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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.”

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).