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Foreign Operations Request

Location: Washington, DC

FOREIGN OPERATIONS REQUEST -- (House of Representatives - March 07, 2006)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentleman from New Jersey (Mr. Pallone) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Mr. PALLONE. Mr. Speaker, the President's budget request for fiscal year 2007 proposes 20 percent more military aid to Azerbaijan than to Armenia. This request is a clear breach of an agreement struck between the White House and the Congress in 2001 to maintain parity in U.S. military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Mr. Speaker, the parity agreement is unfortunately a battle that the Armenian people have had to fight in the past. The fiscal year 2005 Presidential request was similar in that it called for more military funding to Azerbaijan.

However, the Congress reversed the President to ensure military parity in the fiscal year 2005 Foreign Operations Appropriations Act. After that battle and the President's 2006 budget request that included parity, I thought the President's fiscal year 2007 budget would continue that policy. But unfortunately that was not the case. A lack of military parity would, in my opinion, weaken ongoing peace negotiations regarding Nagorno Karabakh, among other things.

It will also contribute to further instability in the region, and it undermines the role of the United States as an impartial mediator of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Mr. Speaker, the government should not be rewarding the Government of Azerbaijan for walking away from the organization for security and cooperation in Europe's Key West peace talks, the most promising opportunity to resolve the Nagorno Karabakh conflict in nearly a decade.

Mr. Speaker, unfortunately, the administration's budget also calls for drastic cuts in economic assistance to Armenia. I was discouraged to see that the President requested a 33 percent decrease in economic aid from $74.4 million last year to $50 million this year. Technical and developmental assistance and investment is essential to Armenia. This funding is key to democratic stability and economic reform in the country.

Mr. Speaker, is this the message we want to send to our friends in Armenia? Do we want to cut economic aid to a country that is terrorized by its neighbors and is shut off on its eastern and western borders due to an illegal blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan?

Mr. Speaker, in the coming weeks I will advocate to the Foreign Operations Subcommittee to restore military parity, to increase economic assistance to Armenia and to provide for humanitarian aid to the people of Nagorno Karabakh. It is incredibly important to reward our allies and to send a message to Azerbaijan and Turkey that ethnically charged genocides, illegal blockades of sovereign nations, and the constant harassment of the Armenian people will not be tolerated.

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