House Urges Albright to Step Up Karabakh Peace Effort

WASHINGTON–In a report adopted in conjunction with the House Foreign Aid bill last week–Members of the House of Representatives urged Secretary of State Madeleine Albright to step up US efforts to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and called for a review of the needs of those displaced during the conflict–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

Specifically–House Report # 106-720 expressed concern that "the important Office of Special Negotiator for Nagorno-Karabakh and NIS Regional Conflicts within the US State Department has often lacked timely support from the Department of State." As such–the House has recommended that Secretary Albright 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 report further called on Secretary Albright to release the remainder of the $20 million obligated to victims of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in 1998 and provide a written report about the needs of displaced persons in the region within 15 days of the enactment of the bill.

The House passed H.R. 4811–the fiscal year 2001 foreign aid bill–last week–allocating $740 million to for the Independent States of the former Soviet Union (IS). The legislation stipulates that a minimum of 12.5% of that sum – roughly $92.5 million – be earmarked for Armenia. The bill also maintained restrictions on US aid to Azerbaijan–first adopted as Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–John Edward Porter (R-Ill.) and Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) each spoke in support of provisions dealing with Armenia in debate leading up to the passage of the legislation.

Portions of House Report # 106-720 accompanying the foreign aid bill follow.

Southern Caucasus Region: Armenia–Azerbaijan–And Georgia And Victims Of The Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict

Again this year–the Committee designates as a high priority US assistance to the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–both those residing in and displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh. With regard to the former–the Committee directs–without further delay–that the remainder of the $20,000,000 in humanitarian assistance initially provided in the fiscal year 1998 Act be released for obligation. With regard to the latter–the Committee requests the Secretary of State to report in writing to the Committee within 15 days of the enactment of this bill on the amounts of assistance provided by the United States–other bilateral donors–and international organizations to such displaced persons in 1998 and 1999–the estimates for 2000–and the projections for 2001–the gap between requiremen’s and projected donor totals in 2001–and measures taken by the United States to meet its share of any projected gap in 2001 between requiremen’s and projected resources for such displaced persons.

Support Of Peaceful Resolution Of South Caucasus Conflicts

The Committee reiterates themes included in its last three reports: The extent and timing of United States and multilateral assistance–other than humanitarian assistance–to the government of any country in the Caucasus region should be proportional to its willingness to cooperate with the Minsk Group and other efforts to resolve regional conflicts.

In furtherance of a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict–and in support of the confidence building measures discussed at NATO and OSCE summits–the Committee strongly supports confidence-building measures among the parties to the conflict. Such measures could include strengthening compliance with the cease-fire–studying post-conflict regional development such as water management–transportation routes and infrastructure–establishing a youth exchange program and other collaborative and humanitarian initiatives to foster greater understanding among the parties and reduce hostilities.

The Committee remains concerned that the important Office of Special Negotiator for Nagorno-Karabakh and NIS Regional Conflicts within the US State Department has often lacked timely support from the Department of State. Given the lack of progress in settling the conflicts in Nagorno-Karabakh and Abkhazia–the Committee again 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. The Secretary is further urged to remain engaged in the regional peace process.

The Committee has been apprised that on May 18–2000–the Minsk Group convened a meeting of 19 international organizations to assess their ability to respond effectively and efficiently to a peace settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan. This “reference group” agreed that–if peace could be achieved–hundreds of millions of dollars would become available for reconstruction and resettlement. The reference group is preparing to send a needs assessment team to the region to develop an accurate technical analysis of the funding requiremen’s in the event of a peace settlement.

The Committee has included renewed authority for the President to provide humanitarian assistance to the region–notwithstanding the restrictions of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act. The bill language is unchanged from last year. This exemption allows for direct assistance by American NGOs to refugees and displaced persons throughout the region–including those in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Committee understands that humanitarian assistance may include a broad range of activities and partnerships with United States hospitals and universities in maternal and children’s health–eldercare–basic education and environmental health. The Committee also reiterates the statement contained in prior year reports on this bill that its actions regarding Armenia and Azerbaijan are not meant to express a view on the political status of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenia

The Committee recommen’s continuation of current law providing that not less than a fixed percentage of the funds appropriated under this heading is allocated for Armenia. For 2001–the percentage is 12.5 or one-eighth. The Committee intends that a significant part of the assistance for Armenia continue to support small enterprises and housing in the 1988 earthquake zone. The Committee is aware of the work of the Armenian Technology Group in assisting the Armenian private sector in a seed multiplication program. The Committee supports the expansion of these efforts in additional countries in the Central Asia region.

Georgia

The Committee recommen’s continuation of current law providing that not less than a fixed percentage of the funds appropriated under this heading is allocated for Georgia. For 2001–the percentage is 12.5 or one-eighth. The Committee intends that that a significant part of the assistance for Georgia continue to be provided for technical security assistance for border and export control.

Azerbaijan

The Committee recommen’s renewing the current one-year waiver of section 907 for activities in support of democracy in Azerbaijan and for activities in support of American business in Azerbaijan by the Trade and Development Agency–the Export-Import Bank–OPIC–and the US Foreign Commercial and Agricultural Services. It also includes humanitarian assistance in the waiver.

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