(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Congressman Jamie Raskin (MD-08) joined Reps. TJ Cox (CA-21) and Brad Sherman (CA-30) and more than 80 bipartisan colleagues in defending The HALO Trust’s demining program in the Republic of Artsakh. The letter was sent in response to the U.S. Agency for International Development’s (USAID) recent decision to end all support for humanitarian landmine clearance in the traditional boundaries of Artsakh at the end of 2019. The development is a reversal of the testimony USAID Administrator Mark Green offered on April 9, 2019, during a House Foreign Affairs Committee hearing in which he stated on the record that USAID is committed to completing the clearance of landmines and unexploded ordnances within the traditional boundaries of Nagorno Karabakh.
“I’m deeply troubled by the recent decision that USAID had made to halt funding for humanitarian landmine clearance in Artsakh,” said Congressman TJ Cox. “This move would leave the people of the region with no hope, and fear of death or injury from landmines, with no local capacity in place to address the ongoing threat. USAID must follow through on its commitment to provide additional funding to The HALO Trust to complete this vital project, as promised by Administrator Green. I will continue working with my bipartisan colleagues in Congress, the Armenian National Committee of America, and The HALO Trust to secure federal funding, which will allow us to achieve a mine-free Artsakh.”
“The USAID-funded demining program in Artsakh, implemented by the well-respected HALO Trust, serves as a major American investment in the peace and stability of a strategically important region, said Congressman Brad Sherman. “The HALO Trust has cleared thousands of mines to date, saving countless lives. Whether or not USAID previously expected HALO Trust to complete the clearance of mines in Artsakh by September 2019, Administrator Green seemed clear in stating to me on the record in April that USAID will work to completely clear Artsakh of landmines and unexploded ordnances. Thus, I hope USAID to follow through on its commitment and provide additional funding to HALO Trust as needed to complete this critically important project. I am glad to be joined by more than 80 of my colleagues in sending a follow-up letter to Administrator Green to urge USAID to reconsider its decision to stop funding for humanitarian landmine clearance in Artsakh at the end of this year.”
“Bowing to Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev’s reckless demand that America end U.S. humanitarian aid to Artsakh puts lives at risk and jeopardizes the peace process,” said Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “A modest expenditure that represents a major investment in peace, this aid program has, since Fiscal Year 1998, delivered desperately needed maternal health care, provided families with clean drinking water, and cleared farms and villages of deadly mines. We thank Representatives Sherman and Cox and each and every U.S. legislator who is seeking to advance U.S. interests and American values by continuing U.S. humanitarian aid to Artsakh in the face of foreign attempts to meddle in American decision-making.”
Background: The Republic of Artsakh is locked in frozen conflict that flared amidst the collapse of the Soviet Union. The conflict which became an all-out war between 1992 – 1994 took the lives of close to 20,000 people and hundreds of thousands more were displaced as a result. While an agreed ceasefire has been held for over two decades, the lack of a formal end to the war has left the Armenian people of Artsakh isolated. Since 2000, USAID funding for demining projects in the region has allowed for the clearing of 4,727 acres of former minefield and the eradication of close to 4,000 landmines and 8,000 items of unexploded or abandoned ordnance.