Members of Congress Request Assistance for Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh

Assembly-backed Letter Spearheaded by Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Rep.
Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL)

33 Members of Congress sent a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee
on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Chairwoman Kay
Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) in support of
continued U.S. assistance in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget for the
Republics of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, the Samtskhe-Javakheti region
of Georgia, and at-risk minorities in the Middle East, reports the
Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). “Continued U.S. support in the
region is critically important,” the letter read.

Members of Congress
requested at least $5 million for humanitarian and development programs
in Nagorno Karabakh, appropriating no less than $40 million in overall
economic aid (including Economic Support Fund, International Narcotics
Control and Law Enforcement, and Global Health Programs) for Armenia,
suspending all military aid to Azerbaijan, allocating at least 10
percent of aid given to Georgia towards funding sustainable job-creation
programs in Samtskhe-Javakheti, enhancing Section 907 of the FREEDOM
Support Act, and reinstating Karabakh in the Organization for Security
and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group peace process as a full
negotiating partner.

“The Assembly applauds
the initiative supported by over 30 Members of Congress and their
efforts to ensure the well-being of Armenia and Artsakh. I look forward
to working with Congressional leaders to promote the important issues
outlined in the letter,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said.
“We live in a dangerous time, as ISIS commits genocide against
Christians and other minorities, millions of people have become
displaced by violence and civil war, and Azerbaijan threatens a new war
in the South Caucasus with its repeated cease-fire violations.
With the proposed changes to the FY 2017 Appropriations Budget, the
Administration has the opportunity to help resolve some of these
critical concerns.”

The letter calls for a
stronger U.S. stance regarding Azerbaijan’s increasing number of hostile
acts against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Earlier this month, the
Obama Administration released its budget
for the upcoming year, maintaining a military parity between Armenia
and Azerbaijan at $1 million for Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and
$600,000 for International Military Education and Training (IMET), a
decrease from the previous year. The letter recommends a suspension of
U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan “until its government ceases
cross-border attacks, ends its threat of renewed war, and agrees to a
settlement of regional conflicts through peaceful means.” Members of
Congress are also requesting supplemental language to strengthen Section
907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.

U.S. priority focuses
on a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, yet the letter points
out that Karabakh government officials have been excluded from the
peace process since 1998. “Nagorno Karabakh should, in the interests of
peace and basic fairness, be permitted to fully participate in all talks
regarding its future. The best and most sustainable path to peace
requires direct engagement with the people and government of Nagorno
Karabakh, whose fate and future are the subject of ongoing talks and
whose security will rest on the outcome of these negotiations,” the
letter reads.

Last week, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that the crimes committed by ISIS constitute genocide
against Yazidis, Christians, and other religious minorities, including
Armenians. Armenia does not have adequate resources to continue helping
refugees escaping from genocide. The Administration’s proposed budget
allocated nearly $3 billion for migration and refugee assistance, some
of which could go towards Armenia’s resettlement efforts. Armenia
accepted the third largest amount of refugees in Europe, sheltering
nearly 20,000 displaced Syrians. Armenia hosts six Syrian refugees per
1,000 nationals – a ratio much higher than many European countries or
the U.S., especially noteworthy given the country’s economic
circumstance, reports the Armenian Agenda.

“As a host country,
Armenia has been absolutely exemplary in terms of the ratio of welcomed
Syrian-Armenian refugees to the number of native inhabitants,” said
United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) Representative in
Armenia Christoph Bierwirth.

The letter suggests
allocating international and U.S. aid to Armenia and “supporting the
efforts to regional states to resettle those fleeing from Syria.” The
Appropriations Subcommittee suggests to putting in place “policies and
programs to close gaps in the distribution of need-based aid to at-risk
minority populations in Syria, including Armenians.”

The letter supporting
increased assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh for FY 2017 was
signed by Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ); Robert Dold (R-IL); Gus Bilirakis
(R-FL); Tony Cأ،rdenas (D-CA); David Cicilline (D-RI); Judy Chu (D-CA);
Katherine Clark (D-MA); Mike Coffman (R-CO); Jim Costa (D-CA); Joseph
Crowley (D-NY); Anna Eshoo (D-CA); Chaka Fattah (D-PA); James Langevin
(D-RI); Barbara Lee (D-CA); Daniel Lipinski (D-IL); Zoe Lofgren (D-CA);
Stephen Lynch (D-MA); Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); James McGovern (D-MA);
Grace Napolitano (D-CA); Collin Peterson (D-MN); Jared Polis (D-CO);
Mike Quigley (D-IL); Charles Rangel (D-NY); Linda Sanchez (D-CA);
Loretta Sanchez (D-CA); John Sarbanes (D-MD); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL);
Adam Schiff (D-CA); Brad Sherman (D-CA); Jackie Speier (D-CA); Dina
Titus (D-NV); and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

Established in 1972,
the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based
nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of
Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501©(3) tax-exempt membership

Click here
to read the letter sent to the Appropriations Subcommittee on State,
Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX)
and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY).

Photo Caption: Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ)

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