* Minister Melkoumian briefs US legislators; underscores importance of continuing US humanitarian assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh
WASHINGTON–Nagorno Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian personally thanked Members of Congress for their steadfast support for the people of Nagorno Karabakh–during a Congressional reception Wednesday co-hosted by congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chairs Joe Knollenberg (R-Mich.) and Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–and co-sponsored by the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Assembly of America.
Several Congressmen–including Reps. David Bonior (D-Mich.)–Patrick Kennedy (D-RI)–Connie Morella (R-Md.)–Adam Schiff (D-Calif.)–Hilda Solis (D-Calif.)–Joe Wilson (R-SC) and congressional staff members joined Representative Pallone and Representative Knollenberg in welcoming the foreign minister. Ambassador Arman Kirakossian represented the government of Armenia.
The reception followed a series of high-level meetings on Capitol Hill and with the Administration in which Melkoumian emphasized the necessity for continued US assistance to the people of Nagorno Karabakh and early implementation of confidence building measures between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan.
Addressing the reception guests–Foreign Minister Melkoumian thanked the many congressional friends of Nagorno Karabakh for their steadfast support and ongoing US assistance. Minister Melkoumian also stressed the important role the Armenian American community plays in educating US officials about Nagorno Karabakh and in ensuring that the search for a peaceful resolution to the Karabakh conflict remains a priority on the congressional agenda.
"Resolution of this conflict is critical to peace–stability–democracy and economic development in the South Caucasus. Karabakh looks forward to continued cooperation with our US colleagues towards achieving this shared vision," said Minister Melkoumian.
Representative Knollenberg–who introduced the Foreign Minister–described the ongoing US direct humanitarian aid to Nagorno Karabakh–noting that Congress is monitoring the $20 million assistance program very closely. Representative Knollenberg–who serves on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations–stressed that he will work to ensure that US assistance to Nagorno Karabakh continues in the FY2003 aid cycle.
Representative Morella–who led a congressional delegation to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh in 1999–assured the Foreign Minister of US congressional support and commitment. More recently–Representative Morella joined Representative Pallone in spearheading a Congressional letter to the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Foreign Operations urging continued US assistance to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh and stepped up efforts to find an equitable resolution to the Karabakh conflict. Representative Morella praised the Armenian American community for their civic activism–commenting that–"we have the best [Armenian] Diaspora here in the US" She promised the Foreign Minister–"We will be by your side."
Longtime Congressional supporter David Bonior (D-Mich.) welcomed the Foreign Minister and said he hoped that Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan can "build upon what happened in Key West" and eventually finish the job in an effort to bring stability to the Caucasus region. Representative Bonior–who is currently campaigning to become the Governor of Michigan–pledged to support a cultural and economic exchange between Michigan and Karabakh.
Freshman Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC)–who successfully led the effort in the South Carolina legislature to adopt an Armenian Genocide resolution in 1999–reiterated his staunch support for Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh. "I look forward to visiting Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh one day"–said Representative Wilson.
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-chair Frank Pallone–who has visited Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh four times during the past decade–closed the program by praising Nagorno Karabakh’s commitment to democracy and a market-oriented economy. He commended the ongoing work by non-government organizations to effectively utilize US assistance in meeting Karabakh’s humanitarian needs. The people of Nagorno Karabakh are "genuinely excited by the democratic process and we need to encourage such developmen’s," said Rep. Pallone.
"I would like to thank the Armenian National Committee of America and the Armenian Assembly of America for sponsoring this event. We will continue working together to strengthen US-Karabakh relationship. In that regard we are eager to achieve US and international recognition of Nagorno Karabakh’s independence," said Nagorno-Karabakh Republic Representative in the United States Vardan Barseghian.
Foreign Minister Melkoumian is in Washington for a week-long series of meetings with the Administration–Congress–think tanks–media and the Armenian American community.