WASHINGTON, DC — The U.S. House cast a powerful vote in support of Artsakh aid today, adopting a bi-partisan ANCA-backed amendment led by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), Representatives TJ Cox (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) and more than 35 of their House colleagues to continue life-saving demining assistance, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and the Armenian Assembly of America.
Today’s vote represents a powerful rebuke to the Azerbaijani government-driven, State Department-supported effort to end Artsakh’s demining program, despite its remarkable record of having removed tens of thousand of landmines and saving countless lives.
“Saving lives and limbs in Artsakh – that is what Congress did today – with the united effort of thousands of ANCA supporters around the country,” said ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian. “The ANCA thanks Congresswoman Speier and her colleagues – Democrats and Republicans – who faced down a blizzard of vicious attacks by Azerbaijan and its allies.”
“Moving forward – we will press ahead in the Senate and make sure the U.S. Agency for International Development completes America’s noble de-mining mission. The ANCA will not rest, we will not retreat, until Artsakh is landmine free,” continued Hamparian.
The bi-partisan Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) aid amendment to H.R.7608 was adopted as part of a larger “en bloc” group of amendments backed by the House majority. As is often the case in the U.S. House, this “en bloc” was approved on a party line vote.
“We applaud Representatives Speier, Cox and Krishnamoorthi along with the over 30 cosponsors who introduced this bipartisan amendment. Landmine clearance is critically important to continue to help save lives. As Congressman Sherman indicated earlier today in a hearing on the Administration’s Fiscal Year 2021 Budget, USAID needs to finish the job (referring to demining in Nagorno Karabakh),” stated Assembly Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan.
In its testimony before the House and Senate, the Assembly has consistently and repeatedly advocated for robust assistance for the people of Artsakh, including demining. For a relatively small investment, the United States can make a significant difference for the people of Nagorno Karabakh, especially for the children.
Khaloyan added: “Inclusion of this amendment is a testament to the shared values between the United States and Nagorno Karabakh, and stands in stark contrast to the ill-conceived attempts to prohibit such assistance, in lockstep with Azerbaijan and its Laundromat lobbyists, to marginalize the Armenian people. The Assembly remains deeply troubled by Azerbaijan’s attacks against Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, which started earlier this month, including threats to target Armenia’s nuclear power plant.”
The Artsakh amendment calls for $1.4 million in U.S. aid for the continuing life-saving de-mining efforts of The HALO Trust. House members joining Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA), TJ Cox (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL) in advancing the amendment were: Representatives Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Gil Cisneros (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Susie Lee (D-NV), Andy Levin (D-MI), Joe Kennedy (D-MA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Dan Lipinski (D-IL) Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Max Rose (D-NY), Harley Rouda (D-CA), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Janet Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Lori Trahan (D-MA), and Juan Vargas (D-CA). No other amendment to the FY2021 Foreign Aid Bill had as many co-sponsors.
House Rules Committee Jim McGovern’s leadership to allow a vote on the amendment – over strenuous objections by the pro-Azerbaijan lobby – was key to House passage of the measure.
Continued aid to Artsakh to support demining and rehabilitation efforts has been a key part of the ANCA’s 360-degree policy priorities to ensure Artsakh security and freedom. The United States has been funding humanitarian programs in Artsakh since 1998, providing clean water to rural communities, support for maternal and child health, and life-saving demining assistance. Through ANCA-supported Congressionally-mandated U.S. assistance, The HALO Trust has been de-mining in Artsakh since 2001. Since then, they have cleared 61,000 landmines and explosive hazards and transformed 62,000 acres of former minefields into land available for productive use and recreation. Just as importantly, U.S. assistance has provided mine risk education to each student in Karabakh since 2003.
Artsakh aid has been long under attack by Azerbaijan’s Aliyev regime, and over the past two years, aggressively targeted by the Trump Administration, even as it ramps up U.S. defense and security aid to Baku.
Over 10,000 advocates have contacted Congress in support of continued U.S. demining assistance to Artsakh through the ANCA’s online action portals. ANCA Leo Sarkisian and Maral Melkonian Avetisyan Summer program participants have been rallying nationwide constituent outreach in support of continued Artsakh aid. Countless more have used ANCA advocacy tools to connect with their U.S. legislators.
The Artsakh aid amendment was strongly supported by the Hellenic American Leadership Council and In Defense of Christians.
The ANCA is currently working with Senate leaders to include Artsakh aid in their version of the FY2021 Foreign Aid Bill, yet to be taken up by the Appropriations Committee. Pro-Artsakh advocates can contact their Senators by visiting anca.org/alert. Constituents can be directly connected to their Senators by phone through the ANCA’s Quick Connect system by visiting anca.org/call. Grassroots outreach to Congressional offices will continue until the FY2021 Foreign Aid Bill is finalized.