Pallone, Schiff, Praising Armenia’s Progress, Call for Increased Aid to Armenia and Artsakh

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House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and House Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) both offered testimony in support of expanded aid to Armenia and Artsakh.

House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and House Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) both offered testimony in support of expanded aid to Armenia and Artsakh.

WASHINGTON—With a strong focus on the new opportunities for the growth of U.S.-Armenia relations in the wake of last year’s Velvet Revolution, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and House Select Committee on Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff (D-CA) each offered testimony to the U.S. House foreign aid panel in support of expanded assistance to both Armenia and Artsakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

“We strongly support the foreign aid priorities advanced by Congressmen Schiff and Pallone and thank them both their leadership in working with key appropriators in support of a forward-leaning aid package for Artsakh and Armenia,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We look forward to continuing to engage with our friends across Capitol Hill throughout the appropriations process to support each of these priorities, and – more broadly – to leveraging U.S. aid policy in driving a strategic upgrade in U.S.-Armenia political, economic, and military relations.”

Congressman Pallone, the founding Co-Chairman of the Armenian Caucus, and Rep. Schiff, a Vice-Chairman of the bipartisan Caucus, identified the following five appropriations priorities in the Fiscal Year 2020 foreign aid bill:

  • Economic aid to Armenia – to promote sustainable growth
  • Military aid to Armenia – to support peacekeeping programs
  • “Safe haven” aid – to help Armenia settle Middle East refugees
  • Artsakh aid – for de-mining and rehabilitation services

Royce-Engel aid – to strengthen the cease-fire by deploying gunfire locators

In their testimony, both Congressman Pallone and Congressman Schiff called upon the Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations to appropriate funds to support media freedom, judicial independence, anti-corruption, and civil society programs. They also encouraged the panel to zero-out U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan “until its government ceases its attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and agrees to the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.

ANCA Government Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian will also be providing testimony on the ANCA’s FY2020 foreign aid priorities before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations on Tuesday, March 12th. Karakashian’s testimony will be streamed on the ANCA’s Facebook page at approximately 12:15pm.

The full text of both testimonies is provided below.

Testimony Of Rep. Frank Pallone
Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Rogers, Members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify. Now more than ever, American interests are at stake as we confront unprecedented instability and growing humanitarian crises around the world. Congress must invest in our national security, which includes development and diplomacy programs, alongside strong defense.

While I will extend and expand on my requests to the subcommittee, today I want to highlight two matters that I hope the subcommittee will prioritize in the FY20 bill – support for Armenia and the people of Nagorno-Karabakh; and the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the civilian arm of U.S. international media.

Nagorno Karabakh
I have always been a strong proponent of support for Armenia. I have also been unwavering in my support for the right of self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh.

The continued instances of violence against the people of Artsakh call for specific steps to defuse tension and violence along the border, and humanitarian assistance to the people of Artsakh who simply want to live free of fear and violence, and exercise their right of self-determination.

I urge the Subcommittee to:

  • Ensure that not less than $6 million in Fiscal Year 2020 aid be appropriated to Nagorno-Karabakh for de-mining efforts and other humanitarian projects.
  • Suspend U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until its government ceases its attacks against Armenia and Nagorno- Karabakh, and agrees to the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.
  • In the interest of effective U.S. oversight of our aid programs, we request that the Department of State and USAID lift any official or unofficial restrictions on U.S. travel, communication, or contacts with Artsakh government officials or civil society stakeholders.
  • Include bill language providing funding to support implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, prioritizing the placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.

Support for Armenia’s Independence and Democracy
The U.S.-Armenia relationship is founded upon a shared commitment to freedom and democratic values. Armenia provides a safe haven for refugees, participates in U.S. led peacekeeping deployments, and supports the peaceful resolution of regional disputes. Blockaded by Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenia confronts serious challenges to its security and its sovereignty. U.S. economic and military assistance plays a vital role in strengthening Armenia’s independence. Military aid enables Armenia’s membership in NATO’s Partnerships for Peace and supports Armenia’s participation in peacekeeping operations.

The peaceful transition of government in 2018 and successful democratic elections provide an opportunity for the United States to support meaningful long-term governance reforms as an adjunct to our commitment to Armenia’s aid-to-trade transition. Increased funding for technical assistance on governance-related priorities, including rule of law reforms, anti-corruption initiatives, support for civil society and independent journalism should be prioritized. I urge encouraging the Administration to maximize the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meetings and to strategically broaden the U.S.-Armenia Economic Task Force to include support for governance reforms. I also support movement on a modern Double Tax Treaty, Social Security Totalization Agreement, debt-for-reforestation swaps, and non-stop U.S. to Armenia commercial flights, all of which would be to the benefit of both Armenia and the United States.

I urge the Subcommittee to support Armenia by:

  • Ensure not less than $30,000,000 be made available for governance and rule of law assistance to Armenia.
  • Ensure not less than $20,000,000 be made available for economic assistance to Armenia.
  • Support FMF aid for projects that develop Armenia’s capability to undertake peacekeeping missions.
  • Increase IMET funding to expand U.S. training opportunities for Armenian officers.
  • Suspend U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until its government ceases its attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, ends its threat of renewed war, and agrees to the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.

Regional Safe Haven for Middle East Refugees
Over 25,000 individuals from Syria have sought safety in Armenia, which, despite being a small country, has received only modest levels of U.S. and international relief and resettlement assistance to accommodate this influx of refugees. Armenia has demonstrated its willingness to play a larger role as a regional safe haven for those fleeing persecution and death in the Middle East, but lacks the financial resources to offer the transition assistance needed by families fleeing violence.

I request the Subcommittee:

  • Include language recognizing Armenia’s efforts to serve as a regional safe haven for Christians and other at-risk populations fleeing violence in the Middle East, and supporting these efforts through aid and international organizations.
  • Provide funding to help Armenia provide transition support to refugees from Syria and throughout the Middle East who have found safe haven in Armenia.

Thank you for providing me the opportunity to testify before your Subcommittee. As co-chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, I believe the Fiscal Year 2020 House budget should reflect an unwavering commitment to democracy building and trade relations with the Republic of Armenia and to promoting peace in the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh).

In the last year, we have seen an incredible grassroots movement take hold in Armenia. The Armenian people have proved their commitment to democracy, anti-corruption measures, and rule of law during the nonviolent “Velvet Revolution” starting in April 2018. That revolution culminated this past December with one of the freest, fairest and most open national elections in the country’s history. The elections led to the elevation of the movement’s leader, Nikol Pashinyan, to Prime Minister and to the election of one of the youngest and most reform-minded legislatures Armenia has ever had.

Armenia’s newly-elected government has indicated its intentions to bolster civil society and democratic institutions. The United States Congress can aid this process by ensuring targeted assistance is given during this exciting transition. This is especially true with concern to the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, which has been generous in its support of Armenian and Artsakh in previous Congresses. We are in a critical moment in which a meaningful increase in FY20 technical assistance to Armenia on important priorities – including for media freedom, judicial independence, anti-c01Tuption, and civil society purposes – will likely have an exponential positive impact on the country’s budding democratic institutions. I ask that the Subcommittee appropriate the specific funds it deems necessary to the Department of State’s Office of the Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Eurnpe and Eurasia and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia for these pmposes.

As Armenia is an important safe haven for refugees and a strategic American partner, aid from the U.S. has also provided critical support for peacekeeping deployments and NATO interoperability in the region. The FY20 appropriations bill should include $30 million in economic aid and $10 million in military aid for Armenia, including funds for the Foreign Military Financing program and the International Military Education and Training program. I ask that Armenia also receive at least $20 million to help the country provide transition support to refugees from Syria and throughout the Middle East who have found safe haven there.

The Subcommittee’s tradition of generosity towards Artsakh also includes aid that has helped to provide maternal health care, support a multi-year HALO Trust land mine and unexploded ordnance clearance efforts, rehabilitation centers, and funds for badly needed water systems in Nagorno Karabakh. The FY20 appropriations bill should include $6 million to strengthen these critical programs and complete the work of HALO Trust in that area.

Additionally, intimidation and violence against the Armenian people continues today, in part because of continued U.S. military assistance to the Azerbaijani government. While much of the violence we saw in the spring of2016 has subsided, Azerbaijan continues to launch cross-border attacks into Artsakh and Armenia. Rather than• agreeing to a peaceful resolution of the conflict, President Aliyev of Azerbaijan has continued to offer threats of a renewed war between the two countries. The U.S. should suspend military aid to Azerbaijan until its government ceases its attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and agrees to the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.

For this reason, this year’s bill should also continue to invest in peace by providing the OSCE Minsk Group with $4 million, allowing for the placement of advanced gunfire locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.

Taking these steps will continue to build on the U.S.-Armenia strategic relationship and help to grow the seeds of pro-democratic and civil society institutions in Armenia. I urge the Subcommittee to invest in peace and assist Armenia at this exciting time of continued development.

Testimony of Rep. Adam Schiff
Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Rogers, Members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to testify. Now more than ever, American interests are at stake as we confront unprecedented instability and growing humanitarian crises around the world. Congress must invest in our national security, which includes development and diplomacy programs, alongside strong defense.

While I will extend and expand on my requests to the subcommittee, today I want to highlight two matters that I hope the subcommittee will prioritize in the FY20 bill – support for Armenia and the people of Nagorno-Karabakh; and the U.S. Agency for Global Media (USAGM) formerly known as the Broadcasting Board of Governors, the civilian arm of U.S. international media.

Nagorno Karabakh
I have always been a strong proponent of support for Armenia. I have also been unwavering in my support for the right of self-determination of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh or Artsakh.

The continued instances of violence against the people of Artsakh call for specific steps to defuse tension and violence along the border, and humanitarian assistance to the people of Artsakh who simply want to live free of fear and violence, and exercise their right of self-determination.

I urge the Subcommittee to:

  • Ensure that not less than $6 million in Fiscal Year 2020 aid be appropriated to Nagorno-Karabakh for de-mining efforts and other humanitarian projects.
  • Suspend U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until its government ceases its attacks against Armenia and Nagorno- Karabakh, and agrees to the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.
  • In the interest of effective U.S. oversight of our aid programs, we request that the Department of State and USAID lift any official or unofficial restrictions on U.S. travel, communication, or contacts with Artsakh government officials or civil society stakeholders.
  • Include bill language providing funding to support implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, prioritizing the placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.

Support for Armenia’s Independence and Democracy
The U.S.-Armenia relationship is founded upon a shared commitment to freedom and democratic values. Armenia provides a safe haven for refugees, participates in U.S. led peacekeeping deployments, and supports the peaceful resolution of regional disputes. Blockaded by Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenia confronts serious challenges to its security and its sovereignty. U.S. economic and military assistance plays a vital role in strengthening Armenia’s independence. Military aid enables Armenia’s membership in NATO’s Partnerships for Peace and supports Armenia’s participation in peacekeeping operations.

The peaceful transition of government in 2018 and successful democratic elections provide an opportunity for the United States to support meaningful long-term governance reforms as an adjunct to our commitment to Armenia’s aid-to-trade transition. Increased funding for technical assistance on governance-related priorities, including rule of law reforms, anti-corruption initiatives, support for civil society and independent journalism should be prioritized. I urge encouraging the Administration to maximize the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) Council meetings and to strategically broaden the U.S.-Armenia Economic Task Force to include support for governance reforms. I also support movement on a modern Double Tax Treaty, Social Security Totalization Agreement, debt-for-reforestation swaps, and non-stop U.S. to Armenia commercial flights, all of which would be to the benefit of both Armenia and the United States.

I urge the Subcommittee to support Armenia by:

  • Ensure not less than $30,000,000 be made available for governance and rule of law assistance to Armenia.
  • Ensure not less than $20,000,000 be made available for economic assistance to Armenia.
  • Support FMF aid for projects that develop Armenia’s capability to undertake peacekeeping missions.
  • Increase IMET funding to expand U.S. training opportunities for Armenian officers.
  • Suspend U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until its government ceases its attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, ends its threat of renewed war, and agrees to the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.

Regional Safe Haven for Middle East Refugees
Over 25,000 individuals from Syria have sought safety in Armenia, which, despite being a small country, has received only modest levels of U.S. and international relief and resettlement assistance to accommodate this influx of refugees. Armenia has demonstrated its willingness to play a larger role as a regional safe haven for those fleeing persecution and death in the Middle East, but lacks the financial resources to offer the transition assistance needed by families fleeing violence.

I request the Subcommittee:

  • Include language recognizing Armenia’s efforts to serve as a regional safe haven for Christians and other at-risk populations fleeing violence in the Middle East, and supporting these efforts through aid and international organizations.
  • Provide funding to help Armenia provide transition support to refugees from Syria and throughout the Middle East who have found safe haven in Armenia.
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