Key Congressional Panel Reduces U.S. Assistance to Armenia from $90 million to $82.5 million
WASHINGTON–DC–Despite Armenia’s progress on economic–political–and regional issues and in the face of dual Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades–a key House panel on Wednesday followed the lead of its Chairman Jim Kolbe (R-AZ) in voting to reduce fiscal year 2002 aid to Armenia to $82.5 million–an eight percent decrease from the fiscal year 2001 level of $90 million–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In a meeting this morning–the thirteen-member House Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee–chaired by the Arizona Republican–allocated $768 million for the New Independent States–a 5% reduction from last year’s aid level. The Chairman’s proposal to reduce aid to Armenia to $82.5 million was accepted by the panel. While the panel did not set a specific dollar amount for Azerbaijan–the Bush Administration has proposed a 46% increase in aid to Baku over fiscal year 2001 levels.
"We are disappointed that Chairman Kolbe sought and–despite the energetic efforts of our many friends on his Subcommittee–ultimately secured this reduction in assistance to Armenia," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA.
"We appreciate the hard work of our many friends on the Subcommittee–who made every effort to prevent a cut in aid to Armenia. In particular–we want to thank Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY)–Steve Rothman (D-NJ)–and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). We regret that–despite their best efforts–they were unable to reorder the spending priorities outlined for the Subcommittee by Chairman Kolbe," added Hamparian.
"The ANCA will continue to work throughout the remainder of the appropriations process to educate members of both the House and Senate about Armenia’s pivotal role in the Caucasus and the need to maintain Armenia’s appropriation at least at its current level of $90 million. We will–in particular–highlight the dangerous signals being sent by those seeking to reduce aid to Armenia at the same time that the Administration is looking to dramatically increase foreign assistance to the oil-rich and corrupt leadership of Azerbaijan–which–according to the statemen’s of its own leaders–bears responsibility for the failure of the most recent round of peace talks," concluded Hamparian.
In the weeks leading up to the panel’s decision–the ANCA coordinated a nationwide grassroots campaign encouraging Armenian Americans to contact their Representatives in opposition to any reduction in aid to Armenia–as well as maintaining the ban on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan.
The overall foreign aid budget was set by the House Subcommittee at $15.2 billion. In addition to reducing Armenia’s aid level–the panel cut assistance to both Georgia and Ukraine. Other areas of the foreign aid budget remained untouched–including a $600 million allocation for Eastern European countries. The operating budget for USAID was raised from $520 million to $549 million–a five and a half percent increase. Funding for the International Military Education and Training budget and the Foreign Military Financing programs were also increased.
The panel approved Chairman Kolbe’s proposal to reduce aid to Armenia despite continuing Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades and Armenia’s steady progress on a range of regional–economic–and democracy-building initiatives. The Subcommittee did not take any action to repeal Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–which restricts U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan until it has lifted its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. The bill approved by the panel urges the Administration to deliver previously appropriated aid to Nagorno Karabakh and includes recommendations for conflict-resolution and confidence-building measures.