Maintains military aid parity between Armenia And Azerbaijan
WASHINGTON–DC–The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations today voted to allocate $67.5 million in US aid for Armenia for fiscal year 2006–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). The amount represents a $12.5 million increase over President Bush’s budget request–but is lower than last year’s appropriation of $75 million.
The panel also agreed to maintain parity in US military assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan–at the level of $5.75 million to each country. The appropriators allotted $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Mountainous Karabagh.
"We want to express our appreciation to Congressman Joe Knollenberg for his advocacy within the Subcommittee–to thank Chairman Jim Kolbe and Ranking Member Nita Lowey for their leadership–and to share our gratitude for the support of Steve Rothman–John Sweeney–Mark Kirk–Jesse Jackson–Jr.–Carolyn Kilpatrick–Chaka Fattah–and our other friends on this vitally important panel," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA.
"We were–of course–especially pleased to see that–consistent with the President’s budget request–the Subcommittee contributed to the continued stability of the Caucasus by appropriating aid directly to Mountainous Karabagh–and maintaining parity in military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan. We also appreciate the efforts of our friends–in the face of overall reductions in aid to the region–to increase Armenia’s assistance above the level proposed by the President–and look forward to action by the Senate – and later in conference committee – to bring this figure to at least last year’s figure of $75 million," added Hamparian.
On April 18th of this year–Representative George Radanovich (R-CA) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) sent a letter to the leadership of the Subcommittee–cosigned by 43 of their House colleagues–calling for an earmark of at least $75 million for Armenia; maintaining the President’s request for equal levels of military aid for Armenia and Azerbaijan; an additional $5 million in direct aid to Mountainous Karabagh for fiscal year 2006–and; keeping in place the Section 907 restriction on aid to Azerbaijan. The names of the forty-five signatories are as follows: Gary L. Ackerman (D-NY)–Thomas H. Allen (D-ME)–Robert E. Andrews (D-NJ)–Xavier Beccerra (D-CA)–Howard L. Berman (D-CA)–Michael Bilirakis (R-FL)–Eric Cantor (R-VA)–Michael E. Capuano (D-CA)–Dennis A. Cardoza (D-CA)–John Conyers Jr. (D-MI)–Jim Costa (D-CA)–Jerry F. Costello (D-IL)–Joseph Crowley (D-NY)–David Dreier (R-CA)–Anna G. Eshoo (D-CA)–Barney Frank (D-MA)–Scott Garrett (R-NJ)–Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC)–Rush D. Holt (D-NJ)–Michael M. Honda (D-CA)–Steve Israel (D-NY)–Darrell E. Issa (R-CA)–James R. Langevin (D-RI)–Stephen F. Lynch (D-MA)–Carolyn B. Maloney (D-NY)–Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY)–James P. McGovern (D-MA)–Michael R. McNulty (D-NY)–Martin Meehan (D-MA)–Robert Menendez (D-NJ)–Grace F. Napolitano (D-CA)–Devin Nunes (R-CA)–Frank Pallone–Jr. (D-NJ)–Collin C. Peterson (D-MN)–Linda T. Sanchez (D-CA)–Adam B. Schiff (D-CA)–Joe Schwarz (R-MI)–Clay E. Shaw–Jr. (R-FL)–John Shimkus (R-IL)–Mark E. Souder (R-IN)–George Radanovich (R-CA)–Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH)–Diane E. Watson (D-CA)–Henry Waxman (D-CA)–and Jerry Weller (R-IL). In making the case for increased levels of US assistance to Armenia–the ANCA has stressed the following points:
1) The impact of the dual Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades:
The World Bank estimates that these blockades are costing Armenia $720 million a year. Despite US pressure–these blockades have remained in place for more than a decade. Armenia is making tremendous progress toward a modern–market-based democracy–but needs continued US help to offset the efforts of Turkey and Azerbaijan to strangle its economy by blockading its eastern and western borders.
2) The effectiveness of US foreign aid:
US Ambassador John Evans–in the fall of 2004–stressed that–"Since arriving in Armenia–I have been deeply impressed by not only the breadth and depth of our assistance programs–but by their high quality and the exacting standards of the US Government staff and implementing partners who help design–execute and evaluate these activities."
3) Armenia’s progress on economic and democratic reforms:
According to the Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom–Armenia is the only former Soviet republic–which is rated "mostly free." In fact–Armenia is ranked 42nd overall and the closest former Soviet republic is the Ukraine–which is ranked 88th. Armenia is one of only 16 countries to have qualified for the Millennium Challenge Account and has already submitted its application. Armenia is clearly on the right path–and it needs United States assistance to continue on this path and withstand the devastating impact of the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades.