WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, the Senate Appropriations Committee adopted the Fiscal Year (FY) 2016 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) appropriations bill, which covers U.S. economic, humanitarian, and military assistance to the South Caucasus, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). The committee’s action mirrored the President’s request with respect to military funding to Armenia and Azerbaijan and maintained parity, allocating $1.7 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and $600,000 in International Military Education Training (IMET) for each nation.
In terms of non-military assistance, the committee recommended $20.1 million for Armenia; $8.8 million for Azerbaijan; and $54 million for Georgia. The committee report also highlighted Nagorno Karabakh as a U.S. aid priority, recommending “assistance for victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in amounts consistent with prior years, and for ongoing needs related to the conflict. The Committee urges a peaceful resolution of the conflict.” This year’s report language was also expanded to ensure that demining activities continue. “The Committee recognizes that Nagorno-Karabakh has a per capita landmine accident rate among the highest in the world, and that mine clearance programs have been effective where implemented. The Committee is concerned with territorial restrictions placed on demining activities in the region and recommends continued funding for, and the geographical expansion of, such programs.”
Like its house counterpart, the Senate appropriations bill maintained Section 907 of the FreedomSupport Act, restating the six customary exemptions for humanitarian and other assistance to Azerbaijan. Section 907 was enacted in 1992 and requires the Government of Azerbaijan to take “demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force” against Armenia and Artsakh.
Now that the SFOPS bill has passed both chambers of Congress, the next step in the legislative process involves the creation of a conference committee. Committee members will work out the differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill before sending it to the President for him to sign into law.