Airport.
“This amendment will send a strong message to Azerbaijan that it cannot threaten to shoot down civilian aircraft. Azerbaijan must not be allowed to intimidate its neighbors. The last thing we should do is help strengthen Azerbaijan’s air defenses in any way,” stated Rep. Sherman, upon filing the amendment.
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian concurred, noting: “This common-sense amendment is needed to signal Azerbaijan that the United States stands unconditionally against any and all threats to destroy civilian aircraft. No U.S. taxpayer-funded defense articles should ever be deployed by a nation that is on record threatening to use its offensive air capabilities to kill innocent passengers.”
In March of 2011, Arif Mamadov, the Director of Azerbaijan’s Civil Aviation Administration, reported that the Azerbaijani government had warned the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that it had not authorized flights to Nagorno Karabakh, explaining that “The law on aviation envisages the physical destruction of airplanes landing in that territory.” The Azerbaijani government has neither withdrawn this threat, nor agreed that its forces will not shoot down civilian aircraft. As a result, the civilian airport in Stepanakert has remained closed for the past eight years, depriving the citizens of Artsakh and others of their universally recognized right to travel.
The text of the Sherman Amendment states that “none of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or otherwise made available to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2020 may be used to transfer defense articles or services that improve Azerbaijan’s offensive air capabilities or air defense systems, which could threaten civil aviation in the Caucasus region.”
The U.S. House Rules Committee is set to meet during the week of July 8, following the Independence Day recess, to consider whether this amendment and hundreds of others offered to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) will be ruled in order and allowed to come to an up-or-down vote of the full House of Representatives.