Senate Appropriations Committee Supports Aid to Armenia to Further Democratic Reforms and Economic Development
WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) welcomes an Armenian Caucus letter which raises grave concerns about “the recent dramatic increase in Department of Defense assistance for the Republic of Azerbaijan and the clear lack of parity in financial aid to the Republic of Armenia.”
In their letter to the Secretaries of State and Defense, Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) emphasized that the “historic parity” is a “cornerstone to regional stability and U.S. geo-strategic interests,” and urged the Departments of State and Defense to “fully uphold the intent of U.S. law” and to “ensure any aid provided under a waiver of the law is met with parity in assistance for the Republic of Armenia.”
Their letter comes after Assembly members and activists met with Members of Congress in the House and Senate and raised concerns about this troubling development, as well as reiterated the importance of U.S.-Armenia relations and U.S. assistance to help further advance Armenia’s democratic and economic reforms.
“The Armenian Assembly of America is deeply troubled by the increasing imbalance of U.S. military assistance between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and notes that consistent with U.S. policy, parity with respect to such assistance must be maintained in the interest of peace and stability in the region,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.
Regarding assistance to Armenia, Senate Appropriations State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee (SFOPS) Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) and Committee Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) included an amendment in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2020 SFOPS Manager’s Package to provide additional funds for assistance to Armenia to further democratic reforms and economic development. This amendment will increase the funds already recommended to Armenia – $17.633 million through the Assistance to Europe Eurasia and Central Asia (AEECA) account.
The Senate report also reiterated support for a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict as well as humanitarian aid for Artsakh. Specifically, “the Committee…endorses the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Process. The Secretary of State and USAID Administrator shall consult with the Committee on programs that can further create conditions for resolution of the conflict and help address the humanitarian needs for all victims of the conflict.” In addition, the report recommended $1.5 million for International Narcotics Controls and Law Enforcement.
The Senate measure follows action in the House of Representatives wherein Congresswoman Jackie Speier’s amendment to provide an additional $40 million for democracy-building assistance to Armenia passed overwhelmingly. As part of the Armenian Assembly’s National Advocacy Conference and Gala honoring Congresswoman Speier, Armenian American leaders and activists from throughout the United States met with Senate offices and emphasized the importance of U.S. assistance to Armenia to help foster democracy and strengthen the rule of law.
“The Armenian Assembly welcomes the Graham/Van Hollen amendment in support of Armenia’s democracy and economy,” stated Assembly Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan. “I would like to thank the activists who traveled to Washington, D.C. last week to join us on Capitol Hill in meetings with Senate and House offices where we discussed the importance of U.S-Armenia relations in alignment with America’s national interests, and the need for additional funding to support Armenia’s reforms,” Khaloyan added.
The Senate FY20 SFOPS Appropriations Bill also restates the traditional exceptions to Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, as well as maintains parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan with respect to funding for International Military Education and Training and for Foreign Military Financing ($600,000 and $1 million respectively to each county). Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act makes it clear that any military assistance cannot “be used for offensive purposes against Armenia” or “undermine…ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement” to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
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.