Over 20 U.S. senators press Biden to sharply boost aid to Artsakh refugees

Senators Reed and Whitehouse lead letter seeking U.S. action on the return of Armenians to Artsakh under international protection

WASHINGTON—Senate Armed Services Committee chair Jack Reed (D-RI) and Senate Budget Committee chair Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), along with some 20 of their Senate colleagues, have called on President Biden to significantly increase U.S. humanitarian aid to Armenian refugees forcibly displaced from Artsakh, work toward their safe and dignified return to their indigenous homes and hold Azerbaijan accountable for their genocidal actions.

“With well over 115,000 Armenians still at-risk, facing challenges in access to housing, food, power, employment and medical care, we welcome this principled call by Senators Reed and Whitehouse and their colleagues for a major boost in Biden administration humanitarian assistance to Artsakh’s Armenians,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We need to see this aid provided parallel to concrete steps to hold Azerbaijan accountable and a sustained American campaign to secure the safe return of Artsakh Armenians to their indigenous homeland under international protection.”

In the June 20 letter to President Biden, the senators stress, “As we recently recognized the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the United States must take steps to ensure that the persecution of ethnic Armenians never takes place again. This includes providing additional humanitarian and economic support to Armenia, bolstering U.S.-Armenia ties, and holding Azerbaijan accountable, including the possible imposition of sanctions for any human rights violations that took place during the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Azerbaijani territory last year.”

Joining Senators Reed and Whitehouse in urging the Biden administration to ensure robust humanitarian assistance to Armenia are Senators Tammy Baldwin (D-WI), Cory Booker (D-NJ), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Laphonza Butler (D-CA), Bob Casey (D-PA), Richard Durbin (D-IL), John Fetterman (D-PA), Angus King (I-ME), Ed Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ), Christopher Murphy (D-CT), Alex Padilla (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Jacklyn Rosen (D-NV), Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Raphael Warnock (D-GA), Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and Ron Wyden (D-OR).

Noting that Armenia is currently housing more than 115,000 refugees, including 36,000 children, forcibly displaced by Azerbaijan, the senators state that it is estimated Armenia may require up to $2 billion in additional urgent humanitarian assistance to provide ongoing resources for the refugee population and ensure that basic needs are met. To date, the U.S. has provided only $15 million in humanitarian assistance to Armenia — of which only a small portion has been directly allocated to refugees. In urging the United States to provide a “sizeable amount” of this estimated humanitarian funding requirement through funds appropriated in the recent national security supplemental package, the senators also call on the Biden administration to encourage international partners to respond in kind.

“Unfortunately, U.S. humanitarian assistance to Armenia to date is barely a fraction of what is needed to support Artsakh’s Armenians,” remarked ANCA Eastern Region board member and ANC-Rhode Island activist Steve Mesrobian. “In light of this dire humanitarian crisis, we thank Senators Reed and Whitehouse for their leadership in support of Artsakh’s Armenians — and for their continuous efforts to ensure Azerbaijan is held accountable for its genocidal aggression.”

In addition to requesting humanitarian assistance and calling for accountability for Azerbaijan’s war crimes, the senators also urge the United States to take a leadership role in negotiations with Azerbaijan to ensure refugees are afforded the right to return to their homes under safe and secure conditions with international guarantees. While several U.S. officials have publicly expressed support for the right of Artsakh’s Armenians to return to their homes, Washington has not taken any meaningful action to compel Azerbaijan to uphold its international legal obligations nor establish international protections that will ensure Artsakh’s Armenians can return to their homes free from persecution and subjugation by Azerbaijan.

POLITICO’s Miles Herszenhorn and Eric Bazail-Eimil broke news of the Senate letter in the National Security Daily, stating, “21 Democratic Senators are calling on the Biden administration to allocate more humanitarian aid to Armenia to support refugees affected by Azerbaijan’s invasion of the contested Nagorno-Karabakh exclave last September.”

The full text of the letter is provided below and available here.

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Text of Whitehouse / Reed Senate Letter to Expand US Aid to Artsakh Refugees

June 20, 2024

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20500

Re: Humanitarian Assistance for Armenia

Dear President Biden,

We respectfully ask that you allocate urgent humanitarian assistance to Armenia using funds from recently enacted appropriations measures. On March 23, 2024, you signed into law the Consolidated Appropriations Act for 2024 (P.L. 118-47), and more recently, on April 24, you signed into law the National Security Act of 2024 (P.L. 118- 50). Collectively, these two bills provided in excess of $17.8 billion for international disaster, migration, and refugee assistance. While we appreciate that USAID and the State Department have allocated more than $15 million for Armenia in fiscal years 2023 and 2024, we believe that additional aid is necessary to meet the urgent needs of the Armenian refugee population from Nagorno-Karabakh.

As you know, in 2023, approximately 120,000 Armenians were forced from their homes in the Nagorno-Karabakh region after months of being brutally starved and then under military attack by the Azerbaijani government, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the region’s entire Armenian population and the death of some 200 Armenians and over 400 wounded. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), Armenia is currently housing more than 115,000 refugees, including 36,000 children, who fled violence and oppression at the hands of Azerbaijani forces. This is in addition to the 26,700 refugees that previously resided in Armenia who fled after attacks in 2020.

Because many Armenian refugees were forced from their homes after months of being blockaded without adequate resources and personal items, they are in urgent need of assistance, including food, basic staples, cash, housing, mental health counseling, and employment aid. Our understanding is that the Armenian government may require up to $2 billion in additional urgent humanitarian assistance to provide ongoing resources for the refugee population and ensure that basic needs are met. We respectfully request that the United States contribute a sizable amount of this funding requirement and work to encourage other international donors and organizations to respond in kind.

As we recently recognized the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, the United States must take steps to ensure that the persecution of ethnic Armenians never takes place again. This includes providing additional humanitarian and economic support to Armenia, bolstering U.S.-Armenia ties, and holding Azerbaijan accountable, including the possible imposition of sanctions for any human rights violations that took place during the ethnic cleansing of Armenians from Azerbaijani territory last year. Finally, the United States should take a leadership role in encouraging the government of Azerbaijan to uphold its international legal obligation to ensure that any refugees are given the right to return to their homes under safe and secure conditions with international guarantees.

Thank you for your continued leadership advancing American interests, championing human rights, and fighting for a more peaceful and equitable world.

Sincerely,

ANCA
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

1 Comment

  1. All these years you have turned to the Democrats to help….only words… where’s the action… I do not allign with their philosophy or their actions… perhaps you should rethink alliances… they are not my parents part!

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