45 House Members Urge More Funding for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh in Foreign Operations Conference Report
Washington, D.C. -- Forty-five members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to U.S. Rep. Jim Kolbe (R-AZ), Chairman of the House Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee, today requesting conferees provide more funding to Armenia in aid and assistance than what the House approved earlier this year in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2004 Foreign Operations spending bill. The legislation is set to go before a conference committee made up of members of the House and Senate that will be charged with reconciling differences between separate bills passed in the two chambers earlier this year.
The bipartisan letter, initiated by U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, and John Sweeney (R-NY), an active member of the Caucus who coordinated a similar letter earlier this year with the New Jersey congressman, requested "not less than" $75 million in aid to Armenia and $5 million in humanitarian assistance to Nagorno Karabakh. Earlier this year in his budget request, President Bush suggested only $49.5 million for Armenia and no funding for Nagorno Karabakh.
Aid to Armenia
"While we recognize current fiscal restraints, we urge you to support the Senate language calling for not less than $75 million in U.S. assistance to Armenia in FY 2004," the House members wrote. "Maintaining significant assistance to Armenia is essential in order for its people to secure the most basic standard of living in the face of the ongoing Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades."
The lawmakers wrote that despite the dual blockades, Armenias economic reform measures are progressing, as demonstrated by the Wall Street Journal and Heritage Foundations "2003 Index of Economic Freedom." The index, which measured how 161 countries scored on a list of 50 independent variables divided into ten broad factors of economic freedom, rated Armenia forty-fourth. According to the study, Armenia remains the most economically free nation in the region, including all nations in the Commonwealth of Independent States. U.S. technical and developmental assistance continues to be an essential component of Armenias economic reform and performance.
Aid to Nagorno Karabakh
"The Subcommittee is to be commended for providing $5 million in humanitarian assistance to NKR for FY 2004," the members continued. "As you are aware, this critically important funding will be earmarked for rebuilding homes, improving water supplies and healthcare and providing income-generating opportunities for the most vulnerable groups. We urge you to include the House of Representatives and Senate language in the final version."
U.S. Military Assistance to Armenia
Recognizing the importance of a strong U.S.-Armenia military relationship, the 45 House members requested the conferees maintain the previously allocated levels of $2.5 million in Foreign Military Financing and $900,000 in International Military Education Training assistance. The members wrote they strongly believe it is in the U.S. national interest to build upon this important area of cooperation with Armenia.
Maintain Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act
The lawmakers urged conferees to continue to vigorously monitor the conditional waiver of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act to ensure the safety of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Should Armenias or Karabakhs safety be compromised or the NKR peace process be hindered as a result of any assistance provided to Azerbaijan, the 45 House members called upon conferees to terminate the waiver.
"While we support the Presidents request for flexibility to counter terrorist elements and organizations operating within Azerbaijan, we believe that no further changes to Section 907 should be made," the members wrote.
Peace Process (the Nagorno Karabakh conflict)
"We praise the Subcommittee for providing funding in the FY 2004 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for confidence-building measures to help facilitate a peaceful resolution of the NKR conflict. Further, we request that these funds continue to be made available for heightened cooperation between Armenia, Azerbaijan and NKR," the lawmakers concluded.
The following 45 House members signed the letter to Chairman Kolbe and other conferees.
Frank Pallone, Jr. John E. Sweeney
Maurice D. Hinchey David Dreier
Lucille Roybal-Allard Eric Cantor
Edward J. Markey George Radanovich
Ellen O. Tauscher Michael Bilirakis
Barney Frank Mark Foley
John B. Larson Mark E. Souder
Joseph Crowley Thadeus G. McCotter
Howard L. Berman Fred Upton
Robert E. Andrews Devin Nunes
Dale E. Kildee Christopher Shays
Sander M. Levin Mike Ferguson
Carolyn B. Maloney Sue W. Kelly
James R. Langevin Scott Garrett
Brad Sherman Xavier Becerra
Bob Filner James P. McGovern
Calvin M. Dooley Stephanie Tubbs Jones
Steve Israel Dennis A. Cardoza
Adam B. Schiff Michael R. McNulty
Gerald D. Kleczka Grace F. Napolitano
Michael E. Capuano Jerry F. Costello
Zoe Lofgren Karen McCarthy