Washington–U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Wednesday commended the Fiscal Year 2010 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for its commitment to Armenia, Nagorno Karabakh and military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan.
The bill was passed through the House Committee on Appropriations Tuesday night.
“I would like to commend Chairwoman [Nita] Lowey and Ranking Member [Kay] Granger for their hard work and leadership on the State and Foreign Operation Appropriations bill,” he said in a written statement, noting the imperative for passing the measure. “The people of Armenia continue to face an illegal dual blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan and continue to feel the negative effects of the global recession. I strongly believe that robust U.S. assistance to Armenia will help minimize the impact of these factors and help the country strengthen its economy. Our assistance has helped economic and social institutions in Armenia and will continue to do so when provided at appropriate levels. “
In his statement, Pallone also criticized the Administration’s initial budget proposal for Armenia, which “reduced funding to Armenia and broke with military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
The Committee adopted the measure in large part as approved last week by the Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations. Pallone said he was “pleased” with the House subcommittee vote, which rejected the Administration’s recommendations.
The bill maintains military assistance parity to Armenia and Azerbaijan, keeping foreign military financing to both countries at $3 million and International Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance at $450,000 each. The report language accompanying the legislation, for the first time, also specifically references “the policy of parity in military assistance provided to Armenia and Azerbaijan.”
“I am also grateful that the subcommittee has allocated $10 million for Nagorno Karabakh in humanitarian assistance,” Pallone said, noting that US funding to the mountainous republic has been “tremendously helpful” in alleviating the humanitarian crises that ensued after the Azeri invoked war. “However, I respectfully request that in moving forward with the appropriations bill, Chairwoman Lowey consider a shift in aid from humanitarian to developmental programs in Nagorno Karabakh.”
Pallone also welcomed the resolution stronger language in governing the President’s authority to waive Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, a provision of law that restricts aid to Azerbaijan due to its blockades and other offensive actions against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh.
Section 907, his statement said, remains a “fundamental element of U.S. policy toward the South Caucasus and is essential as Azerbaijan continues its blockade of Armenia and continues to use threatening language.”
The bill reiterates the need for all parties in the conflict to ‘refrain from threats, incitement to the use of force, or other inflammatory rhetoric’ and directs the Department of State to consult with the Committee on Appropriations before exercising this waiver for Fiscal Year 2010.”