GLENDALE–Roughly 200 Armenian community leaders and benefactors jammed the Verdugo Hills Country Club in Glendale last Friday night to hear Armenian National Committee of America Chairman–Mourad Topalian–detail the long and arduous fight undertaken by the ANCA to maintain the ban on US aid to Azerbaijan.
Topalian prefaced his remarks by reminding the gathering that Section 907–the restrictions on US government aid to the Republic of Azerbaijan–constitutes only one component of the ANC’s overall strategy to promote and advance the rights of Armenia’s. He listed the advancement of the Armenian Genocide issue and the procurement of greater economic and developmental assistance for Armenia and Karabakh as other important issues that the ANCA doggedly pursues.
Topalian provided a glimpse of the often rancorous and lengthy negotiation process between the ANCA and the congressional leadership in deciding the fate of US assistance to Armenia and Azerbaijan. He detailed the aggressive stance of former US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee Chairman–Robert Livingston–who led the anti-907 forces during discussion of the matter on the House floor and has since been elected Speaker of the House.
During the discussions over the fate of 907–Livingston–he explained–openly clashed not only with the ANC but the Armenian Embassy in Washington. The ANCA Chairman noted that several Members of Congress and even Armenian American political organizations felt that Congress would be successful in repealing Section 907 and suggested that the ANCA seek a compromise rather than oppose the influential Livingston. Topalian explained that compromise was never an option and stressed the need for the Armenian community to remain consistent and unified in articulating the Armenian community’s position on crucial matters. After an extended dialogue–he added–the Armenian American organizations united to form a formidable front in combating the attempted repeal of the ban.
The ANCA Chairman also noted that–while the ANC can not match the tens of millions of dollars spent annually by the pro-Turkish and Azeri lobbies–the ANC possessed one invaluable asset not available to those same anti-Armenian forces–namely an active and effective grassroots. Topalian urged the Armenian community to stand vigilant and anticipate future attempts by the Turkish and Azeri lobbies–and their allies in the oil and business communities–to repeal the ban on aid to Azerbaijan and perhaps even seek punitive measures against Armenia and Karabakh.
Following Topalian’s remarks–those in attendance–which included Bishop Moushegh Mardirossian–Prelate of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America–Consul General of the Republic of Armenia–Armen Melkonian–newly appointed Armenian Consul–Armen Hairapetyan and long-time Glendale City Council Member Larry Zarian–had a chance to ask Topalian questions. When asked what he foresaw in the next Congress now that Rep. Livingston had been elected Speaker of the House–Topalian remarked that much depends on the new Speaker and his willingness to meet and engage in a serious and sincere exchange of ideas with the ANCA.
He added that the ANCA has never shut its doors to any Member of Congress and was hopeful that the Livingston–who has inherited a largely divided Congress–has developed a greater appreciation for the value of dialogue and compromise with the Armenian American community.