22 Members of Congress Urge Bush to Target Some Georgia Assistance Funds to Samtshke-Javkheti Region
As the Bush administration proposes to send $1 billion in financial assistance to Georgia, 22 members of Congress today urged President Bush to target some of that assistance to the Samtshke-Javakheti region. The lawmakers made their request in the following letter to the president, which was led by U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and George Radanovich (R-CA).
The members of Congress also requested the president support economic assistance to Armenia in light of Armenia's extensive assistance during the crisis in Georgia and also the large-scale economic harm it has endured as a result of the fighting in the region.
September 19, 2008
The Honorable George W. Bush
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W.
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
We are writing to express our support for the vitally needed financial assistance package that your Administration has proposed in the aftermath of the recent crisis in Georgia, and to suggest two concrete steps that we can take to help advance our national interest in a strong, independent, pluralist, and democratic Georgian state.
Our first recommendation is to ensure that a meaningful level of this aid program is specifically targeted to the vital Samtshke-Javakheti region. This largely Armenian-inhabited area, home to roughly five percent of Georgia's overall population, remains, in great measure, economically undeveloped.
Of the $1 billion proposed for Georgia, a proportional share on a per capita basis - should be officially dedicated to developmental programs in Samtshke-Javakheti, with a special focus on alleviating poverty, developing transportation and communication links, promoting international trade and investment, and supporting sustainable economic growth.
Our second recommendation is that, in light of Yerevan's extensive assistance during this crisis and also the large-scale economic harm it has endured as a result of the fighting in the region, this assistance package also be used to help offset the ongoing damage to Armenia's economy.
As a country beset by twin blockades, Armenia conducts the vast majority of its trade through Georgia. Since the outbreak of the conflict between Russia and Georgia, Armenia has experienced significantly higher transportation costs, increased prices for basic commodities such as food and fuel, and a slow down in international investments.
This harm has been estimated by senior Armenian government officials, including the Prime Minister, Chairman of the National Security Council, and Ambassador to the United States, at between $680 million and $1 billion. Targeted economic aid to Armenia, implemented in coordination with the Armenian government, can play a particularly constructive role during this difficult time to assist an important ally in the region.
As you know, Georgia has long been a partner and friend to neighboring Armenia, which has, since the outbreak of hostilities, played a vital role in seeking to restore peace and stability in the region. The Armenian government provided safe transit for U.S Embassy and other international diplomatic officials, for hundreds of non-governmental organization representatives, and for thousands of Georgian nationals. In addition, the Armenian government provided human, material, and financial resources to help repair key elements of Georgia's damaged infrastructure.
Armenia plays an invaluable role and shares a common vision with Georgia and the United States for regional stability in the Caucasus. Despite many difficult challenges, Armenia has taken steps to strengthen relationships with its neighbors. Earlier this month, Armenian President Serzh Sargsian demonstrated this through his historic invitation to Turkish President Abdullah Gul to come watch their two nations play a qualifying match for the 2010 World Cup. Given the obvious unrest in the area, it is vital that Armenia be able to continue its role as an ally and a stabilizing force in the Caucasus.
Thank you for your consideration of our two recommendations. We look forward to working with you regarding these suggestions and would welcome the opportunity to meet with your Administration to discuss them in greater detail.
U.S. Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), George Radanovich (R-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Adam Schiff (D-CA), James McGovern (D-MA), Scott Garrett (R-NJ), Edward Markey (D-MA), Thaddeus McCotter (R-MI), Donald Payne (D-NJ), Jim Costa (D-CA), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Collin Peterson (D-MN), James Langevin (D-RI), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Patrick Kennedy (D-RI), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA), Michael Honda (D-CA) and Steve Rothman (D-NJ).