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 Thursday, April 18 2024 17:21
Marianna Mkrtchyan

Bipartisan, Bicameral Coalition of U.S. legislators calls for  American leadership to secure justice Justice for Artsakh and  Armenian Genocide

Bipartisan, Bicameral Coalition of U.S. legislators calls for  American leadership to secure justice Justice for Artsakh and  Armenian Genocide

ArmInfo. Twenty U.S. legislators - Democrats and Republicans, from the U.S. House and  Senate - joined together Wednesday evening at a landmark gathering in  the U.S. Capitol dedicated to justice for Artsakh (2023) and the  Armenian Genocide (1915), reported the Armenian National Committee of  America (ANCA).  

"The unified message Members of Congress delivered  tonight to President Biden was loud and clear: Stop arming  Azerbaijan. Hold Aliyev accountable. Start the safe return of  Armenians to Artsakh," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  "We thank each of tonight's speakers - notably French National  Assembly Deputy Astrid Panosyan- Bouvet - and extend our heartfelt  appreciation to Maryland State Delegate Lorig Charkoudian who served  as Mistress of Ceremonies and offered such very powerful remarks  about both Artsakh and the Armenian Genocide." The event was  co-hosted by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) and  the Armenian Assembly of America (AAA), in cooperation with the  Congressional Armenian Caucus.  

Among the legislators offering remarks were Senators Edward Markey (D-MA), Robert Menendez (D-NJ),  and Gary Peters (D-MI), Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank  Pallone (D-NJ), Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Adam Schiff (D-CA) and  Representatives Gabe Amo (D-RI), Sanford Bishop (D-GA), Jamaal Bowman  (D-NY), Judy Chu (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Tom  McClintock (R-CA), Seth Moulton (D-MA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Chris  Smith (R-NJ), and Dina Titus (D- NV).  Representatives Young Kim  (R-CA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), and Tom Suozzi (D-NY) also joined  in marking the solemn occasion.  Congressional Armenian Staff  Association (CASA) members Natalia Matossian and Peter Chalabian  offered powerful remarks on the important role CASA plays in  bolstering the Armenian American presence on Capitol Hill.  Rev. Fr.  Sarkis Aktavoukian of Soorp Khatch Armenian Apostolic Church in  Bethesda, MD offered the evening's opening prayer.  Speaking on  behalf of the program co-hosts were Armenian Assembly Co-Chair-Elect  Talin Yacoubian and the ANCA's Aram Hamparian. Among dignitaries in  attendance at the Capitol Hill commemoration were former U.S.   Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, whose commitment to ending U.S.  complicity in Turkey's Genocide denial has inspired Armenians the  world over; Artsakh Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan, who  has served as the diplomatic spokesman of the Artsakh people in  Washington, DC for over a decade; and former Turkey Member of  Parliament Garo Paylan.  

French Parliament Member Astrid Panosyan-Bouvet Issues a Call to Action The evening's keynote  speaker, France National Assembly Deputy Astrid Panosyan- Bouvet,  told attendees that "France has decided not to let Armenia alone" in  the face of ongoing Azerbaijani genocidal aggression. She outlined  her country's growing political, military, economic, and cultural  ties with Armenia. She then challenged her U.S.  counterparts,  asking, "My question to American diplomats based in Paris and my  fellow American legislators is, why can't America do the same?"  Members of Congress Focus on Azerbaijani Accountability, the Right of  Return to Artsakh, and Armenia Security The need for stronger  U.S.-Armenia military ties, humanitarian aid to Artsakh genocide  survivors, and concrete efforts to sanction Azerbaijan and hold them  accountable for their crimes against Artsakh and Armenia were  constant themes in remarks offered by U.S.  Senate and House members  throughout the program. Of special focus was identifying a mechanism  to secure the dignified return of Artsakh Armenians with  international protection to their homes of millennia.  Sen. Gary  Peters, who traveled to Armenia last September to see first-hand the  devastating consequences of Azerbaijan's Artsakh blockade, was  unequivocal in his assessment.  "This is basically ethnic cleansing  that Azerbaijan was engaged in. It was something that is  unacceptable. And it's frustrating to me that the world community did  not do enough to call this out for the outrage that it was and it   is." Upon his return, Sen. Peters led the unanimous passage of  S.3000-the Armenian Protection Act-which would cut all U.S. military  aid to Azerbaijan. He urged pro- Artsakh/Armenia advocates to help  expedite the passage of its House counterpart, H.R.7288, spearheaded  by Rep. Mike Lawler (R-NY).  

Sen. Bob Menendez, who led the unanimous passage of Senate Armenian Genocide legislation in 2019 and has  challenged the Biden Administration's failed policy on Artsakh on  multiple occasions, explained: "What we saw with Azerbaijan's ethnic  cleansing of Artsakh is deplorable. And, I regret that our government  was not more forceful. I was pushing them to be far more forceful.  And now it is time for us once and for all to insist that the  Administration no longer use its waiver to provide arms to the  Azerbaijani government." Senator Ed Markey, the lead sponsor of  S.Res.540, which would require a report by the U.S. State Department  on Azerbaijan's human rights practices, pursuant to Section 502B(c)  of the Foreign Assistance Act, noted: "The Azerbaijani government's  reprehensible actions go back years, and it is long overdue to hold  Azerbaijan accountable for its conduct towards Armenia. It is also  well past time to make clear to the Azerbaijani government that it  must cease all hostilities and return to peace. I will continue to  work to bolster the will, the rights, the freedoms of the people of  Nagorno- Karabakh, including their rights to return to their homeland  and to ensure that Armenia has the support it needs to protect itself  now and in the future." Congressional Armenian Caucus founding  Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ) called for U.S.  military aid to  Armenia to protect itself and noted that "there has to be a lot more  humanitarian assistance for Artsakh, and a way has to be put forward,  and the U.S. back it, so that the people of Artsakh can go back to  their country - to go back to Artsakh." Fellow Congressional Armenian  Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) called Turkey's ongoing  atrocities in the region "inexcusable" and praised efforts by the  Hellenic American and Armenian American communities to ensure  successive presidential administrations support the true U.S. allies  in the region.  "We'll never give up. We'll never stop fighting,"  stressed Rep. Bilirakis.  

Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Adam Schiff was clear: "As we mark the 109th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide  with pledges of 'never again,' the democratic and peaceful Armenian  people face threats that echo their darkest days. The time for strong  statements by the Administration alone have long passed. Condemnation  must be followed by real consequences. Crimes against humanity cannot  be ignored and cannot go unanswered." Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA) - the  only Armenian Assyrian member of Congress - praised the efforts of  the Armenian American community to secure US recognition of the  Armenian Genocide but explained: "This doesn't mean that most of our  work, or the majority of our work is done. We know from what fellow  Armenians from Nagorno- Karabakh [told us]. They brought them to  their knees after, what, nine months, food, medicine, all those  necessary supplies were held from them. And then, at gunpoint, they  fled with only what they had on their backs. So there's something  very wrong and immoral about this picture of what has taken place.  It's up to us and the faith that we have in each other, and the faith  in justice, faith in decency, understanding that these are ungodlike  actions that take place in this world, and it's up to us to address  them."  Rep.  Eshoo, who will be retiring at the end of her term,  reiterated her leadership on efforts to promote Armenian Genocide  education, noting that the H.R.2803 currently has close to 100  co-sponsors.  Turning to Congressional efforts to hold Azerbaijan  accountable for its war crimes against Armenia and Artsakh, Rep. Dina  Titus announced plans to introduce the Azerbaijan Sanctions Review  Act next week. "This will impose various sanctions on Azerbaijani  officials who directed or carried out the ethnic cleansing of  Artsakh. It's time that we make them pay - impose costs on them for  this kind of action," stated Rep. Titus.  

Rep. Judy Chu reflected, "Since we last held this commemoration in April, Azerbaijan has been  ethnically cleansing 120,000 Armenians from the Nagorno Karabakh.  Now, I had the honor of visiting Artsakh myself. I saw such  incredible people with a thriving community, and it makes me so  heartbroken to think that they have been driven from there and that  there have been so many that have been imprisoned too. So we must do  everything that we can. That's why I continue to work with the  Armenian Caucus colleagues here in Congress to hold Azerbaijan  accountable for this inexcusable aggression." Central Valley  California Congressman Tom McClintock called on Turkey to end its  policy of Genocide denial. "We remember the atrocities of the  Armenian Genocide and the lessons they teach, and we ask the Turkish  government to do the same. Of course, children are not guilty for the  sins of their parents, but honest recognition of the past can prevent  us from repeating those sins. We take particular note of the recent  injuries done by their proxies against the people of Nagorno-Karabakh  and pray that the dark forces responsible will reflect and repent,"  concluded Rep. McClintock.  Rep. Chris Smith discussed the multiple  hearings he has hosted on Turkey and Azerbaijan both as House Foreign  Affairs Subcommittee on Human Rights Chair and the Tom Lantos Human  Rights Commission Co-Chair, including three hearings specifically on  the Armenian Genocide.  

In describing testimony offered by a Turkish Ambassador, he observed, "He was so arrogant and so condescending, he  even said, 'you keep this up, we [Turkey] will take your base away in  Incirlik'. In all candor, go ahead -- we'll move it to Greece." Rep.  Smith encouraged attendees to "greet" Turkish President Recep Erdogan  on May 9th, during his White House meeting, expressing willingness to  hold a press conference to focus on Turkey's ongoing oppression at  home and repression abroad.  Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) - who  spearheaded the first U.S. aid package to Artsakh in 1998 - stressed  the importance of expanding assistance to Artsakh's forcibly  displaced Armenians and cutting all aid to Azerbaijan.  He went,  however, to explain, "That's not true justice. True justice is when  those people can return to their ancestral homes where they lived for  a thousand and more years in Artsakh. But until that happens, Armenia  needs the aid that the Administration has promised us if this  [Supplemental] bill passes, and I think it will pass." Georgia  Congressman Sanford Bishop, in describing the horrors of the Armenian  Genocide and its legacy, stated, "The existential threat that  Armenians face in the Caucasus is a reminder to us all that we  continue to live the consequences of the Armenian Genocide."  Rep.  Bishop credited Armenian American staff member Haig Hovsepian for  emphasizing the need for concrete U.S. action in service to justice.   Rep. Seth Moulton expressed the importance of U.S. acknowledgment of  the truth about the Armenian Genocide, spotlighting the resilience of  the Armenian people in the face of ongoing Azerbaijani aggression.  "I'm proud that Congress has spoken the truth by recognizing the  [Armenian] Genocide. And I'm proud that President Biden has done so  as well. Yet another basic truth is that the suffering of the  Armenian people has not ended.  

Again, the Armenian people were plunged into bloodshed after Azerbaijan's attacks in 2020 and again  in 2023," stated Rep. Moulton.  "But just as they did in the  aftermath of genocide, the Armenian people will rebuild. The Armenian  people will preserve their vibrant culture. They will tell the truth,  and they will prosper. And, the United States and this Congress will  stand with them," concluded Moulton.  Central Valley California  Congressman Jim Costa demanded accountability for Azerbaijani  aggression. "Ethnic cleansing continues to take place at Artsakh,  with over 120,000 Armenians displaced from their homeland, leading to  the exodus of that region's population. And we must do something  about it," stated Rep. Costa.  "Since 2022, the President of  Azerbaijan, like President Putin, has orchestrated deliberate attacks  and weaponized starvation against the Armenian people, forcing them  into exile. And they are not through unless we draw the line. Believe  me. Azerbaijan and Turkey must be held accountable." New York  Congressman Jamaal Bowman asserted, "I am very happy that the  President, a few years ago, recognized and called out the Armenian  Genocide." Rep. Bowman joined the Congressional Armenian Caucus  earlier in the day.  Maryland State Delegate Dr. Lorig Charkoudian  masterfully led the evening's proceedings, opening with a very  personal story of the devastating impact of seeing the Artsakh  Genocide evolve last September during a visit with her mother at her  family home where, as a child, she had learned about the horrors of  the Armenian Genocide from her grandmother who survived that crime.   Charkoudian, like Armenians around the world, asked herself how this  tragedy could be repeated again.  

"Tonight, while we call for justice for the Armenian Genocide, while we rededicate ourselves to justice  for Artsakh," stated Delegate Charkoudian.  "We are so very proud  that Lorig Charkoudian, a leading Maryland legislator and devoted  member of our local Armenian community, led our community's annual  Capitol Hill Armenian Genocide program, the first since Azerbaijan's  genocide of Artsakh's indigenous Armenians," said Tsoghig Hekimian of  ANC of Maryland. "She truly represents the very best of our American  and Armenian traditions - a remarkable role model of civic  responsibility for our next generation." 

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