Members of Congress Celebrate Artsakh Independence on Capitol Hill

Republic of Armenia "Mkhitar Gosh" Award honorees Representative Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Brad Sherman (D-CA) with, from left to right, ANCA Legislative Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian, Government Affairs Director Kate Nahapetian, and author Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte.

Congressional Program Reaffirms American Support for Nagorno Karabakh

WASHINGTON, DC – U.S. legislators joined this evening on Capitol Hill with the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s Foreign Minister, Karen Mirzoyan, in a spirited, standing-room-only celebration of Artsakh’s independence and democratic development.

“We were pleased to join this evening with so many friends of freedom – in Congress, among our coalition partners, and from our community – who know that the blessings of liberty belong to the free people of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic and to all nations,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “We look forward to building on the enthusiasm of this evening’s Capitol Hill celebration, and to expanding upon the unprecedented bipartisan support for Artsakh’s security and continued economic and democratic development.”

House Foreign Affairs Committee Member David Cicilline (D-RI) with NKR Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan and NKR Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan

The program, held in the historic Russell Senate Office Building, was hosted by the Armenian Caucus, which is co-chaired by Congressman Ed Royce (R-CA), the incoming Chairman of the influential Foreign Affairs Committee, and Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ).  Representative Pallone served as the evening’s master of ceremonies.  Among the legislators offering powerful statements at the event in support for Nagorno Karabakh were Senator Jack Reed (D-RI), and Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), and Eliot Engel (D-NY), the incoming Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee.  Representatives Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) participated in the program, meeting with Minister Mirzayan and joining in the celebration of Artsakh’s independence.  Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA) shared powerful statements of support of Nagorno Karabakh.

A central theme throughout the evening was the broad-based condemnation of the Azerbaijani government’s praise, pardon, and promotion of convicted axe-murderer Ramil Safarov as an action that was manifestly unjust, incited anti-Armenian hatred, and moved the region closer to conflict and renewed Azerbaijani aggression.  Members of Congress cited Karabakh’s democratic and economic progress, even in the face of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s continuing belligerence, noting the overwhelmingly positive assessment of the July 2012 presidential elections.  Legislators also discussed the need for continued U.S. support for Karabakh’s self-determination, through, among other things, expanded humanitarian and developmental assistance to Artsakh.

Poignant remarks were offered by Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, author of “Nowhere: A Story of Exile,” who detailed the Azerbaijani pogroms against her and other Armenians in Baku – which led to the forced exodus of that centuries old population.  Turcotte cited the anti-Armenian massacres that began in 1988 and the ongoing intolerance faced by the few Armenians left in Azerbaijan as among the most powerful reasons to continue the fight for justice and self-determination for the people of Artsakh.

A highlight of the evening was the ceremony, conducted by the Ambassador of Armenia, bestowing the Republic of Armenia’s “Mkhitar Gosh” award upon Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA) and Congressman Brad Sherman (D-CA).  Both offered moving words of appreciation and reaffirmed their support for the democratic aspirations of the people of Armenia and Artsakh.  In addition to the “Mkhitar Gosh” Award, Nagorno Karabakh Republic Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan offered both Rep. Eshoo and Rep. Sherman a medal in honor of Artsakh’s independence.

After a strong and far-reaching pro-Artsakh statement by Armenia’s Ambassador Tatoul Markarian, and warm words of introduction by Nagorno Karabakh Representative Robert Avetisyan, the key note address of the program was offered by Minister Mirzoyan, who, in a moving speech, voiced his appreciation to the U.S. Congress for its ongoing support for the developing nation, and underscored both his government’s and his people’s commitment to democracy and freedom.

Also offering comments on the challenges facing Artsakh and the region was the highly-regarded former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, John Marshall Evans.


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