Pallone Outreach to Colleagues and White House Played Vital Role in Restored Assistance and Military Aid Parity
WASHINGTON – The U.S. House and Senate Wednesday agreed upon a far-reaching Fiscal Year 2010 (FY10) spending measure that includes a $41 economic aid package for Armenia, $8 million for “programs and activities” in Nagorno Karabagh, and parity in Foreign Military Financing for Armenia and Azerbaijan, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
These figures were determined by a conference committee, comprised of House and Senate appropriators tasked with reconciling the two versions of the FY10 foreign aid bill. The House measure, overseen by the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY), included a $48 million allocation for Armenia, $10 for Nagorno Karabagh, and across-the-board parity in military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan. The Senate version, presided over by the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chair Patrick Leahy (D-VT), set aside just $30 million for Armenia, the figure proposed in President Obama’s budget, and did not include any figures for either aid to Nagorno Karabagh or military aid to Yerevan and Baku. The President’s low aid request for Armenia – which represented a dramatic 39% cut from the previous year, stood in stark contrast to his campaign pledge to maintain aid levels and to foster the growth and development of Armenia. Congress also rolled back President Obama’s request to reverse the long-established policy of maintaining military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan in terms of Foreign Military Financing. No figures were included in the Conference Report regarding International Military Education and Training.
“We want to thank all our friends, among them Chairwoman Lowey, Frank Pallone, Adam Schiff, Mark Kirk, Steve Rothman, Jesse Jackson, Steve Israel, and Frank Lobiondo, for restoring $11 million of the $18 million reduction in aid to Armenia proposed by the Obama-Biden Administration, and also for setting, for the first time, unrestricted aid to Nagorno Karabagh at $8 million,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “While we remain troubled by the overall decrease in support for Armenia, which is now down to nearly half of what was appropriated just three years ago, we are pleased that military parity in Foreign Military Financing to Armenia and Azerbaijan has been maintained, and that the Committee’s traditional description of aid to Nagorno Karabagh as ‘humanitarian’ has been removed, reflecting a growing appreciation among legislators of the need to implement development programs with these funds.”
Throughout the appropriations process, Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), the founding Co-Chairman of the Armenian Caucus, in addition to his bipartisan outreach to his Congressional colleagues, personally took the lead – through a series of letters, phone calls, and high-level meetings with senior White House and State Department officials – in reaching out to the Obama-Biden Administration in support of pro-Armenia provisions in the foreign aid bill.
Joined by his fellow Caucus members and his Co-Chairman Mark Kirk (R-IL), Congressman Pallone, called on the Administration to work with Senate and House Appropriation Committee leaders to maintain $48 million in U.S. assistance to Armenia, to increase aid to Nagorno Karabagh, and to continue military assistance parity to Armenia and Azerbaijan. In an October 26th letter to the Chairs and Ranking Republicans of the Senate and House foreign aid subcommittees, Congressman Pallone was joined by several dozen Caucus members in reinforcing these points, stressing that, “Armenia’s cooperation in anti-terrorism efforts and its deployment of forces to both Iraq and Kosovo are pivotal to U.S. interests. 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.”
The Conference Report includes language, added, by all accounts, at the urging of legislators concerned about Azerbaijan’s escalating war rhetoric, calling upon “all parties to the conflict to refrain from threats of violence and the use of inflammatory rhetoric.” The report also notes the expectation of Congressional appropriators that the Administration must continue to certify that aid to Azerbaijan will not undermine a peaceful settlement to the Karabagh conflict nor be used for offensive purposes against Armenia before it can waive Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.