Armenian Assembly Calls for $100 million for Democracy-Building & Economic Assistance to Armenia
WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Members of Congress sent a letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs that significantly increases prior aid requests to strengthen United States-Armenia relations and outlines key priorities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). With sweeping cuts across the State Department’s budget, the Administration proposed $6.75 million for Armenia. A prior congressional effort requested $70 million, but today’s action increases the request to a total of $100 million for Armenia and Artsakh. The Assembly truly appreciates today’s action, and will continue working for further increases to Artsakh and Armenia.
Spearheaded by Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) along with Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Armenian Caucus Co-Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), the letter is signed by Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Rep. Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA), Rep. Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Rep. Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI), Rep. Ro Khanna (D-CA), Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), Rep. Daniel Lipinksi (D-IL), Rep. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Rep. Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Rep. James McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Rep. Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Rep. Devin Nunes (R-CA), Rep. Collin Peterson (D-MN), Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Rep. Albio Sires (D-NJ), Rep. Tom Suozzi (D-NY), and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV).
“What Congress appropriates money for reflects the nation’s values and priorities. Supporting Armenia as it undergoes momentous democratic change embodies these values and should be a top priority. That’s why I’ve joined with my colleagues to call for increased democracy assistance and other foreign aid for Armenia,” Rep. Speier said to the Armenian Assembly.
The Caucus initiative requests:
- $60 million for economic governance and rule of law assistance to Armenia through State Department and USAID accounts;
- $10 million for military aid for Armenia through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military and Education Training (IMET) programs;
- $20 million for Armenia to be a regional “safe haven” for refugees;
- $6 million for Artsakh de-mining, rehabilitation programs, and water supply systems;
- $4 million for implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, including placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire locator systems;
- That the State Department and USAID lift any official or unofficial restrictions on U.S. travel, communication, or contacts with Artsakh government officials; and
- The suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until it has been verified to have ceased all attacks against Armenia and Artsakh.
The letter states in part: “In the wake of the Republic of Armenia’s remarkable Velvet Revolution, we are writing to thank the Subcommittee for its longstanding leadership in support of both Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). As you prepare the Fiscal Year 2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill, we ask you to include… provisions supporting a broad-based strategic upgrade of a U.S.-Armenia partnership based upon shared interests and common values.”
The Members of Congress also called for stricter provisions of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act to ensure that Azerbaijan not take hostile actions against Armenia or Artsakh, and pledge to demonstrate its commitment to pursuing lasting peace through solely non-violent means.
The letter concludes: “Taking these steps will continue to build on the U.S.-Armenia strategic relationship and help to grow the seeds of pro-democratic and civil society institutions in Armenia. We urge the Subcommittee to invest in peace and assist Armenia and Artsakh at this exciting time of continued development.”
“The Armenian Assembly welcomes this increased request in funding to Armenia. Given the remarkable democratic transformation last year in Armenia, we know that the community expects even more,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said. “Moreover, the OSCE’s Election Observation Mission Report stated that the elections ‘were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms.'”
Additionally, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reported that “election day proceeded calmly, peacefully, free of pressure on or intimidation of voters” and “the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression was respected.”
Earlier this month, Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian, in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, requested $100 million in democracy and economic assistance, at least $10 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education Training (IMET) to Armenia for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, and $20 million to help resettle and provide a safe haven for Christians at risk in Syria and throughout the Middle East, with at least $25 million in assistance to Artsakh. Krikorian cited Armenia’s remarkable year as more than a reason to significantly increase humanitarian aid, suggesting to the Subcommittee that the United States should “reward people who have made progress towards democracy.”
Krikorian applauded the Subcommittee for holding the important hearing, and greatly appreciated “Chairwoman Nita Lowey’s leadership and steadfast support for Armenia and Artsakh.”
Given Turkey and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockades, the Assembly’s written testimony also shed light on the importance of aid to Armenia and Artsakh, the need to fully enforce Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and targeted assistance for economic development and job-creation programs in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of the Republic of Georgia. The Armenian Assembly’s submitted testimony for FY 2020 is available online.
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 non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.