Today, the U.S. House Appropriations Committee approved the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) Appropriations Bill, which covers assistance to Armenia and the region, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) reported. The bill maintains Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act and includes language for aid to nations hosting Syrian refugees.
Specifically, the SFOPS Report highlighted the need for additional assistance to “vulnerable populations in Syria and in neighboring countries,” comprised of Syrian refugees, Christians, and other minorities afflicted by the Syrian civil war and persecuted by the Islamic State (ISIS). According to the bill, funds “shall be made available for programs in countries affected by significant populations of internally displaced persons or refugees.”
The Committee also recommends the expansion of humanitarian programs to ensure services reach these vulnerable populations. In addition, the House has incorporated a section on Genocide Victim Memorial Sites, where funds are appropriated “to establish and maintain memorial sites of genocide.”
Similar to Fiscal Year 2016, this year’s Committee report did not delineate funding levels for the South Caucasus generally, however, the Senate approved version provided $24.1 million in non-military assistance to Armenia as well as called for continued aid to Nagorno Karabakh.
“As Congress finalizes the House and Senate Appropriations Bills, the Armenian Assembly will continue to push for additional assistance to help Armenia cope with the influx of refugees fleeing from violence in Syria, as well as for much needed humanitarian assistance to help Nagorno Karabakh rebuild after the April war launched by Azerbaijan,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny stated.
Earlier this year, 33 Members sent a letter to the House Appropriations Committee outlining funding and policy issues for the region. Ardouny, in testimony submitted to the Committee, outlined nine key policy priorities for the Armenian American community, including assistance to Christian Armenians in the Middle East, the majority of whom are descendants of survivors of the Armenian Genocide. According to Ardouny’s testimony: “The Assembly also urge[d] enhanced assistance to Christian and other minority communities at risk in the Middle East, with a particular focus of concern regarding the continued unrest in Syria, particularly the battleground city of Aleppo where Armenian churches and other institutions have come under attack.”
The House Appropriations Bill, similar to the Senate’s, maintains Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act as well, restating the six customary exemptions for humanitarian and other assistance to Azerbaijan. Section 907 of the 1992 FREEDOM Support Act was enacted to address Azerbaijan’s hostile actions against Armenia.