*Political party activists meet with Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus. WASHINGTON–The Armenian National Committee of America hosted a diverse group of ten political activists from Armenia for a seminar on the US political system and Armenian-American advocacy–last week.
The ANCA seminar was part of the group’s two week program in the United States organized by the National Democratic Institute for International Affairs–a non-profit organization working with civic and political leaders to expand and strengthen democracy worldwide.
The seminar featured a presentation by ANCA representative Garo Armenian–who discussed the development of the American electoral system and the opportunities this system presents for the advancement of Armenian-American concerns. He also analyzed the current political environment in the nation’s capital and offered insights into how the Armenian-American community works there to strengthen Armenia’s independence and defend Nagorno-Karabakh’s security and self-determination. The discussion following the formal presentation was characterized by an open and productive exchange of views.
Congressional Armenian Caucus Briefing
The delegation also participated in a briefing sponsored by the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues–organized by Caucus co-chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and John Porter (R-Ill.).
Members of the delegation discussed a range of Armenian issues with Representatives Pallone–Brad Sherman (D-Calif.) and Jim McGovern (D-Mass.). Staff members from more than 15 Congressional offices also took part in the briefing. Special attention was devoted by Rep. Pallone to the unfair pressure being placed on Nagorno-Karabakh within the Minsk peace process. Other issues included the Turkish and Azeri blockades–US aid to Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh–and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Both Representatives Sherman and Pallone expressed particular concern about the continued ban on Armenia’s leading opposition party–the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–which was suspended along with more than a dozen affiliated media outlets in December on 1994–following the now infamous decree by Levon Ter-Petrosyan.
Rep. Sherman informed the group that many of his constituents support the ARF and that he–personally–is troubled that the ban against this party remains in force. He inquired about the specific reasons currently being put forward by the government to justify the continuation of the ARF’s suspension.
Rep. Pallone also addressed this matter in response to a question from the delegation about how they can help increase US support for Armenia–given the constant attacks by the Azeri and Turkish lobbies–as well as the oil industry. Congressman Pallone responded that "the opponents of Armenia in Congress will cite Armenia as not being that democratic–or there is talk about the fact that the ARF is not legal or that the elections were not held properly. So–to the extent that the Government moves toward allowing all of the political parties to participate–having true freedom of press–all those democracy building types of exercises are important in terms of providing a positive image of the country."
National Democratic Institute
The delegation also took part in a luncheon discussion on the current political environment in Armenia at the NDI offices in downtown Washington. Those in attendance included representatives from the State Department–the US Agency for International Development–the Library of Congress–the Congressional Commission for Security and Cooperation in Europe and a number of think tanks and public policy organizations. The groups also met separately with Members of Congress–a number of political party organizations–as well as with advocacy groups and others involved in public policy.
The delegation was comprised of Garegin Azarian–a member of the Republic Bloc’s Armenian National Movement; Hovhanes Dourgarian–a member of the Republic Bloc’s Liberal Democrats; Samvel Gasparian–a member of the National Accord Alliance’s Democratic Party of Armenia; David Isagulian–a member of the National Accord Alliance’s Democratic Party of Armenia; Hasmik Khalikian–a member of the National Accord Alliance’s Self-Determination Union; Armen Kirakosian–a member of the Republic Bloc’s ANM; Aram Mailian–a member of the National Accord Alliance’s National Democratic Union; Vahan Toumasian–a member of the Republic Bloc’s National Democratic Union; Rouben Vardanian–a member of the National Accord Alliance’s Self-Determination Union; Razmik Zohraban–a member of the Central Board of the Republican Party.