U.S. Congress decision could adversely affect country's reputation as mediator: experts

U.S. Congress decision could adversely affect country's reputation as mediator: experts

Azerbaijan, Baku, Dec. 17 / Trend E.Tariverdiyeva /

The decision of the U.S. Congress to provide financial assistance to the Nagorno-Karabakh in 2010, could adversely affect the country's reputation as a mediator in regional conflicts, experts believe.

"Such a decision makes it much more difficult for the U.S. to convince Azerbaijanis that it seeks to be an honest broker in resolving the Karabakh conflict," Eurasian Strategy Project Director at Georgetown University Cory Welt told Trend .

The U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate approved a bill on the general appropriations for the 2010 fiscal year, according to which assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh will be allocated to the amount of $8 million. Any restrictions on the implementation of programs in Karabakh have been removed.

The conflict between the two South Caucasus countries began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan since 1992, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and 7 surrounding districts. Azerbaijan and Armenia signed a ceasefire agreement in 1994.

The co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group - Russia, France, and the U.S. - are currently holding the peace negotiations.

Armenia has not yet implemented the U.N. General Assembly's resolutions on the liberation of the Nagorno-Karabakh region and the occupied territories.

The observers believe, the U.S. Congress decision to provide assistance to the occupied Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians could adversely affect the country's reputation as a mediator in regional conflicts.

"The U.S. is co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group. Naturally, this decision of the Congress is a step that cast doubt on the ability to adhere to a fair and neutral position on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict settlement," MP Ganira Pashayeva told Trend Dec. 15.

"Willingly or unwillingly, this assistance strengthens ethnic separatism in Nagorno-Karabakh, adversely affects the solution of the conflict. Proceeding from the disagreement of the population, Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, Presidential Administration, Parliament makes appeals to the U.S. Government," Azerbaijani Presidential Administration Public and Political Department Head Ali Hasanov told journalists.

Hasanov said that the U.S. is a country pursuing worldwide policy and its decisions can not be based on occasional proposals of the congressmen.

The Armenian lobby is responsible for the U.S. Congress deciding to provide financial aid to Nagorno-Karabakh in 2010, European expert on the South Caucasus Amanda Akcakoca said.

"However, at the same time this aid has been given for over 15 years and is clearly a result of the strong Armenian lobby in the U.S.," European Politics Center expert Amanda Akcakoca told Trend via e-mail.

There is no humanitarian crisis in Karabakh. Rather it seems this money goes toward specific NGO projects like restoring monuments, she said.

"Personally I do not support the financial assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh because it could give the impression that the U.S government is supporting an unrecognized regime," she added.

However, according to experts, the U.S Congress decision does not means that the Obama administration will change the attitude towards the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

First and foremost it should be noted that the amount of the U.S assistance provided to Armenia decreased in comparison with previous years, even though Obama's promises to the Armenian lobby on the eve of his inauguration, British Transatlantic Institute Director Ziba Norman said.

"This suggests that the Obama administration understood the political realities of the current situation, and will not blindly support only one side" Norman wrote Trend in an e-mail.

According to Welt, the administration has little power to affect Congressional decisions. However, such a decision does not change the administration's policy or approach toward the conflict.

"The U.S clearly should not provide aid to "unrecognized states," but what is new here is that the legislation allows more than just humanitarian aid to the Nagorno-Karabakh," he added.

The analyst said "if it's any consolation, many officials in the Obama administration and U.S. bureaucracy are probably also frustrated by the fact that Congressional decisions on foreign assistance can be so at odds with the aims of U.S. policy in the region."

The department head of Azerbaijani Presidential Administration regrets that some media outlets describe as anti-American campaign the protests of Azerbaijani people, Parliament, Azerbaijani community of Nagorno-Karabakh against the decision of the U.S. to provide financial assistance to the separatists of Nagorno-Karabakh.

"Azerbaijan does not conduct anti-American campaign," he said.

Hasanov said that Azerbaijan is the strategic ally of the U.S., adheres to this alliance relations and will continue this policy.

V.Zhavoronkova, E.Ostapenko and M.Aliyev contributed to the article.

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