The U.S. House of Representatives sent a swift and powerful rebuke to the Trump Administration’s efforts to cut U.S. aid for Artsakh de-mining efforts, with 89 Members of Congress – many chairing key House committees – co-signing a letter, led by senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Brad Sherman (D-CA) and Congressman TJ Cox (D-CA), defending this life-saving program, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The Sherman-Cox letter, an initiative supported by the ANCA, encourages USAID Administrator Mark Green to reverse course and continue U.S. funding for the Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) de-mining program. Administrator Green testified before the Foreign Affairs Committee on April 9th of this year that USAID was committed to completing the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnances within the traditional boundaries of Nagorno Karabakh.
“Within a week, during a Congressional recess, eighty-nine U.S. Representatives from 24 states – including 10 full Committee chairs – joined with the ANCA in openly challenging the Trump Administration’s misguided attempt to end U.S. aid to Artsakh – a powerful response that speaks volumes about the scope and depth of American support for this life-saving program,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
“We thank Representatives Sherman and Cox for leading this effort on the House side, are actively supporting the efforts of Senator Menendez on the Senate side, and will continue our work to make Artsakh mine-free and expand the U.S. aid program to include vital rehabilitation services,” continued Hamparian.
Members of Congress received thousands of letters and calls from constituents through the ANCA Rapid Responder system and March to Justice platforms in support of continued aid to Artsakh, with the ANCA Leo Sarkisian and Maral Melkonian Avetisyan summer fellows meeting with hundreds of Capitol Hill staffers in support of the initiative .
“The USAID-funded demining program in Artsakh, implemented by the well-respected HALO Trust, serves as a major American investment in the peace and stability of a strategically important region,” explained Congressman Sherman.
“The HALO Trust has cleared thousands of mines to date, saving countless lives. Whether or not USAID previously expected HALO Trust to complete the clearance of mines in Artsakh by September 2019, Administrator Green seemed clear in stating to me on the record in April that USAID will work to completely clear Artsakh of landmines and unexploded ordnances. Thus, I hope USAID to follow through on its commitment and provide additional funding to HALO Trust as needed to complete this critically important project. I am glad to be joined by more than 80 of my colleagues in sending a follow-up letter to Administrator Green to urge USAID to reconsider its decision to stop funding for humanitarian landmine clearance in Artsakh at the end of this year.”
Rep. TJ Cox concurred, noting, “I’m deeply troubled by the recent decision that USAID had made to halt funding for humanitarian landmine clearance in Artsakh. This move would leave the people of the region with no hope, and fear of death or injury from landmines, with no local capacity in place to address the ongoing threat. USAID must follow through on its commitment to provide additional funding to The HALO Trust to complete this vital project, as promised by Administrator Green. I will continue working with my bipartisan colleagues in Congress, the Armenian National Committee of America, and The HALO Trust to secure federal funding, which will allow us to achieve a mine-free Artsakh.”
Chris Whatley, Executive Director HALO USA explained, “With thousands of landmines still left in the ground, and families living daily in the shadow of death or devastating injury, this is no time for the United States to back away from its historic commitment to the people of Nagorno Karabakh.” HALO Trust has been de-mining in Artsakh for close to 20 years.
Senator Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is circulating a similar letter to Senate colleagues in support of continued U.S. funding for Artsakh de-mining.