WASHINGTON–The Armenian National Committee of America testified Thursday before Congress in support of a broad range of issues of concern to the Armenian American community–including direct US aid to Nagorno-Karabakh–increased assistance to Armenia–continued restrictions on aid to Azerbaijan–and sharp reductions in aid to Turkey until it lifts its four year blockade of Armenia.
In testimony delivered before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations–the key House panel responsible for foreign aid–ANCA Government Affairs Director Chris Hekimian–noted that:
"Although the Administration has proposed an additional $31.5 million for Azerbaijan for fiscal year 1998–we have yet to receive any assurances that any portion of this aid will be distributed to Nagorno-Karabakh–despite the pressing needs of its population. This exclusion of Nagorno-Karabakh from US assistance programs represents an unhealthy politicization of our foreign assistance program. Humanitarian aid should be distributed based on need–not the dictates of the government in Baku or any foreign capital. We are hopeful that this shortcoming will be corrected during the current appropriations cycle.
Hekimian began his remarks by noting that April 24th "marks the day 82 years ago when the Ottoman Turkish Government put into motion its plans to destroy the Armenian nation." He thanked the many members of Congress who had "co-sponsored the Armenian Genocide resolution and called upon Turkey to ends its shameful campaign to deny this tragic chapter in Armenian and Turkish history."
Hekimian outlined the reasons to maintain the ban on US aid to Azerbaijan for as long as it blockades Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. He stressed that "any effort to circumvent this provision of law–particularly during the ongoing negotiations–would be viewed by the Azerbaijani government as a clear signal for renewed aggression." As in his testimony last month before the House International Relations Committee–he called for expanding US aid to Armenia to $150 million and enforcing the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act. Following his remarks–Hekimian fielded a number of questions from Subcommittee chairman Sonny Callahan (R-Ala.) and ranking Democrat Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.).
Others testifying on Armenian concerns included Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–Peter Visclosky (D-Ind.) and the Armenian Assembly. The complete text of the ANCA testimony will be featured in the Asbarez Features of the Web Page Friday.