White House Proposes Maintaining Armenia Azerbaijan Military Assistance Parity

ANCA welcomes recognition of the role that military aid parity plays in regional stability

WASHINGTON–DC–In a move welcomed as a contribution to regional stability and the search for peace–the Bush Administration’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 budget proposal–released February 7–called for maintaining parity in military assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). This decision represents a break from the last year’s widely criticized FY 2005 budget request–which–although later reversed by Congress–initially proposed providing four times more military aid to Azerbaijan than to Armenia.

"We are gratified that the President’s Fiscal Year 2006 budget calls for parity in military aid appropriations to Armenia and Azerbaijan," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We welcome this request as a contribution toward regional peace–and want to extend our appreciation to Congressman Knollenberg–Senator McConnell and the other key legislators who impressed upon the Administration the wisdom of this course of action."

The budget request includes $5 million in Foreign Military Finance (FMF) assistance and $750,000 in International Military Education and Training (IMET) for both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The FY 2006 White House proposal also includes a $55 million earmark for Armenia–$7 million less than the figure proposed by the Administration last year–and $20 million less than the actual assistance appropriated by Congress for 2005. Azerbaijan and Georgia have been budgeted $35 million and $67 million–respectively. The overall foreign aid budget for the former Soviet Union is $482 million–a $74 million reduction from last year.

For the first time–the budget document also makes specific reference to ‘Nagorno Karabagh,’ citing that a portion of a $48.5 million allocation for Eurasia would include funding for humanitarian assistance to Mountainous Karabagh Republic.

"We were pleased that the Administration’s request–for the first time–specifically cited humanitarian aid to Nagorno Karabagh," continued Hamparian. "We were–however–troubled by the White House’s proposed reduction in aid to Armenia. We will–in the coming weeks and months–work with Congressional appropriators in support of an increased allocation for Armenia."

The Foreign Operations Subcommittees of the Senate and House Appropriation Committees will now review the budget and each draft their own versions of the FY 2006 foreign assistance bill.

The agreement to maintain parity in US military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan was struck between the White House and Congress in 2001–in the wake of Congressional action granting the President the authority to waive the Section 907 restrictions on aid to Azerbaijan. The ANCA has vigorously defended this principle–stressing in correspondence–at senior level meetings–and through grassroots activism–that a tilt in military spending toward Azerbaijan would destabilize the region–emboldening Azerbaijan’s leadership to continue their threats to impose a military solution to the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. More broadly–the ANCA has underscored that breaching the parity agreement would reward the leadership of Azerbaijan for walking away from the OSCE’s Key West peace talks–the most promising opportunity to resolve the Nagorno Karabagh conflict in nearly a decade. Finally–failing to respect the parity agreement would–the ANCA has stressed–undermine the role of the US as an impartial mediator of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict.

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