The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) continued calls for grassroots action to increase aid to Nagorno Karabakh and foster stronger U.S.-Armenia trade relations, as President Obama rolled out his Fiscal Year 2017 (FY2017) budget request.
President Obama proposed a $22,412,000 allocation in economic aid to Armenia – a 22% increase over last year’s request, but far less than the $40,000,000 previously advanced by the ANCA and Congressional Armenian Caucus. The FY2017 request for Azerbaijan is $10,936,000. The White House’s proposal did maintain parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan in terms of appropriated military aid, with International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance set at $600,000 and Foreign Military Finance (FMF) at $1,000,000. President Obama also requested $1,700,000 for International Narcotics Control and Law enforcement for Armenia.
The President’s FY2017 budget request dealing with foreign assistance priorities is available at: http://www.state.gov/documents/organization/252179.pdf
“While we remain troubled that President Obama – in the face of increasing Azerbaijani cross-border aggression – would propose any military aid at all to Ilham Aliyev’s armed forces, we do appreciate that, in this context, the principle of military aid parity has been maintained to both Armenia and Azerbaijan,” stated ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. He added that the ANCA would place a high priority on securing an appropriation of at least $5 million in aid to Nagorno Karabakh, including for the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center, a regional clinic based in Stepanakert that treats children and adults with disabilities.
The Administration’s budget does not include any figures for aid to Nagorno Karabakh, although, over the past several years USAID has allocated at least $1,500,000 annually for this purpose.
The ANCA kicked off its FY2017 appropriations campaign last week, issuing an online action alert — www.anca.org/aid – outlining its requests, which include:
1) At least $5 million in U.S. developmental aid to Nagorno Karabakh, with special focus on expanding the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center in Stepanakert, a regional clinic serving over 1,000 children and adults with physical and mental disabilities every year.
2) Zero-out U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until its leaders agree with the Royce-Engel peace proposals to withdraw snipers and heavy arms, add OSCE observers, and deploy gunfire locator systems.
3) At least $40 million in U.S. economic assistance to Armenia, targeted to growing the U.S.-Armenia trade and investment relationship.
4) At least $10 million in emergency aid to help Armenia settle the nearly 20,000 thousand people who have fled to Armenia from Syria and elsewhere in theMiddle East.
5) At least 10% of U.S. assistance to Georgia to be used for job creation programs in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of that country.
6) Language strengthening Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan.
In recent years, the ANCA, amid overall falling foreign aid figures, has prioritized U.S. -Armenia trade over aid, an organizational focus that resulted in last year’s Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. This year, the ANCA has prioritized the negotiation of a U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty. Congressman Ted Lieu (D-CA) and, most recently, Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) are among the growing number of U.S. legislators urging the U.S. Department Treasury to begin tax treaty negotiations with Armenia.