White House Proposes Maintaining Armenia-Azerbaijan MilitaryAssistan

ReliefWeb (press release), Switzerland
Feb 10 2005

White House Proposes Maintaining Armenia-Azerbaijan Military
Assistance Parity

ANCA welcomes recognition of the role that military aid parity plays
in regional stability

WASHINGTON, DC–In a move welcomed as a contribution to regional
stability and the search for peace, the Bush Administration’s Fiscal
Year (FY) 2006 budget proposal, released February 7, called for
maintaining parity in military assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan,
reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA). This
decision represents a break from the last year’s widely criticized FY
2005 budget request, which, although later reversed by Congress,
initially proposed providing four times more military aid to
Azerbaijan than to Armenia.

“We are gratified that the President’s Fiscal Year 2006 budget calls
for parity in military aid appropriations to Armenia and Azerbaijan,”
said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We welcome this request
as a contribution toward regional peace, and want to extend our
appreciation to Congressman Knollenberg, Senator McConnell and the
other key legislators who impressed upon the Administration the
wisdom of this course of action.”

The budget request includes $5 million in Foreign Military Finance
(FMF) assistance and $750,000 in International Military Education and
Training (IMET) for both Armenia and Azerbaijan. The FY 2006 White
House proposal also includes a $55 million earmark for Armenia, $7
million less than the figure proposed by the Administration last
year, and $20 million less than the actual assistance appropriated by
Congress for 2005. Azerbaijan and Georgia have been budgeted $35
million and $67 million, respectively. The overall foreign aid budget
for the former Soviet Union is $482 million, a $74 million reduction
from last year.

For the first time, the budget document also makes specific reference
to ‘Nagorno Karabagh,’ citing that a portion of a $48.5 million
allocation for Eurasia would include funding for humanitarian
assistance to Mountainous Karabagh Republic.

“We were pleased that the Administration’s request, for the first
time, specifically cited humanitarian aid to Nagorno Karabagh,”
continued Hamparian. “We were, however, troubled by the White House’s
proposed reduction in aid to Armenia. We will, in the coming weeks
and months, work with Congressional appropriators in support of an
increased allocation for Armenia.”

The Foreign Operations Subcommittees of the Senate and House
Appropriation Committees will now review the budget and each draft
their own versions of the FY 2006 foreign assistance bill.

The agreement to maintain parity in US military aid to Armenia and
Azerbaijan was struck between the White House and Congress in 2001,
in the wake of Congressional action granting the President the
authority to waive the Section 907 restrictions on aid to Azerbaijan.
The ANCA has vigorously defended this principle, stressing in
correspondence, at senior level meetings, and through grassroots
activism, that a tilt in military spending toward Azerbaijan would
destabilize the region, emboldening Azerbaijan’s leadership to
continue their threats to impose a military solution to the Nagorno
Karabagh conflict. More broadly, the ANCA has underscored that
breaching the parity agreement would reward the leadership of
Azerbaijan for walking away from the OSCE’s Key West peace talks, the
most promising opportunity to resolve the Nagorno Karabagh conflict
in nearly a decade. Finally, failing to respect the parity agreement
would, the ANCA has stressed, undermine the role of the US as an
impartial mediator of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict.