Section 907 Maintained in 2001 Foreign Ops

* Armenia to receive $92.5 million in US aid package.

WASHINGTON–The House of Representatives Thursday approved the fiscal year 2001 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act which maintains Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–a measure restricting US assistance to Azerbaijan until that country ends its blockade of Armenia.

The Foreign Operations Act provides funding for confidence-building measures to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and also "urges the Secretary of State to move forthwith to appoint a high-level–long-term Special Negotiator to facilitate direct negotiations and any other contacts that will bring peace to the people of the South Caucasus."

Furthermore–the measure provides for $740 million in assistance for Independent States of the Former Soviet Union–$99 million less than that account received in FY 2000. Armenia’s estimated share is $92.5 million of the IS account total.

On the eve of the key vote in the House–Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Edward Porter (R-Ill.) joined with Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) in calling for increased US assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–maintaining the restrictions on US aid to Azerbaijan–and finding an equitable resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

In speaking about maintaining Section 907–Pallone said that "This law should remain in place–and the Subcommittee was right in resisting efforts to repeal or further modify this important provision – echoing the bipartisan sentiment that has been clearly expressed both here and in the Other Body (the Senate.)"

Rep. Knollenberg cited the importance of language in the bill "directing the Administration–without further delay–to release the remainder of the $20 million provided in 1998 for victims of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict." The legislation calls on the Secretary of State to report on US and bi-lateral assistance levels to Nagorno Karabakh since 1998 and to project additional sums necessary to assist displaced persons within fifteen days of enactment of the bill.

In his speech on the House floor–retiring Congressman John Edward Porter spoke forcefully in support of Congressional efforts to encourage credible confidence building measures and to promote a lasting peace in Nagorno Karabakh. Rep. Porter called attention to language in the foreign aid bill urging "Secretary of State to move forthwith to appoint a high-level–long-term Special Negotiator to facilitate direct negotiations and any other contacts that will bring peace to the people of the South Caucasus. The Secretary is further urged to remain engaged in the regional peace process."

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