Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-CA) submitted powerful testimony this week to key House foreign aid appropriators, calling for the expansion of U.S. assistance to Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and Armenia, and the implementation of measures to check escalating Azerbaijani aggression, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We want to thank Representatives Pallone and Schiff for adding their voice – once again – to so many in Congress, our community, and among our coalition partners in advancing Armenia and Artsakh-related FY19 foreign aid priorities,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We look forward to continuing to advocate for full funding for Artsakh de-mining and rehabilitation services, the deployment of gunfire locator along the line of contact, robust economic, military and refugee resettlement assistance to Armenia, and – of course – a new Millennium Challenge Corporation – grant for STEAM education in Armenia’s public schools,” concluded Hamparian.
Pallone: FY 2019 U.S. Aid Bill Should Offer “Unwavering Commitment” to Artsakh and Armenia
“I believe the Fiscal Year 2019 House budget should reflect an unwavering commitment to strengthening the independence of the Republic of Armenia, promoting peace in the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), and supporting Armenia as a regional safe haven for at-risk Middle East refugees,” began Rep. Pallone’s testimony to the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, the panel tasked with preparing the foreign aid bill for full House consideration.
Rep. Pallone cited the long history of U.S. assistance to Armenians, including during the Armenian Genocide, and noted that “the generosity of the American people has carried through to this day, helping to usher in Democratic reforms for Armenia at the end of the Cold War and allowing it to create a market-based economy. These reforms are now on full display after peaceful protests in April led to the democratic and fair election of Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian on May 8.” To assist the over 20,000 Syrian refugees who have sought safe-haven in Armenia, Rep. Pallone called for an allocation of $20 million.
Rep. Pallone noted the impact of ongoing U.S. support to Artsakh in the areas of maternal health, demining, rehabilitation centers and clean water programs, and called for an allocation of $6 million in FY 2019.
“Unfortunately, violence against the Armenian people continues today, in part because of continued military assistance to the Azerbaijani Government,” continued Pallone, who called on Congressional leaders to zero-out military aid to the Aliyev regime and allocate $4 million for the “placement of advanced gunfire locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.”
Rep. Pallone went on to request $30 million in U.S. economic aid to Armenia and $10 million in military aid and training assistance.
Schiff: “This is an important moment to deepen our engagement with Armenia”
Noting his longtime, strong support for Armenia and the right to self-determination of the people of Artsakh, Rep. Schiff highlighted his key priorities for the FY 2019 foreign aid bill, including:
— $20 million for the implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals
— Expanded humanitarian aid to Artsakh targeted for continued “de-mining as well as support for rehabilitation programs.”
— $40 million in U.S. economic aid to Armenia and $11 million in military assistance
— $40 million to support Armenia’s efforts to serve as safe-haven to refugees in the region
“Armenia has just emerged from a period of volatile politics and mass protests with a new Prime Minister, and I believe this is an important moment to deepen our engagement with Armenia and offer our support as they build a stronger and more prosperous democracy,” explained Rep. Schiff in his testimony.
In voicing his support for increased U.S. assistance to Artsakh, Rep. Schiff outlined the ongoing threats from neighboring Azerbaijan. “I continue to be deeply disturbed by the military provocations by Azerbaijani forces against the people of Artsakh,” said Rep. Schiff. “I remain deeply concerned too by the strong evidence of human rights abuses on the part of Azeri troops, and the appalling desecration of the bodies of Armenian and Artsakh citizens. There need to be specific steps to defuse tension and violence along the border, such as independent monitors on the Line of Contact, and the use of technologies that can detect sniper fire from Azerbaijan’s territory. The true victims of this escalated violence are the people of Artsakh who simply want to live free of fear and violence, and exercise their right of self-determination.”