WASHINGTON, DC – The U.S. Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations has approved an Armenian hard earmark of $90 million, an additional $3.75 million in military assistance to Armenia, continued aid to Nagorno Karabagh, and language calling for Turkey to at least partially lift its blockade of Armenia. These measures were all approved as part of the fiscal year 2003 foreign aid bill, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
While the $90 million in assistance is consistent with fiscal year 2002 levels, the proposed $3 million in Foreign Military Financing and $750,000 in International Military Education and Training represent a reduction from last year’s $4.3 million allocation.
The Senate panel included language encouraging a “mutually acceptable negotiated solution” of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. Significantly, the Subcommittee also encouraged Turkey to at least partially lift its blockade of Armenia by “reconsider[ing] establishing a rail link between Kars, Turkey and Gyumri, Armenia,” adding that they “believe that such action would make a positive contribution to America’s efforts to prevent and respond to international terrorism and the economic development of both Turkey and Armenia.”
In terms of Nagorno Karabagh, the panel noted its expectation that the $20 million allocated in fiscal year 1998 will be expended by the end of fiscal year 2003, and that, in this event, an additional $5 million should be “made available to address ongoing humanitarian needs in Nagorno Karabagh.”
The full Senate Appropriations committee is set to review the measure as early as tomorrow.
“We appreciate the leadership of Senators Pat Leahy, Mitch McConnell, Jack Reed and our other friends on this panel in securing a $90 million hard earmark for Armenia and in including other provisions in the foreign aid bill to further strengthen U.S.-Armenia ties and help bring peace and stability to the Caucasus region. We were especially pleased by the panel’s recognition of the harmful impact of Turkey’s blockade of Armenia on the American-led war on terrorism,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We are concerned by the proposed reduction in military aid to Armenia and remain hopeful that this figure will increase as the foreign aid bill moves through the remainder of the appropriations process.”
Over the past three months, ANCA activists from throughout the country have sent thousands of letters to key appropriators asking them to support Armenian provisions in the foreign aid bill, including: aid to Armenia, at least at last year’s level of $90 million; increased U.S. military assistance to Armenia; restored Congressional authority over Section 907; direct U.S. aid to Nagorno Karabagh, and; support for the Nagorno Karabagh peace process.
These grassroots letters highlighted Armenia’s role as “a reliable partner in the war on terrorism, a leader in the economic rebirth of the Caucasus, and an island of democracy in a strategically important region.” They also stressed that, “American support for Armenia provides critical assistance for Armenia’s political and economic reforms, and helps offset the impact of the illegal and immoral Turkish and Azerbaiajani blockades – estimated by the World Bank at up to $720 million a year.”
The ANCA, in May of this year, also forwarded to Congress a comprehensive overview of the humanitarian needs in Nagorno Karabagh prepared by the Republic of Nagorno Karabagh’s Foreign Ministry. This document underscored the need for renewed appropriations to help Nagorno Karabagh help recover from Azerbaijan’s aggression, offset the impact of the ongoing blockade, and continue to contribute to peace and stability in the strategically important Caucasus region.
The ANCA will continue to support issues of concern to Armenians Americans throughout the remainder of the House and Senate appropriations process, which will likely not be completed until after the August recess, and encourages friends of Armenia, at the appropriate time, to share their concerns on this matter with members of the joint House-Senate conference committee.
Excerpts from the FY2003 foreign aid bill dealing with U.S. assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh may be accessed below.