Over 20 U.S. Senators press Biden to sharply boost aid to Artsakh refugees

Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), along with some twenty of their Senate colleagues, have called on President Biden to significantly increase U.S. humanitarian aid to Armenian refugees forcibly displaced from Artsakh, work toward their safe and dignified return to their indigenous homes, and hold Azerbaijan accountable for their genocidal actions.

“With well over 115,000 Armenians still at-risk, facing challenges in access to housing, food, power, employment, and medical care, we welcome this principled call by Senators Reed and Whitehouse and their colleagues for a major boost in Biden Administration humanitarian assistance to Artsakh’s Armenians,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We need to see this aid provided parallel to concrete steps to hold Azerbaijan accountable and a sustained American campaign to secure the safe return of Artsakh Armenians to their indigenous homeland under international protection.”

In the June 20th letter to President Biden, the Senators stress that “As we recently recognized the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the United States must take steps to ensure that the persecution of ethnic Armenians never takes place again. This includes providing additional humanitarian and economic support to Armenia, bolstering U.S.-Armenia ties, and holding Azerbaijan accountable, including the possible imposition of sanctions for any human rights violations that took place during the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Azerbaijani territory last year.”

Joining Senators Reed and Whitehouse in urging the Biden Administration to ensure robust humanitarian assistance to Armenia are Senators: Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacklyn Rosen (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Noting that Armenia is currently housing more than 115,000 refugees, including 36,000 children, forcibly displaced by Azerbaijan, the Senators state that it is estimated Armenia may require up to $2 billion in additional urgent humanitarian assistance to provide ongoing resources for the refugee population and ensure that basic needs are met. To date, the U.S. has provided only $15 million in humanitarian assistance to Armenia – of which only a small portion has been directly allocated to refugees. In urging the United States to provide a “sizeable amount” of this estimated humanitarian funding requirement through funds appropriated in the recent national security supplemental package, the Senates also call on the Biden Administration to encourage international partners to respond in kind.

“Unfortunately, U.S. humanitarian assistance to Armenia to date is barely a fraction of what is needed to support Artsakh’s Armenians,” remarked ANCA Eastern Region board member and ANC-Rhode Island activist, Steve Mesrobian. “In light of this dire humanitarian crisis, we thank Senators Reed and Whitehouse for their leadership in support of Artsakh’s Armenians – and for their continuous efforts to ensure Azerbaijan is held accountable for its genocidal aggression.”

In addition to requesting humanitarian assistance and calling for accountability for Azerbaijan’s war crimes, the Senators also urge the United States to take a leadership role in negotiations with Azerbaijan to ensure refugees are afforded the right to return to their homes under safe and secure conditions with international guarantees. While several U.S. officials have publicly expressed support for the right of Artsakh’s Armenians to return to their homes, Washington has not taken any meaningful action to compel Azerbaijan to uphold its international legal obligations nor establish international protections that will ensure Artsakh’s Armenians can return to their homes free from persecution and subjugation by Azerbaijan.

POLITICO’s Miles Herszenhorn and Eric Bazail-Eimil broke news of the Senate letter in the National Security Daily, stating, “21 Democratic Senators are calling on the Biden administration to allocate more humanitarian aid to Armenia to support refugees affected by Azerbaijan’s invasion of the contested Nagorno-Karabakh exclave last September.” 

The full text of the letter is available here.

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