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ANCA Joins Congressional Leaders, Coalition Partners at Capitol Hill Press Conference Condemning Azerbaijan’s Blockade of Artsakh

#SaveKarabakhCoalition Launched to Stop Azerbaijan from Committing Second Armenian Genocide

WASHINGTON, DC – Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) was joined by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), House Appropriations Foreign Operations Subcommittee Ranking member Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA), and Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA), Lou Correa (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY) in calling on the Biden Administration to stop U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan and send emergency aid to Artsakh in response to the devastating humanitarian crisis in Artsakh caused by Azerbaijan’s blockade of the Lachin Corridor, reported the ANCA (a leading partner in the broad-based Save Karabakh Coalition).

The Capitol Hill press conference, held in the Press Triangle at the foot of the U.S. Capitol Building, featured the participation of former U.S. Ambassador for Religious Freedom Sam Brownback, Artsakh Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan, and representatives of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and a diverse group of non-government organizations led by the Anglican Office of International and Government Affairs, Christian Solidarity International, the Baroness Caroline Cox of Queensbury and founder of the Humanitarian Aid Relief Trust (HART), the Vulnerable Peoples Project, and supported by the Genocide Watch, Hellenic American Leadership Council, and In Defense of Christians, who announced the launch of the Save Karabakh Coalition. The press conference was moderated by Reverend Canon Justin Murff, Executive Director of the Anglican Office for Government and International Affairs.

“This is a diverse coalition with a laser focus – saving Artsakh,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “We stand shoulder to shoulder with our coalition and in solidarity with our Congressional friends advancing anti-blockade legislation, set to be introduced in the U.S. House. Now, more than ever, Armenian and allied Americans need to stand up, and speak out – and that starts with taking action today at www.anca.org/blockade.”

Congressional Leaders Condemn Azerbaijan; Demand Concrete U.S. Action

“As a Greek American, our history, Greece and the Armenian community go back very, very far. And obviously we both suffered greatly at the hands of the Ottoman Empire. Human rights, genocide, we’ve experienced a lot together and so that is why I’m here today to continue to stand with the Armenian community and see that centuries later, they’re still suffering human rights violations.” – Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY)

“He is announcing his intention of this blockade, which is to make Artsakh unlivable and to use a blockade as a method of ethnic cleansing. The tactic is blockade. The effect is civilian deprivation. The purpose is ethnic cleansing. The United States must act. […] I urge the Administration to impose real consequences on Aliyev for plunging the people of Artsakh into this humanitarian disaster.” – Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA)

“Our job is to make sure that we bring justice to the Armenian people. Your job is to make sure that we don’t forget to make sure that we’re reminded that the struggle continues. As we move forward, I know we will reach a place. I know we will continue to accord to reach a place where the Armenian people can enjoy freedom, human rights and religious freedom.” – Rep. Lou Correa (D-CA)

Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA): “The launch of the Save Karabakh Coalition here at the U.S. Capitol is an inspiring show of support for the 120,000 Armenians living in Artsakh peacefully but suffering at the hands of the Aliyev regime. I will continue to work with my colleagues here in Congress to make sure that the United States stands up for the ideals of democracy and self-determination and to that end stands with the people of Artsakh.”

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA): “Artsakh is enduring a major and growing humanitarian crisis caused by Azerbaijan’s illegal blockade of the Lachin Corridor, Artsakh’s only humanitarian lifeline to Armenia. And so yes, like all of you, I strongly condemn Azerbaijan’s blockage of the vital corridor connecting Armenia and Artsakh and call for the immediate opening.”

Rep. David Valadao (R-CA): “Azerbaijan is once again weaponizing critical infrastructure and manufacturing a humanitarian crisis for Armenians living in Nagorno Karabakh. The U.S. must use every single diplomatic tool we have at our disposal to end this blockade and ensure the safety and wellbeing of Armenians living in Artsakh.”

Petition Launched on White House Website Calling on Government of Turkey to Open Border with Armenia for Syrian Refugees

By Taniel Koushakjian
FLArmenians Political Contributor

WH Petition_Syrian-Arm_01.11.13

Over the course of the last week, an Internet petition launched on the White House website has stirred emotions and reignited the debate surrounding Turkey’s nearly 20-year blockade of Armenia. In September 2011, the Obama administration launched “We the People” an online platform whereby American citizens can petition their government, a right enshrined in the First Amendment of US Constitution. According to the terms, a petition must reach 25,000 signatures within 30 days of its launch in order for it to receive a response from the administration. On January 15, the White House raised the signature threshold to 100,000 signatures. However, the new requirement applies only to new petitions and does not affect this petition.

[Click here to read the petition.]

The petition says that “There are 200,000 ethnic Armenians living in Syria and most of them want to escape to Armenia where they can feel safe, comfortable, find a job, a place to live and go to schools” and that the “road from Syria to Armenia goes through Turkey which closed its border with Armenia in 1993.” It concludes, “There shouldn’t be closed borders in the 21-st century.”

The petition was launched on January 5 and, as of this writing, has garnered over 500 signatures, five of which hail from Florida. The petition was initiated by Heritage Party activist Daniel Ioannisian in Armenia, ArmeniaNow first reported. There is no stipulation that the petition organizer be a US citizen, according to the Terms of Participation of the “We the People” platform.

Last year, Florida Armenians held events in Boca Raton and Hollywood, raising thousands of dollars to assist in the Syrian-Armenian relief effort.

According to the ArmeniaNow report, Petros Gasparian, who fled to Armenia amid intense fighting in the Syrian city of Aleppo, welcomes the initiative. He says that many want to drive to Armenia, but avoid the long travel through Georgia, which is also complicated by the need to get an extra visa and other difficulties.

“The road is very long and unfamiliar, while it’s only half a day’s drive from Aleppo to Yerevan [it takes about 35 hours to reach Armenia from Aleppo by way of Georgia]. That would be easy to all of us, but I’m not sure Turkey would display such an attitude,” Gasparian told ArmeniaNow.

Syria’s largest city, Aleppo is home to 80,000 ethnic Armenians, most descendants of survivors of the 1915 Turkish genocide of Christian Armenians. Today, thousands of Armenians have fled Syria, many seeking refuge in Armenia. According to immigration officials in Yerevan over 6,000 Syrian-Armenians have applied for citizenship in Armenia.

As Turkey’s failed policy to blockade Christian Armenia enters its second decade, the remnants of the Soviet Union continue to linger in the South Caucasus as the last iron curtain hangs over this remote but volatile region. Support for Armenian-Turkish rapprochement reached an all time high in 2009 when Armenia and Turkey signed Protocols to establish diplomatic relations. However, the accords stalled in the Turkish parliament and still await ratification.

Others hope, however, that modern-day Turkey can play a leadership role in the region and in the Syrian conflict in particular. Perhaps in all of the turmoil in the Middle East the Turkish government can display such leadership and open the border with Armenia, at least for refugees. Although a relatively small step in this context, it has the potential to move the ball forward in a larger one: Armenian-Turkish relations. When US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton visited Armenia in July 2010, she was asked about the state of Armenian-Turkish relations and the next step in the process. She replied, “The ball is in the other [Turkey’s] court.”

Taniel Koushakjian is an independent political commentator for Florida Armenians. He received his bachelor’s degree in political science from Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida, and is currently enrolled at the George Washington University Graduate School of Political Management in Washington, D.C. Follow him on Twitter @Taniel_Shant. 

*This story was updated on January 16, 2013.