ANCA Testifies Before Congressional Foreign Aid Committee

WASHINGTON–DC–In testimony presented on March 28 before a key Congressional committee–the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) called for continued assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–the defense of Section 907–and a halt to controversial U.S. arms sales to the Turkish military.

The ANCA’s testimony was presented by ANC New York Chapter activist Aram A. Sarafian during an appearance in the U.S. Capitol before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations. Sarafian is an intellectual property lawyer with the New York firm of Kenyon & Kenyon. A Duke University Law School graduate–Sarafian serves as a major in the U.S. Army National Guard. He has served with the Army in Belgium–the Netherlands–Germany–and–most recently–on active duty in Bosnia and Croatia.

The key points raised in the ANCA testimony include:

U.S. Assistance to Armenia

"The ANCA supports at least the same percentages of funding for the Southern Caucasus region and Armenia as in fiscal year 2001–with the base-line being the fiscal year 2001 earmark. This appropriation will help offset the devastating effects of the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades and help continue Armenia’s political and economic transition. Specifically–these funds will be used to develop the economy and infrastructure–further strengthen democratic institutions–and meet the country’s current development and humanitarian needs. We are confident that with this assistance an economically viable Armenia will be a catalyst for development throughout the Caucasus and all of the New Independent States."

Direct U.S. Aid to Nagorno Karabakh

"While we have welcomed these Congressional appropriations–we remain deeply troubled by the slow pace of the Clinton Administration’s implementation of its aid package for Nagorno Karabakh. Apparently driven by the same policy considerations which impelled the State Department to attempt to block this aid in the first place–the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has failed to administer this appropriation in a timely and effective manner. We are troubled by what appears to be an unhealthy politicization of our foreign assistance program."

"Based on these concerns–we call upon this panel to secure from the Administration a commitment that it will move with all deliberate speed to carry out the will of Congress on this important assistance program. Additionally–we respectfully request the inclusion of language in this year’s legislation ensuring that assistance to Nagorno Karabakh continue at least at last year’s level and directing USAID to ensure the delivery of this assistance on a timely basis."

Preserving Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act

"The ANCA supports the law restricting U.S. assistance to the government of Azerbaijan and actively opposes any effort to weaken–waive–or eliminate this prohibition. Any effort to circumvent the intent of this provision of law–particularly during the ongoing negotiations–will be viewed by the Azerbaijani government as a clear signal for renewed aggression."

"Common Sense" Conditions on U.S. Arms Sales to Turkey

"As we have said in past testimony before this panel–Armenian Americans remain deeply concerned by the devastating impact of Turkey’s eight-year blockade of humanitarian assistance to Armenia–the threat to regional stability posed by Turkey’s ongoing military build-up–and the destabilizing effect of Turkey’s military support for Azerbaijani aggression against Nagorno Karabakh. Furthermore–the Armenian American community remains deeply troubled by the distrust and increased regional instability generated by Turkey’s ongoing campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. In addition–we are troubled by Turkey’s long history of human rights abuses at home and aggression abroad. This pattern includes the systematic and widespread use of torture and human rights abuses against it own citizens–the genocidal policies being pursued against the Kurdish population–the unfair restrictions on the rights of Christian communities–and–of course–the continuing military occupation of Cyprus."

"Accordingly–we call upon Congress to continue to exercise its oversight authority by carefully scrutinizing U.S. military sales and transfers to Turkey. We recommend that special attention be given to any U.S. military hardware – such as advanced attack helicopters or tanks – which may be used by the Turkish armed forces in Cyprus–against Kurdish civilians or which may be transferred to Azerbaijan for use against Nagorno Karabakh."

The full text of the ANCA testimony is provided on the ANCA website at www.anca.org

Reps. Pallone–Visclosky–Morella and Kirk Outline Priorities for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh

As in years past–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) outlined for the Subcommittee his assistance priorities for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–reminding Subcommittee members that "the need for assistance there is still great–as are the need for greater regional economic integration and a negotiated settlement to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict." Commenting on the upcoming April 3rd Nagorno Karabakh peace talks in Key West–Florida–Rep. Pallone urged Subcommittee members "to take a leading role in fashioning the reconstruction and rebuilding efforts that will be required" should a peace settlement be reached. Regardless of the outcome–he stressed that "funding confidence-building measures should continue and encourage continued funding for this endeavor."

Rep. Pallone also expressed strong support for a new initiative called CANDLE–which would fund the construction of a synchrotron radiation light source in Yerevan. "Currently–the Department of Energy is looking at the project–which would significantly elevate scientific research in the Caucasus region," explained Pallone.

Appropriations Committee member Congressman Peter Visclosky (D-IN) testified passionately in support of maintaining Section 907 restriction on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan. "A repeal of Section 907 would only serve to legitimize Azerbaijan’s illegitimate acts of aggression," explained Rep. Visclosky. "Azerbaijan has little incentive to take demonstrable steps to end the conflict if the Administration continues to enrich it. Azerbaijan has already received approximately $200 million in assistance from American non-governmental organizations. It is arguable whether this aid is getting through to needy Azeris."

First term Congressman Mark Kirk (R-IL) remarked that "thanks to the efforts of the Armenian-American community–the United States has recognized the need to help nurture healing–through development to foster stability in Armenia and aid to Armenian people in other nations. I urge the subcommittee to fund the $93 million earmark for aid to Armenia."

Maryland Republican Connie Morella–who led a 1999 Congressional delegation visit to Armenia and Karabakh–also called for continued assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and expressed her support for efforts to maintain Section 907.

Testimony on Armenian American concerns was also offered by Bryan Ardouny–the Armenian Assembly of America’s director of government relations.

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