House Appropriations Committee recommends at least $2 million for demining activities in Artsakh

In the Bill and Report released this week, the Fiscal Year 2022 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations legislation recommends not less than $50 million “for Armenia for economic development, private sector productivity, energy independence, democracy and the rule of law, and other purposes.” In addition, the report language also calls for “not less than $2,000,000 for demining activities in Nagorno-,” the Armenian Assembly of America reports.

With the Subcommittee having considered the draft Bill on Monday, June 25, 2021, the full committee is poised to “mark-up” the legislation tomorrow, July 1, 2021.

The Bill also restates Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, in addition to prohibiting the sale of defense articles to the Turkish Presidential Protection Directorate. The report language also reiterates the Assembly’s concerns about the military disparity in U.S. assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan: “The Committee is concerned by disparity in military assistance provided to Azerbaijan in comparison to Armenia that is enabled by the annual waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act by the Secretary of State, including the most recent waiver signed by the Secretary on April 23, 2021. The Committee directs the military balance between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the diplomatic consequences of such disparity in military assistance be considered by the Secretary in any decision with respect to the renewal of the Section 907 waiver during fiscal year 2022.”

The Assembly welcomes this language, which serves as a rebuke to Azerbaijan whose autocratic leader is denying the existence of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Assembly also thanks Subcommittee Chairwoman Barbara Lee (D-CA) for raising Section 907 during a recent hearing with Secretary of State Antony Blinken, who subsequently indicated that the Administration will continue to closely review the waiver.

In 1992, Congress took a principled stand against Azerbaijani aggression with the adoption of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, which states that U.S. funds “may not be provided to the Government of Azerbaijan until the President determines and so reports to the Congress, that the Government of Azerbaijan is taking demonstrable steps to cease all blockades and other offensive uses of force against Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh.” In the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack on American soil, a national security waiver was added to Section 907. The exercise of the waiver is valid so long as it “will not undermine or hamper ongoing efforts to negotiate a peaceful settlement between Armenia and Azerbaijan or be used for offensive purposes against Armenia.”

Despite undertaking an obligation to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict peacefully through the OSCE Minsk Group, Azerbaijan launched an unprecedented war against the Armenian people last Fall, resulting in a death toll of over 4,000 soldiers and civilians, some brutally beheaded according to Human Rights Watch and as documented by Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights and its Project on Atrocities in Artsakh. Upwards of 10,000 soldiers were wounded and over 100,000 were forcibly displaced from their homes, alongside the destruction of vital infrastructure including hospitals, and the deliberate erasure of Armenian cultural and religious heritage sites.

In a clear sign that Azerbaijan is not serious about establishing peace or respecting international human rights conventions to which it is a signatory, the Aliyev regime has repeatedly violated the November 9, 2020 ceasefire arrangement, including the holding of an estimated 200 prisoners of war (POWs) and captured civilians. In addition, Aliyev boasted earlier this week that “we have destroyed Armenia” and that “there is no territorial unit called Nagorno-Karabakh, there is no concept of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict…” Had the letter and spirit of Section 907 been upheld, innocent lives would have been spared. The Aliyev regime’s actions undermine U.S. policy and should not be rewarded. The Assembly remains especially concerned in light of Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s continuing to pursue the dismemberment and depopulation of Armenia and Artsakh.

“We appreciate the work of the Subcommittee and its Chair and Ranking Member in outlining much-needed aid to Armenia and Artsakh, as well as the language on Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act,” said Assembly’s Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan. “We also appreciate the efforts of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues and it leadership. We look forward to a positive outcome tomorrow and to continue to advance U.S.-Armenia and U.S.-Artsakh relations for the betterment of the Armenian people.”

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