PALLONE LAUDS HOUSE FOREIGN OPERATIONS BILL FOR ITS COMMITMENT TO ARMENIA & MILITARY PARITY
U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), co-chairman of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, lauded the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill for its commitment to Armenia, Nagorno-Karabahk, and military parity between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The New Jersey congressman gave the following statement during floor debate on the legislation.
"I would like to commend Chairman Kolbe and Ranking Member Lowey for their hard work and leadership on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations and this bill. I am pleased that the Committee called for a higher allocation to Armenia than requested by the Administration and would like to personally thank them for maintaining military parity between Armenian and Azerbaijan and providing the needed assistance to Nagorno-Karabahk.
"The President's FY07 budget request called for 20-percent more military aid to Azerbaijan than to Armenia. That request was a clear breach of an agreement struck between the White House and Congress in 2001 to maintain parity in U.S. military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan. Given the fact that relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan continue to be tenuous, it is imperative that the U.S. maintain a balanced approach. I am happy to see that the Committee maintained that parity agreement despite the Administration's request.
"Unfortunately, the administration's budget also called for drastic cuts in economic assistance to Armenia, a nearly 33-percent decrease in economic aid. Again, I was pleased to see the Committee provide $62 million in U.S. aid for Armenia - representing $12 million increase over the President's budget. The Subcommittee also allocated $5 million for Nagorno-Karabahk.
"I am also very pleased the Subcommittee rejected efforts by Azerbaijani's advocates to weaken Section 907 restrictions on U.S. Assistance to Azerbaijan. Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act remains a fundamental element of U.S. policy toward the south Caucasus. Because Azerbaijan continues its blockade of Armenia, Section 907 is essential.
"As the co-chair of the Armenian Caucus, I strongly believe that technical and developmental assistance and investment is essential to Armenia. This funding is imperative to democratic stability and economic reform. The dual blockades of Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey continue to impede Armenia's economic well-being.
"Despite these blockades, Armenia continues to successfully implement economic and democratic reforms. However, as long as Armenia suffers from blockades on its east and west borders, continued and robust U.S. assistance to Armenia will be needed to help minimize their impact. Our assistance has provided an important positive effect and will continue to do so when provided at appropriate levels."