Supports Congressional Armenian Caucus $40 Million Request to Position Armenia as Regional Safe Haven for Refugees
WASHINGTON—The Congressional Armenian Caucus has called on key U.S. House appropriators to prioritize Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) foreign aid policies “strengthening Armenia’s independence, promoting peace in Nagorno-Karabagh, and supporting Armenia as a regional safe haven for at-risk Middle East refugees,” reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
In a bipartisan letter, addressed to Chairman Hal Rogers (R-Ky.) and Nita Lowey, the Chairman and Ranking Democrat, respectively, of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, more than two dozen U.S. Representative underscored the importance of “the U.S.-Armenia partnership, a relationship founded upon a shared commitment to faith, freedom, and democratic values.” They stressed that “U.S. assistance has empowered progress in the areas of democracy, rule of law, freedom of expression, and free enterprise.”
Among the specific priorities advanced by the Caucus were:
- U.S. support for Armenia as a regional safe haven for Middle East refugees, in the form of a $40 million appropriation to support transitional programs, including short-term housing/rental assistance and social and economic integration initiatives.
- A renewed focus on aid to Artsakh, with an appropriation of at least $8 million for de-mining, rehabilitation programs (such as the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center), and water supply systems.
- A focused effort to check Azerbaijani aggression, through the appropriation of at least $20 million to support implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, the suspension of U.S. military aid to Baku, and the strengthening of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.
- An appropriation of at least $40 million in economic aid to Armenia, and no less than $11 million in military aid, with a focus on advancing U.S.-Armenia defense cooperation goals, promoting NATO interoperability, and supporting increased Armenia’s participation in global peacekeeping operations.
“Armenia – a genocide survivor state, landlocked and illegally blockaded by Turkey and Azerbaijan – has stepped forward, despite its own economic hardships, as a regional safe haven for Middle East refugees,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We thank our friends in the leadership of the Armenian Caucus for seeking at least $40 million in FY18 funding to help transition thousands of at-risk families to a secure, stable life in Armenia. More broadly, we would like to express our appreciation to all the signatories for supporting increased aid to Artsakh and each of the other foreign aid priorities in their letter to Chairman Rogers and Ranking Democrat Lowey.”
Joining with Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and Vice-Chair, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), in signing this letter were Representatives Salud Carbajal (D-Calif.), Michael Capuano (D-Mass.), Tony Cardenas (D-Calif.), Judy Chu (D-Calif.), David Cicilline (D-R.I.), Mike Coffman (R-Colo.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Joe Crowley (D-N.Y.), Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.), Jim Langevin (D-R.I.), Dan Lipinski (D-Ill.), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.), Stephen Lynch (D-Mass.), Carolyn Maloney (D-N.Y.), Jim McGovern (D-Mass.), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.), Colin Peterson (D-Minn.), Jared Polis (D-Colo.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), John Sarbanes (D-Md.), and Brad Sherman (D-Calif.).
On March 16, Representatives Schiff and Pallone delivered powerful testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, echoing the priorities shared in the Congressional Armenian Caucus letter. To learn more about their testimony, visit: https://anca.org/press-release/representatives-schiff-pallone-call-expanded-aid-artsakh-armenia-support-refugee-resettlement-house-appropriations-subcommittee-testimony/
The House and Senate foreign aid subcommittees are currently drafting their versions of the FY18 State-Foreign Operations bill. Once adopted by each chamber, they will aim to reconcile these two versions and send a final appropriation to the President for his signature.
The full text of the Armenian Caucus letter is provided below.
Text of Congressional Armenian Caucus Letter on Foreign Aid Priorities
Dear Chairman Rogers and Ranking Member Lowey:
We are writing to encourage you, as you work with your colleagues in preparing the Fiscal Year 2018 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill, to advance U.S. interests by strengthening Armenia’s independence, promoting peace in Nagorno-Karabagh, and supporting Armenia as a regional safe haven for at-risk Middle East refugees:
We thank the Subcommittee for its longstanding leadership in support of U.S. aid to Nagorno-Karabagh, a small but crucial investment in the stability of a strategic region. Over the course of the past 20 years, U.S. aid has provided maternal health care and clean drinking water, and is currently funding the latter stages of a multi-year HALO Trust land mine and unexploded ordnance clearance effort. Parallel to de-mining, there is also a need for water systems as well as rehabilitation centers for children, adults and the elderly with physical and cognitive disabilities.
- We request that the Subcommittee include language ensuring that not less than $8 million in Fiscal Year 2018 aid be appropriated to Nagorno-Karabagh, including for de-mining, rehabilitation programs, and water supply systems.
Consistent with our leadership in advancing the pro-peace mission of the OSCE Minsk Group, and in light of Azerbaijan’s arms build-up and escalating aggression against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, we urge the Subcommittee to:
- Include language ensuring that not less than $20 million is appropriated to support implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, prioritizing the placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.
- Suspend U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until its government ceases its attacks against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh, ends its threat of renewed war, and agrees to the peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.
- Add the following certification requirement to the President’s waiver authority under Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act: “In the last fiscal year, Azerbaijan has not taken hostile action, either through military force or incitement, including but not limited to threatening pronouncements by government officials toward Armenia or Nagorno-Karabagh, and has both stated and demonstrated its commitment to pursuing a lasting peace with Armenia and Nagorno-Karabagh through solely non-violent means.”
Support for Armenia’s Independence:
We recognize the Subcommittee’s longstanding leadership in strengthening the U.S.-Armenia partnership, a relationship founded upon a shared commitment to faith, freedom, and democratic values. U.S. assistance has empowered progress in the areas of democracy, rule of law, freedom of expression, and free enterprise.
Armenia provides a safe haven for refugees, participates in U.S.-led peacekeeping deployments, supports the peaceful resolution of regional disputes, and cooperates, both bilaterally and multilaterally, on political, economic, military, and cultural issues. Our nations have signed a Trade and Investment Framework Agreement and new U.S. investments, totaling over $500,000,000, have recently been made by U.S. firms in Armenia’s energy and mineral industries.
Blockaded by Azerbaijan and Turkey, Armenia confronts serious challenges to its security and its sovereignty. U.S. economic and military assistance plays a vital role in strengthening Armenia’s independence, providing this pro-Western republic with a greater range of strategic options in standing up to regional powers. Military aid enables Armenia’s membership in NATO’s Partnership for Peace, promotes NATO interoperability, and supports Armenia’s participation in peacekeeping operations, including: deployments to countries ranging from Afghanistan (ISAF & Resolute Support Mission) and Iraq (Polish command) to Kosovo (KFOR), Lebanon (UNIFIL), and Mali (MINUSMA) – all since 2004.
Increased Foreign Military Financing (FMF) can modernize the Training Center for Armenia’s Peacekeeping Brigade, bringing this facility up to NATO/Partnership for Peace specifications, helping Armenia to deploy a larger number of highly-trained peacekeepers and support the creation of a Role 2 Field Hospital and Explosive Ordnance Disposal/Counter-Improvised Explosive Devices Engineering unit to support peacekeeping missions. Increased International Military Educational Training (IMET) can expand U.S. training opportunities for Armenian officers, NCOs, and civil servants, advancing U.S.-Armenia defense cooperation goals.
- We respectfully encourage the Subcommittee to include language ensuring that not less than $40 million in Fiscal Year 2018 economic aid and $11 million in military (FMF and IMET) aid is appropriated to Armenia.
Regional Safe Haven for Middle East Refugees:
More than 20,000 individuals from Syria have sought safety in Armenia, which, despite being one of the poorest nations to accept Syrian refugees, has received only modest levels of U.S. and international relief and resettlement assistance. Armenia has demonstrated its willingness to play a larger role as a regional safe haven for Middle East refugees, including religious minorities, but lacks the financial resources to offer the transition assistance needed by families fleeing violence. Areas of greatest need include short-term housing/rental assistance and support for social and economic integration.
- We request that the Subcommittee include language ensuring that not less than $40,000,000 is appropriated to support Armenia’s efforts to serve as a regional safe haven for at-risk populations fleeing violence in the Middle East.
Thank you for your leadership on the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs. We are grateful for your role in strengthening the relationship between the U.S. and Armenia, supporting aid to Nagorno-Karabagh, and on all the issues we have raised.
We appreciate your consideration of these requests.