ANCA Offers Testimony to Congressional Foreign Aid Panel

Armenian National Committee of America
1711 N Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Tel. (202) 775-1918
Fax. (202) 775-5648
Email [email protected]

March 29, 2007
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Tel: (202) 775-1918


— Government Affairs Director Outlines
Armenian American Foreign Aid Priorities

WASHINGTON, DC – In testimony today to a key panel of the U.S.
House of Representatives, the Armenian National Committee of
America (ANCA) reinforced the critical role that U.S. assistance
continues to play in the growth of the U.S.-Armenia relationship
and the promotion of stability throughout the region.

ANCA Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian, in remarks
submitted to a hearing of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on
State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, outlined the
recommendation of the Armenian American community to the panel,
which is currently deliberating the Fiscal Year 2008 foreign aid
bill. In February of this year, following the public release of
President Bush’s budget request, the ANCA had sent a detailed
letter to Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking Member Frank Wolf
(R-VA), and the other members of the Subcommittee addressing many
of these same concerns.

Nahapetian thanked the panel’s chairwoman, Nita Lowey, expressing
the Armenian American community’s "gratitude for the role that
[she] and the Subcommittee have played in strengthening the special
relationship between the United States and Armenia, and reinforcing
the enduring bonds that have long existed between the American and
Armenian peoples." She added that, "Armenian Americans deeply
appreciate America’s helping hand, both as a reflection and a
practical expression of the commitment of the United States to
Armenia’s independence, security, and prosperity."

Among the key issues Nahapetian addressed in detail in her
testimony were:

1) Restoring parity in all military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan

2) Increasing economic Assistance to Armenia to at least $75

3) Expanding U.S. Assistance to Nagorno Karabagh to at least $10
million in both humanitarian and development aid.

4) Preserving Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act.

5) Funding the California-Armenia Trade Office.

Among the organizations delivering testimony at the hearing were
the Armenian Assembly, American Israel Public Affairs Committee,
Refugees International, U.S. Fund for UNICEF, and World Wildlife

The full text of the ANCA testimony is provided below.


Armenian National Committee of America

"The Armenian American Community and
U.S. Foreign Assistance Policy"

Presented by Kate Nahapetian, Government Affairs Director

Testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee
on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

Thank you Chairwoman Lowey, Ranking Member Wolf, and Members of the
House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and
Related Programs for once again providing the Armenian National
Committee of America with the opportunity to contribute the views
of our community to your discussions concerning the Fiscal Year
2008 foreign aid bill.

U.S. Leadership in the International Community

As in years past, I would like to open our remarks today by noting
the growing role of Americans of Armenian heritage in supporting
the work of this panel to promote American leadership abroad,
particularly in Eurasia, the Eastern Mediterranean, and the Middle

As Members of this Subcommittee know, we have, as a community,
worked hard to ensure a policy of international engagement and have
energetically supported a meaningful Congressional role in foreign
policy decision-making. We appreciate the fact that our foreign
aid programs represent – more than ever – a strategic investment in
advancing our national interests on a variety of levels. With
these thoughts in mind, Chairwoman Lowey, on behalf of all Armenian
Americans, I would like to express our appreciation for your
leadership of this distinguished panel and for your ongoing efforts
to enact legislation that advances both our interests and our
values around the world.

I would, as well, like to share our community’s gratitude for the
role that you and this Subcommittee have played in strengthening
the special relationship between the United States and Armenia, and
reinforcing the enduring bonds that have long existed between the
American and Armenian peoples. Armenian Americans deeply
appreciate America’s helping hand, both as a reflection and a
practical expression of the commitment of the United States to
Armenia’s independence, security, and prosperity.

The U.S.-Armenia Relationship

As members of this panel know, the enduring friendship between the
American and Armenian peoples dates back to the era of the Armenian
Genocide. American leaders, such as President Woodrow Wilson,
diplomats, most notably U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire Henry
Morgenthau, and relief workers, among them American Red Cross
founder Clara Barton, played a critical role in protesting Ottoman
Turkey’s systematic murder of the Armenian people and in helping to
alleviate the suffering of those who survived. During and after
the Armenian Genocide, American missionaries and aid workers, many
affiliated with Near East Relief, saved tens of thousands of
Armenians by establishing orphanages and providing food, shelter
and medical care for the survivors. These noble efforts, to a very
great extent, marked the introduction of America on the world stage
as an advocate for international justice, human rights and
humanitarian values.

Throughout the Cold War, the United States championed the right of
the Armenian people to an independent homeland and, in December of
1991, was among the first to recognize Armenian independence. Even
prior to Armenia’s independence, in December of 1988, the U.S.
government and the American people, in an unprecedented act of
compassion across the iron curtain, extended their generosity to
the Armenian people as they recovered from a devastating earthquake
that took over 40,000 lives.

In the years since independence, the U.S. and the Armenian
governments have steadily expanded relations based on a history of
shared values and common interests in a secure stable Caucasus and
Caspian region.

We are, of course, proud that Armenia has been a good friend to
America, providing strong and consistent support to the global war
on terror, taking part in the NATO Partnership for Peace, and
contributing forces to Coalition operation in Iraq, as well as for
Kosovo peacekeeping operations.

Armenian American Foreign Assistance Priorities

I would like now to turn to our specific concerns regarding the
Fiscal Year 2008 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs

1) Parity in military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan

We encourage the panel to appropriate equal levels of military
assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan, in accord with the agreement
struck between the White House and the Congress during
deliberations, in 2001, over the conditional waiver of Section 907
of the FREEDOM Support Act.

This agreement was struck between the White House and Congress in
2001, during deliberations over granting the President the
authority to waive Section 907 restrictions on aid to Azerbaijan.
The Armenian American community has vigorously defended this
principle, stressing that a tilt in military spending toward
Azerbaijan would destabilize the region and embolden the
Azerbaijani leadership to act on 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 obstructing the peace process,
while at the same time undermining the role of the U.S. as an
impartial mediator of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict.

In a clear breach of this agreement, the Administration, in its FY
2008 budget, called for breaking parity, in Azerbaijan’s favor, in
both Foreign Military Financing and International Military
Education and Training. We ask the panel restore military aid

In addition, we encourage the panel to carefully monitor all
military aid provided to Armenia and Azerbaijan, including the
Caspian Guard Program, Nonproliferation, Antiterrorism, De-mining
and Related Assistance, and other military-related programs, to
ensure that both the principle and practice of military aid parity
is maintained in all spheres. Each dollar in U.S. military
assistance – either specifically appropriated or provided at the
discretion of the Administration – should be matched with a dollar
of military aid to Armenia.

2) Economic Assistance to Armenia

We urge the Subcommittee to include language requiring no less than
$75 million in direct U.S. economic assistance to Armenia in FY

Since Armenia’s independence in 1991, U.S. assistance has played a
vital role in meeting humanitarian needs, fostering democratic
reforms, and building self-sustaining economic growth.

Today, with the help of the United States, Armenia is a member of
the World Trade Organization, International Monetary Fund, and
World Bank, has signed bilateral agreements with the United States
on trade relations, investments, and the protection of investments,
holds regular Economic Task Force meetings on U.S.-Armenia economic
cooperation, and – in 2005 – was granted Permanent Normal Trade
Relations status.

The Wall Street Journal-Heritage Foundation 2007 Index of Economic
Freedom ranked Armenia as the 32nd freest economy in the world,
based on a study that covered 10 broad factors of economic freedom,
including property rights protection, regulatory environment, tax
rates, fiscal policy, government intervention in the economy,
monetary policy, black markets, and trade policy.

In great measure as a result of reforms supported by U.S. economic
development programs, Armenia’s economy has grown by more than 10%
in each of the past six years, more than doubling the size of
Armenia’s Gross National Product. Sadly, however, the people of
Armenia are still faced with the devastating impact of Turkey and
Azerbaijan’s illegal dual blockades – estimated by the World Bank
as costing Armenia at least $720 million on an annual basis.

The Armenian American community is, of course, tremendously
encouraged by Armenia’s participation in the Millennium Challenge
Account, the new and innovative merit-based foreign aid program.
We wish to be clear, however, that this program does not serve as a
substitute for assistance provided by the Congress under the FSA.
In fact, the Administration made clear to Congress when the MCA
program was initiated that it would explicitly not be a substitute
for normal foreign aid but would rather serve to augment it. In
this case, the MCA is specifically designed to help alleviate
poverty through the strengthening of rural infrastructure,
primarily in the areas of roads and irrigation. The FSA, by
contrast, provides concrete and vitally needed assistance for
reforms in democratic governance, health care, social protection,
and education.

3) U.S. Assistance to Nagorno Karabagh

We urge the panel to approve no less than $10 million in its FY
2008 bill for Nagorno Karabagh, and to gradually retarget this
package from humanitarian to development aid.

For the past decade, the U.S. Congress has played a unique and
vital role in providing direct aid to meet pressing humanitarian
needs in Nagorno Karabagh, helping its people to rebuild their
lives after years of devastating Azerbaijani aggression. The
expansion of our efforts to include development aid would reflect
our success in leveraging local efforts to dramatically reduce
Nagorno Karabagh’s once-daunting humanitarian challenges. The time
has come to support Nagorno Karabagh’s young democracy and its
efforts to expand its free market economy by funding programs aimed
at supporting democratic governance, encouraging sustainable
economic development, and creating conditions conducive to greater
stability and lasting peace in this strategically important region.
For this transition to begin, Congress needs to specify in its FY
2008 State-Foreign Operations bill that aid for programs in Nagorno
Karabagh must include development programs.

4) Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act

We ask the panel to keep Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act in
place and to ensure the Administration’s strict compliance with its
conditional authority to waive this law.

5) California-Armenia Trade Office

We urge the panel to appropriate $200,000 to allow the California-
Armenia Trade Office to expand its operations to help business
communities in California and other U.S. states.

Currently, this office, the only official American trade
representation in the Republic of Armenia, is operated by the
Foundation for Economic Development, a California not-for-profit
corporation that has been contracted by the State of California to
handle its operations. CATO began operations in October of 2005
under the auspices of the California Business, Transportation and
Housing Agency, but is funded entirely through privately raised
donations. Though located in Armenia, it serves a much larger
region, covering the Newly Independent States and the countries of
Eastern Europe and Western Asia. The mission of the Trade Office
is to assist California companies increase their exports to Armenia
and the surrounding region, as well as to help companies from the
region to build commercial relationships with businesses in

This modest commitment of resources will expand U.S. access to
foreign markets and trade and help keep these countries
economically viable and independent. California, which boasts the
largest Armenian population outside of Armenia, almost 1,000,000
strong, is the natural partner here in the United States to serve
as the foundation for this important relationship.

In closing, please know that the ANCA respects and values your
friendship and the Subcommittee’s long-standing leadership on
issues of concern to Armenian Americans.