WASHINGTON, DC—Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) called for $10 million in U.S. aid to Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and pushed back against State Department efforts to end life-saving Artsakh demining assistance, in powerful testimony offered this week before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, the body tasked to prepare the Fiscal Year 2021 Foreign Aid Bill. Central Valley Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) emphasized his commitment to Artsakh aid and demining efforts worldwide in separate testimony before the key aid panel, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We strongly support the Artsakh aid priorities advanced by Representatives Chu and Costa and thank them both for their leadership in working with key appropriators in support of a mine-free Artsakh,” said ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan, who was on hand during Thursday’s testimony. “We look forward to continuing to engage with our friends across Capitol Hill throughout the appropriations process to support pro-Artsakh aid priorities as well as a robust $90 million aid package for Armenia.”
Rep. Chu, who traveled to Artsakh last October and saw demining efforts there first hand, praised USAID and The HALO Trust for clearing over 33,000 acres of former minefields in Artsakh since 2000, noting that over 3,500 landmines, 3,100 cluster munitions, and 7,600 items of unexploded or abandoned ordnance have been destroyed.
“USAID is trying to end support for this program with little to no justification,” argued Rep. Chu, who continued to note, “this request of $10 million pales in comparison to the $100 million in security assistance given to Azerbaijan, so we can be sure that financial constraints are not the obstacle here.”
She concluded her testimony, noting, “If we are sincere in our commitment to peace, then we must support this request of $10 million, which will allow HALO to finish their work and remove the landmines and UXO that daily threaten the lives of civilians in Nagorno-Karabakh.”
Rep. Costa concurred, stating, “in Nagorno Karabakh, with the help of U.S. assistance since FY1998, the HALO Trust has cleared almost 500 minefields, making land safe and transforming the lives of more than 130,000 people. An FY21 appropriation is needed to help make Karabakh mine free, including the clearance of newly identified 1.8 million square meters of additional contamination in the highly populated Martakert region, and should be expanded to support the desperate needs for regional rehabilitation services for infants, children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities – including those injured by landmines and unexploded ordnance. It is our moral duty as a nation to continue to lead humanitarian efforts.”
Following Rep. Costa’s testimony, House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey (D-NY) reminisced about her 1998 trip to Artsakh, noting, “It’s an experience I will never forget.”
ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan thanked Representatives Chu and Costa for their leadership immediately following their testimony and spoke with House Appropriations Committee Chair Nita Lowey about the vital role of continued U.S. demining assistance in Artsakh and support for rehabilitation services, like those provided by the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center in Stepanakert.
In testimony submitted to the Subcommittee last week, Yerimyan urged that the FY2021 Foreign Aid Bill include language stating that “not less that $10,000,000 shall be made available to: fund demining and landmine risk education programs in Nagorno Karabakh, and; support Nagorno Karabakh-based regional rehabilitation services for survivors of landmine injuries and other individuals with physical and cognitive disabilities.” Yerimyan argued, “The U.S. aid program to Nagorno Karabakh may require only a small expenditure, but it represents a major American investment in peace.”
The ANCA is continuing its nationwide action campaign in support of the $10 million Artsakh appropriation. Over 10,000 constituents have already reached out to their Senators and Representatives to advance this effort. To send a letter or be connected to your legislators through the ANCA Quick Connect call system, please visit anca.org/aid.
Members of Congress have until Friday, February 28th, to submit written testimony to the key House foreign aid panel outlining their Fiscal Year 2021 foreign aid priorities. Additional calls for expanded U.S. aid to Armenia and Artsakh are anticipated by the ANCA.