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Category Archives: Politics

U.S. Congressional Delegation Visits Armenia, Artsakh

Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) join U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, Jr. and Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannissian in a meeting with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chairs Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), David Valadao (R-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA), along with Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) returned from Armenia with a better understanding of the challenges facing the region. Reps. Valadao, Pallone, and Gabbard also visited Artsakh.

Reflecting on his past trips to Armenia and Artsakh, Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Pallone stated: “The progress of the country economically and politically is immediately evident. I visited Armenia several times in the 1990s and early 2000s. Great strides have been made in terms of economic development and improvements in the political system since then.” He continued: “Overall, this trip was a great opportunity for Armenia Caucus members to learn what we need to follow-up on when we’re back in Congress to improve U.S.-Armenian relations with regards to trade, military cooperation, and many other areas.”

The four-day trip, from September 18-21, allowed for several face-to-face meetings with high-level government officials. The delegation met with Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan, who acknowledged the Congressional Delegation’s visit as a crucial step towards strengthening Armenia’s relations with the United States, and expressed his gratitude for their efforts towards deepening bilateral relations in all areas.

They also met Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan, National Assembly Speaker Ara Babloyan, Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian, Deputy Foreign Minister Ashot Hovakimian, and His Holiness Karekin II, the Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians at Holy Etchmiadzin.

Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), His Holiness Karekin II, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), and Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI).

Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Valadao said: “Living in the Central Valley, I have heard many stories and descriptions of Armenia from my neighbors and friends. Having the opportunity to experience the country they love firsthand was an unforgettable and enlightening experience. In addition to visiting historic landmarks and learning more about the Armenian culture, I met Armenian business leaders and government officials, examining the positive impact of the strong bond between our two nations.”

In addition to official meetings with the leadership of Armenia and Artsakh, the delegation met with Syrian refugees who found shelter in Armenia, the business community, and beneficiaries of U.S.-funded projects. They also went on special tours and visited American University of Armenia, Impact Hub Yerevan, Megerian Carpet Museum, and Armenia Fund’s rehabilitated music school.

“I saw first-hand the enormous contributions that the diaspora has made to build a bright future for Armenia. The hospitalities extended were second to none, whether it was a visit to the American University of Armenia, to winemakers or music students, Armenia is on the move with a deep determination to continue building a just and democratic society. I left the country with a great sense of gratitude and pride,” Rep. Eshoo stated. “My recent visit to Armenia as it celebrated its 25th year of independence, was an extraordinary experience for me personally and as a Member of Congress. I believe the trip strengthened the relationship between the United States and Armenia, and it also deepened my understanding of the challenges the country has and how the United States can be a helpful partner,” she continued.

Rep. Michael McNulty (D-NY), Rep. Richard Lehman (D-CA), President Levon Ter-Petrossian, Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI), and Rep. Wayne Owens (D-UT) in Armenia to observe the September 21 referendum vote on independence.

Rep. Sensenbrenner previously visited Armenia in 1991 and had the opportunity to observe the Armenian referendum, during which 95% of the population voted for independence from the Soviet Union. He witnessed the country during a crucial transition period as it took its first steps towards democracy, and was able to return many years later to see how the nation developed. The Congressional Delegation’s visit coincided with Armenia’s Independence Day on September 21.

“The need for cooperation between our two countries is ongoing, and this diplomatic mission was important to strengthen relationships and continue to keep lines of communication open. U.S. support has helped bolster Armenian democratic institutions and civil society, and our two countries must continue to work together to advance these interests. The U.S. and Armenia share strong bonds, as America is one of the largest destinations for the Armenian diaspora,” Rep. Sensenbrenner said. “These Armenians have gone on to contribute greatly to their new homes, as well as being influential in the continued struggle for recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), and Rep. Jim Sensenbrenner, Jr. (R-WI) at the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex.

At the Armenian Genocide Memorial Complex and Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, the U.S. legislators laid flowers at the eternal fire of the Armenian Genocide Monument and observed a moment of silence in tribute to the victims.

Rep. Gabbard noted: “One major issue that continues to be unresolved, is global recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide. It is unconscionable that the United States government still has not formally recognized and condemned the Armenian Genocide. I stand with Armenians in America and around the world in condemning the Armenian Genocide, and I call on my colleagues to adopt House Resolution 220 so we never forget, or repeat, the suffering endured by the Armenian people.”

Armenian American Rep. Eshoo added: “Despite efforts beginning in 1975 to formally recognize the Armenian Genocide, Congress has yet to acknowledge what took place 102 years ago. The deliberate annihilation of 1.5 million Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and other minorities by the Ottoman Empire is a fact that must be acknowledged by the United States. Likewise, the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh must be resolved and the Minsk Group is important to this effort.”

Members of the delegation met with Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan and National Assembly Speaker Ashot Ghoulyan. During these meetings, they discussed the latest developments in the Artsakh peace process, the role of international organizations in preventing border incidents, as well as the efforts of the Armenian Caucus in strengthening U.S. relations with Armenia and Artsakh. President Sahakyan honored Reps. Pallone, Speier, and Eshoo with Medals of Gratitude for their longtime and substantial contribution to the recognition of the Republic of Artsakh.

Speaker Ghoulyan emphasized the importance of U.S. humanitarian assistance to Artsakh, and acknowledged the latest amendment introduced by Rep. Valadao to ensure continued U.S. support to the de-mining process in Artsakh. Last month, Rep. Valadao spearheaded a bipartisan amendment along with House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and Armenian Caucus Vice-Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Pallone, and Rep. Speier to ensure continued funding for de-mining projects in Artsakh.

(L-R) Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI) and Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-CA) speaking in front of the Artsakh Republic National Assembly; Armenian Assembly Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian, Rep. Pallone, Artsakh National Assembly Chairman Ashot Ghoulyan, and Rep. Gabbard in front of “We Are Our Mountains” monument north of Stepanakert, Artsakh; and Rep. Pallone, Armenia Fund, Inc. President Maria Mehranian, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan, Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Gabbard, and Rep. David Valadao (R-CA).

Reps. Pallone and Gabbard traveled to Artsakh by helicopter with Assembly Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian, Artsakh Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan, Artsakh Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan, and Armenia Fund, Inc. President Maria Mehranian. The U.S. Representatives addressed the Artsakh Republic National Assembly during one of its sessions. Rep. Pallone described Artsakh as a state with a legitimate government, which declared independence consistent with international law, and has built an effective political structure. Rep. Gabbard emphasized the importance of the United States’ active involvement in the peace process and expressed support for the legitimate right of the people of Artsakh to self-determination.

“The resilience and courage I witnessed in the people of the Nagorno-Karabakh region who remain in an ongoing conflict over their independence, further demonstrates our shared values of freedom, democracy, and self-determination. We must support a diplomatic resolution to this ongoing conflict, such as what has been proposed by the Minsk Group (made up of the United States, France, and Russia), to allow for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh to exercise their freedom and independence,” Rep. Gabbard said in a statement.

Rep. David Valadao at The Halo Trust in Artsakh.

Rep. Valadao also traveled to Artsakh and met with The HALO Trust to learn more about mine clearance along the borders. Following his visit, he stated: “Families in Nagorno Karabakh live under the constant threat of landmine accidents and I am grateful for the efforts of The HALO Trust to make Nagorno Karabakh a more safe and secure region.” Rep. Valadao continued, “While their work is renown worldwide, I appreciated witnessing their work and learning more about their efforts and dedication firsthand.”

The six Members of Congress are part of an exchange with Armenian Members of Parliament who are expected in Washington, D.C. in the coming months.

Click here to read the full statements by the Members of Congress who participated in the U.S. Congressional Delegation to Armenia.

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Danny Tarkanian Announces U.S. Senate Bid in Nevada

Danny Tarkanian Senate logo

By Taniel Koushakjian
Florida Armenians Editor

Today, Danny Tarkanian appeared on the Fox & Friends show to announce his campaign for the U.S. Senate. Tarkanian’s candidacy sets up a primary challenge for incumbent Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) who was first elected in 2012, and whom Tarkanian states “turned his back on us.”

In an email letter to Nevada voters, Tarkanian wrote, “Over the past several weeks, I had many people – literally hundreds – contact me and ask me to please run against Dean Heller. They expressed their frustration with Senator Heller, and all the other politicians, who promise one thing when they are running for office and then do the exact opposite in Washington DC.

[WATCH: Danny Tarkanian Announce His Campaign for U.S. Senate in Nevada]

Tarkanian credits “Senators Paul Laxalt and Richard Bryan, one a Republican, the other a Democrat,” as his inspiration for public service. “They were true statesmen. Public servants with rock solid convictions who kept their word,” he said.

“I am running for United States Senate because Dean Heller turned his back on Nevada since he became a US Senator. He campaigned across our state on the basis of repealing Obamacare, being pro-life, and generally conservative on the issues.

“Unfortunately, he simply changed in Washington DC. Conservatives now refer to him as DC’s Dean Heller rather than Nevada’s Dean Heller.”

In his letter, Tarkanian also acknowledged his previous campaigns for office, particularly his nail-bitting 2016 race for Congress where he lost by 1%.

Danny Tarkanian-bball

The son of legendary University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Danny has been a small business owner, philanthropist, and community leader in the Silver State throughout his life.

A recent poll of Republican voters in Nevada by Strategic National finds Heller with a 31% approval rating, and a 43% disapproval rating. The poll further reveals Heller’s vulnerability, which showed that only 39% of respondents hold a favorable opinion of Heller, while 43% of respondents hold an unfavorable opinion of Heller.

In a head-to-head match-up, Heller received 38% to Tarkanian’s 34%, which is within the margin of error.

The Strategic National poll surveyed 500 registered Nevada Republicans on August 1 and 2, and has a margin of error of 4.4%.

Below is Danny Tarkanian’s official statement on running for the United States Senate:

“Over the past several weeks, I have been inundated with text, emails, and phone calls from people of all walks of life across the state of Nevada who are upset with Dean Heller for campaigning one way in Nevada and voting the exact opposite in Washington DC. The refrain is the same: he turned his back on us.

Today, after much thought and discussion with my family and friends, I have decided to run for the United States Senate. I am running for United States Senate because Nevada deserves a Senator who will keep his word and vote in Washington DC the same way he campaigns here in Nevada.

I am a conservative Republican who supports the policies of President Trump to repeal Obamacare and end illegal immigration. I will continue to support President Trump’s policies that have led to a 20% increase in the stock market in just six months. I will join Senator Lee, Senator Cruz, and Senator Paul fighting for real reforms against the liberals in our party.

I look forward to campaigning across the state of Nevada and earning your support. It is time to take a stand. Together, we will make our state, and our country, proud.”

Azerbaijan’s U.S. Lobbying Firm’s List of Impressive Accomplishments

By Harout Sassounian
FLArmenians Commentator

Several weeks ago, I wrote about the four lobbying and PR firms hired by Azerbaijan in the United States. One of these companies is the Tool Shed Group.

This week, I would like to present a sample of the impressive activities organized by the Tool Shed Group on behalf of the Consulate General of Azerbaijan which is getting a great bargain by paying only $9,000 a month for all of these pro-Azeri efforts, almost none of which could have happened without the Tool Shed Group.

Most readers are unaware that American lobbying and PR firms hired by foreign entities are legally required not only to register their clients with the Justice Department under the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA), but also file the detailed list of activities on their behalf.

In order to know what efforts have been made by the Tool Shed Group on behalf of the Consulate of Azerbaijan, I have checked the website of the Justice Department where the Tool Shed Group has listed by date all of their activities for Azerbaijan’s Consulate in Los Angeles.

Tool Shed’s list of activities starts on April 1, 2009, but mysteriously ends on March 31, 2011. This must surely be a violation of the Justice Department’s requirement which has to be brought into the attention of the U.S. government. Nevertheless, the two-year report provides a detailed glimpse which I have summarized below as it is a dozen pages long:

1. Outreach to Universities:

Arranged meetings for Consul General Elman Abdullayev with the following University officials: Jolene Kester, California State University, Northridge, CA; the University of New Mexico; Geoff Cowan and Adam Clayton, USC; Chapman University, Orange, CA; Pepperdine University, Malibu, CA; Larry Greenfield, Vice President of the Claremont Institute, Los Angeles, CA; Jack Lewis, Associate Dean, USC Marshall School of Business, Los Angeles, CA; Gail Lapidus, Stanford University, Stanford, CA; David Lundberg, UCLA NanoSystems Institute; University of California, Irvine; and University of Las Vegas, Nevada; Lectures by the Consul General at UCLA; San Francisco State University; San Jose State University, San Jose, CA; USC; Scripps College, Claremont, CA; University of California, Santa Barbara, CA; California State University, Fullerton, CA; Arizona State University, Phoenix, AZ; University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ; and Stanford University, Stanford, CA; spoke at a conference on religious pluralism at USC; and conference call with USC Center for Public Diplomacy to discuss a lecture by the Consul General.

2. U.S. Politicians:

Consul General met with Darrell Steinberg, President Pro Tem, California State Senate, Sacramento, CA; Karen Bass, Speaker, California State Assembly, Sacramento, CA; Annette Porini, Chief of Staff, State Senator Joe Simitian, Sacramento, CA; Felipe Fuentes, Assemblyman, California State Assembly, Sacramento, CA; Councilor Chris Calvert, City of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Gov. Bill Richardson of New Mexico, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Speaker Ben Lujan, New Mexico State Legislature, Santa Fe, New Mexico; Mayor Bob Foster, Long Beach, CA; Cong. Adam Schiff, Glendale, CA; Congresswoman Diane Watson; Orange County Sheriff Sandra Hutchins, Santa Ana, CA; Orange County Board of Supervisors; Mike Schneider, President Pro Tem, Nevada State Senate, Las Vegas, Nevada; Mayor Oscar Goodman, City of Las Vegas, Nevada; Asked Cong. Michael McMahon (NY) to join the Azerbaijani Caucus, Los Angeles, CA; Mayor Chuck Reed, City of San Jose, CA; Meeting with California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to present a gift from Azerbaijan to the Governor, Los Angeles, CA; Mayor Coss, City of Santa Fe, New Mexico; Cong. Dana Rohrabacher, Huntington Beach, CA; and City Council Member Jan Perry, Los Angeles, CA.

3. Jewish and Israeli Representatives:

Consul General of Azerbaijan met with Consul General Jacob Dayan of Israel, Los Angeles, CA; John Fishel, Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles; Rabbi Abraham Cooper, Museum of Tolerance, Los Angeles, CA; Lecture at Temple Judea, Tarzana, CA; American Jewish Committee, San Francisco, CA; and met with Rabbi Leider and Prof. Reuven Firestone regarding a lecture by the Consul General at Temple Beth Am, Los Angeles, CA.

There are dozens of other meetings that Jason Katz, the owner of Tool Shed Group, had arranged for the Consul General of Azerbaijan. I must admit that for a paltry $9,000 a month Mr. Katz is underpaid for arranging such a wide array of access for Azerbaijan in several US States, something the Consul General of Azerbaijan could have never accomplished on his own.

The Armenian-American community makes up for its lack of lobbying and PR firms by the activism of its organizations and their members. However, a professional lobbying and PR firm can add a lot to the existing successes. Unfortunately, most Armenians do not have a proper appreciation for the work of lobbying and PR firms and therefore do not believe in funding such a valuable and much-needed effort!