Florida Congressmen Gus Bilirakis, Ted Deutch Sign Armenian Caucus Letter to White House
WASHINGTON, DC – The Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues leadership spearheaded a letter signed by 48 Members of Congress sent to President Donald Trump urging him to meet with newly-appointed Prime Minister of Armenia, Nikol Pashinyan, during the annual United Nations General Assembly held in New York in September. Two members of Florida’s Congressional delegation, Armenian Caucus Vice Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) and Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL), signed the letter to President Trump.
The letter states: “The peaceful transition of power after the revolution is a clear indication of the will of the Armenian people, strongly demonstrating their commitment to a fairer and more democratic state. As Armenia seeks to bolster government transparency, strengthen democratic institutions, and empower civil society, it is critical for the United States to deepen its ties with this regional partner at every level of government.”
“I commend the people of Armenia for exercising their political rights and bringing about change in peaceful, democratic way,” Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) told FLARMENIANS. “The Velvet Revolution can serve as a model for the non-violent transfer of power. I am hopeful that the new government will serve the interests of the people and continue to bring democracy, transparency, and prosperity to Armenia,” Deutch said.
In addition to Armenian Caucus leaders Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Dave Trott (R-MI), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and David Valadao (R-CA), the letter was signed by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-CA), and House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA).
The letter to President Trump also requests “a series of high-level conversations between [the President’s] Cabinet Secretaries and their counterparts in Armenia – many of whom have recently been appointed as members of the newly formed government.”
In that regard, the Embassy of Armenia in Washington, DC has been very active telling the story of the Armenian people’s embrace of democracy to U.S. policy makers. Last month, Armenia’s First Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Mirzoyan traveled to Washington, DC and met with U.S. Assistant Secretary of State Wess Mitchell; Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD); Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Dave Trott (R-MI), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), and David Valadao (R-CA); House Democracy Partnership President Rep. Peter Roskam (R-IL) and Vice President Rep. David Price (D-NC); and Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL). He also spoke before an audience of academics, diplomats, and government officials at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.
While Armenia’s Velvet Revolution can be felt by Armenian men and women, old and young, in every corner of the Diaspora, it is especially inspiring for Armenian Americans who wish to see U.S.-Armenia bilateral relationship reach the next level.
Today, the White House released the following statement from President Donald J. Trump:
Today we commemorate the Meds Yeghern, one of the worst mass atrocities of the 20th century, when one and a half million Armenians were deported, massacred, or marched to their deaths in the final years of the Ottoman Empire. We recall the horrific events of 1915 and grieve for the lives lost and the many who suffered.
We also take this moment to recognize the courage of those individuals who sought to end the violence, and those who contributed to aiding survivors and rebuilding communities, including the U.S. Ambassador to the Ottoman Empire, Henry Morgenthau, who sought to end the violence and later raised funds through the Near East Relief to help the Armenian people. We note with deep respect the resilience of the Armenian people, so many of whom built new lives in the United States and have made countless contributions to our country.
As we honor the memory of those who suffered, we also reflect on our commitment to ensure that such atrocities are not repeated. We underscore the importance of acknowledging and reckoning with painful elements of the past as a necessary step towards creating a more tolerant future.
On this solemn day, we stand with the Armenian people throughout the world in honoring the memory of those lost and commit to work together to build a better future.
“It is a sad day when an American President cannot speak the truth about a proud chapter in American history, where, thanks to America’s unprecedented humanitarian relief effort, thousands and thousands of survivors of the Armenian Genocide were saved in what Ambassador Henry Morgenthau described as a ‘campaign of race extermination,'” stated Armenian Assembly of America Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “U.S. credibility on human rights and genocide prevention will be better served when we unequivocally affirm the Armenian Genocide. A genocide denied is an injustice to all,” Ardouny concluded.
* Updated at 3:38pm with the Armenian Assembly of America response.
Earlier this month, the Trump Administration released its budget recommendations for Fiscal Year (FY) 2018 to Congress with substantial budget cuts to Armenia and the region.
Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Adam Schiff (D-CA) are currently circulating a Dear Colleague letter asking Members to join them in opposing cuts in aid to Armenia.
Under the Administration’s proposed budget, aid to Armenia would be reduced by 67%, dropping from $20.4 million in FY16 to $6.8 million proposed for FY18.
The Armenian Assembly of America issued an Action Alert urging the community to contact their Representative asking them to sign the letter and stop the drastic cut in critical aid to America’s ally Armenia.
The President’s budget envisions across the board cuts. Assistance to the South Caucasus region would be reduced by:
- Azerbaijan: 90% cut
- Armenia: 67% cut
- Georgia: 58% cut
The President’s budget recommendation includes a 70% reduction in aid to Ukraine.
For details on the President’s budget proposal as it relates to Armenia, click here.
“As the current Administration reduces foreign aid across the board, we must ensure that Armenia has the resources to address the compelling humanitarian needs as a result of the current refugee crisis and Turkey’s blockade, as well as Azerbaijan’s ongoing and deadly ceasefire violations,” stated Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.