WASHINGTON, D.C. – This week, the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) welcomed a delegation of the Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Friendship Group during their trip to Washington, D.C. The delegation was in Washington for a series of meetings, including a roundtable discussion with Assembly Board of Trustees Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian, Board Member Annie Totah, and Executive Director Bryan Ardouny, as well as Armenian National Institute (ANI) Director Dr. Rouben Adalian.
The delegation of Armenian Parliamentarians is led by Arpine Hovhannisyan, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia and Chairwoman of the Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Friendship Group. She is joined by Parliamentarians Armen Ashotyan, Edmon Marukyan, Aghvan Vardanyan and Naira Zohrabyan. This working visit comes six months after U.S. Members of Congress visited Armenia and Artsakh, as part of a U.S. Congressional Delegation.
“We are thrilled that this first trip has been made by so many of the Members of Parliament, and we look forward to many more,” said Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chair Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), an Armenian American who participated in the U.S. Congressional Delegation in September 2017.
Throughout the week, Members of Parliament met with Democratic Leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member and Armenian Caucus Co-Vice Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Armenian Caucus Vice Co-Chair Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Foreign Affairs Committee Members Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI) and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (U.S. Helsinki Commission) Co-Chair Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), and House Democracy Partnership Program Commission Ranking Member and founder Rep. David Price (D-NC).
During their conversation with Members of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, they discussed U.S.-Armenia relations, the crisis in Nagorno-Karabakh, and Armenia’s acceptance of refugees from Iraq and Syria. Chairman Royce stated: “Armenia and the United States enjoy a valuable and growing relationship. In particular, Armenia’s contributions to counterterrorism efforts and its assistance to Syrian refugees have been crucial. But there are still many opportunities to further strengthen our relationship on security and human rights priorities in the region. I look forward to doing just that.”
On March 7, the Assembly joined the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues in co-hosting a reception on Capitol Hill welcoming the Armenian Parliamentary Delegation, alongside the Embassy of Armenia to the United States and other Armenian organizations. Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. Dave Trott (R-MI), and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) were in attendance, in addition to Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), Jim Costa (D-CA), Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Brenda Lawrence (D-MI), Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Dina Titus (D-NV), and Paul Tonko (D-NY).
At the reception, Members of Congress offered remarks welcoming the Armenian Parliamentary delegation and sharing their thoughts on U.S.-Armenia relations.
Rep. Pallone touched upon their earlier discussions on a number of priorities of the Armenian Caucus to help improve relations with Armenia and Artsakh. He described this visit as “an opportunity to talk about substantive issues that we can make a difference on.” He continued: “I cannot overemphasize how important it is for us to go to Armenia, for them to come here, and for us to exchange ideas because that can really make a difference in terms of the future of the relationship between our two countries.”
Rep. Trott spoke about the current House Resolution, H.Res.220, which reaffirms the Armenian Genocide. He proudly shared that this resolution currently has more co-sponsors than any Armenian Genocide resolution in the past seven years. He then went on to note the importance of strong U.S.-Armenia relations.
“When President Trump talks about America First, I agree with that but for me, what that means is friends like Armenia. We need to have a strong relationship. We need to have you know that we are there to help you, and we are there to trade with you, and we are there to work with you to make sure that your citizens have the best dream and life they can, because that will help America more than anything else. So, we want to make sure the Administration and State Department continue to understand how important this relationship is, and I’ll do everything I can to accomplish that,” Rep. Trott said.
Rep. Speier recalled their meeting earlier that day with Leader Pelosi, and the important dialogue between the legislators.
“We met this afternoon with the Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, and I said to her ‘this is the new Armenia, and the new Armenia is all about moving to this parliamentary structure to create greater democracy and we want to be part of seeing Armenia succeed in this 21st century,” Rep. Speier said. “We need to find a way to create an environment where all of those in Armenia can thrive and can succeed. One of the messages that our community from Armenia brought was one of finding a way to create greater IT opportunities. So we are going to look at how we can do that. We want to support this democracy. We are thrilled that this first trip has been made by so many of the Members of Parliament, and we look forward to many more.”
Commenting on the United States’ strong relationship with Armenia and Artsakh, Rep. Chu said: “I’m so happy to be celebrating the strong and enduring U.S.-Armenia relationship. Ours is a true friendship, based on shared values and goals. That is why I’m proud to support economic and military aid to Armenia, and to support Armenians in Artsakh in their fight for peace. And it is my sincere hope that, through our continued efforts together, we can finally put the American government on the right side of history and acknowledge the reality of the Armenian Genocide once and for all. None of this would be possible without the support and hard work of the Congressional Armenian Caucus and groups like the Armenian Assembly of America.”
The Armenian Assembly hosted a round table discussion, where its leadership exchanged ideas with the Armenian Parliamentary Delegation and Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannissian on a broad range of issues, including its work with Congress and the State Department. The Assembly referenced the first U.S. Congressional Delegation to Armenia, organized by the Assembly, and the importance of this mutual exchange. ANI Director Dr. Adalian then discussed his work at the Institute, and the importance to educate Armenians and Americans on the history of the Armenian Genocide, and the resolutions and policies enacted as a result.
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.