A bipartisan group of 64 U.S. Representatives called on leaders of the House Appropriations Committee to stop military aid to Azerbaijan and allocate $150 million for Artsakh and Armenia to address the ongoing humanitarian and security crises caused by the Erdogan and Aliyev regimes, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We stand with the 64 Congressional cosigners of the Armenian Caucus FY 2023 Foreign Aid letter in calling for robust U.S. aid to Artsakh and Armenia, to counter Azerbaijan’s ongoing attacks and provide life-changing assistance to the 100,000 Armenians displaced from their ancestral Artsakh homes during the 2020 war,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We will continue to work with House and Senate appropriators in the upcoming months to ensure that no U.S. tax dollars are used to aid and abet Turkey and Azerbaijan’s genocidal policies.”
In the Armenian Caucus letter to Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Ranking Member Hal Rogers (R-KY), led by Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), legislators explained that “the people of Artsakh continue to face severe hardships caused both by the deadly 44-day war Azerbaijani forces provoked in 2020 and their ongoing provocations against innocent civilians to this day.” They continued to note that $50 million in Artsakh assistance “would help provide Armenian refugees with the aid, housing, food security, water and sanitation, health care, rehabilitation, and demining/UXO clearance they need to reconstruct their communities, rebuild their lives, and resettle their homes.”
In their calls for $100 million in assistance for Armenia, legislators explained, “this critical investment will build on past support for Armenia and Artsakh by the Subcommittee and will help strengthen the U.S.-Armenia strategic partnership, solidify our presence, and grow our influence in the region.”
Congressional lawmakers also stressed the importance of ending U.S. military assistance to Azerbaijan, in the face of ongoing Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia and Artsakh. “The overdue process of holding Azerbaijan accountable must begin with Congress encouraging the Administration to fully enforce Section 907, restricting the State Department’s authority to waive this law, and enacting statutory prohibitions on any new U.S. military or security aid to Azerbaijan.” The letter specifically referenced recent findings from a Government Accountability Office report that “the State Department likely violated Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act in sending this and other assistance to Azerbaijan from 2014 to 2021. They did so by not properly consulting and communicating with Congress on what processes they used to determine whether U.S. aid to Azerbaijan could be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.”
The Congressional letter also called on the House Appropriations Committee to express their concern regarding Azerbaijan’s ongoing illegal imprisonment of over 200 Armenian POWs from the 2020 Artsakh war and to direct the U.S. State Department to “to engage at all levels with Azerbaijani authorities, including through the OSCE Minsk Group process, to make clear the importance of adhering to their obligations, under the November 9 statement and international law, to immediately release all prisoners of war and captured civilians.”
Joining Rep. Pallone in cosigning the letter to House appropriators were Representatives: Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Jim Banks (R-IN), Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Joaquín Castro (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Lou Correa (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Jim Himes (D-CT), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Andy Levin (D-MI), Mike Levin (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Richard Neal (D-MA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Lori Trahan (D-MA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Susan Wild (D-PA).
The ANCA worked closely with Rep. Pallone and the Congressional Armenian Caucus leadership to share pro-Armenia/Artsakh priorities with U.S. House members and encouraged support for the letter. Over 50,000 advocates sent letters through the ANCA’s March to Justice activism portal – anca.org/april – encouraging Members of Congress to cosign the Congressional letter as well as cosponsor the Armenian Genocide Education Act (H.R.7555), and attend the Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide Observance, which took place on April 27th.
Earlier this week, ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan submitted testimony to the Appropriations Subcommittee on State-Foreign Operations echoing the Congressional Armenian Caucus Artsakh/Armenia aid priorities and demanding accountability for Turkey and Azerbaijan’s war crimes. “Azerbaijan has destroyed countless homes, churches, and hospitals. It has targeted civilians, used prohibited cluster munitions and white phosphorus, illegally detained and abused Armenian prisoners of war, and continues to desecrate Armenian Christian holy sites and cemeteries. Shockingly, Azerbaijan has yet to be held to account,” stated Yerimyan.
“Neither the Trump nor Biden administrations have investigated Turkey’s role in Azerbaijan’s aggression, including Ankara’s recruitment of jihadist mercenaries from Syria and Libya to fight against Armenians. Nor has either administration investigated reports of Turkish F-16s having been used in Azerbaijan’s attacks. Closer to home, we have yet to see either the Pentagon or Department of State look into potential violations of U.S. arms export laws related to the discovery of U.S. parts and technology in Turkish Bayraktar drones deployed by Azerbaijan against Artsakh,” continued Yerimyan.
The full text of the Congressional Armenian Caucus letter is provided below and available here.
April 27, 2022
The Honorable Barbara Lee
Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
Room HT-2, the Capitol Building
Washington, DC 20515
The Honorable Hal Rogers
Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
1016 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Chairwoman Lee and Ranking Member Rogers:
We write to thank the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs for your longstanding support of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh). This includes the important language you incorporated into the Fiscal Year 2022 bill providing $45 million in funding for Armenia and $2 million in demining assistance for Artsakh. We ask that you build on these historic investments by considering the inclusion of the below provisions that will help strengthen America’s standing with partner countries in the region and hold Azerbaijan accountable for its ongoing hostilities in Artsakh and Armenia.
Robust U.S. Assistance in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh)
The people of Artsakh continue to face severe hardships caused both by the deadly 44-day war Azerbaijani forces provoked in 2020 and their ongoing provocations against innocent civilians to this day. According to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), 88 percent of the approximately 90,000 refugees displaced to Armenia were women, children, and the elderly. The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) also acknowledges that an “acute humanitarian crisis” continues for many of these families, including those who have been able to return to Artsakh. Unfortunately, the $5,000,000 in Fiscal Year 2021 funding USAID has committed to date is insufficient to address the overwhelming needs of these people.
The U.S. has historically promoted peace in Artsakh through U.S. government-funded landmine and unexploded ordnance clearance efforts and enabling rebuilding by investing in similar humanitarian assistance initiatives. We are requesting a robust humanitarian assistance package for Artsakh that lives up to American humanitarian commitments. The package would help provide Armenian refugees with the aid, housing, food security, water and sanitation, health care, rehabilitation, and demining/UXO clearance they need to reconstruct their communities, rebuild their lives, and resettle their homes.
We urge you to include the following provision in the body of the foreign aid bill:
Of the funds appropriated under this heading, not less than $50,000,000 shall be made available for assistance in Nagorno-Karabakh, used to provide humanitarian assistance and rebuilding and resettlement support to the Armenian victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, both those residing in and those displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh. Such assistance will help to meet basic human needs, including maternity healthcare and drinking water programs.
Security, Economic, and Governance Assistance for Armenia
The United States remains uniquely positioned to make important diplomatic advances in the South Caucasus. This is especially true in Armenia, an ancient nation with a modern democracy that continues to make democratic reforms in a region dominated by autocratic leaders. Providing significant assistance to Armenia will help make its people more secure, bolster its democracy, sustain economic development, stabilize its civil society, and aid its ongoing response to the COVID-19 pandemic.
This critical investment will build on past support for Armenia and Artsakh by the Subcommittee and will help strengthen the U.S.-Armenia strategic partnership, solidify our presence, and grow our influence in the region. We request the following language be included in this legislation:
Of the funds appropriated by this Act, not less than $100 million shall be made available for security, economic, governance, and rule of law assistance to Armenia. An increase in funding to accounts such as the Department of State’s Office of the Coordinator of U.S. Assistance to Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia and the U.S. Agency for International Development’s Bureau for Europe and Eurasia should be made available for these purposes.
Prohibition on U.S. Military Aid to Azerbaijan
President Ilham Aliyev began his brutal 2020 assault on Artsakh not long after receiving over $100 million in security assistance through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity Program in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019. Azerbaijani forces used advanced Turkish drones, cluster munitions, and white phosphorus to indiscriminately attack homes, churches, and hospitals killing thousands in the 44-day war. While an agreement halting the war was signed in November 2020, Azerbaijan continues its aggressive behavior in the region with troop movements and other escalatory measures into Armenian and Artsakh territories. On March 25, 2022, State Department Principal Deputy Spokesperson Jalina Porter State stated the U.S. was “deeply concerned” about these actions and called them “irresponsible and unnecessarily provocative.” It is equally concerning that Azerbaijani troops continue to carry out the desecration of Armenian Christian holy sites, weaponize major sources of natural gas for civilians, and illegally detain and abuse Armenian prisoners of war.
The Section 333 funding, paired with other U.S. funding to Azerbaijan through the IMET and FMF programs, clearly defies almost two decades of a policy of parity in security assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan. In fact, according to a January 31, 2022, report by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), the State Department likely violated Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act in sending this and other assistance to Azerbaijan from 2014 to 2021. They did so by not properly consulting and communicating with Congress on what processes they used to determine whether U.S. aid to Azerbaijan could be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.
The overdue process of holding Azerbaijan accountable must begin with Congress encouraging the Administration to fully enforce Section 907, restricting the State Department’s authority to waive this law, and enacting statutory prohibitions on any new U.S. military or security aid to Azerbaijan. We request that the following language be included in the final SFOPs bill:
None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available under this Act may be provided to the Government of Azerbaijan through U.S. security assistance programs.
Armenian Prisoners of War and Captured Civilians
On November 9, 2020, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Russia signed a tripartite statement to end the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, also known as Artsakh, where all parties agreed that the ‘‘exchange of prisoners of war, hostages and other detainees as well as the remains of the fatalities shall be carried out.” However, the Government of Azerbaijan continues to detain an estimated 200 Armenian prisoners of war, hostages, and detained persons, misrepresenting their status in an attempt to justify their continued captivity. We request that the following language be included in the final SFOPs bill:
The Committee is concerned by Azerbaijan’s failure to immediately return all Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians and, thus, (2) urges the Secretary of State to engage at all levels with Azerbaijani authorities, including through the OSCE Minsk Group process, to make clear the importance of adhering to their obligations, under the November 9 statement and international law, to immediately release all prisoners of war and captured civilians.
Again, thank you for your leadership on the Subcommittee. We appreciate your consideration of these requests.