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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.

66 Members of Congress Push for Expanded US-Armenia Relations

Florida Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Ted Deutch (D-FL) Cosign Letter

WASHINGTON, DC – This week, Armenian Caucus Founder and Co-Chair Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) led an appropriations letter for fiscal year 2022 (FY22) that requests funding for a robust humanitarian assistance package, including de-mining activities in Artsakh, and funding for economic development, governance, and resources to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The letter also requests a suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until it ends its aggression toward Armenia and Artsakh. The letter was signed by 66 Members of Congress including Florida Reps. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Co-Chair of the Armenian Caucus, and House Ethics Committee Chairman Ted Deutch (D-FL), an active member of the Armenian Caucus.

“The United States is uniquely positioned to help Armenia that has been shaken by last year’s war in Artsakh and the resulting uncertainty. Providing significant economic assistance to Armenia will help make its people more secure, bolster its democracy, help sustain economic development, stabilize its civil society, and aid its response to the COVID-19 pandemic and, most urgently, alleviate the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Artsakh,” Pallone said. “This investment will strengthen the U.S.-Armenia relationship, help Armenia rebuild, and solidify democracy in the region.”

Specifically, the letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations and Related Programs calls for:

  • Robust funding to directly aid the Armenian people of Nagorno-Karabakh to recover and rebuild. Such aid would be utilized for urgently needed housing, food security, water and sanitation projects, medical and refugee assistance, rehabilitation programs, and infrastructure needs.
  • $2 million for Conventional Weapons Destruction programs in Nagorno-Karabakh.
  • $100 million for economic, governance, rule of law, and security assistance to Armenia through State Department and USAID accounts.
  • The suspension of all U.S. security assistance for Azerbaijan until it has been verified to have ceased all attacks against Armenia and Artsakh.

Artsakh is enduring an ongoing humanitarian crisis resulting from the unprovoked Azerbaijani and Turkish attack in Artsakh on September 27, 2020, which led to six weeks of devastating fighting that killed over 5,000 people and forced more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians to flee their homes. During and after the Azerbaijan-Turkish attack on Nagorno Karabakh, several videos surfaced online of Azeri soldiers beheading elderly Armenian villagers, mutilating dead bodies, and torturing Armenian soldiers and prisoners of war – over 200 of which are still being held captive by Azerbaijan in violation of international law.

Joining the leadership of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues – Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (D-CA), and Adam Schiff (D-CA) – as cosigners of the letter were Reps. Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Donald Beyer, Jr. (D-VA), Cheri Bustos (D-IL), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Joaquin Castro (D-TX), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Diana DeGette (D-CO), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), Lizzie Fletcher (D-TX), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Steven Horsford (D-NV), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Bill Johnson (R-OH), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), James Langevin (D-RI), Andy Levin (D-MI), Mike Levin (D-CA), Ted Lieu (D-CA), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Alan Lowenthal (D-CA), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), James McGovern (D-MA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Donald Payne, Jr. (D-NJ), Chellie Pingree (D-ME), Katie Porter (D-CA), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Abigail Spanberger (D-VA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Dina Titus (D-NV), Paul Tonko (D-NY), and Susan Wild (D-PA).