U.S. Congressmen Call For Parity In Military Aid To Armenia And Azer

U.S. CONGRESSMEN CALL FOR PARITY IN MILITARY AID TO ARMENIA AND AZERBAIJAN

PanARMENIAN.Net
14.03.2008 16:47 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ In a hearing before the State, Foreign Operations
Appropriations Subcommittee in the House of Representatives,
lawmakers raised a series of concerns regarding the Administration’s
FY 2009 budget proposal for Armenia. Congressmen Adam Schiff (D-CA)
and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) raised pointed questions regarding the
Administration’s proposal to provide Azerbaijan with increased military
funding over Armenia, reported the Armenian Assembly of America.

Schiff asked Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice how the U.S. can
justify providing Azerbaijan $900,000 versus only $300,000 for Armenia
in Military Education and Training (IMET) assistance. He specifically
cited Azerbaijan’s ongoing war rhetoric and large increases in military
spending as reason against favoring Baku over Yerevan with additional
security funding.

Azeri President Ilham Aliyev recently proclaimed that "Armenia did
not win the war. The war is not over.

Only the first stage of the war has been completed."

He added that Nagorno Karabakh will never be independent.

Knollenberg said it is "not just the rhetoric [from Azerbaijan]
but the threat of war," that is most troubling. He said Azerbaijan’s
recent cease fire violations were the worst in 10 years, adding that
the U.S. should consider discontinuing military funding to Azerbaijan
altogether.

"We should either take away military funding to Azerbaijan or threaten
to stop it as long as they are threatening Armenia," Knollenberg said,
explaining that it is now time to take drastic steps.

Knollenberg, along with Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone,
Jr. (D-NJ), also issued a strong statement regarding Azerbaijan’s
ceasefire violations.

In separate responses to the lawmakers, Secretary Rice said the
Administration believes that the request levels for Armenia and
Azerbaijan are appropriate.

Noting concerns with the recent state of emergency in Armenia, Rice
also made reference to the suspension of some U.S. assistance programs
to Armenia, and indicated that the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA)
funding could be put at jeopardy.

"During this critical time, the U.S. should do more to help Armenia’s
democratic institutions," said Knollenberg, Co-Chair of the Armenian
Caucus.

Congressman Schiff added, "The Administration’s justification for
reduced aid to Armenia is not a solution."

The Administration’s budget slashed funding to Armenia by nearly
60 percent from $58.5 million in FY 2008 to a proposed level of $24
million in FY 2009. The budget request also called for more military
funding for Azerbaijan; a clear breach of the agreement reached with
Congress in 2001 regarding military parity for both countries.

Executive Director Bryan Ardouny thanked Congressmen Schiff and
Knollenberg for raising strong concerns with the Administration’s
spending plan with Secretary Rice

"We thank both lawmakers for their leadership on this important
issue. Providing asymmetrical military assistance to Azerbaijan
violates the will of Congress, subverts the short- and long-term U.S.

policy goals for the South Caucasus region, and will only serve
to legitimize Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockades against Armenia and
Karabakh," Ardouny added.

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