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Over 50 Members of Congress Sign Bipartisan Letter Opposing F-16 Sale to Turkey

Florida Representatives Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), and Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL) Sign Armenian Caucus Letter

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian American community welcomed a bipartisan letter, spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), addressed to Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin and Secretary of State Antony J. Blinken, rejecting the recent proposal by Turkey to purchase Block 70 F-16 fighter jets as well as mechanical upgrades to F-16s from the United States.

The February 4, 2022 letter states in part: “Approving this proposal would reward President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for ignoring both Turkey’s alliance commitments to the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the vast human rights abuses his regime continues to commit at home and abroad.”

In addition to Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Bilirakis, Florida Reps. Ted Deutch (D-FL) and Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL) also signed the letter.

Turkey has destabilized multiple regions around the world, including the Eastern Mediterranean, Middle East, North Africa, and particularly the South Caucasus, when F-16s were used against the Armenian people during the 44-day war in Artsakh in the Fall of 2020. Turkey deployed its lethal and armed unmanned aerial vehicle, the Bayraktar TB2, to cause irreparable damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure, which was confirmed by satellite images.

The letter continues: “The purchase of advanced fighter jets from the United States for Turkey’s military arsenal…will more likely lead to further death and destruction in the region at the hands of his [Erdoğan] military.”

Erdoğan also continues to “jeopardize American national security” by utilizing the Russian-manufactured S-400 missile defense systems, which can expose “important tactical information about U.S. weaponry and military operations to Russia,” in an attempt to “pit the United States and Russia against each other.”

The letter highlights Erdoğan’s human rights abuses in Turkey, the suppression of civil society, the promotion of unfair elections, and the restriction of freedom of speech, leading to the detainment of a Turkish journalist last week who was arrested for reportedly insulting Erdoğan.

The letter concludes: “We strongly urge you to reject Turkey’s request for new F-16s and modernization kits and take immediate action to hold the Erdoğan regime accountable. The United States must not provide any further support to Turkey’s military until President Erdoğan takes tangible steps to halt his destabilizing actions and violations of international law at home and abroad.”

“Florida Armenians applaud Reps. Bilirakis, Deutch, Diaz-Bolart, and all of the letter signatories for taking this important, principled stand as Erdogan’s Turkey continues to prove that it is no longer the reliable ally and partner of the United States that it once was,” stated FLArmenians.com Editor Arsine Kaloustian.

Joining Congressmen Pallone and Bilirakis on the letter are Reps. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Danny Davis (D-IL), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Raúl Grijalva (D-AZ), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Nicole Malliotakis (R-NY), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Mark Pocan (D-WI), Katie Porter (D-CA), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Bobby Rush (D-IL), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Tom Suozzi (D-NY), Mark Takano (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Lori Trahan (D-MA), David Valadao (R-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT), and Susan Wild (D-PA).

House of Representatives Passes Five Pro-Democracy Amendments as Part of the FY2022 National Defense Authorization Act

WASHINGTON, DC – On the evening of Thursday, September 23, 2021, five decisive pro-democracy amendments were adopted en bloc by the U.S. House of Representatives as part of the overall National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2022, known as bill H.R. 4350.

In the aftermath of last Fall’s 44-day war launched by Azerbaijan with the full support of Turkey against the Armenian people of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), the Armenian American community strongly advocated for and hailed passage of the following amendments:

  • Amendment #21 sponsored by Rep. Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), and cosponsored by Reps. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Katie Porter (D-CA), Young Kim (R-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), and Dina Titus (D-NV): This amendment “creates a report on Azerbaijan’s activities in Nagorno Karabakh in 2020 to be submitted to the relevant congressional committees by the Secretary of Defense in consultation with the Secretary of State. Also expresses the Sense of Congress that the government of Azerbaijan should immediately return all Armenian prisoners of war and captured civilians. Urges the Administration to engage with Azerbaijani authorities, including through the OSCE Minsk Group, to make clear the importance of adhering to their obligations under the November 9 statement and international law to immediately release all prisoners of war and captured civilians.”
  • Amendment #278 sponsored by House Rules Committee Chairman James McGovern (D-MA), and cosponsored by Reps. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ), Jamie Raskin (D-MD), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Gerry Connolly (D-VA), Peter Welch (D-VT), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Norma Torres (D-CA), and Don Beyer (D-VA): This amendment “modifies the Global Magnitsky Human Rights Accountability Act (Subtitle F of title XXI of PL 114-328) to authorize sanctions for serious human rights abuse, any violation of internationally recognized human rights, or corruption; adds two new reports to Congress; and repeals the sunset.”
  • Amendment #325 sponsored by Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ), and cosponsored by Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), and Abigail Spanberger (D-VA): This amendment “requires a report from the Secretary of Defense, in collaboration with the Secretary of State, addressing allegations that some units of foreign countries that have participated in security cooperation programs under section 333 of title 10, U.S.C. may have also committed gross violations of internationally recognized human rights before or while receiving U.S. security assistance. This report also includes recommendations to improve human rights training and additional measures that can be adopted to prevent these types of violations.”
  • Amendment #431 sponsored by Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV), and cosponsored by Reps. Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Young Kim (R-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), and Anna Eshoo (D-CA): This amendment “requires a report by the Secretary of State on the activities of the Grey Wolves organization (AKA Bozkurtlar & Ülkü Ocaklari) undertaken against U.S. interests, allies, and international partners, including a review of the criteria met for designation as a foreign terrorist organization.”
  • Amendment #449 sponsored by Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), and cosponsored by Reps. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Susan Wild (D-PA), Andy Levin (D-MI), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Young Kim (R-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Katie Porter (D-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), David Schweikert (R-AZ), David Trone (D-MD), and Don Beyer (D-VA): This amendment “requires a report within 180 days of all US humanitarian and developmental assistance programs in Nagorno Karabakh, including an analysis of the effectiveness of such programs and any plans for future assistance.”

Speaking in support of his amendment (#325), Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) stated on the House floor that countries that violate human rights, such as Azerbaijan, which received over $100 million dollars in Fiscal Years 2018 and 2019, along with “equipment and training from the U.S. military,” and launched “a deadly attack against Nagorno-Karabakh/Artsakh on September 27 that led to the death of thousands and the displacement of so many more,” should not receive U.S. funding.

“Passage of this amendment sends a clear signal that the U.S. takes seriously its democratic norms and commitment to peace by ensuring oversight of our security assistance,” said Rep. Pallone, noting that in the future there will be “restraint from aiding and tolerating similar regimes, especially when their actions are aimed at destabilizing a fellow democracy.” This amendment is especially important since Azerbaijan continues to threaten Armenia’s safety and sovereignty. “The United States should not be aiding and abetting reckless, autocratic states with appalling human rights records for any reason,” Rep. Pallone said.

Upon passage, FLArmenians.com Editor Taniel Koushakjian stated, “We commend the House of Representatives for adopting these significant, pro-democracy measures, especially all of the amendment sponsors for taking a strong stand against the war crimes committed by Azerbaijan’s armed forces against peaceful Armenians who are simply defending their right to live in peace. We urge Congress to ensure these measures and kept in the final adoption of the FY2022 NDAA.”

Armenian American Community Bids Farewell to Armenian Ambassador to the U.S.

Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan gives his farewell address at the Armenian Embassy, Washington, DC. July 19, 2021.

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian Embassy in Washington, DC hosted a farewell reception on Monday, July 19, for Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan and his family, upon the completion of his tenure as the Ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United States of America. Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan has been reassigned as Ambassador to Great Britain, effective August 1.

FLArmenians.com Editor Taniel Koushakjian and Amb. Nersesyan

Participants wishing Ambassador Nersesyan farewell included officials from U.S. State Department, Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Armenian Caucus Vice-Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), Deputy Chief of Mission at Embassy of Armenia to the U.S. Ara Margarian, Los Angeles Consul General Ambassador Dr. Armen Baibourtian, Armenia’s Honorary Consul in Fresno Berj Apkarian, Armenia’s Honorary Consul in Chicago Oscar Tatosian, Nagorno Karabakh representative to the United States Robert Avetisyan, former U.S. Secretary of Navy Paul Ignatius, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John M. Evans, Middlesex County (Massachusetts) Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, current and former State Department staff, Archbishop of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of American (Eastern) Bishop Daniel Findikyan, and Armenian American community leaders from the greater Washington, DC metro area.

Bishop Daniel Findikyan speaking at Ambassador Nersesyan’s Farewell.

Primate Bishop Daniel Findikyan opened the program, followed by Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary Bureau of European and Eurasian affairs of State Department John Armstrong, Rep. Speier, and Ambassador Nersesyan.

Bishop Findikyan spoke of the personal friendship that emerged between Ambassador Nersesyan, Bishop Daniel, and Archbishop Anoushavan Tanielian during their weekly conference calls. “The Ambassador initiated these weekly meetings when he first took up his role in the U.S., during which we would update one another on current events in Armenia and in our communities. It’s been a great privilege to cultivate such a close relationship.” He blessed the Nersesyan family as the Ambassador moves on to a new mission in service to our homeland.

Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, Bishop Daniel Findikyan, and Taniel Koushakjian

In his remarks Ambassador Nersesyan reflected about his mission in the USA in his capacity as an Ambassador of Armenia, highlighting some landmark achievements including: Armenian Genocide recognition; a new elevated format of Armenia-US bilateral relations and strategic dialogue; cultural diplomacy through Armenian Odyssey, and the upcoming exhibition on Artsakh at the Museum of the Bible in Washington, DC. He also emphasized challenges caused by COVID-19 and Azeri-Turkish aggression against Artsakh/Nagorno Karabakh during the past year.

Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Taniel Koushakjian

“The Armenian American community is grateful to the service and many contributions that ambassador Nersessian spearheaded and implemented during his brief but successful tenure as Armenia’s ambassador to the United States. We congratulate him on his accomplishments and wish him and his family the best in their next assignment.” stated FLArmenians.com Editor Taniel Koushakjian.