Letter to U.S. Senators Regarding Armenian American Foreign Aid Priorities
I am writing to encourage you to work with your colleagues to ensure that the Appropriations Committee supports FY 2020 foreign aid priorities of special concern to Armenian Americans and other friends of Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh).
The scope and depth of bipartisan Congressional support for these priorities were clearly evident earlier this year, during the consideration of the foreign aid bill by the House, in the adoption of the Sherman and Cox amendments, which increased aid levels to Armenia and Artsakh, respectively.
As you know, the United States has long enjoyed friendly relations with the Armenian people based upon shared democratic and humanitarian values and our common interests in a secure, stable, peaceful and democratic Caucasus. Over the past two years, we have seen the citizens of Armenia lead a peaceful, constitutional transfer of power, reinforcing Armenia’s standing as an island of democracy, driver of regional stability, and, increasingly, a center for global investment and innovation.
On the international security front, Armenia has sent troops to support U.S., NATO and other international operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and Kosovo, and Yerevan continues to play a constructive role in the OSCE Minsk Group process to settle outstanding Artsakh-related status and security issues. Artsakh, for its part, continues to strengthen its democratic institutions, holding widely-praised free and fair local and national elections. Despite Baku’s escalating aggression, Artsakh remains committed to working with the U.S. and our international partners to reach a fair and enduring peace.
I ask you to please work toward the adoption of the following provisions in the FY20 State-Foreign Operations Bill:
— Artsakh: $6 million to complete de-mining and rehabilitate the disabled, $4 million to promote pro-peace initiatives, including the deployment of gunfire locator systems.
— Armenia: $30 million in economic aid, $10 million in military aid, $20 million for Middle East refugees – plus an additional $40 million for democratic development.
— Azerbaijan: Suspend U.S. military aid and strengthen Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act
Thank you for your consideration of these requests. Your support for each of these provisions will contribute to our nation’s proud legacy as the international community’s humanitarian leader, while also advancing America’s strategic interests in a pivotal region of the world.
For more information, please feel free to contact Tereza Yerimyan of the Armenian National Committee of America at (202) 775-1918 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Letter to Senators and Representatives Regarding the FY2020 National Defense Authorization Act
and Inclusion of the Sherman and Chu Amendments
Dear Senator / Representative:
I am writing to you ask you to ensure that the conference committee for the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 include the spirit and letter of the Sherman and Chu amendments, previously adopted by the U.S. House, in the final bill.
1) SHERMAN AMENDMENT
The Sherman Amendment (offered by Reps. Sherman, Speier, Schiff, and Pallone): Prohibits funds from being used to transfer defense articles or services to Azerbaijan unless the President certifies to Congress that the articles or services do not threaten civil aviation.
Adopted on July 11, 2019 as an amendment to the NDAA by a vote of 234 to 195.
Text: At the end of subtitle A of title XII, add the following: “PROHIBITION ON USE OF FUNDS TO TRANSFER DEFENSE ARTICLES AND SERVICES TO AZERBAIJAN. None of the funds authorized to be appropriated by this Act or otherwise made available to the Department of Defense for fiscal year 2020 may be used to transfer defense articles or services to Azerbaijan unless the President certifies to Congress that the transfer of such defense articles or services does not threaten civil aviation.”
This amendment was necessitated by the public assertion, reported by Radio Free Europe in March of 2011, by Arif Mamadov, the Director of Azerbaijan’s Civil Aviation Administration, that the Azerbaijani government had warned the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) that “the law on aviation envisages the physical destruction of airplanes landing in that territory,” specifically referencing flights to Nagorno Karabakh. As a result of this threat – which has never been withdrawn – the civilian airport in Stepanakert, Nagorno Karabakh has been closed ever since.
I share Congressman Sherman’s view, which he shared during consideration of his amendment, that: “If there is one thing that this House can agree on, it is that we are opposed to shooting down, especially deliberately shooting down, civilian aircraft. And yet, the government of Azerbaijan has stated with regard to flights going into Stepanakert Airport, that they envision the physical destruction of airplanes landing in that territory.” Clearly, no U.S. defense articles should strengthen or sustain the offensive air capabilities of a state that is on record threatening to attack civilian aircraft.
2) CHU AMENDMENT
The Chu Amendment (offered by Reps. Chu, Pallone, and Schiff): Supports measures to continue the cease-fire in Nagorno Karabakh, including the non-deployment of snipers, heavy arms, and new weaponry, the deployment of gun-fire locator systems, and an increase in OSCE observers along the line-of-contact.
Adopted on July 11, 2019 as an amendment to the NDAA by voice vote as part of an “en bloc” group of amendments.
Text: At the end of subtitle G of title XII, add the following: “SENSE OF CONGRESS ON STABILITY OF THE CAUCASUS REGION AND THE CONTINUATION OF THE NAGORNO KARABAKH CEASE-FIRE. It is the sense of Congress that United States interests in the stability of the Caucasus region and the continuation of the Nagorno Karabakh cease-fire will be advanced by an agreement among regional stakeholders on – (1) the non-deployment of snipers, heavy arms, and new weaponry along the line-of-contact; (2) the deployment of gun-fire locator systems on the line-of-contact; and (3) an increase in the number of Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe observers along the line-of-contact.”
The three specific proposals advanced as part of the Chu Amendment are consistent with the Royce-Engel peace proposal, first put forward in October of 2015 by the bipartisan leadership of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in a letter to the Department of State signed by 85 U.S. Representatives. They enjoy broad-based Congressional support and are endorsed, in principle by the State Department, the OSCE Minsk Group, Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, but – not yet – by Azerbaijan.
I share Congresswoman Chu’s view that “common sense requirements like gun-fire locators, monitors, and a ban on snipers will make it harder for violations to go unnoticed,” and share her “hope that this amendment is adopted into the final NDAA so that we can have the tools necessary to guarantee that peace.” A durable cease-fire on the ground surely represents the best hope for the parties to reach a democratic peace at the negotiating table.
Thank you in advance for your consideration of my requests. My family and friends look forward to hearing from you regarding the actions and decisions that you take on this matter.