Washington, D.C. – The biennial Board of Trustees meeting of the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) took place on Saturday, January 30, 2021. Trustees, board members, state chairs and staff participated in the two-hour online session, which featured remarks from Armenia’s Ambassador to the United States, Varuzhan Nersesyan, and Artsakh’s Foreign Minister, David Babayan, who provided valuable insights on current conditions. The Assembly leadership also provided substantive updates and reports about the organization’s activities.
A moment of silence was observed to honor the lives of Armenian soldiers and civilians, who made the ultimate sacrifice during the war, and Armenian Assembly and community members who passed away in the pandemic year, as well as for the safe return of Armenian prisoners of war.
Assembly Co-Chairs Van Krikorian and Anthony Barsamian paid special attention to the subject of jihadist mercenaries, transported by Turkey and financed by Azerbaijan, to fight against the Armenian people in the Artsakh war. These actions by Turkey and Azerbaijan violate the letter and spirit of U.S. anti-terrorism laws.
Ambassador Nersesyan expressed his gratitude to the Assembly and to the diaspora, in general, for its productive humanitarian fundraising efforts, which, he repeated, are “immensely appreciated” by the people and governments of Armenia and Artsakh, and underlined the importance of transparency and accountability. He also underscored the unity and determination demonstrated by the Armenian people.
The Ambassador explained that the priority of the Armenian Embassy is to strengthen ties with the new Administration, highlighting President Biden’s commitment to democracy and human rights, and his long-standing support of Armenian Genocide affirmation.
Despite the current challenges, Ambassador Nersesyan shared that Armenia and Artsakh are focused on “healing the wounds of the war” and “restoring our path towards growth and development.” According to the IMF and World Bank, Armenia was on track for double-digit economic growth prior to the war’s outbreak.
“I believe in the strength of our people to move forward in this very difficult situation,” he said. “Armenia’s security is inseparable from the security of Artsakh, and we cannot see the future of Armenia without the future of Artsakh.”
Ambassador Nersesyan also emphasized the pressing importance of the unconditional release of Armenian prisoners of war and civilian captives currently held by Azerbaijan. He added that the POWs are being kept as “pawns and hostages” by the Azerbaijani government as it mislabels them as “criminals and terrorists.” Ambassador Nersesyan deemed this as “unacceptable behavior.”
In his remarks, Artsakh Foreign Minister Babayan reflected on the losses caused by the war and especially the loss of innocent lives. He also encouraged continued close cooperation with the diaspora.
Babayan noted the important issue of extending support to the native population remaining in Artsakh, as they face enormous challenges and urgent humanitarian needs.
Upon the conclusion of the briefings, Co-Chair Anthony Barsamian thanked Foreign Minister Babayan and Ambassador Nersesyan for their service to Artsakh and Armenia – respectively. Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian emphasized that “now is the time to stand up and rebuild.” Co-Chair Barsamian strongly concurred and again thanked all of the Assembly’s supporters, donors and activists.
Echoing their words, Assembly President and Armenia Tree Project founder, Carolyn Mugar, stressed the importance of remaining committed to addressing the current challenges. “If there ever was a reason why we are here, it is now,” she said.
Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny provided an overview of the Assembly’s 2020 activities and programs – from congressional relations and grassroots advocacy to public affairs and the Assembly’s internship programs – as well as coalition-building in both the Armenian and non-Armenian communities.
Looking ahead, Ardouny announced that the Assembly’s annual National Advocacy Conference will take place virtually in March 2021. “We are reaching out to the new Administration, as well as to the new Congress. Everyone is motivated and committed to helping the people of Armenia and Artsakh,” Ardouny stated.
Assembly Treasurer Oscar Tatosian reviewed the financial, audit, and endowment reports. Krikorian emphasized that the Assembly’s Board “prides ourselves on our transparency” and noted that the Board requested a full audit from the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund for donations received during the war, including the Assembly’s $2.1 million contribution to Armenia Fund, Inc.
In closing, Krikorian shared information about Columbia University’s Institute for the Study of Human Rights, led by David L. Phillips, which recently launched a website that records the atrocities waged against Artsakh by Azerbaijan and Turkey.
During the meeting, the Trustees confirmed the election of the following Board Members to serve a four-year term effective 1/1/2020 through 12/31/2023: Anthony Barsamian, Van Krikorian, Lisa Kalustian, Ani Yeramyan Speirs, and Talin Yacoubian.
The Assembly’s full Board of Trustees includes Anthony Barsamian, Co-Chairman; Van Krikorian, Co-Chairman; Carolyn Mugar, President; Robert A. Kaloosdian, Counselor; Oscar Tatosian, Treasurer; Bianka Kadian-Dodov, Secretary & Assistant Treasurer; Lisa Kalustian, Assistant Secretary; Aram Gavoor; Alex Karapetian; Lu Ann Ohanian; Toros Sahakian; Ani Yeramyan Speirs; Joyce Stein; Annie Simonian Totah; and Talin Yacoubian, along with Mark Momjian as Solicitor.
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.