ANCA: Bid to Zero-Out Azeri Military Aid Falls One Vote Short

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

July 16, 2008
Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Tel: (202) 775-1918


— Representatives Lowey, Obey, Jackson, Israel, Chandler,
Rothman, Lee, and McCollum Block Passage of Measure

WASHINGTON, DC – An amendment championed by Armenian Caucus Co-
Chair Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) to cut all military aid to Azerbaijan
due to their escalating threats of war against Nagorno Karabagh and
Armenia was defeated by one vote today during a meeting of the U.S.
House State-Foreign Operations Subcommittee to consider the Fiscal
Year 2009 (FY09) foreign aid bill, reported the Armenian National
Committee of America (ANCA).

"We want to thank Joe Knollenberg for his leadership in seeking to
zero out military aid to Azerbaijan, and to express our
appreciation to all those, like Congressmen Adam Schiff and Mark
Kirk, who supported this vital legislative effort to promote peace
and stability in the Caucasus," said Aram Hamparian, Executive
Director of the ANCA. "At the same time, especially given the
razor-thin margin of this vote, we are saddened and disappointed by
the opposition of Chairwoman Lowey, and the other Representatives
who, although traditionally friends of the Armenian American
community – cast their votes to block the adoption of this badly
needed measure: Jesse Jackson, Jr., Steve Israel, Ben Chandler,
Steve Rothman, Barbara Lee, Betty McCollum, and David Obey."

Last month, during a hearing of the Foreign Affairs Committee, Rep.
Knollenberg cross-examined Assistant Secretary of State Dan Fried
regarding the State Department failure to meaningfully challenge
Azerbaijan’s war rhetoric against neighboring Nagorno Karabagh and
Armenia. Earlier today, as he entered the foreign aid mark-up, the
Michigan legislator stated, that: "For the security of Armenia and
the region, I strongly believe that the Azeri war machine must be
stopped. This is why it is completely unbelievable and
unacceptable that there would be any U.S. funding of Azerbaijan’s
military. I will fight to strip this money from the budget to
ensure Armenia’s continued safety. The U.S. absolutely must not
fund or support the Azeri’s bellicose behavior."

The panel approved $52 million in assistance to Armenia, $8 for
Nagorno Karabagh and, by rejecting the Knollenberg Amendment,
effectively maintained parity in military assistance to Armenia and
Azerbaijan. According to traditional Congressional practice, the
bill next goes to the full Appropriations Committee for
consideration before reaching the House floor, although the exact
legislative path for this measure remains unclear. The full Senate
Appropriations Committee is scheduled to consider the Senate
version of the foreign aid bill on Thursday, July 17th.

Starting in March of this year, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-
Chairmen Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ), joined by
thirty-seven of their House colleagues, began a broad-based,
bipartisan effort to urge Subcommittee Chairwoman Nita Lowey (D-NY)
and Ranking Member Frank Wolf (R-VA) to support six priorities
aimed at advancing U.S. interests and American values in Armenia
and the surrounding region:

1) Cutting all military aid to Azerbaijan due to its threats of
renewed war
2) Allocating $5 million in military aid to Armenia
3) Continuing Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act
4) Allocating $70 million in economic aid to Armenia
5) Allocating $10 million in development aid to Nagorno Karabagh
6) Lifting barriers to U.S.-Nagorno Karabagh contact and

The budget proposed by the White House this February sought to
dramatically slash aid to Armenia by 59%, and, once again, proposed
tipping the military aid balance in favor of Azerbaijan, despite
Baku’s threats to use it growing military arsenal to restart its
war against Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh.

Over the past several months, rallied by the ANCA, Armenian
Americans have been in touch with their legislators about the
dangers of the President’s proposed cuts in aid to Armenia, and in
support of a constructive set of foreign policies toward Armenia
and the region.