Pallone raises alarm over missing Karabakh aid language
Published: Monday August 01, 2011
Washington - The founding co-chair of the Armenian congressional caucus has raised concern with leadership of the House Appropriations Committee over the lack of specific language with regard to U.S. assistance programs in Nagorno Karabakh in the draft foreign aid bill for Fiscal Year 2012.
In a letter to Reps. Harold Rogers (R-Ky.) and Kay Granger (R-Tex.), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) suggested that as the foreign aid bill "moves to the full Appropriations Committee that language be included to provide for humanitarian and development assistance in Nagorno Karabakh." The full committee is expected to consider the bill after the August recess.
In his August 1 statement on the subject Rep. Pallone noted that the Subcommittee has traditionally made the allocations since 1998 under both Republican and Democratic leaderships. He added that "it was more important than ever that the United States maintain a principled stand for peace in this region and support Nagorno Karabakh," particularly faced with Azerbaijan's threats of war against Karabakh and Armenia.
On July 27, the day of the subcommittee mark-up, The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)noted that the absence of Karabakh aid language. But ANCA did not openly criticize the move, adding that the subcommittee did carry over a separate past provision "that funds made available for the Southern Caucasus region may be used for confidence-building measures and other activities in furtherance of the peaceful resolution of conflicts, including in Nagorno-Karabakh."
When asked to comment about the development, ANCA's executive director Aram Hamparian clarified that "the version of the foreign aid bill approved last week by the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee, while setting $40 million in aid to Armenia, did not include specific dollar amounts for a great many countries and assistance programs, including both Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh."
"This does not mean that these aid recipients have been zeroed-out, but rather that specific spending levels will either be determined during the remaining course of the House and Senate appropriations process or, once this measure is finally enacted, by the Administration," Hamparian explained.
ANCA noted that the foreign aid bill is being prepared amid strong political pressure to cut U.S. government spending across the board.
The $40 million suggested in economic aid for Armenia equals the level proposed by the White House earlier this year, but falls well below $60 million requested by members of the Armenian Caucus on May 20 and also called for by ANCA at the time.
The Caucus letter also asked for additional $10 million for the Armenian military and $10 million for Nagorno Karabakh. Neither number was included in the current draft bill, but as in years past the bill directed that military assistance to Azerbaijan not exceed the amount allocated to Armenia.
On July 27 ANCA cited the Subcommittee member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Calif.) as seeking to eliminate U.S. security assistance to Azerbaijan entirely, as the bill moves to full committee.
Rep. Schiff also called on "the State Department [to] utilize the full resources the Congress appropriates to assist the people of Karabakh." He did not call for a specific Karabakh allocation in FY2012 bill.
In a report published last year, ANCA estimated that since 1998 U.S.-funded programs in Nagorno Karabakh amounted to $36 million, well below $61 million called for by Congress over the time period.
In some years Congress did not set specific funds aside for Karabakh, but U.S. aid programs there continued. Last year the House Subcommittee sought to broaden the type of assistance U.S. provides to Karabakh beyond humanitarian programs.
The full text of Rep. Pallone's letter appears below:
August 1, 2011
The Honorable Harold Rogers
Chairman, Committee on Appropriations
Room H-307, The Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20515