Key House Panel Approves Humanitarian Demining | Section 907 of The Freedom Support Act Maintained

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) welcomed report language in the House of Representatives’ Fiscal Year 2021 (FY21) State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Bill that recommends funding for the United States Agency for International Development’s (USAID) Humanitarian Demining program “consistent with prior years.”

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Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), who pushed for the inclusion of the demining language, welcomed today’s action and indicated that this would include funding for demining efforts in Artsakh. The Assembly would also welcome a needs assessment to determine additional priority needs beyond demining.

“We appreciate the commitment of Representative Frank Pallone and the leadership of the Armenian Caucus along with Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA) and TJ Cox (D-CA), and all Members who pressed for continued demining assistance in Artsakh,” stated Assembly Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan. “We would also like to thank House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), who is retiring at the end of this Congress, and her committee colleagues for their steadfast support,” Khaloyan added.

In last year’s Bill, an amendment by Congressman TJ Cox to provide $1.5 million to ensure “funding for demining projects in Nagorno Karabakh, and support for regional rehabilitation services for infants, children, and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities” was included as part of an en bloc amendment offered by Chairwoman Lowey. “Children and families in Nagorno Karabakh shouldn’t have to live under the constant threat of a crippling injury or death from exploding mines,” Rep. Cox stated in June 2019.

Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, which is a longstanding priority for the Assembly, was maintained in the FY21 bill. In this year’s testimony before the House and Senate, the Assembly also urged that Section 907 be fully enforced given Azerbaijan’s continued and deadly cease-fire violations, including the targeting of kindergartens in Armenia’s Tavush Province.

The Bill also includes two important provisions regarding Turkey with respect to the sale of defense articles, as well as the transfer or delivery of F-35 military aircraft. Specifically, none of the funds “may be used to facilitate or support the sale of defense articles or defense services to the Turkish Presidential Protection Directorate [TPPD]” unless the Secretary of State determines and reports to the appropriate congressional committees that members of the TPPD who are named in the July 17, 2017, indictment by the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, and against whom there are pending charges, have returned to the United States to stand trial in connection with the offenses contained in such indictment or have otherwise been brought to justice.” In addition, “none of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act and prior Acts making appropriations for the Department of State, foreign operations, and related programs, may be made available to transfer or deliver, or to facilitate the transfer or delivery of, F-35 aircraft to Turkey, including any defense articles or services related to such aircraft, until the Secretary of State certifies to the appropriate congressional committees that the Government of Turkey no longer possesses the Russian S-400 missile defense system or any other equipment, materials, or personnel associated with such system and has provided credible assurances that the Government of Turkey will not in the future accept delivery of such system.”

The full House is expected to consider the bill later this month. “This package represents good progress toward promoting U.S. values around the world, but we know it alone will not be enough to curb the dangerous behavior of Turkey and Azerbaijan, so we will continue to look for additional opportunities considering the stakes,” Khaloyan concluded.

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.

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NR# 2020-19

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