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45 House Members Urge More Funding for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh in Foreign Operations Conference Report

November 6, 2003
Press Release

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

Joe Baca