WASHINGTON, DC – Thirty-five U.S. Representatives have joined with Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) in calling upon Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ranking Member Hal Rogers (R-KY) of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations to back a $100 million Fiscal Year 2020 aid package for Artsakh and Armenia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Cosigners of the Congressional Armenian Caucus letter advancing pro-Armenia and Artsakh funding priorities are Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone, Jackie Speier (D-CA), Vice-Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), TJ Cox (D-CA), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Tom Suozzi (D-NY) and Dina Titus (D-NV).
The letter in part described the Caucus’ support for Armenian democracy and economic independence. “Armenia’s newly-elected government has indicated its intentions to bolster civil society and democratic institutions. The United States Congress can aid this process by ensuring targeted assistance is given during this unprecedented transition. Armenia is in a critical moment in which a meaningful increase in FY20 technical assistance on important priorities – including for freedom of the press, judicial independence, anti-corruption, and civil society purposes – will likely have an exponential positive impact on the country’s budding democratic institutions.”
The dollar amounts and policy priorities requested by the Armenian Caucus, which annually spearheads bipartisan efforts to secure support for Armenian-related aid appropriation, are as follows:
— Artsakh: Six million dollars to complete de-mining and rehabilitation services for the disabled, four million dollars to promote peace via the Royce-Engel proposals, including placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire locator systems.
— Armenia: $60 million in economic aid, $10 million in military aid and $20 million to help Armenia serve as a safe haven for Middle East refugees (Over 25,000 people from Syria have sought safety in Armenia.)
— Azerbaijan: Suspend all U.S. military assistance and strengthen Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act
The letter closed with a final call to invest in peace and help Armenia and Artsakh during this time of development. “Taking these steps will continue to build on the US-Armenia strategic relationship and help to grow the seeds of pro-democratic and civil society institutions in Armenia.”
Similar to Rep. Pallone’s Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution (H.Res.190), the Congressional letter also calls on the State Department and USAID to lift any official or unofficial restrictions on U.S. travel, communication or contacts with Artsakh government officials. In a recent interview with ANCA Government Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian, Rep. Pallone explained “it makes no sense to have this travel and communications restriction because we should try to have as much contact as possible with the people there so that there is an understanding of what the people of Artsakh and the government face.”
Click here to read the full text of the Congressional letter.
Earlier in the day, senior House Foreign Affairs Committee member Brad Sherman (D-CA) pressed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo regarding pro-Armenia and Artsakh aid priorities. In two questions presented for the record, Rep. Sherman specifically inquired whether the State Department would support ongoing aid to the Republic of Artsakh for de-mining and rehabilitation services for the disabled. In the case of Armenia, Rep. Sherman highlighted the need for refugee resettlement funds. Video of Rep. Sherman’s questions is available on the ANCA’s YouTube channel.
The Secretary of State’s written responses generally arrive within the month.