Rep. Jackie Speier

US House Approves More Funding For Mine Clearance in Karabakh

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WASHINGTON — The US House of Representatives approved on Thursday, July 23, $1.4 million in fresh US funding for humanitarian demining operations in Nagorno-Karabakh carried out by a British charity.

The HALO Trust has cleared tens of thousands of anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines, mostly left over from the 1991-1994 Armenian-Azerbaijani war, since it began its work in Karabakh in 2001. The US Congress has financed the effort as part of its direct humanitarian assistance to the Armenian-populated territory allocated over strong Azerbaijani objectives.

The current US administration has sought to end that assistance. An amendment to a House bill on US foreign aid in the fiscal year 2021 requires it continue funding the demining program in Karabakh.

The amendment was drafted by three members of the House, one of whom, Jackie Speier, argued that Karabakh has one of the highest per capita mine accident rates in the world. More than 400 of its residents have been killed there by landmines since 1994.

The measure was also co-sponsored by more than 30 other lawmakers. Armenian-American advocacy groups lobbied hard for its passage.

“Today’s vote represents a powerful rebuke to the Azerbaijani government-driven, State Department-supported effort to end Artsakh’s demining program despite its remarkable record of having removed tens of thousands of landmines and saving countless lives,” said the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

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“For a relatively small investment, the United States can make a significant difference for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, especially for the children,” it said in a statement.

The aid allocation also needs to be backed by the US Senate.

 

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