French State Secretary for European Affairs Harlem Desir delivers a speech before the vote for the recognition of a Palestine State by France on December 11, 2014 at the Senate in Paris. France\’s upper house of parliament voted 154 vs 146 on a proposal to recognise Palestine as a state, after the lower house National Assembly voted for recognition in a highly symbolic gesture. AFP PHOTO / MATTHIEU ALEXANDRE

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Twenty-two United States Senators signed a letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) encouraging continued funding to The HALO Trust to complete its mine clearance in Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), reported the Armenian Assembly of America.

“The end of USAID’s funding threatens the lives and health of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh as well as prospects for peace in the region. We urge USAID to reconsider this decision,” the letter states.

Led by Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Robert Menendez (D-NJ), the letter was signed by Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Michael Bennet (D-CO), Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Robert Casey, Jr. (D-PA), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Kamala Harris (D-CA), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), Ed Markey (D-MA), Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Jack Reed (D-RI), Bernie Sanders (I-VT), Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

“This type of humanitarian assistance to support the victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has long been recognized as important and I believe it remains critical that we continue to support demining efforts in the region,” said Senator Menendez. “As we made clear in our letter, any changes to USAID’s commitment to complete the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnances saving lives in Nagorno-Karabakh will be met with broad opposition in Congress.”

The letter concludes: “As your agency’s… letter states, USAID-funded mine clearance in Nagorno-Karabakh has ‘made the region undoubtedly safer.’ However, clearance work remains to be done and the people of Nagorno-Karabakh cannot afford to have that work ended or disrupted by a lack of funds. We strongly urge USAID to reconsider its decision to end funding for humanitarian landmine clearance in Nagorno-Karabakh at the end of the year.”

On Monday, eighty-nine U.S. House of Representatives rallied together to support The HALO Trust’s demining efforts in Artsakh, and sent a similar letter to USAID.

“With thousands of land mines still left in the ground, and families living daily in the shadow of death or devastating injury, this is no time for the United States to back away from its historic commitment to the people of Nagorno Karabakh,” The HALO Trust (USA) Executive Director Chris Whatley told the Assembly earlier. “We want to thank the Senate and House for responding so quickly to this important matter, and thank the Armenian Assembly of America for supporting this life-saving program,” he added.


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