WASHINGTON, DC (ANCA) - The Senate and House continued consideration of the Fiscal Year (FY) 2006 foreign aid bill this week with the Senate Appropriations Committee adopting on Thursday appropriations of $75 million for Armenia and $3 million for Karabagh. The House adopted their version of the foreign aid bill on Tuesday.
"We want to thank Senator McConnell for his leadership in securing a $75 million earmark for his Armenia, and to thank all our friends on the Foreign Operations Subcommittee for their work on each of the provisions in this bill that will contribute to the further strengthening US-Armenia ties," said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the ANCA. "We look forward to supporting Senators McConnell and Leahy as well as Representatives Kolbe, Knollenberg, Lowey, Rothman and all the other conferees who will, in the coming weeks, engage in the important work of reconciling the Senate and House versions of this legislation."
Senate Appropriations Committee assistance levels for Armenia represent a $20 million increase over President Bush's budget request earlier this year, and $7.5 million more than the House measure adopted earlier this week. The Senate panel also approved over $6.4 million in military and security aid to Armenia, including $5 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF), $750,000 in International Military Education and Training (IMET), and $700,000 in Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, De-mining and Related (NADR) assistance.
The House and Senate versions of the foreign aid bill differ in their overall support levels for US assistance to the former Soviet States. The Senate Appropriations Committee adopted an overall figure of $565 million for the region, approximately $88 million more than their House Colleagues. As part of that allocation, the Senate Appropriations Committee approved $70.5 million for Georgia and $38 million for Azerbaijan. The Senate Committee report called on the "State Department and USAID to more emphatically and publicly support political process programming in Russia and Azerbaijan. Freedom is ill served by excessive hand wringing over concerns with projecting political balance in programming or of offending authoritarian host governments."
The House allocation of up to $5 million for Karabagh is $2 million more than the amount set by the Senate panel. The Committee report accompanying the House measure noted that "in furtherance of a peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict, and in support of the measures discussed at NATO and OSCE summits, the Committee strongly supports confidence-building measures among the parties to the conflict. Such measures include strengthening compliance with the cease-fire, studying post-conflict regional development such as landmine removal, water management, transportation routes and infrastructure, establishing a youth exchange program and other collaborative and humanitarian initiatives to foster greater understanding among the parties and reduce hostilities."
In a new development this year in the House bill, foreign military assistance to Turkey was reduced sharply from $29.6 million in FY 2005 to just $4.4 million for FY 2006. While the Committee report was careful to state that the reduction "is not a reflection of a lessening of the Committee's appreciation for Turkey's support," it did note that "sufficient justification" was not provided for the funds.
In a related matter, the House will take up a $975 million veterans healthcare measure this evening, the funding for which comes from a $1.1 billion rescission in foreign aid to Turkey that was part of the FY 2005 Iraq supplemental assistance package.
"It is particularly fitting that $1 billion in US assistance, originally slated for Turkey, should now go to help fund better healthcare for our veterans here at home," noted Hamparian. "By Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld's own account, Turkey's refusal, in early 2003, to create a northern front in Operation Iraqi Freedom contributed to the strength of the ongoing insurgency. These much-needed funds to our nation's Veterans Hospitals can play a crucial role in helping our veterans--including those who were made more vulnerable as a result of Turkey's actions."