WASHINGTON, DC – The House Appropriations Subcommittee responsible for U.S. foreign aid policy, Wednesday morning, voted to maintain U.S. economic assistance to Armenia at last year’s level of $48 million and to increase humanitarian assistance to Nagorno Karabakh to an unprecedented annual allocation of $10 million, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The Subcommittee voted to maintain military assistance parity to Armenia and Azerbaijan, keeping foreign military financing to both countries at $3 million. The panel chose not to accept President Obama’s proposals, included in the FY10 budget that he released earlier this year, to reduce economic aid to Armenia by 38%, from $48 million $30 million, and to tilt the military aid balance in favor of Azerbaijan.
The Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, which is chaired by Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), also strengthened language governing the President’s authority to waive Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, a provision of law that restricts aid to Azerbaijan due to its blockades and other offensive actions against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. The new language, according those close to the work of the subcommittee, will require closer Congressional consultation prior to any future waivers of this law.
“We value Chairwoman Lowey’s leadership and the efforts of Rep. Adam Schiff, Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Mark Kirk, Representatives Steve Rothman, Jesse Jackson Jr, Betty McCollum, Barbara Lee, Steve Israel, and our many friends on the Subcommittee for constructively working to address our community’s foreign aid priorities,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We are gratified that the panel restored military aid parity, met the Armenian Caucus request of $10 million for Nagorno Karabakh, and strengthened the waiver language for Section 907. We will, in the coming days, seek to build on this progress by working with our friends on the Senate side to bring the economic aid figure to Armenia up to the $70 million level requested by the Armenian Caucus.”
House Members Welcome Proposed Foreign Aid Bill
Soon after the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee’s action, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) hailed the panel’s actions.
“I commend the efforts of the Foreign Operations Subcommittee Chairwoman Nita Lowey and Ranking Member Kay Granger to restore military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan,” said Rep. Pallone. “Their bi-partisan leadership, along with co-chair Mark Kirk and Congressman Adam Schiff, strengthens the U.S.-Armenia relationship by paving the way for economic aid to Armenia and assistance to Nagorno Karabakh during this global recession.”
“As the Armenian Government prepares to send troops to join the NATO mission in Afghanistan, our Committee worked in a bipartisan fashion to provide robust economic and security assistance to this strong U.S. ally,” noted Subcommittee member Kirk. “In addition, our Committee sent a strong message to the Government of Azerbaijan to keep its commitment to the OSCE peace process, end its bellicose rhetoric and stop meddling in the U.S.-backed Armenian-Turkish reconciliation process. I want to thank Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Granger, Rep. Schiff, Rep. Pallone and others for their strong bipartisan support for the U.S.-Armenia relationship.”
Rep. Schiff concurred, noting that, “This is important funding that will help ensure peace and greater economic stability in the Caucasus,” said Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA). “Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh are important partners in a troubled and economically stagnant region, and this funding will go a long way towards strengthening these emerging democracies.”
In an April 3, 2009 letter (Read it here) sent to the panel earlier this year, members of the Armenian Caucus, co-chaired by Representatives Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL), called for strengthening Section 907, allocating $70 million in economic aid to Armenia, $5 million in assistance to Armenia’s military, $10 million in development aid to Nagorno Karabakh, and the removal of official barriers to U.S.-Nagorno Karabakh contacts and communications.