Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus (D-NV) were joined by a bi-partisan group of over 45 Members of Congress in calling on Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Samantha Power to “take immediate steps dedicating significant resources” to support the at-risk Armenian population of Artsakh, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“Our American blockade on U.S. humanitarian aid to Artsakh – as a practical matter – effectively abets Azerbaijan’s attempts to strangle Artsakh’s population, ethnically cleansing the indigenous population of a region at the very core of the ancient Armenian homeland,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “It’s wrong. Our government knows it’s wrong. It has to stop – and, with sufficient Congressional leadership, it will.”
The Congressional letter, sent on the thirty-first anniversary of the Republic of Artsakh’s declaration of independence, notes that, “the people of Artsakh continue to face severe hardships caused both by the deadly 44-day war that Azerbaijani forces provoked in 2020 and the ongoing aggressions committed against innocent civilians.” The letter specifically calls on the State Department and USAID to “to significantly increase funding that will directly assist the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh, including assistance for housing, food security, water and sanitation, health care, rehabilitation, and demining and UXO clearance services they need to safely rebuild their lives, homes, and communities. We also urge you to take every action possible to protect the historic and cultural Armenian sites in territory held by Azerbaijan, which many reports indicate are currently under threat.”
Members of Congress also asked for an update on Biden Administration efforts to assist the people of Artsakh and to conduct an updated needs assessment on the humanitarian crisis there, to be shared with Congress to best determine Fiscal Year 2023 U.S. assistance levels.
Joining Representatives Pallone and Titus in cosigning the Congressional letter on Artsakh assistance are Representatives: Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Earl Blumenauer (D-OR), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jim Himes (D-CT), William Keating (D-MA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Andy Kim (D-NJ), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), John Larson (D-CT), Rick Larsen (D-WA), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Susie Lee (D-NV), Mike Levin (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Joseph Morelle (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Scott Peters (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Katie Porter (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Trone (D-MD), and David Valadao (R-CA).
On August 22nd, ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian, in letters sent to Congressional leadership and rank and file U.S. Senate and House members, called for Congressional inquiries into the Biden administration’s effective blockade on humanitarian aid to Armenian families of Artsakh. “America must not be complicit in the ethnic-cleansing of Artsakh by Azerbaijan,” stressed Hamparian.
Text of Congressional Letter to Secretary of State Blinken and USAID Administrator Power
Dear Secretary Blinken and Administrator Power:
We are deeply concerned by the lack of meaningful humanitarian aid to the vulnerable Armenian population in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and urge you to take immediate steps dedicating significant resources to these individuals.
The people of Artsakh continue to face severe hardships caused both by the deadly 44-day war that Azerbaijani forces provoked in 2020 and the ongoing aggressions committed against innocent civilians. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) has acknowledged that over 90,000 refugees displaced to Armenia, the majority of whom are women, children, and elderly, are suffering through an acute humanitarian crisis.
The $5,000,000 in Fiscal Year 2021 funding that USAID has committed, and the assistance allocated through the United Nations’ Armenia Interagency Response Plan (IA-RP) have been wholly insufficient to address this crisis. Many families have bravely returned to their homes in Artsakh despite the ongoing threat of violence from Azerbaijani troops and the food, shelter, and energy insecurities they face. We are also extremely concerned that the individuals who remain in Artsakh have not received any of the previously allocated U.S. assistance.
Our country has historically promoted peace in Artsakh through U.S. government-funded landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance efforts. We have also supported rebuilding through millions of dollars of direct aid for humanitarian assistance initiatives like maternal health care and clean drinking water projects. The need for this assistance has only grown due to Azerbaijan’s indiscriminate bombing campaigns in 2020 and the ongoing provocations by their troops which further endanger food, water, energy, and other critical resources for these communities. It is especially urgent because of the recent evacuation and closure of the Lachin/Berdzor corridor, forcing Armenian families to leave their homes and shutting off a vital route used for transportation and communications between Artsakh and Armenia.
We strongly urge the Department of State and USAID to significantly increase funding that will directly assist the Armenian population in Nagorno-Karabakh, including assistance for housing, food security, water and sanitation, health care, rehabilitation, and demining and UXO clearance services they need to safely rebuild their lives, homes, and communities. We also urge you to take every action possible to protect the historic and cultural Armenian sites in territory held by Azerbaijan, which many reports indicate are currently under threat.
We request an update on the specific actions the Biden Administration has taken to help at-risk Armenians living in Nagorno-Karabakh and any planned actions moving forward, including information on programs, partners, budgets, and deliverables. This update should differentiate between which resources were allocated to the Republic of Armenia to aid displaced people and the assistance allocated to those still living in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Additionally, the most recent publicly available report from USAID on Nagorno-Karabakh from February 2021 is outdated and no longer provides the data that we need to make sound policy decisions. We strongly urge you to conduct an updated needs assessment on the humanitarian crisis and share it with interested stakeholders as soon as possible.
We appreciate your consideration of these requests and look forward to your timely reply.