Senate Appropriations Committee Maintains President’s Request for Armenia Aid While Cutting Foreign Aid Budget
WASHINGTON–On Thursday evening, the U.S. House of Representatives approved the earlier Appropriations Committee requests for $48 million in U.S. aid to Armenia and $10 million aid to Karabakh, while maintaining military assistance parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan as part of the fiscal year (FY) 2010 foreign assistance package, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA.)
House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chair Mark Kirk (R-IL) and Armenian Genocide resolution lead sponsor Adam Schiff (D-CA), all active supporters of Armenia assistance provisions, welcomed the House decision.
Rep. Kirk noted that the bill “also includes a new requirement for the Administration to consult with Congress before exercising its waiver authority for assistance to Azerbaijan granted under section 907 of the Foreign Assistance Act.”
Specifically, the bill states: “The Committee reaffirms that Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act is still in effect, pending a settlement of the ongoing dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the status of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Committee supports the so-called “Minsk Process” that provides a forum for negotiations toward a peaceful settlement of the conflict, and encourages the Department of State to continue its efforts to reenergize the negotiating process this year. As this process moves forward, the Committee believes that all parties in the conflict must refrain from threats, incitement to the use of force, or other inflammatory rhetoric. Recognizing that the Congress gave the President broad waiver authority with respect to Section 907 in the fiscal year 2002 Appropriations Act and that this waiver has been exercised in every fiscal year since then, the Committee directs that the Department of State consult with the Committees on Appropriations before exercising this waiver for fiscal year 2010 to ensure that all conditions under the waiver provision are being fully met.”
Rep. Schiff noted that, for the first time, “the report accompanying the [foreign aid] bill references the policy of parity in military assistance provided to Armenia and Azerbaijan.” Despite Bush and Obama Administration calls to break military assistance parity, Congress has maintained the provision, concerned about providing greater military assistance to an Azerbaijani leadership which continues threats of war against neighboring Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.
The FY 2010 House Appropriations bill keeps foreign military financing to both countries at $3 million and International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance at $450,000 each.
The Senate Appropriations Committee approved President Obama’s request of $30 million in assistance to Armenia, while cutting the overall foreign aid funding budget. Similar to previous years’ measures, the bill does not make a specific assistance allocation for Nagorno Karabagh and remains silent on foreign military assistance and IMET funding.
“The ANCA welcomes House passage of the foreign aid bill, and particularly the increased assistance for Nagorno Karabagh and maintaining military assistance parity for Azerbaijan and Armenia,” reported ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. “Given the ongoing economic hardship caused by the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades of Armenia, and President Aliyev’s consistent threats of war against his neighbors, we are disappointed with the Senate Appropriations Committee’s allocation of only $30 million for Armenia. We look forward to working with Senate and House conferees to ensure that the final bill reflects appropriate funding levels, which promote stability and economic progress in the region.”
The Senate has yet to consider its version of the foreign aid bill, after which Senate and House appropriators will confer on a final version of the measure, to be sent to President Obama for signature.