WASHINGTON, D.C. – Over 65 US House Members have co-sponsored a letter spearheaded by Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Representative Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) that outlines key congressional priorities for Armenia and Artsakh, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).
The bipartisan letter, sent to House State Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee Chairman Mario Díaz-Balart (R-FL) and Ranking Member Barbara Lee (D-CA), specifically calls for $100 million in aid to Armenia, $50 million in aid to Artsakh, $2 million for demining efforts, as well as enforcing Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and releasing Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians who were supposed to be freed under the terms of the trilateral statement signed in November 2020.
Citing Azerbaijan’s “inhumane” and illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor, which is now in its third month, the letter emphasized that the region’s Armenian people are “on the brink of a humanitarian crisis” that “threatens to have lasting consequences on the region’s security.”
While the Armenian people are still trying to recover from the “severe hardships caused by the deadly 44-day war” that Azerbaijan, with the full and open support of Turkey, waged on Artsakh in September 2020, the letter highlighted that these ongoing “cruel actions” of blockading the Lachin Corridor and denying access to medical treatments, food, and essential goods, have created “overwhelming needs” and therefore “the assistance provided to date by the U.S. government is wholly insufficient.”
In order to bolster the security of Armenia and champion democracy in the region, the letter also urges assistance to Armenia to “protect their sovereignty” in the face of constant “Azerbaijani expansion and authoritarianism.” The “critical investment” will build on the past support for Armenia and Artsakh and further strengthen U.S.-Armenia relations and partnerships.
Cutting off military assistance to Azerbaijan is another point underscored in the letter, which states that it is “abundantly clear that the continued waiver of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, amidst Azerbaijan’s unabated policy of aggression, has emboldened this violent pattern of behavior.”
Tracing President Ilham Aliyev’s brutal 2020 assault on Artsakh not long after receiving over $100 million in security assistance through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity Program in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, the letter states that “holding Azerbaijan accountable is long overdue and must begin with Congress encouraging the Administration to fully enforce Section 907, restricting the Administration’s authority to waive this law, and enacting statutory prohibitions on any new or pending U.S. military or security aid to Azerbaijan.”
Earlier this month the Administration released its Budget for Fiscal Year 2024, wherein it recommended approximately $47 million in aid to Armenia and $10 million to Azerbaijan.