WASHINGTON—The Armenian National Committee of America, in a statement submitted to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe (CSCE – U.S. Helsinki Commission) for its upcoming hearing on Armenian reforms, made the case that “the surest way for the United States to support and sustain Armenia’s democratic progress is by further strengthening the U.S.-Armenia strategic partnership.”
The CSCE hearing, titled “Hearing on Reform in Armenia: Assessing Progress and Opportunities for U.S. Policy” will take place on Tuesday, October 22, from 2 to 4 p.m., in the Cannon House Office Building, Room 210. It will be webcast live on the CSCE YouTube channel.
In the ANCA statement submitted for the hearing earlier today, Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan saluted the century-long U.S.-Armenia partnership, dating back to the “dark years of the Armenian Genocide, and the formal birth of our bilateral ties, a century ago next April 23rd, when Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby formally recognized the Republic of Armenia.” Yerimyan cited the “broad-based American engagement with the reborn Republic of Armenia” over the past 28-years, and called for a series of new accords and agreements to provide structure, substance, and sustainability to the long-term strategic upgrade of our bilateral ties.
Yerimyan placed special emphasis on the recent U.S. House adoption of the Speier Amendment, adopted through the efforts of Armenian Caucus Co-Chair, Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), appropriating an additional $40 million in democracy assistance in Fiscal Year 2020. She also noted similar efforts on the Senate side, spearheaded by Senators Lindsay Graham (R-SC) and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). Yerimyan also noted the importance of passage of Congressman Frank Pallone’s (D-NJ) H.Res.452, which salutes Armenia’s democratic progress and highlights the need to elevate the strategic bi-lateral relationship.
The ANCA statement advocates for U.S. leadership on forward-leaning bilateral initiatives, including a modern U.S.-Armenia Tax treaty, a new STEAM-focused Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with Armenia, a U.S-Armenia Social Security Totalization Agreement, and the launch of non-stop U.S. to Armenia flights. “Such accords, agreements, and increased commercial partnerships are needed to provide structure, substance, and sustainability to the long-term strategic upgrade of our bilateral ties,” explained Yerimyan.
In its October 22nd hearing announcement, the CSCE noted it seeks “to assess the Armenian Government’s achievements thus far, identify priority areas for reform, and highlight opportunities for the U.S. to support the reform process.” A full description of the hearing and its witnesses is available on the CSCE website.
The full text of the ANCA statement submitted to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe hearing is provided below.
“‘Strengthening the U.S.-Armenia Strategic Partnership Key to Supporting and Sustaining Armenia’s Progress on Democratic Reforms’
Statement of the Armenian National Committee of America
Tereza Yerimyan, Government Affairs Director
Submitted to the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe
Hearing on Reform in Armenia:
Assessing Progress and Opportunities for U.S. Policy
Tuesday, October 22, 2019 – 2:00. – 4:00 p.m.
Cannon House Office Building, Room 210
Armenia – the world’s first Christian nation, a resilient genocide-survivor state – having overcome decades of Soviet tyranny, the legacy of the Artsakh war, dual blockades on its eastern and western borders, and ongoing Azerbaijani cross-border attacks, stands today as a modern democratic republic, deeply rooted in Western democratic values, and a proud partner of the United States on a broad array of regional and international challenges.
Our enduring partnership dates back to American solidarity with the Armenian people through the dark years of the Armenian Genocide, and the formal birth of our bilateral ties, a century ago next April 23rd, when Secretary of State Bainbridge Colby formally recognized the Republic of Armenia. Our abiding friendship continued, in the form of principled U.S. support for Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union, and – over the past twenty-eight years – through broad-based American engagement with the reborn Republic of Armenia.
Americans of Armenian heritage joined with friends of Armenia from across the United States – including many members of the Commission on Security and Cooperation in Europe – in welcoming last year’s peaceful and constitutional political transition in Armenia, most notably, the December 9th parliamentary elections that were universally praised as both free and fair. As you recall, the OSCE monitoring mission concluded that the elections “were held with respect for fundamental freedoms and enjoyed broad public trust that needs to be preserved through further electoral reforms.”
The ANCA holds that the surest way for the United States to support and sustain Armenia’s democratic progress is by further strengthening the U.S.-Armenia strategic partnership. In this spirit, we have been encouraged by the statements of President Donald Trump, Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and by the material expression of their support in the form of H.Res.452, introduced by Congressman Pallone, and, of course, the Speier Amendment to the House version of the FY20 foreign aid bill, which called for an additional $40 million in U.S. aid for democracy programs in Armenia. The Graham-Van Hollen Amendment to the Senate Appropriations Committee’s version of the FY20 bill echoes this call for increased U.S. aid for democracy and economic development. We support the spirit of both measures, and are asking State-Foreign Operations conferees to accede to the House version, setting a specific $40 million funding level, as called for by the Speier Amendment.
Beyond our aid priorities, we share the broader policy aims set forth in H.Res.452, including its bipartisan call for: “continued United States leadership in helping empower the Armenian people to solidify their progress by strengthening United States-Armenia relations through bilateral visits, defense consultations to draw Armenia closer to the United States, increased cooperation on international peacekeeping operations, targeted trade and investment promotion, and support for political party development, transparency, rule of law, civil society development, and media freedom.”
It is in the spirit of H.Res.452 that we warmly welcomed the upgrade of the most recent annual U.S.-Armenia Economic Task Force meeting to a Strategic Dialogue, and that we encourage both U.S. and Armenian officials to make full use of the existing Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA).
Noting that the State Department’s 2019 Investment Climate Statement: Armenia confirms that “the government of Armenia has expressed interest in negotiating a new double taxation treaty with the United States,” we call upon the Treasury Department to immediately initiate long-overdue negotiations toward a modern U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty.
We strongly support a new STEAM-focused Millennium Challenge Corporation compact with Armenia, which would represent a major investment in Armenia’s students and a meaningful contribution to U.S.-Armenia cooperation in the fields of science, technology, engineering, arts, and math. In addition, we continue working toward a U.S-Armenia Social Security Totalization Agreement, the launch of non-stop U.S. to Armenia flights, among other forward-leaning economic initiatives. Such accords, agreements, and increased commercial partnerships are needed to provide structure, substance, and sustainability to the long-term strategic upgrade of our bilateral ties.
In closing, we would like to remind the Commission that Armenia is determined to continue bringing its contribution to regional stability and international security. Armenia is a member of NATO’s Partnership for Peace and has a record of deployments as part of United States-led peacekeeping operations in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, Kosovo, and Mali, – making Armenia one of the world’s highest per capita providers of peacekeepers. Armenia has, as well, despite its limited resources and blockaded borders, welcomed over 25,000 refugees from Syria, with only modest levels of either U.S. or international relief or resettlement assistance. The President, in a statement last year on Armenian Independence Day, recognized these contributions, stating: “We thank you for your steadfast partnership on many fronts, including contributing to NATO operations and showing great generosity in welcoming Syrian refugees.”
The ANCA, as always, thanks you for your leadership and looks forward to continue working with the Commission to further strengthen the U.S.-Armenia strategic partnership, foster additional democratic progress, and promote regional peace, security, and cooperation.”