US Senators Rob Portman and Bob Menendez on Tuesday sent a bipartisan letter to Senators Lindsey Graham and Patrick Leahy, Chairman and Ranking Member of the Senate's State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee on Appropriations, urging them to explicitly allocate robust funding in the final FY21 appropriations bill to address the ongoing humanitarian crisis in the South Caucasus.
“The humanitarian situation in the south Caucasus is dire, and it will only grow worse as winter approaches,” the Senators wrote, describing how, against the backdrop of COVID-19, the recent Turkish-backed conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh) has wreaked long-term infrastructural damage on the region and has displaced more than half of Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population, including 90 percent of the region’s women and children. “The fighting may have stopped, but the damage it caused will continue to cost lives without robust action by the international community.”
In addition to requesting robust funding for rehabilitation services in Nagorno-Karabakh, Senators Portman and Menendez requested the Senate appropriate specific funds for clearing mines and unexploded ordnance.
“The United States must continue our longstanding tradition of funding humanitarian aid for those who need it most, like the thousands of ethnic Armenians displaced from their homes or otherwise affected by the violence,” the Senators added. “By including the provisions listed above in the final State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs appropriations bill, you can help blunt the devastating effects of the recent violence and continue America’s proud tradition of humanitarian assistance.”
On November 9, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, and Russian President Vladimir Putin signed a joint statement on a complete cessation of hostilities— which Azerbaijan had launched on September 27—in and around Artsakh. Accordingly, Russian peacekeepers are deployed in the region to monitor the implementation of the ceasefire and the cessation of hostilities. But this statement also stipulates the handover of part of Artsakh lands to Azerbaijan.