WASHINGTON, DC – House Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) delivered powerful testimony before key House foreign aid appropriators, calling for the expansion of U.S. assistance to Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and Armenia, and the implementation of measures to check escalating Azerbaijani aggression, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
Rep. Schiff, who also serves as a Vice-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus, offered his recommendations during a hearing of the U.S. House Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations, led by Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) and Ranking Democrat Nita Lowey (D-NY), as this panel prepares the Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18) foreign aid bill. Rep. Pallone, who is Ranking Democrat on the House Energy and Commerce Committee, submitted testimony to the same Subcommittee.
“We appreciate Congressman Schiff’s and Pallone’s leadership in supporting a broad array of Armenian American foreign aid priorities, including continued U.S. support for Artsakh, increased assistance for Armenia’s international peacekeeping missions, and a substantial contribution to Yerevan’s efforts to settle Middle East refugees,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We will continue to work with members of the State-Foreign Operations Subcommittees in both the House and Senate and with appropriators in both chambers to strengthen the U.S.-Armenia partnership and promote a durable and democratic peace for the Republic of Artsakh.”
In voicing his support for increased U.S. assistance to Artsakh, Rep. Schiff noted that he is “deeply disturbed by the escalation of violence in the last year and the major military assault by Azerbaijani forces against the people of Artsakh,” noting the “strong evidence of human rights abuses on the part of Azeri troops, and the appalling desecration of the bodies of Armenian and Artsakh citizens.” Rep. Schiff went on to outline three concrete steps Congress can take to address these concerns, including implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, the suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan, and the expansion of humanitarian aid to Artsakh.
Rep. Schiff stressed that the U.S.-Armenia relationship “is founded upon a shared commitment to freedom and democratic values,” citing Armenia’s participation in U.S. led peacekeeping deployments. He emphasized the importance of ongoing foreign military financing assistance for peacekeeping purposes, funding for U.S. training opportunities for Armenian officers, and recommended no less than $40 million in U.S. economic assistance to Armenia.
Rep. Schiff also focused on the important role Armenia has played as a “regional safe haven for Middle East refugees,” noting that over 20,000 individuals from Syria have found a new home in Armenia. The Congressman requested that the Subcommittee’s proposed FY18 foreign aid bill include provisions supporting Armenia’s efforts through aid and international organizations.
Rep. Pallone cited the long history of U.S. assistance to Armenians, including during the Armenian Genocide when Near East Relief, the “Congressionally chartered humanitarian organization raised $116 million ($2.5 billion in 2017 dollars) to aid victims of the Ottoman Empire’s mass murder campaign.” Rep. Pallone noted the impact of ongoing U.S. support to both Artsakh in the areas of maternal health, demining, rehabilitation centers and clean water programs, and called for an allocation of $8 million in FY 2018.
“Unfortunately, violence against the Armenian people continues today, in part because of continued military assistance to the Azerbaijani Government,” continued Pallone, who called on Congressional leaders to zero-out military aid to the Aliyev regime and allocate $20 million for the “placement of advanced gunfire locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.”
Rep. Pallone went on to call for $40 million in U.S. economic aid to Armenia and $11 million in military aid and training assistance.