Congress Gives Final Approval for Aid to Karabakh

WASHINGTON–The House of Representatives voted 333 to 76 Wednesday to join with the Senate in giving final Congressional approval for a $12.8 billion foreign aid bill which includes an unprecedented $12.5 million earmark for Nagorno-Karabakh–$87.5 million in assistance for Armenia–and maintained the ban on US aid to Azerbaijan in the face on intense attacks from Azerbaijan and its allies in the oil industry–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

The measure now goes to the President who is expected to sign it into law. During discussion on the House floor prior to the vote–Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.)–the Chairman of the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations–was joined by the Subcommittee’s Ranking Democrat Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.)–New Jersey Democrat Frank Pallone–and Michigan Republican Joe Knollenberg in stressing the significance of the $12.5 million allocation for Nagorno-Karabakh.

"The conference report provides – and I think most importantly – to include a recommendation for $12.5 million in aid to meet the pressing needs of the people in Nagorno-Karabakh," stated Rep. Knollenberg.

"I commend the managers [Reps. Callahan and Pelosi] for recognizing the tremendous humanitarian aid that is needed in Nagorno-Karabakh and look forward to working with the body and the Administration to ensure that vital funding is delivered promptly and in accordance with Congressional intent," he added.

Congressman Pallone noted that–"earlier this year–[he] became the first member of Congress to address the Parliament of Nagorno-Karabakh and expressed regret that the US had disengaged itself from the courageous people of Karabakh. But this legislation provides a welcome change."

The final bill allocates $250 million to South Caucasus states including $92.5 million for Georgia–$87.5 million for Armenia–$12.5 million for Nagorno-Karabakh and $5 million for Abkhazia. Members of Congress resisted pressure to weaken the ban on aid to Azerbaijan–but did take a step toward satisfying the interests of the oil lobby by adopting non-binding report language which states that Congress does not view Section 907 as prohibiting certain types of economic aid to Azerbaijan.

Among these are the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade Development Agency.

Congressman Pallone expressed specific concerns about the efforts of the State Department–the Azeri government–and oil industry lobbyists to repeal section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. He stated that–"the ban on direct aid to Azerbaijan – Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act – is an important law passed to encourage Azerbaijan to lift its blockades of Armenia and Karabakh. Azerbaijan has not complied with the basic conditions of Section 907–lifting the blockades–so the sanctions should not be relaxed.

"While I regret the exemption to Section 907 that has been carved out–I appreciate the fact that the conferees resisted the strong pressure to repeal Section 907 outright."

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