Washington briefing: Members mobilize congressional support for additional U.S. aid to Armenia

by Emil Sanamyan and Lusine Sarkisyan

Published: Tuesday September 23, 2008

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.), with Rep. George Radanovich (R.-Calif.) behind him. . Armenian Reporter

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D.-N.J.), with Rep. George Radanovich (R.-Calif.) behind him. . Armenian Reporter

Washington - Reps. Frank Pallone (D.-N.J.) and GeorgeRadanovich (R.-Calif.) have called on colleagues to co-sign a letterthey will send to President Bush arguing for additional U.S. aid to Armenia tooffset the damages its economy has suffered as a result of interruptions incross-Georgia trade since last month.

The September 12 letter, made public by the ArmenianNational Committee of America (ANCA), expressedgeneral support for the Georgia aid package proposed by the Bushadministration, but called for earmarking a "proportional share" of the aid toGeorgia's Armenian-populated Javakheti province.

On September 3 the administration announced a massive $1billion aid package to Georgia.  $430million of that amount was authorized by the House Foreign Affairs Committee ina 24 to 9 vote on September 17 although a number of representatives have calledinto question the administration's largesse. The authorization is nonbindinguntil congressional appropriators formally approve the bill.

While State Department officials have acknowledged that theGeorgia crisis has hurt Armenia's economy and praised Armenia for helpingthousands of foreigners, including a significant number of U.S. citizens, toevacuate from Georgia, Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried,when asked by Rep. Brad Sherman (D.-Calif.) on September 9, revealedthat the aid package had no provisions for Armenia.

Rep. Sherman brought the issue up again during the ForeignAffairs Committee session on September 17. The Committee chair, Rep. HowardBerman (D.-Calif.) said that it was his "intention, when we considerthe authorization of assistance next year, to examine the wider impact of thisconflict [in Georgia] and provide appropriate funding for Armenia and otheraffected countries."

Meanwhile, on September 15, European Union officials said they were weighing a proposal to giveGeorgia $700 million in aid over three years, including $140 million before theend of 2008, with a "donors' conference" planned next month.

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