House Appropriations Committee Approves Foreign Assistance Bill for FY 2017

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the U.S.
House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 State,
Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) Appropriations Bill, which
covers assistance to Armenia and the region, the Armenian Assembly of America
(Assembly) reported. The bill maintains Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act
and includes language for aid to nations hosting Syrian refugees.

Specifically, the SFOPS
Report highlighted the need for additional assistance to “vulnerable
populations in Syria and in neighboring countries,” comprised of Syrian
refugees, Christians, and other minorities afflicted by the Syrian civil war and
persecuted by the Islamic State (ISIS). According to the bill, funds
“shall be made available for programs in countries affected by significant
populations of internally displaced persons or refugees.”

The Committee also
recommends the expansion of humanitarian programs to ensure services reach
these vulnerable populations. In addition, the House has incorporated a section
on Genocide Victim Memorial Sites, where funds are appropriated “to
establish and maintain memorial sites of genocide.”

Similar to Fiscal Year
2016, this year’s Committee report did not delineate funding levels for the
South Caucasus generally, however, the Senate approved version provided $24.1
million in non-military assistance to Armenia as well as called for continued aid
to Nagorno Karabakh. 

“As Congress
finalizes the House and Senate Appropriations Bills, the Armenian Assembly will
continue to push for additional assistance to help Armenia cope with the influx
of refugees fleeing from violence in Syria, as well as for much needed
humanitarian assistance to help Nagorno Karabakh rebuild after the April war
launched by Azerbaijan,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny stated.

Earlier this year, 33
Members sent a letter
to the House Appropriations Committee outlining
funding and policy issues for the region. Ardouny, in
testimony submitted to the Committee
, outlined nine key policy priorities
for the Armenian American community, including assistance to Christian
Armenians in the Middle East, the majority of whom are descendants of survivors
of the Armenian Genocide. According to Ardouny’s testimony: “The Assembly
also urge[d] enhanced assistance to Christian and other minority communities at
risk in the Middle East, with a particular focus of concern regarding the
continued unrest in Syria, particularly the battleground city of Aleppo where
Armenian churches and other institutions have come under attack.”

The House Appropriations
Bill, similar
to the Senate’s
, maintains Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act as well,
restating the six customary exemptions for humanitarian and other assistance to
Azerbaijan. Section 907 of the 1992 FREEDOM
Support Act was enacted to address Azerbaijan’s hostile actions
against Armenia.

The FY 2017 State and
Foreign Operations Bill – Full Committee Draft is available

The FY 2017 State and
Foreign Operations Bill – Draft Committee Report is available

The Armenian Assembly of
America’s FY 2017 Testimony is available

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