Congressman Schiff Votes in Support of Armenia’s Amendments on Syria and Nagorno Karabakh at OSCE Parliamentary Assembly in Baku

Key Amendments Adopted Include Calling for the Protection of Religious Minorities in Syria, Urging States to Prevent the Use of their Territories for Cross Border Attacks on Communities like Kessab, Affirming Principle of Peaceful Settlement of Disputes and Right of Self-Determination of Peoples

AAANews Blog

June 30, 2014

At a parliamentary meeting of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) held in Baku, Azerbaijan earlier today, Armenia’s representative offered two amendments to the Resolution on Political Affairs and Security to protect religious communities in Syria. The first adds language to a section calling for a solution to the crisis in Syria to ensure that not only ethnic groups – but religious ones as well – would be given equal protection in the establishment of a democratic state. Armenia’s second amendment would amend the same section and “Calls upon OSCE participating States to prevent the use of their territories by terrorist and fundamentalist groups for cross-border attacks against civilian populations, including religious and ethnic minorities in Syria.”

Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA) voted in favor of both amendments, which seek to protect historic Christian communities in Syria. The second amendment is a reaction to attacks and ethnic cleansing in towns like Kessab, which has been emptied of its Armenian inhabitants, some of whom are survivors of the Armenian Genocide. Both amendments were adopted. 

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) with Armenia’s delegation to OSCE PA 

Schiff said, “Historic Christian communities in Syria and now Iraq are under increasing threat of violence and displacement by radical Islamic terrorists. The international community must do all it can to bring an end to the violence and protect these vulnerable minority populations. I was proud to be present at the OSCE parliamentary assembly and support Armenia’s amendments.”

Armenia offered a third amendment pertaining to Nagorno Karabakh, affirming the right of peoples to self-determination and underlining the principle of peaceful settlement of disputes. The amendment was opposed by Azerbaijan, host of the conference. Rep. Schiff voted in favor of the measure which also passed with majority support.

Congressman Adam Schiff is a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, which oversees U.S. assistance priorities to Armenia, Nagorno-Karabakh, and the South Caucasus region. He is also a member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence. In addition to his leadership on U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide, Schiff has been a stead-fast proponent of ensuring critical aid to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh on an annual basis. 

Last week, the House Appropriations Committee approved its fiscal year (FY) 2015 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs (SFOPS) Appropriations Bill, which covers U.S. economic, humanitarian, and military assistance to the South Caucasus. Earlier this year, the Assembly submitted testimony to the House Appropriations Committee, stressing the importance of U.S. assistance to Artsakh as well as Armenia, and the much needed humanitarian assistance for Armenians in, and those fleeing, Syria.

“Given Turkey’s and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of Armenia and the escalating security threats from Azerbaijan, coupled with the unconscionable pardon by Azerbaijan of a convicted axe murderer, as well as other regional developments, the Assembly urges Congress to ensure robust aid to Armenia and Artsakh,” stated Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. “Moreover, with the latest developments in Syria and Iraq, the Assembly urges Congress to take immediate action to provide urgent humanitarian relief to the Christian Armenian community there,” Ardouny stated.

Prior to the OSCE meeting, Schiff visited the Republic of Georgia where he met with President Giorgi Margvelashvili.  During his meeting, Rep. Schiff raised the need to coordinate and focus USAID assistance to meet humanitarian needs in the predominately Armenian region of Samtskhe-Javakheti. Rep. Schiff had worked on this issue with former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili and USAID Director Rajiv Shah, and sought to continue the emphasis on assistance to this economically vulnerable area.

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Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) with Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Garibishvili

President Margvelashvili expressed his willingness to coordinate U.S. assistance to Javakheti, and added a new sense of urgency to the issue, according to Congressman Schiff’s office. With Georgia’s signing of an association agreement with the European Union this week and Armenia’s participation in the Russia-based customs union, it will be more important than ever, the President emphasized, to ensure that trade between Armenia and Georgia can continue unabated and grow.

The Javakheti region is particularly reliant on this trade, making resolution of any trade issues between countries belonging to the separate trade associations – and assistance to the region – all the more timely and vital.

Targeted U.S. assistance to Georgia’s predominately Armenian region of Samtskhe-Javakheti, U.S. assistance to Christian minorities at risk in the Middle East, and a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh peace process are three of the nine policy points outlined in the Assembly’s testimony to Congress on U.S. funding priorities earlier this year.

(Combined Sources)

Armenian Assembly Interns Raise Armenian American Issues at the 5th Annual Middle East Institute Conference on Turkey

By Mariam Pashayan, Crystal Densmore and Lena Krikorian

June 19, 2014

The following questions were raised by Armenian Assembly of America summer interns Mariam Pashayan and Crystal Densmore at the Middle East Institute’s 5th annual conference on Turkey, held a the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. on Monday, June 16, 2014:

  • Mariam Pashayan to Dr. Saban Kardas, Associate Professor of International Relations at TOBB University of Economics and Technology (Ankara, Turkey): “Regarding regional and economic stability, what is the status of Turkey’s land blockade on Armenia? When do you think it will be lifted and please talk about the potential of trade with Armenia for Turkey’s rural southeastern region?”
  • Dr. Kardas: Armenia “did a few things” in order to “cause the blockade to take place,” therefore “it will not be lifted.”
  • Mariam Pashayan to Amanda Sloat, Deputy Assistant Secretary for Southern Europe and East Mediterranean Affairs, United States Department of State: “If the U.S. is for Armenia and Turkey to reconcile, then why did the Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) tell the President of Turkey Abdullah Gul that Congress has no intention of passing the Armenian Genocide resolution?
  • Sloat: “What John Boehner mentioned to the Turkish President I can not speak for Congress.”
  • Crystal Densmore to Ambassador Rob Ford, former U.S. Ambassador to Syria: “The Assad government just retook Latakia province which includes the Armenian town of Kessab, what has been described as the last Armenian town in the Middle East, and Aleppo continues to be ground zero, with Armenians again caught in the cross hairs. It is common knowledge that Turkey assisted the terrorists to enter Latakia and take Kessab, only to designate the group as a terrorist organization months later. What lessons have the Turkish government learned in their support of extremist groups and can we expect them to learn from this?”
  • Ambassador Ford: The Turkish government has taken refugees from Syria and “there were many Armenian refugees in Kessab, but they were not limited to Armenians.”

Summary:

Although there are differences of opinion on the topic of Turkey and Armenia relations, it is clear that Turkey and Azerbaijan should lift their unlawful blockade of Armenia, which has caused regional instability and impeded economic integration for the last 20 years. Turkey’s blockade on Armenia, as well as the currently stalled reconciliation efforts between Turkey and Armenia, are due to Turkey’s inability to stay true to its commitment as envisioned in the 2009 Protocols signed by the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey. Clearly, the U.S. supports reconciliation between Armenia and Turkey. However, it was disappointing to hear a former U.S. Ambassador downplay the plight of Christian Armenians in Syria. It is well known that Islamic extremists invaded from Turkey the town of Kessab, which was predominantly Armenian populated. U.S. government officials, current and former, should not shy away from recognizing that fact. 

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You can watch Mariam and Crystal ask their questions on the Assembly’s YouTube Channel by clicking on the images below.

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