Washington, D.C. - Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA) were featured during the Congressional Priorities and U.S. Policy Perspectives panel on Tuesday, March 9 as part of the Virtual National Advocacy Conference, organized by the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly). Moderated by Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, the Caucus Leaders highlighted key issues including the release of Armenian POWs, securing robust humanitarian assistance and demining funding, and reinvigorating the OSCE Minsk Group talks to find a lasting and peaceful resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. “U.S. leadership lacked during the war,” said Rep. Pallone. “We emphasized during the Trump Administration, and now we do so during the Biden Administration, that Armenia is one of the few democracies in the former Soviet Union and it should be protected.” Rep. Speier said Armenia has been “deeply scarred” by the former Administration’s “willingness to be passive.” She encouraged Armenian Americans to contact their Members of Congress and engage with them to ensure that “Armenia stays a democracy.” Rep. Pallone commented that Turkey’s aggression in Artsakh is “not an isolated incident” and cited examples of its involvement in Libya, Syria, and beyond. “They are not interested in agreements because they are creating a trans-Turkish empire and using war as a mechanism.” He called for sanctions against Turkey, halting U.S. support of the country under Erdogan’s leadership, ending the waiver of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, and securing a major aid package for Artsakh. “We need to find ways to create stronger ties,” Rep. Speier stated, remarking that Artsakh needs assistance with the critical components of security, humanitarian aid, release of POWs, and access to clean water. “The diaspora has to stay united with the people in Armenia and Artsakh,” concluded Pallone. “This is a rebuilding process and we have to look ahead.” Ardouny thanked Reps. Pallone and Speier for their leadership, including the “historic passage” of the Armenian Genocide resolution (H.Res.296) in October 2019. “I have high hopes that President Biden will officially acknowledge the Armenian Genocide this year,” said Rep. Speier.
Contributing their perspectives and insights on U.S. policy, Ambassador Carey Cavanaugh, a former OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair, and Dr. Michael Rubin of the American Enterprise Institute, participated in a panel moderated by the Assembly’s Congressional Relations Director Mariam Khaloyan. Ambassador Cavanaugh stated that President Biden has been “strident in reintroducing human rights as a fundamental tenet of American foreign policy.” He expects a “re-intensification” of the new Administration’s approach to the Minsk Group as more attention is paid to the Caucasus as a whole in terms of human rights, peace and democratic institutions. Regarding the November 9, 2020 trilateral statement, Ambassador Cavanaugh said it was “not a peace agreement” and despite Aliyev’s use of force as a desired solution, the conflict remains unresolved. “Force will not solve the situation,” he continued. “There needs to be a definitive discussion and agreement between the countries that includes support from people in the region on how this can be finalized, and that includes status.” Ambassador Cavanaugh noted that status was not part of the November 9 agreement and also expressed concern that POWs have not been released, over 100 days after the signed statement, which “undermines the ability to move forward.” He emphasized the importance of working on peaceful mediation efforts and determining new ways to handle leaders who attempt to end conflicts by force. Referring to the September 27, 2020 war as a “surprise attack,” Dr. Rubin stated that the commitments Azerbaijan made in order to secure the Section 907 waiver were “wholly violated.” “There are no mitigating factors here and the U.S. should make clear that it will stand by its own laws,” he continued, adding that sanctions should be imposed on Azerbaijan in the coming year as a consequence of its actions. “Azerbaijan needs to stop getting a free pass.” “The U.S. should have learned that sometimes we have to take dictators at their rhetoric,” said Dr. Rubin. “We should’ve taken Erdogan at his word that he wasn’t a reformist democrat.” Dr. Rubin underscored Turkey’s expansionism, which has reached Libya, Cyprus, Syria, Iraq and Greece. “We see a pattern of aggression with the aim of ethnic cleansing,” said Dr. Rubin. “Turkey should be held accountable as a reasonable, responsible NATO partner.” “The rich and diverse panels organized during the Assembly’s Virtual National Advocacy Conference showcased the breadth of experience and knowledge from our dedicated elected representatives, academics, policy experts and community members,” stated Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “We appreciate the time and efforts of our panelists as well as everyone who participated in our virtual meetings to become better informed on priority issues facing the Armenian people and learning about the actionable steps we can take to achieve concrete results.”
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 non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.