US Armenian Officials Discuss Distribution of Aid

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–US and Armenian officials Tuesday worked out details of a winter relief program as part of Washington’s $135 million aid package for Armenia in 1998-99.

Under an agreement signed in Yerevan between the Armenian government and the US Agency for International Development–some 1200 schools and poor families that live in the country’s north hit by the 1988 devastating earthquake will be provided with heating fuel for the forthcoming winter.

The agreement spells out the procedure for distributing 7500 tons of kerosene worth $3 million.

US humanitarian aid–mostly food and fuel–has been crucial for many Armenia’s coping with the enormous hardships of the post-independence years caused by the war in Nagorno-Karabakh and collapse of the common economy.

While the overall amount of annual American aid has remained virtually unchanged–relief operations have been consistently scaled down since 1997–reflecting Yerevan’s growing emphasis on development programs.

Officials said that humanitarian aid will make up only 29 percent of the US package for 1998-99.

The trend was stressed and welcomed on Tuesday by the Armenian deputy finance minister–Ara Aslikian–and US Ambassador Michael Lemmon–who were among the signatories of the agreement.

Lemmon told reporters that Washington’s main priority is to foster creation of new jobs in Armenia.

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