* Urge colleagues to back aid to Armenia–defend Section 907–and support confidence-building measures for Nagorno-Karabakh
WASHINGTON–On the eve of a key vote in the US House on the fiscal year 2001 foreign aid bill Wednesday–Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Edward Porter (R-Ill.) joined with Rep. Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) in calling for increased US assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–maintaining the restrictions on US aid to Azerbaijan–and finding an equitable resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
The fiscal year 2001 foreign aid bill–H.R. 4811–allocates $13.3 billion in assistance to countries around the world–$740,000,000 of which will reach the Independent States (IS). The legislation stipulates that Armenia and Georgia will each receive 12.5 percent of the IS allocation–representing a slight increase in the percentage of assistance but an overall reduction in aid to Armenia. Commenting on the reduction–Rep. Pallone explained that "given the fact that budgets are tight this year–and the total level of the assistance to the IS has been decreased by $99 million–I appreciate the fact that the appropriators have recognized the need to continue our commitment to Armenia."
The bill maintains the ban on US aid to the government of Azerbaijan–commonly known as Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–while allowing for humanitarian and democracy assistance. "This law should remain in place," commented Rep. Pallone–"and the Subcommittee was right in resisting efforts to repeal or further modify this important provision – echoing the bipartisan sentiment that has been clearly expressed both here and in the Other Body (the Senate.)"
Rep. Knollenberg cited the importance of language in the bill "directing the Administration–without further delay–to release the remainder of the $20 million provided in 1998 for victims of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict." The legislation calls on the Secretary of State to report on US and bi-lateral assistance levels to Nagorno Karabakh since 1998 and to project additional sums necessary to assist displaced persons within fifteen days of enactment of the bill.
In his speech on the House floor–retiring Congressman John Edward Porter spoke forcefully in support of Congressional efforts to encourage credible confidence building measures and to promote a lasting peace in Nagorno Karabakh. Rep. Porter called attention to language in the foreign aid bill urging "Secretary of State to move forthwith to appoint a high-level–long-term Special Negotiator to facilitate direct negotiations and any other contacts that will bring peace to the people of the South Caucasus. The Secretary is further urged to remain engaged in the regional peace process."
The House will continue debating foreign debt relief and other aspects of the bill–with a final vote on H.R.4811 expected later Thursday.