U.S. Senate supports refugee assistance to Armenia, continued aid to Artsakh

The full U.S. Senate Appropriations Committee, today – following the lead of Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) – voiced their continued support for direct U.S. aid to Nagorno Karabakh, a program that has, with bipartisan backing, provided humanitarian aid to the citizens of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (Artsakh) since 1998, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). The Senate spending panel also recommended funding to support assistance for refugees in Armenia, a major ANCA legislative priority.
With respect to refugee assistance to Armenia, the Senate’s Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 State and Foreign Operations Spending bill includes the following report language: “The Committee supports assistance for refugees in Armenia, particularly minority groups from the Middle East who have fled persecution and conflict in Syria and Iraq.”
With regard to Nagorno Karabakh, the report language reads: “The Committee recommends assistance for victims of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in amounts consistent with prior fiscal years, and for ongoing needs related to the conflict. The Committee urges a peaceful resolution of the conflict. The Committee recognizes that Nagorno Karabakh has a per capita landmine accident rate among the highest in the world, and that mine clearance programs have been effective where implemented. The Committee is concerned with territorial restrictions on demining activities in the region and recommends continued funds for, and the geographic expansion of, such programs.”
Senate Appropriations Committee Ranking Democrat Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has been an ongoing supporter of demining efforts in Nagorno Karabakh and around the world.
“We very much appreciate the work of U.S. Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL) in supporting continued U.S. assistance to Nagorno Karabakh and backing refugee assistance for Armenia,” remarked ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We value the U.S. Senate’s strong support for demining efforts in Nagorno Karabakh and look forward to working with House and Senate leaders to increase funding levels for Nagorno Karabakh and also to ensure that rehabilitation programs there are fully supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development.”
“The ANCA also welcomes the Senate’s acknowledgement that refugee assistance is urgently needed to help Armenia to effectively transition refugees fleeing Syria and Iraq,” added Hamparian.
The Senate Appropriations Committee made a specific recommendation of $24.1 million in aid to Armenia and $10.9 million for Azerbaijan. With respect to the International Military Education and Training program, the Senate spending panel provided $600,000 for Armenia and $1 million in Foreign Military Financing for Armenia.  Overall assistance to Armenia is $3 million more that President Obama’s budget request.
Earlier this year, the ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian submitted testimony to Congress, outlining the Armenian American community’s foreign aid priorities.  The Obama-Biden Administration released its FY2017 budget earlier this year which called for $22 million in U.S. economic assistance to Armenia while maintaining parity in appropriated military aid to both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The White House’s budget proposal did not cite a specific aid level for Nagorno Karabakh and no targeted funding for refugee assistance in Armenia.
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