WASHINGTON, DC – A key U.S. House panel responsible for foreign aid spending voted today to approve $40 million in economic aid to Armenia, honoring Pres. Obama’s budget request for the 2012 fiscal year, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Capitol Hill sources close to this process report that the Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, which is led by Rep. Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY), maintained military assistance parity to Armenia and Azerbaijan, but did not outline specific allocation amounts. The panel reportedly did not include specific recommendations for U.S. assistance levels to Nagorno Karabakh, although it did express support for a negotiated settlement to the conflict. The version approved by the subcommittee also includes a provision “that funds made available for the Southern Caucasus region may be used for confidence-building measures and other activities in furtherance of the peaceful resolution of conflicts, including in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“Although today’s aid level for Armenia falls short of the $60 million requested in the bipartisan Congressional letter circulated earlier this year, we are aware of the serious financial pressures upon legislators of both parties and want to share our appreciation for the leadership of Chairwoman Granger, Ranking Member Lowey, Congressmen Schiff, Rothman, Wolf, and all our other friends on the subcommittee for maintaining the assistance level for Armenia in the face of deep spending cuts across the foreign aid bill,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We look forward, as this spending measure moves through the legislative process, to supporting the efforts of legislators from both houses of Congress to shape a final foreign aid bill that recognizes and reflects the benefits of increasing aid to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, zeroing-out U.S. aid to Azerbaijan, and incorporating our other foreign aid priorities.”
“I am pleased that Armenia will receive economic assistance and that the committee again expressed its support for a negotiated solution that avoids a return to bloodshed in Nagorno Karabagh,” explained House Foreign Operations Subcommittee Member Adam Schiff (D-CA). “After more than two decades of struggle, the people of Karabakh still live under the constant threat of Azerbaijani actions, which continue to play a role in regional instability and episodic violence. I am pleased that the report includes language calling for a lessening of threats and provocations, but I would still like to see us end the practice of furnishing security assistance to Azerbaijan and intend to urge the elimination of military aid to Baku when this bill is taken up by the full Appropriations Committee. I would also like to see the State Department utilize the full resources the Congress appropriates to assist the people of Karabakh.”
In a May 20th letter to Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Democrat Lowey, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) was joined by 28 of his House colleagues in urging the foreign aid panel to include the following provisions in the FY2012 Foreign Aid bill:
— At least $60 million in economic support funds for Armenia.
— At least $10 million in development aid to Nagorno Karabakh.
— The strengthening of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act and maintaining military aid parity to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
— The removal of barriers to U.S.-Nagorno Karabakh contacts and communications.
— Support for the reinstatement of Nagorno Karabakh in the OSCE Minsk Group peace process.
— At least $10 million in military aid to Armenia.
This Congressional Armenian Caucus budget request is consistent with the priorities outlined by ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian in testimony submitted to the foreign aid subcommittee earlier this year.
The House Foreign Aid Bill will next be considered by the full House Appropriations Committee, before consideration by the full House. The Senate’s version of the foreign aid bill has yet to be presented for consideration.