A senior Nagorno-Karabakh official on Wednesday downplayed the U.S. State Department’s apparent failure to deliver much of direct U.S. economic and humanitarian assistance to the disputed region that has been allocated by Congress.
U.S. legislators have allotted a total of $61 million in such assistance since 1998, ignoring White House objections and vehement protests from Azerbaijan. Armenian-American lobby groups have been instrumental in the aid allocations.
According to one of them, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), less than $36 million of that aid has actually been expended by the U.S. government so far. In a statement issued this week, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian expressed serious concern at the “failure of successive administrations to honor the clear intent of Congress that this vital assistance program be properly funded and fully implemented.”
Hachikian blamed the State Department for the delay. “The State Department’s willful obstruction is all the more outrageous, given the longstanding blockades by Turkey and Azerbaijan in violation of international law,” he said.
Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian leadership seems far less unhappy with the shortfall. “Before expressing concern, I think one must emphasize the fact that the U.S. government has directly provided assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh,” Vahram Atanesian, the chairman of the Karabakh parliament’s committee on foreign relations, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. He said the very fact of the United States directly helping the self-proclaimed republic not recognized by any country is “exceptional” in itself.
Atanesian suggested that the delay may be linked with economic growth in Karabakh that has averaged 12 percent per annum in recent years. “That is not a secret to the United States,” he said.
The Karabakh official at the same time commended the ANCA and other Armenian-American groups for pressing U.S. administrations to assist in the territory’s reconstruction and development. “They are trying to create a proper atmosphere in the United States so that the U.S. government pays greater attention to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh,” he said.