House-Senate Conferees Approve Aid Levels $41 Million for Armenia and $8 Million for Karabagh


WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) — The US Congress is poised to significantly scale back a sharp reduction in annual US government assistance to Armenia sought by the administration of President Barack Obama.
A foreign appropriations bill worked out by a conference committee of the House of Representatives and the Senate late Wednesday calls for $41 million in economic aid to the country in the fiscal year 2010.

The approved allocation, which will almost certainly be endorsed by both chambers, represents a nearly 15 percent drop from this year’s aid level. Still, it is $11 million over the sum requested by the Obama administration in May. Administration officials attributed the proposed cut to an overall reduction in America’s global foreign assistance.

The administration request was approved by the Senate’s Foreign Operations Subcommittee but rejected by the relevant House panel. The latter proposed to keep the 2010 funding for Armenia unchanged at $48 million after heavy lobbying by Armenian-American groups.

The allocation approved by the conference committee is the result of a compromise between the two congressional panels. The committee bill also obligates the Obama administration to maintain parity in separate US military financing to Armenia and Azerbaijan (set at $3 million) and provide $8 million in direct development assistance to Nagorno-Karabagh.

The two main Armenian lobby groups in Washington largely welcomed the compromise solution. The Armenian Assembly of America praised “the continued support of its friends in the House and Senate in helping secure a positive outcome.”

“Given Turkey’s ongoing blockade of Armenia, which is reinforced by Azerbaijan, US assistance remains critically important,” its executive director Bryan Ardouny, said in a statement.

Earlier this year, in support of robust assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh, Board of Trustees Member Van Krikorian testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs, outlining the Assembly’s priorities with respect to funding and US policy in the South Caucasus region.

“While we remain troubled by the overall decrease in support for Armenia, which is now down to nearly half of what was appropriated just three years ago, we are pleased that military parity in Foreign Military Financing to Armenia and Azerbaijan has been maintained, and that the Committee’s traditional description of aid to Nagorno-Karabagh as “humanitarian” has been removed,” read a separate statement by Aram Hamparian of the Armenian National Committee of America.