WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over 100 members of Congress sent a bipartisan letter to the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) in support of humanitarian demining efforts by the HALO Trust in Nagorno Karabakh. The Armenian Assembly of America reports.
“It’s clear that more needs to be done to protect the people of Artsakh and bring lasting peace to the region,” said Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA). “Demining efforts save lives and this conflict has put thousands at stake. The peace process must resume. I’m hopeful Administrator Barsa will act quickly to fund demining and unexploded ordnance removal in Nagorno Karabakh to prevent avoidable casualties during and after the conflict.”
“As an international aid organization dedicated to removing the types of lethal explosive hazards now strewn throughout Nagorno Karabakh, we at HALO hope to see strong US funding to respond to this humanitarian crisis unfolding in the south Caucasus. We greatly appreciate the leadership of Representatives Jim Costa, Devin Nunes, TJ Cox, Gus Bilirakis, Brad Sherman, Bill Johnson, Judy Chu, John Katko, and the many other Members of Congress that signed onto this letter to urge US support,” said Chris Whatley, HALO USA Executive Director.
A chilling side effect of the ongoing military assault by Azerbaijan against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh is the increasing quantity of unexploded ordnance, including cluster munitions, present throughout civilian areas. The HALO Trust is a long-time partner of USAID, and Members of Congress are seeking immediate funding to increase its capabilities and conduct emergency activities to protect civilians in the region.
“The ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is a humanitarian crisis that needs immediate international attention. In the same breath, it is crucial the US maintain funding for humanitarian demining in the region. We should not have to fight tooth and nail for peace and basic human rights. I am proud to join my bipartisan colleagues in highlighting this need to USAID,” stated Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA).
“Azerbaijan’s indiscriminate bombing of Nagorno-Karabakh has left cities, including Stepanakert, with high levels of explosive contamination, such as rockets, missiles, and cluster munitions. We need a trained and capable team on the ground working to remove the explosive ordnance which pose a danger to the families who remain, and those looking to return. It is important that the U.S. Government moves to support the emergency removal of explosive ordnance in Nagorno-Karabakh as soon as possible. Thank you to Representatives Jim Costa, Devin Nunes, TJ Cox, Gus Bilirakis, Bill Johnson, Judy Chu, and John Katko for joining in this important effort to provide stability to Nagorno Karabakh,” said Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA).
“I’ve been to Nagorno-Karabakh and I’ve seen the amazing work HALO has done to remove mines and UXO to make this land safe to live on again. This work is only more important now as Azerbaijan continues to attack civilian areas in Nagorno-Karabakh. The US must continue our support for this life-saving work to clear the lethal debris of Azerbaijan’s hostility,” said Rep. Judy Chu.