WASHINGTON–Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA) has called for the Administration’s proposed post-conflict aid package to Georgia to include assistance to Armenia, a nation he described as an "innocent victim" in the war between Georgia and Russia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
"We appreciate Congressman Sherman’s principled and persistent efforts to ensure that the post Georgia-Russia conflict aid package addresses the substantial economic harm inflicted upon Armenia–estimated at up to $1 billion ‘s in the form of drastically increased transportation costs, higher food and fuel prices, and a slow-down in overall investmen’s," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "We are, in equal measure, disappointed by Dan Fried’s callous and shortsighted rejection, on behalf of the Bush Administration, of this badly-needed assistance package."
Speaking during a September 9th hearing of House Foreign Affairs Committee, the California legislator stressed that, "in addition to the combatants, Armenia has suffered tremendously as a result of this war, and Armenia is totally blameless." He then asked the Administration witness, Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried: "does the Administration plan on providing economic aid to Armenia as part of this package and if so, how much?"
Fried responded by agreeing that, "Armenia has suffered as a result of this [war]," but then rejected providing any help to offset this damage. He explained that, "Our assistance package ‘s our additional assistance package does not include Armenia, but, of course, Armenia is a significant recipient of American assistance. I think it is the second largest or perhaps the largest per capita recipient of American assistance in the world, and we intend to continue strong assistance to Armenia."
Congressman Sherman, pressing further, thanked Fried for his "soccer commentary" and then interrupted him to follow up with even more specific questions, leading to the following exchange:
Congressman Sherman: "The estimate of the Armenian government is that this conflict has already damaged its economy to the tune of $680 million. How does $680 million compare to the Administration’s Armenia aid package request for fiscal ’09?"
Assistant Secretary Fried: It’s obviously more than that.
Congressman Sherman: By a factor of 10 or factor of 15 or factor of – or just a few percent?
Assistant Secretary Fried: A factor of 10 sounds about right, but I don’t want to be too precise. We certainly hope — of course, I have to look at what Armenia has in – what lies behind those large estimates of damage. That seems pretty high, but I’d want to take a look at this.