House Appropriations Committee Maintains Section 907

WASHINGTON–The House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year 1998 Foreign Operations Bill–July 9.

Unlike the Byrd-Leahy amended Senate version of the bill–the House bill retains the prohibition on US aid to Azerbaijan through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation–the Export Import Bank of the US–and the Trade and Development Agency. Assistance to refugees–displaced persons and needy civilians in conflictive zones throughout the Trans-Caucasus–including Nagorno-Karabakh–is also provided by the bill.

Additionally–the House Appropriations Committee provided a one-year limited waiver on funding restrictions for democracy and governance programs in Azerbaijan.

In language attached to the bill–the Committee advised the president to "not utilize waivers of Section 907 and the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act except in support of negotiations for a lasting settlement of conflicts between Armenia and its neighbors–and only after full consultation with Congress."

It was also requested that future justification of such waivers include reports of the dollar cost resulting from the blockade of US humanitarian assistance.

In other actions–the Committee approved $625 million for the Newly Independent States–$40 million in economic support funds for Turkey with $20 million of the total reserved for democracy and governance programs–and joined the Senate in withholding 50 percent of aid to Ukraine pending progress on resolving issues that hinder US businesses in that country.

The level of funding for the NIS in the House bill is far below the $800 million approved by the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Assembly will continue to support the level recommended by the Senate.

During the mark-up–Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)–the ranking Democrat on the subcommittee–indicated that US policy toward Turkey–Armenia and Azerbaijan in the bill was a "compromise that has been worked out on a bipartisan basis."

House floor action on the Foreign Operations bill is likely to occur prior to the August Congressional recess.

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