Friday, July 24, 2009

House Subcommittee on aid to Armenia

House panel ups Armenia, Karabakh aid levels, insists on military aid parity
Subcommittee chair Lowey lauded for “fixing” President Obama’s aid request
by Emil Sanamyan
Published: Friday June 19, 2009

- A key congressional subcommittee responsible for U.S. foreign aid spending agreed this week to allocate $48 million in aid to Armenia and $10 million to Nagorno-Karabakh in Fiscal Year 2010. The June 17 decision by the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs chaired by Rep. Nita Lowey (D.-N.Y.) set Armenia aid to the same level as it is in the current fiscal year and increased the allocation to Karabakh by $2 million.

The move was welcomed by Armenian-American organizations, which praised Rep. Lowey and subcommittee members for taking a step towards "fixing" the budget request submitted by the Obama administration last month.

The congressional panel also set military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan at $3.45 million each and introduced requirements for closer scrutiny for a presidential waiver of Section 907, which restricts U.S. aid to Azerbaijan, according to sources cited by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The administration had requested $30 million for aid to Armenia, and had requested no funds for Nagorno-Karabakh. It had also asked for more military aid to Azerbaijan than to Armenia.

Last week the Millennium Challenge Corporation chaired by the secretary of state cancelled a separated $67 million aid program intended to rehabilitate Armenia's rural roads.

According to comments by Assistant Secretary of State Philip Gordon during his recent visit to Yerevan, the congressional revision of the aid request was anticipated by the State Department.

In a letter to the subcommittee leadership earlier this year, the co-chairs of the Armenian Caucus, Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.), and Mark Kirk (R.-Ill.) recommended $70 million in economic and $5 million in military aid to Armenia and $10 million for Nagorno-Karabakh.

In addition to Rep. Kirk, the subcommittee includes Rep. Adam Schiff (D.-Calif.) and several other key supporters of Armenian issues.

Rep. Schiff issued a statement welcoming the subcommittee decision, saying it "will help ensure peace and greater economic stability in the Caucasus."

"As the Armenian Government prepares to send troops to join the NATO mission in Afghanistan, our Committee worked in a bipartisan fashion to provide robust economic and security assistance to this strong U.S. ally," Rep. Kirk was quoted by the ANCA as saying.

"Our Committee sent a strong message to the Government of Azerbaijan to keep its commitment to the OSCE peace process, end its bellicose rhetoric and stop meddling in the U.S.-backed Armenian-Turkish reconciliation process," Mr. Kirk added.

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