Lawmakers Request Increase in Funding for Armenia in Appropriations Bill

WASHINGTON–U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) along with 27 members of Congress, sent the following letter Monday to the chair and ranking member of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on the Department of State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs.

In preparing the Fiscal Year 2011 State-Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill, the lawmakers are requesting that the subcommittee support Congress’s funding request for U.S. assistance to Armenia and other related provisions. Additionally in the request, Pallone continues to push for parity in military assistance between Armenia and Azerbaijan, opening contacts between the U.S. and Nagorno Karabakh, as well as increasing funding for Nagorno Karabakh for humanitarian and developmental aid.  Funding in the FY 2010 Omnibus bill provided $41 million for Armenia and $8 million Nagorno Karabakh.

Below is the text of the letter:

March 22, 2010

The Honorable Nita Lowey                                         
Chairwoman                                                                
Appropriations Subcommittee on                                 
State-Foreign Operations                                             
Room HB-26, The Capitol Building                             
Washington, DC 20515                  

The Honorable Kay Granger
Ranking Member
Appropriations Subcommittee on
State-Foreign Operations
1016 Longworth House Office
Washington, DC 20515                            

Dear Chairwoman Lowey and Ranking Member Granger:

As you prepare the Fiscal Year 2011 State-Foreign Operations and Related Programs Appropriations bill, we write in strong support of U.S. assistance to Armenia and other aid related provisions that contribute to peace and stability in the Caucasus region. We respectfully request that you consider the following requests listed in priority order:

Economic Assistance to Armenia

The people of Armenia continue to face the devastating impact of Turkey and Azerbaijan’s dual blockades, illegal actions that according to World Bank estimates from several years ago cost Armenia roughly $720 million annually.  As Armenia continues to display commitment to ending the blockade and Turkey continues to include preconditions that threaten the integrity of current negotiations, the U.S. should continue its important support of Armenia.

Until the recent world economic crisis, Armenia regularly registered double-digit growth and has been consistently cited as among the most free economies in the region by the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.  Our assistance programs have played a vital role in promoting this progress, as well as in the development of Armenia’s democratic institutions, an effort that has seen substantial advancement.

We respectfully request that you include language within the Assistance for Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia Account ensuring that not less than $70 million is appropriated for Armenia in Fiscal Year 2011.

Assistance to Nagorno Karabakh

The U.S. assistance program to Nagorno Karabakh, has played a critical role in meeting needs among the population.  Assistance should be directed by Congress and the Administration, to continue work that supports both humanitarian and development priorities.  We respectfully request language directing USAID to spend $10 million in Fiscal Year 2011 for humanitarian and development programs in Nagorno Karabakh.

Enhancing Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act

Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act continues to stand as a powerful provision of U.S. law in principled opposition to Azerbaijan’s blockade and other aggressive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

As recently as November 21, 2009, President Aliyev said that “Azerbaijan is spending billions on buying new weapons, hardware, [and] strengthening its position at the line of contact.”  To make the threat explicit he added, “We have the full right to liberate our land by military means.” The statement came just one day before a face to face meeting between President Aliyev and President Sarkisian to continue ongoing peace talks.  The statement is one of many over the years by President Aliyev designed to disrupt the ongoing OSCE peace process and which threatens regional stability.

As you know, the Fiscal Year 2002 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act created a broad waiver authority that opened the door to military assistance to Azerbaijan.  In light of Azerbaijan’s behavior, and as a contribution to the cause of a lasting and equitable negotiated peace, we urge you to narrow this presidential waiver as follows:

The President may waive section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act if he determines and certifies to the Committees on Appropriations that to do so–

(A) the assistance is necessary to support United States efforts to counter international terrorism, or to support the operational readiness of United States Armed Forces or coalition partners to counter international terrorism;

(B)  the assistance will not undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used for offensive purposes against Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh; and

(C) in the last fiscal year, Azerbaijan has not taken hostile action, either through military force or incitement, including but not limited to threatening pronouncements by government officials, toward Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh and has demonstrated its commitment to a lasting peace with Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.

Assuming all conditions of this new waiver authority can be met, and military assistance is provided to Azerbaijan, we urge you to uphold the Committee’s long-standing tradition of maintaining parity in funding between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Military Assistance to Armenia

The U.S.-Armenia military relationship continues to expand in scope and depth, building upon Armenia’s cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts and its deployment of forces to both Iraq and Kosovo.  Armenia also recently approved a military deployment to Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission.   Armenia has entered into a NATO Individual Partnership Action Plan (IPAP) and has worked closely with both NATO and the Defense Department on a range of bilateral and multilateral agreements, joint training programs, and military exercises.  Following the Russian-Georgian conflict, Armenia was the first country to host a NATO exercise in the South Caucasus which included more than 1,000 servicemen from 18 nations.

Past U.S. military aid has played a vital role in modernizing Armenia’s armed forces, strengthening the principle of civilian control, promoting increased NATO interoperability, and supporting the growth of Armenia’s peacekeeping capabilities.

With these priorities in mind, we respectfully request that you include $4 million in FMF and $1 million in IMET funding for Armenia in Fiscal Year 2011.

Removing restrictions on contacts and communication with Nagorno Karabakh

The time has co
me for ending restrictions on travel, contacts, and the free exchange of ideas between U.S. officials and the democratically elected leaders of Nagorno Karabakh.  These outdated restrictions stand in the way of greater mutual understanding, hinder direct oversight of U.S. assistance programs, limits cooperation on regional priorities, such as public health and anti-narcotics efforts, undermine our effectiveness in promoting democracy, and ultimately place artificial limits on our diplomatic and civil society efforts to bring about a fair and durable peace.

We respectfully request that that the following report language be included in the bill.

“In the interest of promoting mutual understanding, regional cooperation, and a fair and lasting peace, the Committee directs the Department of State, to remove any official or unofficial restrictions on U.S.-Nagorno Karabakh travel, visitations, discussions, meetings, contacts, consultations, exchange programs, or other governmental or civil society communication, cooperation, or interaction.

Furthermore, in order that the Nagorno Karabakh conflict come to a peaceful resolution through the OSCE Minsk Process it is vitally important that representatives from Nagorno Karabakh be included in the negotiations.  Although, Nagorno Karabakh was formerly officially included they have not since had a part in the ongoing international negotiations aimed at determining their future.  We request that the Committee include report language that recognizes the importance of including representatives of Nagorno Karabakh in the ongoing Minsk Process.

Confidence Building Measures

As in years past, the Subcommittee has also provided funding for confidence-building measures to help facilitate a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.  In order to facilitate peace, we recommend that these funds continue to be made available for increased cooperation among Armenia, Azerbaijan and Karabakh.  In particular, we respectfully request language urging Azerbaijan to support confidence-building measures that facilitate interaction among the parties, in order to address regional security, resource management, infrastructure, development and people to people programs.

Thank you for your leadership on the Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations and Related Programs. We are grateful for your role in strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Armenia and on all the issues we have raised.  We appreciate your consideration of these requests.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.                   MARK KIRK                             ELTON GALLEGLY
Member of Congress                        Member of Congress              Member of Congress

BARNEY FRANK                              JAMES LANGEVIN                CAROLYN MALONEY
Member of Congress                        Member of Congress               Member of Congress

JAMES MCGOVERN                       GRACE NAPOLITANO         HENRY WAXMAN  
Member of Congress                        Member of Congress               Member of Congress

GEORGE RADANOVICH               ANNA ESHOO                           JIM COSTA               
Member of Congress                         Member of Congress               Member of Congress   

BRAD SHERMAN                             RAUL GRIJALVA                     JOHN SARBANES
Member of Congress                        Member of Congress                Member of Congress               

RUSH HOLT                                       GARY PETERS                           STEPHEN LYNCH
Member of Congress                       Member of Congress                 Member of Congress   

JOE BACA                                            FRANK LOBIONDO                  CHAKA FATTAH     
Member of Congress                        Member of Congress                Member of Congress

JACKIE SPEIER                                TIMOTHY WALZ                     LYNN WOOLSEY
Member of Congress                         Member of Congress               Member of Congress   

EDWARD MARKEY                        LORETTA SANCHEZ              JOHN CONYERS     
Member of Congress                        Member of Congress                Member of Congress

BRUCE BRALEY                                                      
Member of Congress                                              

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