Lawmakers Urged to Back Increased Aid to Armenia, Karabakh

Armenian Caucus co-chairman Frank Pallone

“Dear Colleague” letter circulated by Rep. Pallone urges $60 million for Armenia; $10 million for Karabakh

WASHINGTON—Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) circulated a letter urging his House colleagues to support expanded U.S. aid to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, and a number of other pro-Armenia provisions in the Fiscal Year 2012 foreign aid bill, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.

In his letter, Rep. Pallone, calls upon his fellow Representatives to join with him in co-signing a Congressional letter asking the bipartisan leadership of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations to support the inclusion of the following provisions:

  • At least $60 million in economic support funds for Armenia.
  • At least $10 million in development aid to Nagorno Karabakh.
     The strengthening of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act and maintaining military aid parity to Armenia and Azerbaijan.
  •  The removal of barriers to U.S.-Nagorno Karabakh contacts and communications.
  • Support for the reinstatement of Nagorno Karabakh in the OSCE Minsk Group peace process.
  • At least $10 million in military aid to Armenia.

Armenian Americans can urge their Congressional representatives to cosign this letter by sending them an ANCA WebMail.

In his letter urging his colleagues to take action, Rep. Pallone cites ongoing Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh as a primary reason to “enforce current law restricting military aid to Azerbaijan.”   Rep. Pallone added that, “Short of this, the letter asks that parity in military financing between Armenia and Azerbaijan be restored.  The President has broken this long-held policy in International Military Education and Training (IMET) funding for the two countries.”

Rep. Pallone goes on to note that, “U.S. funding has also been tremendously helpful in alleviating humanitarian crises in Nagorno Karabakh.  We are thus requesting $10 million in aid for Nagorno-Karabakh and urging that aid be provided for humanitarian and developmental programs.  We also ask for an end to any remaining restrictions on official government contact between the United States and Nagorno-Karabakh and that representatives of Nagorno Karabakh be reinstated in the ongoing Minsk Group Peace Process.”

The complete text of the Congressional letter to the leadership of the Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations is provided below.
May 16, 2011

Dear Chairwoman Granger and Ranking Member Lowey:

As you prepare the Fiscal Year 2012 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
Armenia is a crucial ally in a strategic region of the world between Europe and the Middle East and it has extended its full support in the war on terror.  On May 10, 2011, Armenia announced that it will triple its troop deployment serving in the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan to 130 personnel.  Armenia also has forces in Kosovo as part of the NATO KFOR operations and was part of the coalition peacekeeping operations in Iraq.

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.  Our assistance programs have played a vital role in helping alleviate the crushing blockades and promoting the development of Armenia’s free market system and democratic institutions.

Armenia consistently ranks as among the top 40 freest economies in the world according to the Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom.  This year, Armenia was ranked the 36th freest economy in the world, just behind South Korea and above France, Italy and Turkey.

We respectfully request that you include language within the Assistance for Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia Account ensuring that not less than $60 million is appropriated for Armenia in Fiscal Year 2012.

Assistance to Nagorno Karabakh
U.S. policy toward the South Caucasus states has included promoting the resolution of the conflict surrounding the independent Republic of Nagorno Karabakh.  It is more important than ever that the United States maintain a principled stand for peace in this region and support Nagorno Karabakh.  There is no question that Nagorno Karabakh is an example of how democracy can be born from conflict and progress into a popularly supported government.

We request that the subcommittee include language directing USAID to spend not less than $10 million in Fiscal Year 2012 for humanitarian and development programs in Nagorno Karabakh.

We would like to further point out that the State Department has failed to follow Congressional intent to deliver funds to Nagorno Karabakh.  From 2004 to 2010, the State Department expended less than $13 million, while Congressional intent expressed through conference reports and public law called for $46 million for humanitarian and, as of 2010, development assistance.  It is therefore vital that the subcommittee include language requiring that not less than $10 million be expended in Fiscal Year 2012.

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.

Despite calls on all parties to refrain from threats of violence, Azerbaijan has repeatedly violated the cease fire agreement and opposed the OSCE Minsk Group’s calls to pull back snipers.  On more than one occasion, Azerbaijan’s President has announced that “only the first stage of war is over,” and his Defense Minister stated in February 2011 that Azerbaijan is “seriously preparing” for war.  Moreover, in March 2011, the United States criticized Azerbaijan for threatening to shoot down civilian airliners flying to Nagorno Karabakh.

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.  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 Appropriations 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 past deployment of forces to both Iraq and Kosovo.  Armenia also sent a military deployment to Afghanistan in support of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) mission and just announced that it was tripling its forces in Afghanistan.  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.

We request that the subcommittee include $8 million in FMF and $2 million in IMET funding for Armenia in Fiscal Year 2012.

Removing restrictions on contacts and communication with Nagorno Karabakh

The time has come 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 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 reinstated in the negotiations.  Although, Nagorno Karabakh was formerly officially included for several years, they have not recently had a part in the ongoing international negotiations aimed at determining their future.

We request that the subcommittee include report language that recognizes the importance of including representatives of Nagorno Karabakh in the ongoing Minsk Process.

Confidence Building Measures
In past years, the subcommittee has 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 Nagorno 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.



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One Comment;

  1. ashot said:

    wow the USA is actually backing us up instead of azerbaijan…or are they giving us crumbs..while the azeris get the loaf..hmmm food for thought