Representatives Speier and Eshoo Urge Continued Funding for Artsakh Demining

Representatives Jackie Speier (CA-14) and Anna G. Eshoo (CA-18) led a letter with 33 colleagues in support of including demining assistance for Artsakh in final Fiscal Year 2022 appropriations legislation.

The letter to Chairwoman Barbara Lee and Ranking Member Hal Rogers of the House’s Appropriations subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs), thanked them for the inclusion of the $2 million demining assistance for the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) in the committee report that accompanied the House-passed FY22 SFOPs appropriations bill, and advocated everything be to ensure that the funding is not eliminated through the conference process.

The full text of the letter is below:

The Honorable Barbara Lee, Chairwoman
House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
U.S. Capitol, Room HT-2
Washington, D.C. 20515

The Honorable Hal Rogers, Ranking Member
House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs
1036 Longworth House Office Building
Washington, D.C. 20515

Dear Chairwoman Lee and Ranking Member Rogers,

We write to thank the Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPs) for including $2 million in demining assistance for the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) in the committee report that accompanied the House-passed FY22 SFOPs appropriations bill. These funds are critically needed to protect the people of Artsakh from deadly explosives, and we urge you to do everything you can to ensure that this funding is not eliminated through the conference process.

As you know, in September 2020, Azerbaijan and Turkey launched an unprovoked offensive against Artsakh and Armenia, and the subsequent six weeks of hostilities took more than 6,000 lives and displaced at least 90,000 ethnic Armenians. During the war, population centers in Artsakh were subjected to regular aerial bombardments of artillery shelling and cluster munitions which left thousands of unexploded ordnances scattered throughout the territory. These explosives pose a lethal threat to thousands of displaced families who wish to return to their homes and rebuild their lives in Artsakh.

Fortunately, non-governmental organizations are working to clear the territory of unexploded ordnances. In fact, more than 3 million on square meters have been cleared since last year’s ceasefire, and more than 2,200 explosives have been safely destroyed. These extraordinary efforts have saved lives and enabled communities to rebuild after the war, but there is more work to do. While Stepanakert, Artsakh’s most populous city, has been almost entirely cleared of explosives, Martuni and Martakert, the second and third most populous towns are still highly contaminated, as are many villages and surrounding farmlands.

The U.S. government has traditionally funded demining efforts in Artsakh, but this funding expired in March 2020. We’re pleased that the State Department restarted funding for this critical effort this month by awarding $250,000 in grant funding, but more funds are needed to complete the important work of clearing Artsakh of deadly explosives.

Thank you again for your support for lifesaving demining efforts in Artsakh. As the FY22 appropriations process is finalized, we urge you to ensure that $2 million for demining assistance in Artsakh remains in the explanatory statement which accompanies the final SFOPs appropriations legislation.