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Florida Congressman Ted Deutch, 35 House Members Call to Substantially Increase Aid for Armenia and Artsakh

Armenian Assembly Boosts Congressional Call for $100 million Democracy-Building and Economic Assistance Package

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) joined 35 of his House colleagues in a letter that urges the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs to significantly increase prior aid requests to strengthen United States-Armenia relations and outlines key priorities for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, the Armenian Assembly of America announced. The letter was spearheaded by Armenian Caucus Founder and Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA).

Ted Deutch

Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL)

With sweeping cuts across the State Department’s budget, the Administration proposed $6.75 million for Armenia. A prior congressional effort requested $70 million, but today’s action increases the request to a total of $100 million for Armenia and Artsakh. The Armenian Assembly said that it “truly appreciates today’s action, and will continue working for further increases to Artsakh and Armenia.”

Four Members of Congress from Florida sit on the House Appropriations Committee: Rep. Charlie Crist (D-FL), Rep. Mario Diaz-Bolart (R-FL), Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL), and Rep. Debbie Wasserman-Schultz (D-FL). Reps. Deutch and Crist are Members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.

The Armenian Caucus initiative requests:

  • $60 million for economic governance and rule of law assistance to Armenia through State Department and USAID accounts;
  • $10 million for military aid for Armenia through Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military and Education Training (IMET) programs;
  • $20 million for Armenia to be a regional “safe haven” for refugees;
  • $6 million for Artsakh de-mining, rehabilitation programs, and water supply systems;
  • $4 million for implementation of the Royce-Engel peace proposals, including placement of OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire locator systems;
  • That the State Department and USAID lift any official or unofficial restrictions on U.S. travel, communication, or contacts with Artsakh government officials; and
  • The suspension of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan until it has been verified to have ceased all attacks against Armenia and Artsakh.

The letter states in part: “In the wake of the Republic of Armenia’s remarkable Velvet Revolution, we are writing to thank the Subcommittee for its longstanding leadership in support of both Armenia and the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh). As you prepare the Fiscal Year 2020 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill, we ask you to include… provisions supporting a broad-based strategic upgrade of a U.S.-Armenia partnership based upon shared interests and common values.”

The Members of Congress also called for stricter provisions of Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act to ensure that Azerbaijan does not take hostile actions against Armenia or Artsakh, as it did in the 2016 4-Day War, and pledge to demonstrate its commitment to pursuing lasting peace through solely non-violent means.

The letter concludes: “Taking these steps will continue to build on the U.S.-Armenia strategic relationship and help to grow the seeds of pro-democratic and civil society institutions in Armenia. We urge the Subcommittee to invest in peace and assist Armenia and Artsakh at this exciting time of continued development.”

“The Armenian Assembly welcomes this increased request in funding to Armenia. Given the remarkable democratic transformation last year in Armenia, we know that the community expects even more,” Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny said. “Moreover, the OSCE’s Election Observation Mission Report stated that the elections ‘were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms.'”

Additionally, the Organization for Security and Co-Operation in Europe’s (OSCE) Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) reported that “election day proceeded calmly, peacefully, free of pressure on or intimidation of voters” and “the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of expression was respected.”

Armenian Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian Testifying Before the House Appropriations Committee (Pictured Members: Appropriations Chairwoman Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), and Rep. Lois Frankel (D-FL).

Earlier this month, Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian, in testimony before the House Appropriations Subcommittee, requested $100 million in democracy and economic assistance, at least $10 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education Training (IMET) to Armenia for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, and $20 million to help resettle and provide a safe haven for Christians at risk in Syria and throughout the Middle East, with at least $25 million in assistance to Artsakh. Krikorian cited Armenia’s remarkable year as more than a reason to significantly increase humanitarian aid, suggesting to the Subcommittee that the United States should “reward people who have made progress towards democracy.”

Krikorian applauded the Subcommittee for holding the important hearing, and greatly appreciated “Chairwoman Nita Lowey’s leadership and steadfast support for Armenia and Artsakh.”

Given Turkey and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockades, the Assembly’s written testimony also shed light on the importance of aid to Armenia and Artsakh, the need to fully enforce Section 907 of the FREEDOM Support Act, and targeted assistance for economic development and job-creation programs in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of the Republic of Georgia.

The Armenian Assembly’s submitted testimony for FY 2020 is available online.

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Armenian Assembly of America Mourns Passing of Life Trustee Virginia “Ginny” Ohanian

Ginny AAA

Armenian Assembly Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian, Armenian Assembly Board Member Lu Ann Ohanian, Middlesex County Sherriff Peter Koutoujian, Ginny Ohanian, Senator Ed Markey (D-MA), Nevart Talanian, and former Armenian Assembly Board Member Rachel Kaprielian.

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) mourns the loss of Virginia “Ginny” Ohanian, who passed away peacefully on September 13, 2018.

Both Ginny and her late husband Michael were staunch supporters and core members of the Assembly from the beginning. They were close to Stephen Mugar and actively participated in all of the Assembly’s work. In 2013, she was honored, alongside Ann Hintlian and Nevart Talanian, with the Assembly’s Distinguished Humanitarian Award.

“Ginny was a remarkable individual with a sparkling sense of humor who cared deeply and passionately about Armenia and its people. Her generosity and commitment to Armenia and the Armenian Assembly served as an inspiration to us all. She will be missed greatly. This is a loss to the entire Assembly family,” Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian said.

After visiting Armenia and Artsakh as part of the Assembly Mission Trip in 1999, Mrs. Ohanian became committed to the reforestation of the country. Of the thousands of supporters of the Armenia Tree Project no one individual has given as many “tree gifts.” She took it beyond just planting trees.

Mrs. Ohanian had said: “I saw for myself the need for trees, jobs and education. I thought this was a fitting way to memorialize Michael’s and my ardent devotion to the Armenian Assembly,” thus giving the funds to open the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Environmental Education Center at the Karin Nursery in Armenia.

Mrs. Ohanian, her sister, daughter, and daughter-in-law were at the ribbon cutting in 2004. In 2011 the Michael and Virginia Ohanian Center for Environment Studies was opened in Margahovit, Lori Marz province. This center trains students, teachers and professionals in best forestry practices and conducts environmental education lessons with students from all regions of Armenia.

Her son Bruce is a long-time Assembly Trustee, and her daughter-in-law, Lu Ann Ohanian, is also a Life Trustee and a member of the Assembly’s Board. Mrs. Ohanian’s daughter Veronica Heath and husband Donn have been members and supporters of the Assembly and the Armenia Tree Project.

Mrs. Ohanian was a life-time member of the Holy Trinity Church in Cambridge where she was an ardent supporter and a member of the Women’s Guild, and a longstanding seasonal parishioner of St. David Armenian Church in Boca Raton, FL.  She was very active along with her husband in the Armenian General Benevolent Union. Michael was an excellent golfer, winning the Massachusetts Amateur. Mrs. Ohanian thought it only fitting after he passed that she establish a college scholarship through the Ouimet Society named the Michael Ohanian Scholarship. Her other philanthropies include: Armenian Heritage Park, Berkshire Hill Music Academy, Bentley College, the Belmont Hill School, and Massachusetts General Hospital.

The wake will take place on Wednesday, September 19 from 10:00 am – 11:30 am with a funeral service to follow at Holy Trinity Armenian Church of Greater Boston at 145 Brattle St., Cambridge, MA.

Armenian Assembly of America Congratulates President-Elect Donald J. Trump

Armenian Assembly of AmericaArmenian Caucus Members are Successful

WASHINGTON, D.C. – After a long, close, and hard fought presidential race, Republican nominee Donald J. Trump, early Wednesday morning, surpassed the requisite number of Electoral College votes needed to win the presidency over Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). In addition to the White House, Republicans retained their majorities in the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate although by smaller margins.

“We congratulate president-elect Trump and his running mate Mike Pence, and we commend American Armenians who participated in the election process throughout the country,” stated Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian.

“In his victory speech, president-elect Trump’s call for national unity was gracious and is welcome. During the campaign, president-elect Trump recognized Turkey’s ties to ISIS, as well as its increasingly authoritarian regime. In addition to Turkey, President Trump will also need to address Azerbaijan’s sharp deterioration and its links with ISIS. Both countries pose a threat to stability in the region,” Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian added.

“In view of the insecurity in the region, it is vitally important that Christians and minority communities at risk be protected and we urge the new Administration and new Congress to take steps to safeguard these vulnerable communities,” the Co-Chairs continued.

Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues

In the House of Representatives, the Members of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues had a strong showing with the overwhelming majority of those seeking re-election winning, including Co-Chairs Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), David Valadao (R-CA) and Vice Co-Chairs Adam Schiff (D-CA) and Dave Trott (R-MI). Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Robert Dold (R-IL) facing a re-match with Democrat Brad Schneider did not win, nor did his Senate colleague Mark Kirk (R-IL). Meanwhile, Armenian Caucus Member Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) handily won his election to the United States Senate having defeated Turkish Caucus Congresswoman Donna Edwards in the Maryland primary. In addition, Caucus Member Janice Hahn (D-CA) won her bid for Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors.

“We congratulate the Members of the Armenian Caucus on their victories. We are proud to have two Members of Armenian descent in the House of Representatives, namely Anna Eshoo and Jackie Speier. Armenian American Danny Tarkanian, however, did not prevail in Nevada,” stated Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “We also appreciate the strong support of our friends who will not be returning to Congress and wish them every success.”

In addition to a strong showing on the House side, pro-Armenia candidates also won in the Senate. Apart from Van Hollen, Armenian Genocide resolution cosponsors Senators Michael Bennet (D-CO), Marco Rubio (R-FL), and long-time supporter of Armenian issues Chuck Schumer (D-NY) were all re-elected.

Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.