July 17, 2008

WASHINGTON, DC – An amendment championed by Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) to cut all military aid to Azerbaijan due to its escalating threats of war against Nagorno Karabagh and Armenia was defeated by one vote today during a meeting of the U.S. House State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee to consider the Fiscal Year 2009 (FY09) foreign aid bill, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“We want to thank Joe Knollenberg for his leadership in seeking to zero out military aid to Azerbaijan, and to express our appreciation to all those, like Congressmen Adam Schiff and Mark Kirk, who supported this vital legislative effort to promote peace and stability in the Caucasus,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. “At the same time, especially given the razor-thin margin of this vote, we are disappointed by the opposition of a number of panel members who, although traditionally friends of the Armenian American community, voted against the adoption of this measure.”

Last month, during a hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep. Knollenberg cross-examined Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried regarding the State Department failure to meaningfully challenge Azerbaijan’s war rhetoric against neighboring Nagorno Karabagh and Armenia. Earlier today, as he entered the foreign aid mark-up, the Michigan legislator stated, that: “For the security of Armenia and the region, I strongly believe that the Azeri war machine must be stopped. This is why it is completely unbelievable and unacceptable that there would be any U.S. funding of Azerbaijan’s military. I will fight to strip this money from the budget to ensure Armenia’s continued safety. The U.S. absolutely must not fund or support the Azeri’s bellicose behavior.”

The panel approved $52 million in assistance to Armenia, $8 for Nagorno Karabagh and, by rejecting the Knollenberg Amendment, effectively maintained parity in military assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan. According to traditional Congressional practice, the bill next goes to the full Appropriations Committee for consideration before reaching the House floor, although the exact legislative path for this measure remains unclear. The full Senate Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the Senate version of the foreign aid bill on Thursday, July 17th.

Starting in March of this year, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairmen Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), joined by thirty-seven of their House colleagues, began a broad-based, bipartisan effort to urge Subcommittee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY) and Ranking Member Frank Wolf (R-VA) to support six priorities aimed at advancing U.S. interests and American values in Armenia and the surrounding region:

1) Cutting all military aid to Azerbaijan due to its threats of renewed war
2) Allocating $5 million in military aid to Armenia
3) Continuing Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act
4) Allocating $70 million in economic aid to Armenia
5) Allocating $10 million in development aid to Nagorno Karabagh
6) Lifting barriers to U.S.-Nagorno Karabagh contact and communications

The budget proposed by the White House this February sought to dramatically slash aid to Armenia by 59%, and, once again, proposed tipping the military aid balance in favor of Azerbaijan, despite Baku’s threats to use it growing military arsenal to restart its war against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.

Over the past several months, rallied by the ANCA, Armenian Americans have been in touch with their legislators about the dangers of the President’s proposed cuts in aid to Armenia, and in support of a constructive set of foreign policies toward Armenia and the region.

Voting for the Knollenberg Amendment were:

Ander Crenshaw (R-FL)
Mark Kirk (R-IL)
Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)
Jerry Lewis (R-CA)
Adam Schiff (D-CA)
Dave Weldon (R-FL)
Frank Wolf (R-VA) – Ranking Member

Voting against the Knollenberg Amendment were:

Ben Chandler (D-KY)
Jesse Jackson (D-IL)
Steve Israel (D-NY)
Barbara Lee (D-CA)
Nita Lowey (D-NY) – Chairwoman
Betty McCollum (D-MN)
David Obey (D-WI)
Steve Rothman (D-NJ)


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918 / (703) 585-8254 cell
Armenian National Committee of America
1711 N Street, NW, Washington, DC 20036
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 *
Your generosity empowers our advocacy, inspires our work, and sustains our momentum.