Foreign Aid Panel Approves $95 Million for Armenia

*Rejects Senate action to allow OPIC and EXIM financing for Azerbaijan WASHINGTON–A key House foreign aid panel Thursday approved a $95 million soft earmark for Armenia–opened the door to direct US aid to Nagorno-Karabakh–and rejected a Senate bid–strongly backed by Azeri oil interests–to allow Overseas Private Investment Corporation and Export-Import Bank loan guarantees for US firms operating in Azerbaijan–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations–although traditionally against setting country-specific aid levels–adopted a $95 million soft earmark for Armenia–essentially keeping US assistance to Armenia at current levels.

According to Congressional sources–the panel also adopted language authorizing US assistance to meet humanitarian needs throughout the Caucasus–including Nagorno-Karabakh. This measure–if adopted–will clearly mandate that US humanitarian programs in the Caucasus should be extended to the people of Nagorno-Karabakh. At present–Nagorno-Karabakh remains the only population in the Caucasus which does not receive US relief assistance.

The panel adopted language which would allow US assistance to be provided for democracy and government building in Azerbaijan–while sharply rejecting a measure adopted by the Senate last week which would allow OPIC and EXIM bank loan guarantees for US firms operating in Azerbaijan.

The House Subcommittee version of the bill specifically prohibits the Senate’s OPIC and EXIM exemption–which had been authored by Senators Robert Byrd (D-WV) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.). The panel also voted to cut US aid to Turkey–calling for $20 million in Economic Support Fund aid to Turkey and an additional $20 million to non-governmental organizations in Turkey promoting democracy and human rights.

"First and foremost–we would like to thank our friends on the panel–including–among other Reps. Pelosi–Knollenberg–Lowey–Porter–and Torres–for their principled support for an equitable peace settlement–lasting stability–and sustainable development throughout the Caucasus," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA.

"We deeply appreciate their commitment to helping Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh overcome the devastating impact of Turkish and Azeri blockades–as well as their refusal to reward either of these two states for standing in the way of progress toward peace," he added.

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