Washington, D.C. - Day Two of the Armenian Assembly of America’s (Assembly) Virtual National Advocacy Conference focused on post-war Artsakh. Assembly President Carolyn Mugar opened the day, which featured the Republic of Artsakh’s Foreign Minister David Babayan, introduced by Assembly Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian, and His Excellency Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan, introduced by Assembly Board Member Annie Simonian Totah.
Both diplomats shared their perspectives and provided a post-war overview, including humanitarian and rebuilding needs, as well as the urgent priority to ensure the release of Armenian prisoners of war and civilians still detained by Azerbaijan in contravention of the Geneva Conventions, international humanitarian law, and the November 9, 2020 ceasefire statement signed by Armenia and Azerbaijan.
Minister Babayan noted that “It’s important to now concentrate on humanitarian aspects,” and to “go forward step by step.”
Ambassador Nersesyan thanked the Assembly and the community for their enormous humanitarian fundraising efforts during the war, which he said was a clear “symbolic act of unification.” Referencing the centuries-old “strength” of the Armenian people, Ambassador Nersesyan was confident that the “immense challenges will be overcome.” The Ambassador also indicated that Armenia welcomes mediation efforts by the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs - the U.S., Russia and France - to “find a peaceful solution to the outstanding issue of the status of Artsakh.”
Upon the conclusion of Minister Babayan and Ambassador Nersesyan’s remarks, a special “Artsakh Post-War” panel commenced, moderated by the Assembly’s Armenia Regional Director Arpi Vartanian, which featured the Republic of Artsakh’s Deputy Foreign Minister Armine Aleksanyan, the Republic of Artsakh’s U.S. Representative Robert Avetisyan, and The HALO Trust's Development Manager Amasia Zargarian. Deputy Minister Aleksanyan shared her insights and echoed Ambassador Nersesyan’s support for the OSCE Minsk Group to help find a peaceful and lasting settlement yet “not through force” as Azerbaijan attempted last Fall when it launched a full-scale war against the Armenian people. Deputy Minister Aleksanyan also discussed issues of human rights, POWs and the rights of children who have been deprived of shelter, housing, and education as a result of the war.
Mr. Avetisyan reflected on the positive momentum in pre-war Artsakh and the post-war vision to restore economic opportunities, particularly among diasporans who want to invest in Artsakh. Mr. Avetisyan discussed the current situation in the region and the vital steps that need to be taken to safeguard the people of Artsakh. Mr. Avetisyan also touched upon preserving Armenian cultural heritage sites, noting that Azerbaijan “plans to destroy anything Armenian and to eliminate any presence of Armenian culture and identity in Artsakh, which has history over several millennia.”
The HALO Trust Development Manager Amasia Zargarian focused on making Artsakh communities safer post-war. Over the last two decades The HALO Trust has diligently worked on the ground in Artsakh to clear almost 500 minefields, while employing the local population. The organization’s efforts have increased exponentially since the war, despite cuts in funding by the previous U.S. administration.
Mr. Zargarian noted that mines and explosives used to be a larger rural problem in agricultural zones, but are now more of an “urban threat.”
“On behalf of the Armenian Assembly, I would like to thank our panelists for their insights and perspectives,” said Assembly Regional Director Arpi Vartanian. “The presentations offered a realistic view of the difficulties on the ground and the importance of continued engagement.”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.