Congressional Testimony Prioritizes U.S.-Armenia Economic and Military Partnership
WASHINGTON—In testimony submitted Wednesday to the Senate panel drafting the Fiscal Year 2019 foreign aid bill, the Armenian National Committee of America called for a targeted $70 million aid package that would fund de-mining and rehabilitation in Artsakh, implementation of the Royce-Engel proposal to deploy gunfire locators along the line-of-contact, the expansion of U.S-Armenia economic and military partnerships, and support for Armenia as a regional safe haven for at-risk Middle East refugees.
ANCA Government Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian opened his testimony to the Senate’s Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations by marking the 100th anniversary of the first Armenian Republic, inviting the panel to join with him in celebrating a century of U.S.-Armenia relations. He then turned to the ANCA’s top-line priorities:
- Artsakh: $6 million to complete de-mining and rehabilitate the disabled, $4 million to promote peace
- Armenia: $30 million in economic aid, $10 million in military aid, $20 million for Middle East refugees
- Azerbaijan:Suspend U.S. military aid and strengthen Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act
In each of these areas, Karakashian shared with appropriators how the ANCA’s proposals advance U.S. interests and suggested concise, draft legislative language for their consideration. He closed his testimony by reaffirming the ANCA’s commitment to Armenia’s aid-to-trade transition, asking Members of the Subcommittee to encourage the Trump Administration to make full use of the U.S.-Armenia Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and Economic Task Force, and, most urgently, to move forward with the long-overdue negotiation of a modern U.S. Armenia Double Tax Treaty.
The full text of the ANCA’s testimony is provided below. In the coming weeks, the ANCA will also offer testimony to the U.S. House panel drafting the FY19 foreign aid bill .
The Armenian American Community & U.S. Foreign Assistance Policy for Fiscal Year 2019
Presented by Raffi Karakashian, Government Affairs Director, Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA)
For the Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Committee on Appropriations United States Senate
As we mark the 100th anniversary of the first Armenian Republic – celebrating a century of U.S.-Armenia relations – we want to thank the Subcommittee for its longstanding leadership in fostering the bilateral friendship of our two nations, to voice our appreciation for the steady progress of Armenia’s aid-to-trade transition, and to seek your continued support for strengthening Armenia’s independence, securing a durable and democratic peace for Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), and sustaining Armenia as a regional safe haven for at-risk refugees.
Our specific requests are as follows:
1. Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh): Complete De-Mining, Promote Peace, Help the Disabled
Since Fiscal Year 1998, direct U.S. aid to Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) has represented a powerful investment in peace and an enduring expression of America’s leadership in supporting a negotiated and democratic resolution of outstanding security and status issues between Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) and Azerbaijan.
American assistance has met pressing humanitarian needs, including clean water for families and mine-clearance across Artsakh’s (Nagorno Karabakh) farmlands, towns, and villages. The HALO Trust, with the support of this Subcommittee, is close to declaring Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) mine-free, but needs continued funds to complete its life-saving work. We were, in this regard, encouraged by the support of Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, who, in his written response to questions about Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) submitted to him during a June 2017 House Foreign Affairs hearing, affirmed: “We remain focused on completing demining as quickly and as thoroughly as possible.”
In addition to de-mining, we urge this panel to support the operations of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh)-based regional rehabilitation centers, like the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center in Stepanakert, which serve children, adults, and seniors with physical and mental disabilities.
We commend legislators for supporting the Royce-Engel peace proposals, which call for the placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire locator systems and sound-ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.
Request: We ask the Subcommittee to appropriate no less than $6,000,000 in direct aid for Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), and no less than $4,000,000 for the deployment of gunfire locator systems along the line of contact.
Of the funds appropriated by this Act, not less than $6,000,000 shall be made available for assistance for Nagorno Karabakh.
The Committee recommends funding for Nagorno Karabakh-based regional rehabilitation centers to care for infants, children and adults with physical and cognitive disabilities.
The Committee recommends continued funding for, and the geographic expansion of, Nagorno Karabakh de-mining, ordnance clearance, and mine-safety programs.
In the interest of effective U.S. oversight of our aid programs, the Committee recommends, that the Department of State and USAID lift any official or unofficial restrictions on U.S. travel, communication, or contacts with Nagorno Karabakh government officials or civil society stakeholders.
The Committee recommends making available no less than $4,000,000 to deploy gunfire locators, as part of the Royce-Engel peace proposals.
2. Azerbaijan: Suspend U.S. Military Aid
The oil-rich Azerbaijani regime of Ilham Aliyev neither needs nor deserves U.S. military aid.
Azerbaijan has, in recent years, failed three key Congressional tests of its commitment to peace:
a. The Aliyev government, in the wake of its April 2016 major military offensive, has obstructed the implementation of the bipartisan Royce-Engel accountability/peace proposals, which call on all parties to the Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) conflict to agree to the withdrawal of snipers, heavy weapons, and new armaments, the addition of OSCE observers, and the deployment gunfire locator systems.
b. The Aliyev government has condemned the U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution (H.Res.697), a constructive bipartisan measure that seeks simply to open up channels of dialogue and discourse toward a peaceful resolution of regional conflicts.
c. Azerbaijan remains a recipient of U.S. military aid despite acting contrary to the spirit and letter of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.
In both cases, the Aliyev regime has rejected reasonable pathways to peace, choosing violence over the hard but necessary work of negotiations.
Request: We ask the Subcommittee to zero out U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan, including Foreign Military Financing and International Military Education and Training, until its government agrees to the Royce-Engel proposals, ceases its threats of renewed war, stops cross-border attacks into Armenia and Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh), and agrees to the resolution of regional conflicts through peaceful means alone.
None of the funds appropriated by this Act may be made available for assistance to the armed forces or security services of Azerbaijan until such time as the President determines and reports to the Committees on Appropriations that Azerbaijan has stopped obstructing implementation of the Royce-Engel proposals, ceased its threats of violence, ended cross-border attacks into Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, and agreed to the resolution of regional conflicts through peaceful means alone.
Add the following certification requirement to the President’s waiver authority under Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act:
In the last fiscal year, Azerbaijan has not taken hostile action, either through military force or incitement, including but not limited to threatening pronouncements by government officials toward Armenia or Nagorno Karabakh, and has both stated and demonstrated its commitment to pursuing a lasting peace with Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh through solely non-violent means.
3. Armenia: Support a Democratic Ally and Trading Partner
Armenia – a Christian nation deeply rooted in Western democratic values – has, despite dual Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades, emerged an important regional ally and international partner for the United States on a broad array of complex challenges. The Armenian military has been among the highest per capita providers of peacekeepers to U.S.-led deployments, including those in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Kosovo, and Mali. Increased U.S. assistance will facilitate the further growth of bilateral military cooperation (in the areas of peace-keeping, field hospitals, and capacity-building), while also promoting the continued expansion of U.S.-Armenia economic relations.
We commend the Subcommittee’s commitment to American Schools and Hospitals Abroad, which continues to provide vital support for the American University of Armenia and the Armenian American Wellness Center.
Request: We ask the Subcommittee to appropriate at least $30,000,000 in U.S. economic assistance and $10,000,000 in military assistance to Armenia, in order to further develop U.S.-Armenia economic relations and to expand the scope and depth of U.S.-Armenia military cooperation.
Of the funds appropriated by this Act, not less than $30,000,000 shall be made available for economic assistance to Armenia.
Of the funds appropriated by this Act, not less than $10,000,000 shall be made available for military assistance to Armenia.
The Committee encourages the Millennium Challenge Corporation, upon Armenia meeting its merit-based governance criteria, to give full and fair consideration to Armenia for a Science, Technology, Education, and Math education grant for its public school system.
4. Armenia: Sustain a Safe Haven for At-Risk Christians and other Middle East Refugees
Armenia, a small country with a per capita GDP of less than $4,000 per year – has welcomed nearly 25,000 refugees from Syria, with only modest levels of U.S. and international relief and resettlement assistance.
Armenia has provided full citizenship rights to Armenian Syrian refugees, and has sought to compassionately integrate all arriving families into Armenian society, but faces serious financial constraints in meeting the needs of these refugees. Specific areas in need of support include short-term housing/rental assistance, job-training, and social and economic integration.
Request: We ask the Subcommittee to appropriate at least $20,000,000 to help Armenia provide transition support to refugees from Syria and throughout the Middle East who have found safe haven in Armenia.
Of the funds appropriated by this Act, not less than $20,000,000 shall be made available for assistance to Armenia for the purpose of providing transition and resettlement assistance to Middle East refugees.
In closing, we would like to emphasize, once again, our appreciation for this Subcommittee’s leadership in Armenia’s aid-to-trade transition. It is in this spirit that we call upon you to continue encouraging the Administration to make full use of the Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) and U.S.-Armenia Economic Task Force, and – most urgently – to move forward with the long-overdue negotiation of a modern U.S. Armenia Double Tax Treaty.
The ANCA, as always, thanks you for your leadership and looks forward to working with the Subcommittee to strengthen the U.S.-Armenia alliance, promote regional stability, and advance American foreign policy and economic interests.