Over 100 U.S. Representatives call for emergency U.S. funding for Artsakh explosive clearance and demining

Over 100 U.S. Representatives have called for emergency humanitarian assistance for explosive clearance and demining in response to the ongoing Azerbaijani and Turkish attacks, reports the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Judy Chu (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), TJ Cox (D-CA), Bill Johnson (R-OH), John Katko (R-NY), Devin Nunes (R-CA), and Brad Sherman (D-CA) led the Congressional letter sent to US Agency for International Development (USAID) Acting Administrator John Barsa earlier today.

“The ANCA welcomes the strong, bipartisan support for the life-saving demining and humanitarian aid efforts conducted by the HALO Trust in Artsakh,” noted ANCA Government Affairs Director, Tereza Yerimyan.  

“At a time when civilian lives are at such high risk due to Azerbaijani war crimes, and the ongoing pandemic, the U.S. must do all it can to provide for the safety and security of Artsakh’s population,” she added. 

Yerimyan worked with ANCA regional and local leaders in a week-long grassroots advocacy effort to rally support for this pro-Artsakh initiative.

“As an international aid organization dedicated to removing the types of lethal explosive hazards now strewn throughout Nagorno Karabakh, we at HALO hope to see strong US funding to respond to this humanitarian crisis unfolding in the south . We greatly appreciate the leadership of Representatives Jim Costa, Devin Nunes, T.J. Cox, Gus Bilirakis, Brad Sherman, Bill Johnson, Judy Chu, John Katko, and the many other Members of Congress that signed onto this letter to urge US support,” stated HALO USA Executive Director Chris Whatley.

The Congressional letter notes that the Azerbaijani and Turkish “bombings of cities with large populations including Stepanakert, Shushi, and Martakert have resulted in high levels of explosive contamination including rockets, missiles, artillery projectiles, and cluster munitions. Over 73,000 people either remain in or have been displaced from towns and villages which are now contaminated by explosive remnants of war. This is over half the population of the region prior to September.”

The letter concludes noting, “Given the potential to protect civilian lives and contribute to efforts to stabilize Nagorno Karabakh, we strongly urge USAID to invest in humanitarian demining and unexploded ordnance removal activities and to provide additional humanitarian aid to help those in the conflict zone. Please give this request all fair and full consideration within all the applicable laws, rules, and regulations.”

Congressional organizers welcomed the groundswell of support for the initiative from their U.S. House colleagues.

Rep. Brad Sherman explained, “Azerbaijan’s indiscriminate bombing of Nagorno Karabakh has left cities, including Stepanakert, with high levels of explosive contamination, such as rockets, missiles, and cluster munitions. We need a trained and capable team on the ground working to remove the explosive ordnance which pose a danger to the families who remain, and those looking to return. It is important that the U.S. Government moves to support the emergency removal of explosive ordnance in Nagorno Karabakh as soon as possible. Thank you to Representatives Jim Costa, Devin Nunes, T.J. Cox, Gus Bilirakis, Bill Johnson, Judy Chu, and John Katko for joining in this important effort to provide stability to Nagorno Karabakh.”

Rep. TJ Cox, who along with Rep. Sherman, co-authored an amendment earlier this year to continue U.S. aid to Artsakh, explained, “The ongoing conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh is a humanitarian crisis that needs immediate international attention. In the same breath, it is crucial the US maintain funding for humanitarian demining in the region. We should not have to fight tooth and nail for peace and basic human rights. I am proud to join my bipartisan colleagues in highlighting this need to USAID.”

Fellow Central Valley California Representative Devin Nunes was clear in his assessment of the importance of Artsakh demining efforts, stating, “HALO’s demining actions are crucial for protecting civilians from catastrophic injuries. This vital humanitarian assistance will directly save lives in Nagorno Karabakh.”

Rep. Chu, who visited Artsakh last year, noted, “I’ve seen the amazing work HALO has done to remove mines and UXO to make this land safe to live on again. This work is only more important now as Azerbaijan continues to attack civilian areas in Nagorno Karabakh. The US must continue our support for this life-saving work to clear the lethal debris of Azerbaijan’s hostility.”

Rep. Jim Costa noted, “It’s clear that more needs to be done to protect the people of Artsakh and bring lasting peace to the region.  Demining efforts save lives and this conflict has put thousands at stake. The peace process must resume. I’m hopeful Administrator Barsa will act quickly to fund demining and unexploded ordnance removal in Nagorno Karabakh to prevent avoidable casualties during and after the conflict.”

Joining Reps. Gus Bilirakis, Judy Chu, Jim Costa, TJ Cox, Bill Johnson, John Katko, Devin Nunes, and Brad Sherman (D-CA) in cosigning the letter are Representatives: Alma Adams (D-NC), Colin Allred (D-TX), Jim Banks (R-IN), Nanette Barragan (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cardenas (D-CA), Andre Carson (D-IN), David Cicilline (D-RI), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Cooper (D-TN), Lou Correa (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Danny Davis (D-IL), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Debbie Dingell (D-MI), Lloyd Doggett (D-TX), Eliot Engel (D-NY), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Bill Foster (D-IL), Lois Frankel (D-FL), Russ Fulcher (R-ID), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Deb Haaland (D-NM), Josh Harder (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Hank Johnson (D-GA), William Keating (D-MA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Steve King (R-IA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), James Langevin (D-RI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Susie Lee (D-NV), Andy Levin (D-MI), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Daniel Lipinski (D-IL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Betty McCollum (D-MN), James McGovern (D-MA), Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Grace Meng (D-NY), John Moolenaar (R-MI), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), David Price (D-NC), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Christopher Smith (R-NJ), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Lori Trahan (D-MA), David Trone (D-MD), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Nydia Velazquez (D-NY), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Peter Welch (D-VT), and John Yarmuth (D-KY).

Read original article here.