WICHITA, Kansas — After an ethnic conflict in the 1990s that left much of its infrastructure destroyed and government fragile, the Nagorno-Karabakh region has yet to receive an efficient amount of aid for reconstruction. Perhaps that may now change as the United States’ Senate reaffirms support for the battle-torn region.
Sen. Mark Kirk has voiced the concerns of the Nagorno-Karabakh people and has pressured Congress to look at the region’s current situation. Together with the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), Sen. Mark Kirk has gained support for the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
Much of the region’s problems date back to the 1920s. Nagorno-Karabakh was a section under Soviet control that became part of the Azerbaijan. With 95 percent of Nagorno-Karabakh’s people being Armenian, many were left resentful of being part of Azerbaijani territory.
The Soviet Union was able to keep much of the conflict under control until the military strength of the Soviet Union began to wane during the Cold War.
By 1991, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan as the first step toward becoming part of Armenia.
The declaration resulted in an ethnic conflict between Azerbaijan and Armenia over sovereignty of the Nagorno-Karabakh territory and people. According to reports, the conflict resulted in the deaths of 20,000 to 30,000 people from all sides.
The conflict lasted until 1994, when the Soviet Union forced both opposing parties to declare a ceasefire. Though the conflict lasted three years, it left a large mark on the Nagorno-Karabakh region.
During the conflict, Azerbaijan had launched attacks at several of Nagorno-Karabakh’s largest cities. Land mines located between Armenia and Azerbaijan have also become one of the largest land mine concerns in the entire world.
With its infrastructure destroyed and lack of efficient medical services, 80 percent of Nagorno-Karabakh’s economy was destroyed.
Although Nagorno-Karabakh has applied for foreign aid from the United Nations, it is difficult for the region to receive aid due to threats from Azerbaijan. Neither side wants to be responsible for restarting disastrous conflicts.
Instead, Nagorno-Karabakh has had to rely on aid from non-governmental organizations and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Sen. Kirk argued that current foreign aid levels in the region are not enough. Sen. Kirk’s statement is backed by data gathered by the Armenian National Committee of America.
Data shows that foreign aid to Nagorno-Karabakh, beginning in 1998, totals nearly $61 million. However, only 41 percent of the allocated funds were actually used by the U.S. government to aid Nagorno-Karabakh.
Congress has assured that more funds will be allocated in the Fiscal Year 2016 State Foreign Operations budget.
With Nagorno-Karabakh still experiencing cross-fires, economic woes and few medical services, the aid will hopefully help impoverished people in the region to further stabilize and democratize their region.
– Erendira Jimenez