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U.S. Senate Panel Backs Increased U.S. Assistance to Armenia

U.S. Senate Panel Backs Increased U.S. Assistance to Armenia
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Friday, 27 September, 2019, 15:55

The full U.S. Senate Committee on Appropriations today unanimously adopted a bipartisan provision – spearheaded by Chairman Lindsey Graham (R-SC) of the panel’s foreign aid subcommittee and Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) – “to direct that additional funds be made available… for Armenia to further democratic and economic reforms,” reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

The Graham-Van Hollen Amendment was passed unanimously as part of the FY20 Senate Foreign Aid Bill (S. 2583) as part of the “Manager’s Package,” which is legislative language proposed by the panel’s leadership.

The provision is in addition to recommended appropriations of $17.6 million from the Economic Support and Development Fund (ESF), $1.5 million for battling narcotics trafficking, $600,000 for International Military Education and Training and $1 million in Foreign Military Financing. The Senate maintained parity in appropriated military assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

The U.S. Senate panel’s action follows this June’s overwhelming House passage (268-152) of an amendment by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), to the FY20 foreign aid bill, which appropriated an additional $40 million in aid for Armenia’s democratic reforms.

Regarding Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh), the Senate expressed it was “concerned with the protracted conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan and endorses the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe Minsk Process.” It calls on the Secretary of State and USAID Administrator to “consult with the Committee on programs that can further create conditions for resolution of the conflict and help address the humanitarian needs for all victims of the conflict.” In June, the House adopted an amendment, offered by Rep. TJ Cox (D-CA), appropriating funds for life-saving de-mining programs and expanded rehabilitation services in the Republic of Artsakh.

The ANCA strongly supported both the Speier and the Cox Amendments.

“We thank Chairman Graham and Senator Van Hollen for adding this pro-Armenia provision to the full Appropriations Committee’s bill,” said Tereza Yerimyan. “While we would have liked to have seen a concrete dollar figure increasing aid to Armenia and Artsakh, we will continue to work with Senate and House leaders during the conference process to ensure continued Artsakh aid and the expansion of U.S. assistance for Armenia’s democratic and economic development.”

In the months leading up to Senate consideration of the FY20 foreign aid measure, thousands of Armenian community advocates supported the effort in increase aid to Armenia and Artsakh, through ANCA’s Rapid Responder online Congressional outreach campaign. Earlier this year, the ANCA testified before a key House panel and submitted testimony to the Senate calling for $10 million in U.S. assistance to Artsakh as part of its $70 million aid priorities package for Armenia and Artsakh.

The Senate Appropriations Committee’s action today sets the stage for a full Senate vote, after which a House-Senate “conference” will reconcile differences, adopt, then send the measure to the President for his consideration.