WASHINGTON–Representatives Frank Wolf (R-Va.)–Joseph Knollenberg (R-Mich.)–Nita Lowey (D-NY)–and Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) voiced support for a range of issues of concern to Armenian Americans during a hearing Wednesday before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations–reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
Rep. Knollenberg pressed Administration officials appearing before the panel to justify their opposition to the law restricting US aid to the government of Azerbaijan–and questioned the Administration about what specific steps had been taken to ensure Azeri compliance with this law.
"If you opposed 907–then what is it that you suggest in the way of some interim agreement–some way to bridge the problem in the interim–that would bring humanitarian assistance to those people–both in Nagorno-Karabakh and Azerbaijan," asked Rep. Knollenberg.
Later in the hearing–Rep. Wolf expressed his concern about the imbalance in US humanitarian assistance to Azerbaijan and Nagorno-Karabakh.
"Section 907 only restricts aid to the government not humanitarian assistance," explained Rep. Wolf.
"This country has given $16.4 million to Azerbaijan [in 1997] and nothing to Nagorno-Karabakh–and I think you really are going to have to deal with that issue… The Red Cross did an evaluation of the children in Nagorno-Karabakhvery–very bad diarrhea–respiratory problems–will you pledge here to do something with Nagorno-Karabakh?" Wolf asked.
Amb. Richard Morningstar–the State Department’s coordinator of aid to the New Independent States–responded: "What I pledge is that we are assessing the needs of Nagorno-Karabakh–that we do in fact provide funding for the Red Cross–and we will try to do everything we can through the Red Cross to meet those needs and do what we can to de-link this humanitarian assistance-political issue throughout the region."
San Francisco representative Pelosi raised a number of concerns about the situation in the Transcaucasus region and relayed her intention to submit a series of specific questions regarding the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act–Armenia–Turkey and Azerbaijan. Lowey voiced concerns about reports from the US Centers for Disease Control citing widespread health problems in Armenia.
She pointed out that "The dire situation is at least partially a result of the blockade of Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan," and asked for assurances that US assistance will continue to help vulnerable families.
"We expect the value of our actual assistance program to Armenia to be in the vicinity of $140 to $150 million dollars–of which–probably at least 60% is humanitarian assistance," replied Amb. Morningstar.
Joining Amb. Morningstar as witnesses were Tom Dine–the USAID coordinator for aid to Europe and the NIS–and James Holmes–the State Department’s coordinator for East European assistance.