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U.S. Lawmakers Seek More Aid For Democracy In Armenia


U.S. – Capitol Building in Washington.

The U.S. Congress is expected to allocate later this year up to $40 million in financial assistance designed to support democratic reforms in to Armenia.

The House of Representatives earmarked the sum in a bill on U.S. foreign aid for the next financial year passed in June. The funding was proposed by its pro-Armenian members, notably Jackie Speier.

Speier cited last year’s democratic “Velvet Revolution” in Armenia when she spoke on the House floor. “It is very important at this point in time that we do everything in our power to support this new democracy,” she said.

“Armenia has a rare and potentially fleeting window of opportunity to consolidate and build upon its democratic gains,” added the Democrat from California.

A separate foreign aid bill approved by the U.S. Senate’s Committee on Appropriations last week similarly calls for an unspecified amount of funding that would “further democratic and economic reforms” in Armenia. It would come in addition to about $20 million in economic and security aid to the South Caucasus nation recommended by the panel.

The bill has to be passed by the full Senate before the two congressional chambers can reach an agreement on the amount of democracy aid to Armenia.

Both measures were welcomed by the two main Armenian lobby groups in the United States: the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee of America.

“We will try to advance the House version as the version that the administration [of President Donald Trump] should work with versus the Senate version,” Bryan Ardouny, the Assembly’s executive director, told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

U.S. -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian meets with the Armenian Assembly's co-chairs, Van Krikorian (R) and Anthony Barsamian, and executive director, Bryan Ardouny (L), New York, September 24, 2019.
U.S. -- Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian meets with the Armenian Assembly's co-chairs, Van Krikorian (R) and Anthony Barsamian, and executive director, Bryan Ardouny (L), New York, September 24, 2019.

“It’s an opportunity for Armenia to solidify its democratic institutions and this aid is needed to do that,” said Ardouny. “It also shows the ongoing support and strong relations between the U.S. and Armenia.”

The Assembly co-chair, Van Krikorian, called for $100 million in democracy and economic aid to Armenia when he testified before a House subcommittee in March. The United States should “reward people who have made progress towards democracy,” he said.

Later in March, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, who led the 2018 revolution, criticized the U.S. for what he called a lack of adequate “reaction” to democratic change in Armenia. He seemed unhappy with Washington’s failure to significantly increase economic aid to his country which totaled roughly $23 million in 2017.

The U.S. ambassador in Yerevan, Lynne Tracy, countered afterwards that Washington provided $26.7 million in assistance to Yerevan last year in addition to an ongoing $66 million aid program implemented by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).

The Armenian Foreign Ministry announced in May that the U.S. government will provide up to $16 million to foster economic growth and good governance in Armenia. Also, it said, the USAID will allocate $6 million in support of the Armenian government’s “democratic reform agenda.”

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