*San Francisco- Bay Area Armenian-Americans gathered in support of Representative Frank Pallone (D-NJ).
SAN FRANCISCO–Representative Pallone–who is chairman of the Armenian Caucus in the House of Representatives–spoke to the audience of 50 at Vaspouragan Hall about the new political realities faced in Congress and the dangerous steps taken towards the repeal of the ban on aid to Azerbaijan.
"You’re probably tired of hearing it’s another crucial year in Congress–but it’s true," said Pallone. With the recent passage of the Silk Road Strategy Act by a Senate sub-committee and the introduction of the Silk Road Bill in the House–Rep. Pallone said this year’s battle for Congressional appropriations will be as difficult as ever. He said the administration has already said it wants to "to reduce aid to Armenia–give more to Azerbaijan–and no aid to Nagorno-Karabakh… We must once again think of our success against the US Administration–oil lobbyists and the various Jewish organizations this past year and persevere."
Pallone outlined the challenges that lay ahead for Armenia’stressing the importance of fair and democratic parliamentary elections in May–and the pressure that must be placed on the US administration to support the OSCE’s latest "common state" proposal for settling the Karabakh conflict. He said that that oil interests still dominate US foreign policy in the region–even though it has been shown that there is no significant oil in Azerbaijan.
"In Congress–anti-Armenian forces play the Russian card–using it against the Armenian Caucus" said Pallone. He said that while Armenia has been forced to look to Russia for support–"We can point to Kocharian’s visit to the US on the occasion of NATO’s 50th anniversary–which clearly demonstrates that Armenia is not subservient to Russia." Pallone suggested that Kocharian’s upcoming visit is an opportunity to push a settlement on Nagorno-Karabakh by comparing it to US policy in Kosovo–where the administration has put the issue of self-determination over territorial integrity.
On the subject of Armenian Genocide recognition–Pallone said–"Though we speak of what occurred in 1915–it’s happening again now and that’s why it is important to commemorate. If the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh were to remain defenseless–the same thing could happen again." In his closing remarks–Rep. Pallone urged community members to seek their representatives and push them to join the Armenian Caucus.