Washington, DC – Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), Co-Chair of the bipartisan Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues and the Unexploded Ordnance (UXO)/Demining Caucus; Congressman TJ Cox (D-CA), Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), and 33 other Members of Congress, introduced an amendment that was included in the annual appropriations bill today to provide $1.4 million to the USAID’s demining program in Nagorno-Karabakh. The budget-neutral amendment would benefit a program operated by humanitarian aid organization the HALO Trust, which ran out of critically needed funds earlier this spring – putting the program in danger of shutting down this fall and the lives of those living in the landmine cluttered region at further risk. The legislation is expected to be passed by the U.S. House of Representatives tomorrow.
“When I visited Nagorno-Karabakh last year, I saw first-hand how the deadly detritus of war that blankets this region threatens the economic and physical safety of its citizens. Of the nearly 400 civilian casualties in Nagorno-Karabakh from mines and UXO since the end of the conflict in 1994, roughly one quarter are children. And Nagorno-Karabakh has one of the world’s highest annual per capita mine accident rates, at times comparable to Iraq, Colombia, or Cambodia,” Rep. Speier said. “The demining teams operated by the HALO Trust – some of them all-women – have done incredibly brave and vital work. But that life-saving work is at risk of ending since public funds ran out in the spring and the program managed by USAID is the only humanitarian demining assistance program in Nagorno-Karabakh. As the Co-Chair of two bipartisan caucuses dedicated to strengthening the U.S. commitment to Armenia and cleaning up landmines and UXO worldwide, and as an Armenian American, I’m extremely proud to have introduced this bipartisan amendment and applaud its adoption.”
“As a member of the Armenian Caucus and the representative for so many Armenian Americans in the Central Valley, I was proud to deliver on our promise to build a more constructive relationship between the US, Armenia, and Artsakh. This funding for landmine clearance will not only save innocent lives, but also create much needed peace and stability in the region," Rep. TJ Cox said. "Our bipartisan amendment will provide critical humanitarian relief to countless families in Nagorno-Karabakh who continue to live in constant threat of danger, giving them basic assurance that the open land can be a place to enjoy, not fear. I look forward to the adoption of the amendment and the continuation of this critical demining program, as well as the United States’ support for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.”
“Since the last of the land mines in Artsakh were laid in 1994, 385 people have been killed or injured by them, including those working to eliminate the remaining mines and nearly 100 children,” Rep. Krishnamoorthi said. “This program is the only humanitarian demining assistance in the region and has cleared over 61,000 landmines and other explosives. While previous international efforts have had a major impact through safely removing and destroying more than 10,000 landmines, the need to continue this work to protect local communities from these dangerous remnants of a war a quarter of a century ago remain. I’m grateful the House has seen fit to consider our amendment and I hope they’ll pass it to continue the crucial work of demining Artsakh.”