House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce Leads Bipartisan Congressional Tribute to 22 Years of Artsakh Independence
“We are ready to defend our independence and freedom, but are well aware that the final resolution of the Karabakh conflict is possible only through full, formal, civilized, and constructive negotiations.” – Nagorno Karabakh Parliament Speaker Ashot Ghulian
WASHINGTON—Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Parliament Speaker Ashot Ghulian headlined a Congressional celebration of 22 years of Artsakh’s independence, featuring remarks by House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) and other leading U.S. legislators, reported the Armenian National Committee of America.
“With the wind of human freedom at our backs, we marked today, on Capitol Hill, a generation of liberty for the Republic of Nagorno Karabakh,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “It’s fitting that, as heirs to the American Revolution, we were joined together in our U.S. Capitol – the seat of our nation’s liberty – to celebrate the democratic victory of another free people over foreign rule.”
The Capitol Hill program, moderated by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ), brought together a cross section of the Washington, DC foreign policy community and national, regional, and local leaders of the Armenian American community. Among those attending the program were notable Armenian Americans recognized by both the Armenian and Artsakh governments for their exceptional leadership in advancing the cause of Artsakh’s freedom: Peter Koutoujian, the Sheriff of Middlesex County, Massachusetts; Ani Haroian of the Armenian National Committee of Rhode Island, lawyer Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, of Maine, the noted author of “Nowhere, A Story of Exile,” and; Armenian Assembly Board member Annie Totah of Maryland.
In powerful remarks warmly welcomed by those in attendance, Chairman Royce challenged Baku’s record of threats and aggression – including, notably, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s pardon of Ramil Safarov, the convicted, unrepentant axe-murderer of an Armenian officer at a NATO peace training program in Hungary. The Chairman voiced his support for the search for a lasting regional peace, welcomed the resumption of the OSCE negotiations process, and spoke eloquently of his hopes for the long term security and prosperity of the people of Artsakh.
Rep. Frank Pallone spoke eloquently about how Nagorno Karabakh’s independence was consistent with the principles underlying the United Nations and in the spirit of universally accepted human rights. Throughout the evening, as he introduced speakers, Congressman Pallone thoughtfully and comprehensively addressed the full range of Artsakh issues supported by the Congressional Armenian Caucus. “For the past 22 years, Nagorno Karabakh has firmly demonstrated its commitment to democratic values and has proven to be a reliable partner to the international community,” said Congressman Pallone. “Tonight’s event is an opportunity to commend Nagorno Karabakh’s meaningful contribution to regional stability and continued pursuit of restoring a war torn economy, strengthening a blossoming democracy, and promoting continued development and prosperity of an independent republic.”
Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), one of two U.S. Representatives of Armenian heritage, noted the unfortunate fact that the Ambassador of Azerbaijan had sought, unsuccessfully, to discourage her and her colleagues from attending the program, stressing her commitment to educating the Congress about the democratically expressed will of the people of Artsakh to live in freedom. David Cicilline (D-RI), a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, recalled the victims of Azerbaijani massacres in Sumgait and Baku, and reaffirmed his commitment to the democratic aspirations of the people of Nagorno Karabakh. The Rhode Island legislator called special attention to the presence, at the event, of long-time community leader Ani Haroian, who played the key role in securing Rhode Island’s formal recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic. Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA), in his message, stressed that, “As a senior member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, I have been a strong supportive and consistent voice for providing aid to the people of Artsakh and for a strong and cooperative relationship between the United States and the Nagorno Karabakh Republic.” He added that he has “strongly supported the efforts of the Republic to reopen the newly renovated airport in Stepanakert.”
Former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, a perennial participant at Congressional Artsakh freedom commemorations, noted the growing U.S. state support for Karabakh independence and, reminiscing about his recent series of presentations in Australia, noted that New South Wales has joined the tide of support for the right to self-determination for the Karabakh people. Ambassador Evans drew parallels between the U.S. and Artsakh road to freedom, noting that both countries’ international recognition process started small, citing the small island of St. Eustatius as the first to recognize the U.S. flag.
Armenia’s Ambassador to the U.S. Tatoul Markarian, thanked the U.S. Congress for supporting Nagorno Karabakh’s development and democratic aspirations, noting that events, such as this one, help “force Azerbaijan to negotiate a peaceful settlement. It makes sure that Azerbaijan has no doubts, that the alternative to a peaceful negotiated settlement will not be another war they desire, but the recognition of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic by the international community.”
Artsakh’s Representative in the U.S., Robert Avetisyan, in introducing Speaker Ghulian, recognized those in attendance, including Koutoujian, Haroian, and Astvatsaturian Turcotte, who have played vital roles in state level U.S. recognition of Artsakh. Speaker Ghulian, in a sweeping address that covered the full array of Artsakh’s domestic and foreign policy challenges, underscored that, “The last twenty-five years have taught us a lot. They have taught us not to allow any encroachment against our people’s and our country’s security. We have always said this, and we are ready to reaffirm that Artsakh’s security cannot be subject to bargaining, and today, even more than twenty-five years ago, we are ready to defend our independence and freedom, but we are well aware that the final resolution of the Karabakh conflict is possible only through full, formal, civilized, and constructive negotiations.”
The program took place over the objections of Azerbaijan’s Ambassador to the U.S., Elin Suleymanov, who circulated a letter demanding that Members of Congress boycott the event.
The program, formally titled: “Nagorno Karabakh: 22 Years of Freedom, Democracy & Progress,” was hosted by the Congressional Caucus on #Armenian Issues – co-chaired Reps. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Michael Grimm (R-NY), in cooperation with the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, the Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh) Republic Representation in the U.S. and Armenian American organizations.