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Over 100 Members of Congress Sign Letter Urging President Biden to Recognize the Armenian Genocide

Florida Representatives Bilirakis, Frankel, and Crist sign the letter to President Biden.

On April 21, the bipartisan co-chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, U.S. Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), David G. Valadao (R-CA), and Jackie Speier (D-CA), along with over 100 Congressional colleagues, sent a letter to President Joseph R. Biden urging him to officially recognize the Armenian Genocide in his statement on April 24, Armenian Genocide Remembrance Day.

“On April 24, the world will mark the 106th anniversary of the first days of the Armenian Genocide, the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, and the displacement of many more. Yet for decades, while leaders around the world recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century, the President of the United States has remained silent. We join with the proud Armenian American community and all of those who support truth and justice in asking that you clearly and directly recognize the Armenian Genocide in your April 24 statement,” the Members write in the letter. “Mr. President, as you said last year in your April 24 statement, ‘Silence is complicity.’ The shameful silence of the United States Government on the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end. We urge you to follow through on your commitments, and speak the truth.”

In 2019 and 2020, the House of Representatives and the Senate passed resolutions formally recognizing the Armenian Genocide. H.Res. 296 passed with strong bipartisan consensus by a vote of 405-11, and S.Res. 150 passed under unanimous consent.

The Armenian Caucus letter to President Biden was signed by over 100 Members of Congress, including Representatives Brad Sherman, Joaquin Castro, Grace F. Napolitano, Sheila Jackson Lee, Jamie Raskin, John P. Sarbanes, Andy Levin, Eleanor Holmes Norton, Carolyn Maloney, Jim Cooper, Sean Patrick Maloney, Joe Neguse, David N. Cicilline, Jared Huffman, Lori Trahan, Anna Eshoo, Gregory W. Meeks, Jim Costa, Dina Titus, Abigail D. Spanberger, Judy Chu, Josh Gottheimer, Raja Krishnamoorthi, Thomas R. Suozzi, James P. McGovern, Tony Cárdenas, Betty McCollum, Jan Schakowsky, Ro Khanna, Stephen F. Lynch, John Garamendi, Jeff Van Drew, Juan Vargas, Jake Auchincloss, Ann Wagner, Greg Stanton, Nicole Malliotakis, Marcy Kaptur, Paul D. Tonko, Julia Browley, Earl Perlmutter, Linda T. Sánchez, David P. Joyce, Katherine M. Clark, Sara Jacobs, Grace Meng, Mike Quigley, Gwen Moore, Haley Stevens, Devin Nunes, Zoe Lofgren, Adriano Espaillat, James R. Langevin, Josh Harder, Peter A. DeFazio, Donald S. Beyer Jr., Rashida Tlaib, Mary Gay Scanlon, Barbara Lee, Norma J. Torres, Lois Frankel, Chellie Pingree, Donald Norcross, Alan Lowenthal, Bradley S. Schneider, Danny K. Davis, Jimmy Gomez, Colin Z. Allred, Chrissy Houlahan, Earl Blumenauer, Doug Lamborn, Susan Wild, Debbie Dingell, Diana DeGette, Scott Peters, Ted Lieu, Jay Obernolte, Karen Bass, Madeleine Dean, Michelle Steel, Brian Fitzpatrick, Mike Levin, Darrell Issa, Charlie Crist, Albio Sires, Mike Garcia, Lucille Roybal-Allard, David Schweikert, Mike Doyle, Bonnie Watson Coleman, Carolyn Bourdeaux, Young Kim, Jason Crow, Ilhan Omar, Christopher H. Smith, Chris Pappas, David Trone, Ayanna Pressley, Veronica Escobar, Raúl M. Grijalva, Richie Neal, and Jim Himes.

Click here to read the letter, or read the full text below:

Dear Mr. President: 

Later this month, on April 24, the world will mark the 106th anniversary of the first days of the Armenian Genocide, the systematic murder of 1.5 million Armenians by the Ottoman Empire from 1915 to 1923, and the displacement of many more. Yet for decades, while leaders around the world recognize the first genocide of the 20th Century, the President of the United States has remained silent. We join with the proud Armenian American community and all of those who support truth and justice in asking that you clearly and directly recognize the Armenian Genocide in your April 24 statement.

We know that this is an issue you are well acquainted with from your time in the Senate and as Vice President, including shepherding S.J.Res. 212 (designating April 24, 1990, as a National Day of Remembrance of the 75th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide) through the Judiciary Committee in 1989. We also appreciate that as Vice President you attended the centenary anniversary of the Armenian Genocide in 2015 at the National Cathedral. It was during the centennial that His Holiness Pope Francis at Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica said this about the Armenian Genocide: “concealing or denying evil is like allowing a wound to keep bleeding without bandaging it.”

 The historic fact of what occurred a century ago is not in serious dispute. American diplomats of the period documented the mass slaughter of the Armenians, though they had no word for what they were witnessing. It was only decades later that Raphael Lemkin coined the term “genocide”, and did so specifically with the attempted extermination of the Armenian people in mind.

In accurately describing the Genocide this year, you will be joining both the House and Senate which overwhelmingly passed resolutions doing so in 2019. Additionally, the Library of Congress has already taken the important step of cataloging books on the subject under historically accurate Armenian Genocide subject heading.

Mr. President, as you said last year in your April 24 statement, “Silence is complicity.” The shameful silence of the United States Government on the historic fact of the Armenian Genocide has gone on for too long, and it must end. We urge you to follow through on your commitments, and speak the truth.

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100 Representatives Urge Biden Administration to Support Armenia and Artsakh

Florida Representatives Gus Bilirakis, Ted Deutch, Brian Mast, and John Rutherford Sign Armenian Caucus Letter

WASHINGTON, DC – Florida Armenians welcome a bipartisan letter signed by 100 Members of Congress to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin highlighting key policy issues, including the pressing importance of addressing the “ongoing humanitarian crisis in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh).”

Spearheaded by Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. and the Armenian Caucus leadership, the letter emphasized that “our diplomats must insist that any future settlement supported by the United States will provide the people of Artsakh with the ability to reconstruct their communities and rebuild their lives without fear of further bloodshed. This should include significant U.S. commitments to provide an urgently needed humanitarian aid and assistance package for the people of Artsakh.”

Noting that the “terms laid out in the current ceasefire are untenable for Artsakh’s long-term security and stability in the region,” the letter said in part that “more must be done to pursue an enduring settlement based on the fundamental right to self-determination,” and that the international community and the United States “has an important role to play by finally recognizing the right to self-determination for the people of Artsakh and their role as a legitimate negotiating party in resolving this conflict.”

The letter also expressed concern that “Azerbaijan also refuses to free dozens of Armenian prisoners of war and apprehended civilians” in violation of the ceasefire signed on November 10, 2020, as well as the need to hold “destabilizing actors accountable.”

In addition, the letter stated that “sanctions on high-ranking officials from [Turkey and Azerbaijan] and withholding aid, including ending the waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act and ceasing further military assistance through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity program,” would have helped halt last year’s deadly actions.

The letter concluded that “the United States should seek to strengthen our strategic relationship with Armenia” and that President Biden should follow in the footsteps of both the House and Senate and formally recognize the Armenian Genocide this April 24th.

“We applaud Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone for his steadfast leadership, as well as Caucus leaders Reps. David Valadao, Jackie Speier, Gus Bilirakis, Adam Schiff, and all of the signatories for coming together in this important effort to urge the Biden’s administration to work closely with America’s democratic allies Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, as they face an existential threat from the Islamist armies of Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenian Americans and all people who support democracy and freedom know that when America leads the world is better for it, and so we urge President Biden and his administration to be a leader in the South Caucasus,” stated Florida Armenians Editor Taniel Koushakjian.

Below are the 100 Members of Congress who signed this letter:

Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Jake Auchincloss (D-MA), Jim Banks (R-IN), Nanette Diaz Barragán (D-CA), Karen Bass (D-CA), Don Beyer (D-VA), Jamaal Bowman (D-NY), Brendan Boyle (D-PA), Julia Brownley (D-CA), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Tony Cárdenas (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Bonnie Watson Coleman (D-NJ), Jim Costa (D-CA), Jason Crow (D-CO), Madeleine Dean (D-PA), Peter DeFazio (D-OR), Ted Deutch (D-FL), Mike Doyle (D-PA), Veronica Escobar (D-TX), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Adriano Espaillat (D-NY), Dwight Evans (D-PA), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA), John Garamendi (D-CA), Jesús “Chuy” García (D-IL), Mike Garcia (R-CA), Jimmy Gomez (D-CA), Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ), Glenn Grothman (R-WI), Josh Harder (D-CA), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA), Jared Huffman (D-CA), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Hank Johnson (D-GA), David Joyce (R-OH), Ro Khanna (D-CA), Dan Kildee (D-MI), Young Kim (R-CA), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), Jim Langevin (D-RI), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Susie Lee (D-NV), 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), Sean Patrick Maloney (D-NY), Brian Mast (R-FL), Betty McCollum (D-MN), Jim McGovern (D-MA), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Grace Meng (D-NY), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Richard Neal (D-MA), Joe Neguse (D-CO), Donald Norcross (D-NJ), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC-At Large), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA), Chris Pappas (D-NH), Kathleen Rice (D-NY), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA), John Rutherford (R-FL), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), John Sarbanes (D-MD), Mary Gay Scanlon (D-PA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Brad Schneider (D-IL), David Schweikert (R-AZ), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Albio Sires (D-NJ), Elissa Slotkin (D-MI), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Michelle Steel (R-CA), Haley Stevens (D-MI), Thomas Suozzi (D-NY), Mike Thompson (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), Paul Tonko (D-NY), Lori Trahan (D-MA), David Trone (D-MD), Juan Vargas (D-CA), Nydia Velázquez (D-NY), Maxine Waters (D-CA), Peter Welch (D-VT-At Large), and Susan Wild (D-PA).

Assembly Action Alert: Urge Congress to Sign the Letter to Biden Administration in Support of Closer US-Armenia Relations

WASHINGTON, DC – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) is urging Armenian Americans to contact their Representative to ask them to sign a letter to the Biden administration to support a closer relationship between the United States and Armenia, and to send emergency aid to Artsakh.

Addressed to U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken and U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, the letter is currently gathering signatures in an effort spearheaded by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA), and Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

The full text of the letter is below:

Hon. Antony Blinken
Secretary of State
U.S. Department of State
2201 C Street NW
Washington, DC 20520

Hon. Lloyd Austin
Secretary of Defense
U.S. Department of Defense
1300 Defense Pentagon
Washington, DC 20301

Dear Secretaries Blinken and Austin:

As members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, we write to offer our congratulations on your recent confirmations and to share a list of our bipartisan priorities we hope to work together on during the 117th Congress.

One of the most pressing issues for the Caucus and for the future of American foreign policy in the South Caucasus region is the ongoing humanitarian crisis in Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh). As you are aware, Azerbaijani and Turkish forces initiated an unprovoked attack on September 27, 2020, leading to six weeks of devastating fighting that killed an estimated 5,000 people and forced more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians to flee from the Karabakh region. Azerbaijani forces were able to make rapid advances into the region with the aid of Turkish-backed foreign mercenaries, many alleged to have ties to internationally recognized terrorist groups, Bayraktar drones that utilize American components and technology, and heavy weaponry including the illegal use of cluster and white phosphorus munitions.

With the rising risk of a mass atrocity against thousands of Armenian civilians, Armenia agreed to a peace agreement brokered by Russia on November 10. This agreement brought an end to the fierce combat, but it has done little to address the immediate and significant problems of feeding, sheltering, and ensuring the safety of thousands of displaced families during the COVID-19 pandemic. In violation of the ceasefire, Azerbaijan also refuses to free dozens of Armenian prisoners of war and apprehended civilians, which illustrates how this agreement fails to address the structural issues that have caused uncertainty and fueled the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict for decades. There remain several important issues that must be resolved and many critical questions that must be answered before a binding and durable peace settlement can be reached.

First, the terms laid out in the current ceasefire are untenable for Artsakh’s long-term security and stability in the region. The United States cannot allow Russia, Turkey, and Azerbaijan to solely dictate and dominate the situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. While we have seen some reengagement in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group process, we believe more must be done to pursue an enduring settlement based on the fundamental right to self-determination. We appreciate the response Secretary Blinken gave during his confirmation hearing to this end, stating that he will “reinvigorate U.S. engagement to find a permanent settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that protects the security of Nagorno-Karabakh and helps to ensure another war does not break out.”

In negotiations, our diplomats must insist that any future settlement supported by the United States will provide the people of Artsakh with the ability to reconstruct their communities and rebuild their lives without fear of further bloodshed. This should include significant U.S. commitments to provide an urgently needed humanitarian aid and assistance package for the people of Artsakh. The international community, including the United States, also has an important role to play by finally recognizing the right to self-determination for the people of Artsakh and their role as a legitimate negotiating party in resolving this conflict. Absent this recognition, they will continue to face the threat of displacement by Azerbaijani and Turkish forces without any option for formal redress.

Another important component of ensuring lasting peace in the region is to hold destabilizing actors accountable. There is significant evidence that Azerbaijani and Turkish forces planned the invasion in the buildup to the September 27 assault on Nagorno-Karabakh. This evidence includes the stockpiling of armaments, including drones that killed many innocent civilians during the conflict, the July 2020 provocations by Azerbaijani troops in Armenia’s Tavush province, and several instances of large-scale joint military exercises near the Armenian border that foreshadowed the coming attacks. The United States and other international actors failed to acknowledge these warning signs and take necessary steps to prevent the sharp and unprovoked escalation of violence.

Actions that could have been taken at the time to halt Azerbaijani and Turkish aggressions included threatening sanctions on high-ranking officials from those countries and withholding aid, including ending the waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act and ceasing further military assistance through the Section 333 Building Partner Capacity program. We are encouraged by Secretary Blinken’s response during the confirmation process on this subject as well.

Similarly, the United States must reassess our policy toward Turkey. Turkish President Recep Erdogan’s regime reaps the rewards of the chaos he has sown in the Eastern Mediterranean, Libya, the Middle East, and the South Caucasus. His deliberate destabilizing behavior, which includes the installation of Russian made anti-aircraft missiles over the threat of sanction by the United States, demands a swift and decisive correction. We must learn from the failures of an appeasement policy used by past administrations toward Turkey and use every available diplomatic and economic tool to penalize these bad actors for their aggressions and abhorrent human rights abuses. If we do not act, we risk the likelihood that the Erdogan regime will trigger an ever-expanding zone of conflict.

Finally, the United States should seek to strengthen our strategic relationship with Armenia, a young democracy that has been shaken by last year’s events and the resulting uncertainty they have caused. We urge you to identify ways we can provide additional economic assistance to Armenia to support its democracy and development as well as respond to the significant number of displaced people who have fled the conflict in Artsakh. We also request that your Administration identify ways in which our economic, cultural, and other ties to Armenia can be improved to benefit Armenia and the large Armenian American diaspora in the United States. Those steps should include the formal recognition of the Armenian Genocide by President Biden on April 24, following in the footsteps of both the House and Senate who passed resolutions recognizing the fact of the Genocide during the 116th Congress.

Thank you for attention to these important matters. We stand ready to work with you to craft a policy in the South Caucasus region that is consistent with U.S. national security, universal principles of human rights, and our democratic values. Our hope is to further discuss these issues with you and your teams at the earliest convenience.

Sincerely,

FRANK PALLONE, JR.
Member of Congress

GUS M. BILIRAKIS
Member of Congress

JACKIE SPEIER
Member of Congress

DAVID G. VALADAO
Member of Congress

ADAM B. SCHIFF
Member of Congress