Washington, 24 July 1997 (RFE/RL) - A senior U.S. Congressman says it may be time for the U.S. to end its ban on direct economic aid to Azerbaijan.
Congressman Lee Hamilton, (D-Indiana), says the ban hinders U.S. diplomacy in the region and will help neither Azerbaijan nor Armenia in the long run.
Hamilton is the ranking Democrat on the House of Representatives International Relations Committee. He supported the aid ban when Congress approved it five years ago because of Azerbaijan's economic blockade of Armenia. However, in a commentary published yesterday in the "Christian Science Monitor" newspaper, Hamilton says it is time for Congress to reconsider.
Hamilton says the U.S. has many important interests in the region. He says these interests are not limited to the development of oil fields, but also include the goal of a settlement to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the ethnic Armenian enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in Azerbaijan. Hamilton says the ban on aid to Azerbaijan limits U.S. influence.