WASHINGTON, D.C. – 33 Members of Congress have sent a letter to the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Member Nita Lowey (D-NY) in support of continued U.S. assistance in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2017 budget for the Republics of Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia, and at-risk minorities in the Middle East, reports the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). “Continued U.S. support in the region is critically important,” the letter read.
Members of Congress requested at least $5 million for humanitarian and development programs in Nagorno Karabakh, appropriating no less than $40 million in overall economic aid (including Economic Support Fund, International Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, and Global Health Programs) for Armenia, suspending all military aid to Azerbaijan, allocating at least 10 percent of aid given to Georgia towards funding sustainable job-creation programs in Samtskhe-Javakheti, enhancing Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and reinstating Karabakh in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group peace process as a full negotiating partner.
The letter calls for a stronger U.S. stance regarding Azerbaijan’s increasing number of hostile acts against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. Earlier this month, the Obama Administration released its budget for the upcoming year, maintaining a military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan at $1 million for Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and $600,000 for International Military Education and Training (IMET), a decrease from the previous year. The letter recommends a suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan “until its government ceases cross-border attacks, ends its threat of renewed war, and agrees to a settlement of regional conflicts through peaceful means.” Members of Congress are also requesting supplemental language to strengthen Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.
U.S. priority focuses on a peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict, yet the letter points out that Karabakh government officials have been excluded from the peace process since 1998. “Nagorno Karabakh should, in the interests of peace and basic fairness, be permitted to fully participate in all talks regarding its future. The best and most sustainable path to peace requires direct engagement with the people and government of Nagorno Karabakh, whose fate and future are the subject of ongoing talks and whose security will rest on the outcome of these negotiations,” the letter reads.
The letter supporting increased assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh for FY 2017 was signed by Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ); Robert Dold (R-IL); Gus Bilirakis (R-FL); Tony Cárdenas (D-CA); David Cicilline (D-RI); Judy Chu (D-CA); Katherine Clark (D-MA); Mike Coffman (R-CO); Jim Costa (D-CA); Joseph Crowley (D-NY); Anna Eshoo (D-CA); Chaka Fattah (D-PA); James Langevin (D-RI); Barbara Lee (D-CA); Daniel Lipinski (D-IL); Zoe Lofgren (D-CA); Stephen Lynch (D-MA); Carolyn Maloney (D-NY); James McGovern (D-MA); Grace Napolitano (D-CA); Collin Peterson (D-MN); Jared Polis (D-CO); Mike Quigley (D-IL); Charles Rangel (D-NY); Linda Sanchez (D-CA); Loretta Sanchez (D-CA); John Sarbanes (D-MD); Jan Schakowsky (D-IL); Adam Schiff (D-CA); Brad Sherman (D-CA); Jackie Speier (D-CA); Dina Titus (D-NV); and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).