(l-r) Assembly Board Members Herman Purutyan and Annie Totah, Artsakh's Foreign Minister David Babayan, Assembly Congressional Director Mariam Khaloyan and Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny
Washington, D.C. - The "Salute to Artsakh" event marking Artsakh's independence took place on Capitol Hill on Monday evening, September 19, 2022, co-hosted by the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee of America, in collaboration with the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues. Key remarks were delivered by Artsakh Foreign Minister, His Excellency David Babayan, and Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Members, including Representatives Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Judy Chu (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), and David Cicilline (D-RI). Opening and closing prayers were led by Rev. Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian, pastor of the Soorp Khatch Church in Bethesda, MD, and Rev. Fr. Hovsep Karapetyan, pastor of the St. Mary Armenian Church in Washington, D.C., with additional remarks from former Congressional staffer Tadeh Issakhanian.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA) addresses the audience at the "Salute to Artsakh" event on Capitol Hill
Rep. Chu, who has traveled to Artsakh, congratulated the Republic on its 31st anniversary of independence, and noted that it's a "beautiful country." "You could see the Armenian people thriving in Artsakh, and that's what made it even more painful to see the impact of Azerbaijan's War on Artsakh in 2020," said Rep. Chu. "Tens of thousands of refugees are still without homes and we know Armenian prisoners of war are subject to torture at the hands of Azeri officials." Rep. Chu, who said that she is banned from Azerbaijan, a move she holds as a "badge of honor," emphasized that she will continue to speak up for the "peaceful people of Artsakh and Armenia, which is even more important now after yet another brutal assault of Azerbaijan against Artsakh and Armenia's undisputed borders." "We need strong U.S. support for Armenia and Artsakh and to draw a clear line," said Rep. Chu, who is a cosponsor of H.Res.1351, which condemns Azerbaijan's unprovoked attack on Armenia last week. "No more U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan, and further violence must result in sanctions." "Today's celebration shows that there is strong bipartisan support in Congress and with that we hope we can do justice for the Armenians in Armenia and Artsakh, along with so many hard-working Armenians in the U.S.," concluded Rep. Chu.
Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., (D-NJ) shares sentiments from his recent trip to Armenia
Fresh from his trip to Armenia alongside U.S. Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Reps. Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Pallone described the warm welcome from Armenians and the "outpouring of love and support for the U.S." He stated that Azerbaijan "directly attacked" Armenia in a show of aggression, and that both Azerbaijan and Turkey have been "very effective in convincing the media that they're not responsible and that it is a lie." "The Speaker made it clear that this was aggression from Azerbaijan and they have to pull back and remove themselves from Armenian soil," said Rep. Pallone. "It is not acceptable for them to stay [on Armenian territory]." Rep. Pallone, a Co-Chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, emphasized that the U.S. has to be involved from a security point of view and ensure that Armenia can defend itself. He also noted that their delegation visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial Dzidzernagapert, and they were cognizant of the fact that anti-Armenian rhetoric and propaganda are being taught in schools and in the military in Azerbaijan, and that "something needs to be done about that." "You can't have a society that constantly feeds the average person and the military the idea that they're essentially going to continue genocide and commit atrocities," concluded Rep. Pallone.
Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) calls on the U.S. to cut funding to Azerbaijan
Rep. Schiff, who spearheaded bipartisan legislation H.Res.1351, stated that the latest incursion is a "premeditated naked war of aggression by Azerbaijan, directed by Aliyev, and is just plain bloody murder that has to be stopped." He noted that the current fighting and the 2020 War on Artsakh could have been avoided if the world "stopped speaking of false equivalences when it's clear one country has been the aggressor, and that is Azerbaijan." He emphasized that there is "no reason" that the U.S. or the western world should provide any support militarily or otherwise to Azerbaijan because all it has done is "incentivize the belligerent." Rep. Schiff, who crafted legislation with the Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs to call for the cutting off of funding to Azerbaijan, said that "sanctions should be explored for Azerbaijan and prosecution for war crimes."
Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) echoes support to hold Azerbaijan accountable for its aggressive actions
Rep. Costa noted the "challenging times in Armenia and Artsakh" and that the unprovoked attacks by Azerbaijan "demonstrate again to the world that they have no intention to comply with the OSCE Minsk Group process." He said that Azerbaijan must be held accountable, and that Speaker Pelosi's gesture as the highest ranking U.S. official to visit Armenia was an important statement. "Armenians are creating a democracy in a very difficult neighborhood," said Rep. Costa. "[Armenian Americans] have a great coalition of bipartisan support and we must stand with them and their efforts to ensure democracy can survive and thrive." Rep. Cicilline, who shared that he grew up among a large Armenian community in Rhode Island, said he learned about the struggle of the Armenian people through his community and that he will "continue to be a strong advocate for Armenia."
Assembly Board Member Herman Purutyan shares remarks as an Armenian American activist
Assembly Board Member Herman Purutyan underscored the importance of security for the people of Artsakh and Armenia who are under "great threat right now." Speaker Pelosi's visit to Armenia, alongside Reps. Pallone, Speier and Eshoo, "shone much needed light" on the situation and although their strong comments were welcome, "actions and policy" are critical. "Section 907 has been waived for too long and it needs to stop now," said Purutyan. "We must, as Armenian Americans, continue our struggle to make sure the U.S. does its part to provide security to the emerging democracies of Armenia and Artsakh and to its people."
Artsakh Foreign Minister David Babayan urges the Armenian diaspora to remain strong and united
The Republic of Artsakh's Foreign Minister David Babayan, who was joined in his delegation by Lernik Hovanessian, Artsakh Deputy Minister of Culture, Education, Science and Sports, and Artsakh's Representative in Washington, D.C., Robert Avetisyan, said he is proud of the representation of Armenians in the U.S., but also feels "sorrow" that the community is a "product of genocide." He extended appreciation to the diaspora, U.S. elected officials, and Congressional Armenian Caucus members for their support in securing democracy and human rights in Armenia and Artsakh. Foreign Minister Babayan concurred that the situation in Artsakh is challenging in the face of existential threats, and that they are always on alert that a large-scale attack - and consequently a genocide - can occur at any moment. "We will continue our struggle because we're struggling for our past, our future, and for humanity," said Minister Babayan. "We need to be united around the idea of Artsakh and stand strong because this is just the beginning of our revival."
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.