Florida Congressmen Gus Bilirakis, Ted Deutch Sign Armenian Caucus Letter to White House
WASHINGTON, DC – The Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues leadership spearheaded a letter signed by 48 Members of Congress sent to President Donald Trump urging him to meet with newly-appointed Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, during the annual United Nations General Assembly held in New York in September. Two members of Florida’s Congressional delegation, Armenian Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), signed the letter to President Trump.
The letter states: “The peaceful transition of power after the revolution is a clear indication of the will of the Armenian people, strongly demonstrating their commitment to a fairer and more democratic state. As Armenia seeks to bolster government transparency, strengthen democratic institutions, and empower civil society, it is critical for the United States to deepen its ties with this regional partner at every level of government.”
“I commend the people of Armenia for exercising their political rights and bringing about change in peaceful, democratic way,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) told FLARMENIANS. “The Velvet Revolution can serve as a model for the non-violent transfer of power. I am hopeful that the new government will serve the interests of the people and continue to bring democracy, transparency, and prosperity to Armenia,” Deutch said.
In addition to Armenian Caucus leaders Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Dave Trott (R-MI), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and David Valadao (R-CA), the letter was signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA).
The letter to President Trump also requests “a series of high-level conversations between [the President’s] Cabinet Secretaries and their counterparts in Armenia – many of whom have recently been appointed as members of the newly formed government.”
In that regard, the Embassy of Armenia in Washington, DC has been very active telling the story of the Armenian people’s embrace of democracy to U.S. policy makers. Last month, Armenia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Mirzoyan traveled to Washington, DC and met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell; Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Dave Trott (R-MI), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and David Valadao (R-CA); House Democracy Partnership President Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Vice President Rep. David Price (D-NC); and Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL). He also spoke before an audience of academics, diplomats, and government officials at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
While Armenia’s Velvet Revolution can be felt by Armenian men and women, old and young, in every corner of the Diaspora, it is especially inspiring for Armenian Americans who wish to see U.S.-Armenia bilateral relationship reach the next level.
WASHINGTON, DC – This week, the Armenian Assembly of America issued an Action Alert calling on Armenian Americans across the U.S. to “contact your representative and ask them to urge President Trump to meet with Armenia’s Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan.”
The Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, led by Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), David Valadao (R-CA), Jackie Speier (D-CA), Dave Trott (R-MI), Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), is currently asking Members of Congress to sign a bipartisan letter “encouraging President Trump to meet with Armenia’s newly elected Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, while he is in the United States for the 73rd Session of the United Nations General Assembly in September.”
The Assembly’s alert highlight’s Armenia’s “remarkable change in its government through peaceful and democratic means” following the April 2018 “Velvet Revolution.”
“This grassroots movement, led by Mr. Pashinyan, resulted in a transition to a more genuinely democratic system. In a small, post-Soviet and landlocked country like Armenia, this non-violent transfer of power between governments is unprecedented and incredible, especially compared to its authoritarian neighboring nations,” the Assembly alert states.
The Assembly’s alert further states that “a conversation between President Trump and Prime Minister Pashinyan emphasizing economic development, security, and democracy is critical for a strong pivot towards a strategic partnership between our countries.”
The Armenian Assembly of America’s Action Alert is available here.
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.
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. 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.”
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.
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. 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.