The $40 million is less than the $44 million approved by the House State Foreign Operations Sub-Committee last month and in line with President Obama’s request for fiscal year 2011. Armenia was allocated $41 million for fiscal year 2010—$1 million more than the Senate committee earmark. While the House version of the budget maintained the parity in military aid for Armenia and Azerbaijan, the Senate version provided no delineation of those numbers, hence leaving the outcome vague.
“We are disappointed that the Senate Appropriations Committee, in allocating $40 million in economic assistance, effectively accepted President Obama’s proposed reduction in the actual level of aid provided to Armenia last fiscal year, and also are troubled that the panel chose not to support the $10 million aid figure for Nagorno Karabakh adopted early this year by the House State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA.
“We remain hopeful that members of the upcoming House-Senate conference committee will increase aid figures, for both Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, in the final version of the foreign aid bill,” added Hamparian.
The Senate committee also voted for a $22.12 million assistance for Azerbaijan, in line with Obama’s FY11 request.
The committee also expressed concern on the media freedom issues in Azerbaijan and urged the State Department to assess the effectiveness of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, which prohibits direct US aid to Azerbaijan until that country lifts its blockade of Armenia.
“The Committee directs the Secretary of State to submit a report not later than 90 days after enactment of this act, analyzing the effectiveness of the restrictions on assistance for the Government of Azerbaijan as contained in section 907 of Public Law 102-511, and the exceptions to such restrictions on assistance provided under this heading, in furthering a resolution to the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan. Such report shall also include specific recommendations for increasing opportunities for reconciliation between parties,” said the Senate committee bill.
“The Committee remains concerned with the repression of independent journalists in Azerbaijan. The Committee directs the Secretary of State to seek improvements in freedom of expression in connection with U.S. assistance for the central Government of Azerbaijan,” added the bill.
The House version of the foreign aid bill must still be voted on by the full House Appropriations Committee. Once both chambers vote on their respective versions of the foreign aid bill, they will move to the House-Senate conference committee, where details of the two versions of the bill will be reconciled for a final budget to be voted on at a later date.