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.
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.
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.
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.
“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.
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).
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.