The U.S. Congress has kept the volume of U.S. economic assistance to Armenia next year unchanged at $40 million and urged the administration of President Barack Obama to continue financing humanitarian projects in Nagorno-Karabakh.
According to the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), the sum is set in an “omnibus appropriations bill” approved by the House of Representatives and the Senate over the weekend. The Obama administration requested earlier this year the same aid allocation for Armenia in the fiscal year 2012.
The funding, though unchanged from the 2011 level, falls short of at least $60 million demanded by about 30 pro-Armenian members of the House last May. Nevertheless, the leading Armenian lobby groups in the United States seem largely satisfied with it.
“Throughout the appropriations process, the Assembly worked with the House and Senate, and in particular our friends on the House and Senate Appropriations Committees to make sure that funding for Armenia was maintained,” Bryan Ardouny, the AAA executive director, said in a statement.
The statement noted that overall U.S. assistance to countries in Europe, Eurasia and Central Asia will fall by 10 percent to $626.7 million in 2012.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) similarly cited in July “serious financial pressures upon legislators of both parties” after a House subcommittee approved the $40 million requested by the U.S. administration. The ANCA director, Aram Hamparian, praised the panel for “maintaining the assistance level for Armenia in the face of deep spending cuts across the foreign aid bill.”
The U.S. Congress has allocated a total of more than $1.7 billion to Armenia since 1992. The money has been spent on humanitarian aid, infrastructure upgrades, equipment supplies, counseling and other projects administered by the U.S. Agency for International Development.
The Armenian government also received $177 million in separate assistance from the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) to refurbish the country’s rural irrigation networks. The four-year project was completed in September.
Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian said afterwards that his government “will do everything” to address U.S. concerns over human rights and governance in Armenia and thus again become eligible for MCC funding.
The congressional bill also commits the Obama administration to maintaining parity in providing military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan. But it does not specify any aid figures. The Armenian military is to receive about $4 million in U.S. finding this year.
U.S. lawmakers further recommended continued American “assistance for victims of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at levels consistent with prior years, and for ongoing needs related to the conflict.”
Previous appropriation bills specified the amount of such direct aid to Karabakh, resented by Azerbaijan, and made its provision mandatory. The Armenian-controlled disputed territory is due to receive $8 million in the current fiscal year. It is not clear if the Obama administration plans to continue financing reconstruction and development projects there.
“We will continue to press forward to ensure robust assistance in that regard,” said the AAA’s Ardouny.