Members of Congress Request Assistance for Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh
Armenian Assembly-backed Letter Spearheaded by Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL)
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, 33 Members of Congress sent a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) in support of continued U.S. assistance in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget for the Republics of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia, and at-risk minorities in the Middle East, reports the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). “Continued U.S. support in the region is critically important,” the letter read.
Members of Congress requested at least $5 million for humanitarian and development programs in Nagorno Karabakh, appropriating no less than $40 million in overall economic aid (including Economic Support Fund, International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, and Global Health Programs) for Armenia, suspending all military aid to Azerbaijan, allocating at least 10 percent of aid given to Georgia towards funding sustainable job-creation programs in Samtskhe-Javakheti, enhancing Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and reinstating Karabakh in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group peace process as a full negotiating partner.
“The Assembly applauds the initiative supported by over 30 Members of Congress and their efforts to ensure the well-being of Armenia and Artsakh. I look forward to working with Congressional leaders to promote the important issues outlined in the letter,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said. “We live in a dangerous time, as ISIS commits genocide against Christians and other minorities, millions of people have become displaced by violence and civil war, and Azerbaijan threatens a new war in the South Caucasus with its repeated cease-fire violations. With the proposed changes to the FY 2017 Appropriations Budget, the Administration has the opportunity to help resolve some of these critical concerns.”
The letter calls for a stronger U.S. stance regarding Azerbaijan’s increasing number of hostile acts against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Earlier this month, the Obama Administration released its budget for the upcoming year, maintaining a military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan at $1 million for Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and $600,000 for International Military Education and Training (IMET), a decrease from the previous year. The letter recommends a suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan “until its government ceases cross-border attacks, ends its threat of renewed war, and agrees to a settlement of regional conflicts through peaceful means.” Members of Congress are also requesting supplemental language to strengthen Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.
U.S. priority focuses on a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, yet the letter points out that Karabakh government officials have been excluded from the peace process since 1998. “Nagorno Karabakh should, in the interests of peace and basic fairness, be permitted to fully participate in all talks regarding its future. The best and most sustainable path to peace requires direct engagement with the people and government of Nagorno Karabakh, whose fate and future are the subject of ongoing talks and whose security will rest on the outcome of these negotiations,” the letter reads.
Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that the crimes committed by ISIS constitute genocide against Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities, including Armenians. Armenia does not have adequate resources to continue helping refugees escaping from genocide. The Administration’s proposed budget allocated nearly $3 billion for migration and refugee assistance, some of which could go towards Armenia’s resettlement efforts. Armenia accepted the third largest amount of refugees in Europe, sheltering nearly 20,000 displaced Syrians. Armenia hosts six Syrian refugees per 1,000 nationals – a ratio much higher than many European countries or the U.S., especially noteworthy given the country’s economic circumstance, reports the Armenian Agenda.
“As a host country, Armenia has been absolutely exemplary in terms of the ratio of welcomed Syrian-Armenian refugees to the number of native inhabitants,” said United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in Armenia Christoph Bierwirth.
The letter suggests allocating international and U.S. aid to Armenia and “supporting the efforts to regional states to resettle those fleeing from Syria.” The Appropriations Subcommittee suggests to putting in place “policies and programs to close gaps in the distribution of need-based aid to at-risk minority populations in Syria, including Armenians.”
The letter supporting increased assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh for FY 2017 was signed by Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ); Robert Dold (R-IL); Gus Bilirakis (R-FL); Tony Cأ،rdenas (D-CA); David Cicilline (D-RI); Judy Chu (D-CA); Katherine Clark (D-MA); Mike Coffman (R-CO); Jim Costa (D-CA); Joseph Crowley (D-NY); Anna Eshoo (D-CA); Chaka Fattah (D-PA); James Langevin (D-RI); Barbara Lee (D-CA); Daniel Lipinski (D-IL); Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Stephen Lynch (D-MA); Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); James McGovern (D-MA); Grace Napolitano (D-CA); Collin Peterson (D-MN); Jared Polis (D-CO); Mike Quigley (D-IL); Charles Rangel (D-NY); Linda Sanchez (D-CA); Loretta Sanchez (D-CA); John Sarbanes (D-MD); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Adam Schiff (D-CA); Brad Sherman (D-CA); Jackie Speier (D-CA); Dina Titus (D-NV); and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501©(3) tax-exempt membership organization.
Click here to read the letter sent to the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY).
Photo Caption: Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ)