WASHINGTON–DC–The Bush Administration Wednesday proposed breaking its agreement with Congress to maintain parity in military aid levels to Armenia and Azerbaijan–recommending–in its FY 2007 budget that Azerbaijan receive 20% more military training and hardware than Armenia–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
The President has also recommended cutting US economic aid to Armenia from last year’s appropriation of $74.4 million to $50 million–a nearly 33% reduction.
"We are seriously troubled–both by the President’s breach of his agreement with Congress to maintain parity in military aid appropriations to Armenia and Azerbaijan–as well as by the drastic cut that he is proposing in economic development assistance to Armenia," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "We look to our friends in Congress to help restore military aid parity and to meaningfully increase Armenia’s economic aid level over the President’s request."
The President’s proposal for Freedom Support Act aid is $50 million for Armenia–$28 million for Azerbaijan–and $58 million for Georgia. His Foreign Military Financing proposals are $3.5 million for Armenia–$4.5 million for Azerbaijan–and $10 million for Georgia. The White House’s recommendation to Congress for International Military Education and Training is $790,000 for Armenia–$885,000 for Azerbaijan–and $1,235,000 for Georgia.
The President’s budget document includes the following description of Armenia: "One of Eurasia’s leading performers in economic and political reform–Armenia was recently approved to sign an MCC Compact. Despite the gains produced by economic reforms–however–poverty remains widespread in Armenia. The key now is effective implementation of reform measures–particularly in fighting corruption. Recent problems in the constitutional referendum process highlight the continuing need for democracy assistance. FY 2007 assistance will support efforts to increase stability in order to facilitate the settlement of regional conflicts–encourage free and fair parliamentary and presidential elections in 2007 and 2008–fight corruption–encourage government accountability and independent media–and reduce poverty–particularly through agricultural reform."
The Foreign Operations Subcommittees of the Senate and House Appropriation Committees will now review the budget and each draft their own versions of the FY 2007 foreign assistance bill.
The agreement to maintain parity in US military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan was struck between the White House and Congress in 2001–in the wake of Congressional action granting the President the authority to waive the Section 907 restrictions on aid to Azerbaijan. The ANCA has vigorously defended this principle–stressing in correspondence–at senior level meetings–and through grassroots activism–that a tilt in military spending toward Azerbaijan would destabilize the region–emboldening the Azeri leadership to continue their threats to impose a military solution to the Karabagh conflict. More broadly–the ANCA has underscored that breaching the parity agreement would reward the leadership of Azerbaijan for walking away from the OSCE’s Key West peace talks–the most promising opportunity to resolve the Karabagh conflict in nearly a decade. Finally–failing to respect the parity agreement undermines the role of the US as an impartial mediator of the Karabagh conflict.