A member of the U.S. House of Representatives visited Nagorno-Karabakh on Monday about two weeks after helping to ensure continued U.S. government funding for humanitarian demining operations conducted there by a British charity.
Representatives of the HALO Trust reportedly briefed the congressman, David Valadao, on their land-clearing activities in Karabakh that began 16 years ago.
The organization has since cleared around 90 percent of the territory’s minefields dangerously close to civilian areas. It has destroyed more than 11,000 anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines mostly left over from the 1991-1994 Armenian-Azerbaijani war. The U.S. Congress has financed the effort as part of its direct humanitarian assistance to Karabakh allocated over strong Azerbaijani objectives.
Earlier this month, the House of Representatives accepted Valadao’s proposal to allocate another $1.5 million to the HALO Trust’s demining program in Karabakh. The measure was also strongly backed by several other pro-Armenian lawmakers, notably Ed Royce, the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee.
“It is a grave reality that families in Nagorno Karabakh live under the very real threat of landmine accidents each and every day,” Valadao said on September 7. “However, with the funding secured in my amendment, I am optimistic significant strides will be made to ensure the region is landmine free by 2020.”
A Republican from California, Valadao is a member of the congressional Armenian Caucasus. His constituency is home to a large number of Armenian Americans.
The congressman travelled to Karabakh together with Raffi Hamparian, the chairman of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), a Washington-based lobbying group.
An ANCA statement said Valadao will join five other U.S. lawmakers on Thursday in attending official ceremonies in Yerevan to mark the 26th anniversary of Armenia’s independence.