House Maintains Section 907; Allocated $80 Million to Armenia

WASHINGTON–In a vote of 333 to 95–the House of Representatives Tuesday passed the 1999 Omnibus Appropriations Bill–which includes an $80 million earmark for Armenia and maintains–with minor revisions–Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–which places restrictions on US assistance to Azerbaijan–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Though the House leadership has yet to release the actual text of the 1999 spending bill–House and Senate sources confirm that $801 million has been allocated to the Newly Independent States–with $195 million set aside for the Ukraine–$80 million to Armenia and $85 million to Georgia.

Spending levels for the NIS for each of these countries have dropped from 1998 levels. Regarding Section 907–a Senate Appropriations Committee press release states that the fiscal year (FY) 1999 bill includes "similar trade/export exemptions to Section 907 as FY 1998."

These exemptions would allow the Overseas Private Investment Corporation and the Trade Development Agency to continue operating in Azerbaijan. The specific language of the bill will be made available as early as tomorrow.

"The final approval of the foreign aid bill by the House represents a victory for the Armenian American community’s efforts to strengthen Armenia’s ties with the United States–support Armenia’s economic growth–ensure Nagorno Karabakh security–and to help bring about a durable settlement and lasting stability in the Caucasus," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

"We do–however–remain troubled by the reduction in the level of aid to Armenia–the lack of a separate earmark for Nagorno Karabakh–and the removal of language calling for direct talks between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan," he added.

"Through the long Congressional battles leading up to today’s vote– the Armenian American community prevailed over short-sighted policies advanced by an array of powerful interests–Iranging from the State Department and the House Republican leadership to the Azeri Embassy and its allies in the oil industry.

Bipartisan majorities in both houses of Congress resisted intense pressure from these forces to repeal Section 907.

As a result of this principled stand–the Congress is sending Azerbaijan the clear message that it must engage seriously in the peace process by reciprocating the flexibility that Armenia and Karabakh have already demonstrated at the peace table," he added.

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