YEREVAN (Armenpress)-A consistent supporter of Armenian American issues in Congress–Representative Joseph Crowley (D-NY)–in Armenia on an ANC-sponsored visit–held a press conference in Yerevan to discuss US-Armenia trade relations–Armenia’s relationship with Turkey–and US foreign aid to Armenia.
"The 14% economic growth reported by Armenia is very impressive. I am well aware that American Armenian businessmen have contributed to this growth. I don’t know any other community like the Armenian community in the US that is so proud of its homeland and national identity," said Crowley while speaking to reporters on Saturday.
Crowley–a member of the financial and foreign commissions of US Congress–has helped develop many documen’s and bills demanding the recognition of the Armenian Genocide. The Congressman is also a co-author of the House Resolution 528–which would grant permanent normal trade relations status to the Republic of Armenia.
Talking about the issue–Rep. Crowley said that the Jackson-Vanick amendment which applies to CIS countries that are not members of the World Trade Organization (WTO)–hinders development of bilateral trade and economic ties. "However–since Armenia has become a WTO member–this amendment will no longer be applied [to Armenia]–and this [HS 528] will support the development of trade and economic relations,"
On Armenian-Turkish relations–Crowley said that he has had discussion with representatives of both countries–and believes relations would improve only if Turkey recognizes the Armenian Genocide. "Although Armenia does not set recognition of the Genocide as a condition for the normalization of Armenian-Turkish relations–I cannot see the effectiveness of these relations if one of the sides is not honest and sincere," he stated.
Crowley added that the US State Department will be exerting pressure on Turkey to change its stance on Armenia. "We hope our steps convince Turkey to recognize its past and open the Armenian-Turkish border–an action that will strengthen trade throughout the entire region," said the US Congressman. Referring to the reduction of US aid to Armenia–Crowley said he opposed the Bush administration’s aid reduction from $90 million to $49.5 million. "The House of Representatives fixed the aid at $70 million and the Senate added $5 million to that figure. So the outcome of the discussions in US Congress was an aid amount of $70-75 million for Armenia for the 2004 fiscal year," said Crowley. He stressed that the reduction in aid does not mean that US interest towards Armenia has diminished–but is a reflection of the country’s financial situation.
This is Crowley’s first visit to Armenia. He has already met with speaker of Armenian Parliament Arthur Baghdasarian–deputy speaker of parliament and member of the ARF Bureau Vahan Hovhannisian–leaders of the opposition and coalition parties–and Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin II.
Representative Crowley also met with Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian to discuss US-Armenia aid cooperation–regional issues and the Karabagh conflict regulation process.