31 Congressmen call for at least $55 million in aid to Armenia, NK

Published: Wednesday April 11, 2012

U.S.-supported housing for former refugees inaugurated in Kasakh village last November. U.S. State Dept.

Washington - Thirty-one U.S. Representatives joined with Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) in encouraging leading House foreign aid appropriators to approve increased aid to Armenia, expanded assistance for Nagorno Karabakh, targeted allocations for Javakhk, and refugee resettlement funding for displaced Christian Armenian populations in the Middle East, in the Fiscal Year 2013 foreign aid bill, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

In a letter sent March 20 to the leadership of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, Chairwoman Kay Granger (R-TX) and Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY), a bipartisan group of legislators made the case for supporting "the U.S.-Armenia strategic relationship through economic development and security assistance." Their key requests were as follows:

-- At least $5 million in U.S. aid to Nagorno Karabakh.

-- At least 10% of U.S. assistance to Georgia to be earmarked for job creation programs in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of that country.

-- At least $50 million in U.S. economic aid to Armenia.

-- Funds for humanitarian and resettlement assistance specifically targeted to Armenian and other Christian populations as well as other minority communities affected by the recent unrest in the Middle East.

-- Language strengthening Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan.

-- Removal of barriers to contact and communication with representatives of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.

-- Language calling for the participation of Nagorno Karabakh leaders in the OSCE Minsk Group negotiations.

Joining Congressman Pallone as signatories were Representatives: Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Joe Baca (D-CA), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Howard Berman (D-CA), Bruce Braley (D-IA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Michael Grimm (R-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Ed Markey (D-MA), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Gary Peters (D-MI), Collin Peterson (D-MN), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Steven Rothman (D-NJ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Bob Turner (R-NY), and Lynn Woolsey (D-CA).

"Armenian Americans - and all friends of Armenia - share our appreciation with each and every member who supported this bipartisan initiative to advance our interests and values in a vitally important region of the world," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "We look forward to advocating for their ongoing efforts to support Armenia's growth, Artsakh's security, Javakhk's development, and welfare of at-risk Armenians and other Christians in the Middle East."

For a full copy of the letter, visit: http://www.anca.org/assets/pdf/misc/FY13_appropriations_priorities.pdf

Q&A on aid to Javakhk

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) emphasized the importance of expanding U.S. assistance to the Republic of Georgia's Armenian-populated region of Samtskhe-Javakheti (Javakhk) during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing with US Agency for International Development (USAID) Administrator Rajiv Shah on the Agency's Fiscal Year 2013 budget on March 20, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

In his question to USAID Director Shah, Rep. Sherman outlined the difficult economic conditions facing many of the regions in the Republic of Georgia, and his efforts, in conjunction with the Armenian American community, to focus targeted assistance to the population in Javakhk.

USAID Director Shah noted that "On Georgia, and specifically the Samtskhe-Javakheti region, that you were referring to, we have been working with specific programs that deal with agricultural modernization, social development, maternal health and certain health and infrastructure efforts as well as support for civil society groups. We have increasingly tried to do that work in consultation with Armenian American communities and with an eye toward launching specific public-private partnerships with those communities."

In September of 2011, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian and Communications Director Elizabeth Chouldjian travelled to Javakhk and Tbilisi, Georgia, and held a series of meetings with local non-government organization leaders as well as high-level meetings with Georgian government officials, to identify ways to address the concerns of the Armenian population in the Javakhk.

That dialogue continued in Washington, DC, in January of this year, when Hachikian met with Georgian Ambassador to the U.S. Temuri Yakobashvili to explore ways to expand the Georgian-Armenian partnership to include broader direct Georgian and Armenian investments and also increased U.S. assistance to promote job-creation in the region. Following the meeting, Ambassador Yakobashvili had noted that "The Embassy of Georgia - in support of our government's material commitment to economic development for our citizens in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region and throughout all of our Republic - looks forward to working with our friends in the U.S. Congress and the Administration and with all American civil society stakeholders - including, of course, with the Armenian American community - in encouraging the targeting of U.S. assistance to meet Samtskhe-Javakheti's urgent job-creation, infrastructure, technical, and humanitarian needs."

The ANCA has worked closely with Rep. Sherman, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) and other House members as well as USAID representatives to raise awareness about the challenges facing the population of Javakhk and identify avenues for the U.S. government to partner with the Armenian Diaspora. The Rep. Sherman - Director Shah exchange can be viewed on Rep. Sherman's YouTube page at: http://youtu.be/uhrOd5LzpdA

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