New York Senatorial Hopeful Rick Lazio Stakes Out Strong Positions On Armenian American Issues

WASHINGTON–New York Senate candidate Rick Lazio (R-NY) Wednesday staked out strong pro-Armenian positions on issues ranging from US assistance policy to the commemoration of the Armenian Genocide–in his response to the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Candidate Questionnaire.

The New York Congressman’s statement–which he provided today to the Armenian National Committee of New York–reinforces his pro-Armenian record in the House of Representatives. Rep. Lazio is currently a cosponsor of H.Res.398–the Armenian Genocide Resolution–and has called upon House International Relations Committee Chairman Ben Gilman to move this legislation out of his committee to the floor of the House of Representatives.

In September of 1998–the New York Congressman voted for the Radanovich-Pallone Amendment to save the Section 907 restriction on US aid to the government of Azerbaijan. In June of 1996–he voted for the Radanovich-Bonior Amendment to reduce US aid levels to Turkey until the Turkish government abandons its campaign to deny the Armenian Genocide. That same month–he voted for the Visclosky Amendment to strengthen the aid sanctions on Turkey over its blockade of US humanitarian aid to Armenia.

Lazio’s Democratic opponent–First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton–has received an ANCA Questionnaire–but has yet to make statemen’s on issues of special concern to Armenian American voters.

"We welcome Congressman Lazio’s strong statement of support for the issues that mean so much to New York’s vibrant and growing Armenian community," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. "The Congressman’s statement today – like his track record over the years – reflects his friendship with Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–and his standing as an ally of the New York Armenian community."

Congressman Lazio prefaced his response to the ANCA Questionnaire by quoting from an endorsement letter he had received from an Armenian American Republican group:

"We need more Senators like Rick Lazio–who–in the tradition of former Senator Bob Dole–will place principle over pipelines–and the truth over political expediency."

–Ara Bedrosian–Executive Board Member National Organization of Republican Armenia’s.

The complete text of the Congressman’s response to the ANCA Candidate Questionnaire is provided below:

US Support for Armenia

Do you support targeting US assistance to Armenia to promote trade–long-term economic self- sufficiency–and democratic pluralism?

Absolutely. Armenia is a country moving along the path to democracy. I am proud to support Armenia because of its important role in the region and its strong ties of immigration and friendship with the United States. I have carried this support with me into Congress. Along with my Republican colleagues–I have strongly favored continued foreign aid for Armenia and I have voted for foreign aid to Armenia in HR 2606–FY 2000 Foreign Appropriations–and in HR 4811–FY 2001 Foreign Appropriations 2001. I have fought to reverse the drastic cuts in foreign aid to Armenia proposed by the Clinton Administration. The White House wants to slash funding for Armenia by 27%–but I will stand firm.

Through foreign aid and consistent support for the developing countries of the former Soviet Union we will forge a new–peaceful and democratic world order. I understand that Armenia is recovering from economic realignment that occurred as a result of the collapse of the Soviet Union. Armenia’s GDP fell by 60 percent between 1991 and 1993. Armenia needs American assistance now–more than ever–to ensure growth and stability.

We will work to strengthen the Armenian economy through greater trade and government to government assistance.

US Support For Nagorno Karabakh

Do you support continuing US assistance to Nagorno Karabakh as a confidence-building measure designed to advance a negotiated settlement of this conflict?

I unequivocally support continuing US assistance to Nagorno-Karabakh. My record is outstanding on Armenia. I have always voted–and will always vote–for legislation to benefit the long-suffering people of Nagorno-Karabakh. Since 1995–I have voted for all provisions of Foreign Operations Appropriations Bills that assist Armenia. The Foreign Appropriations Bill for FY 2000 (HR 2606)–which I proudly support–includes special stipulations to help build peace and confidence in the region.

Furthermore–I support HCR 382–introduced by Rep. Smith (R-NJ)–which calls for the Azeri regime to hold free and fair Parliamentary elections in the year 2000.

Conditions on US Aid to Azerbaijan

Do you support the Freedom Support Act provision on US aid to Azerbaijan and will you oppose any efforts to weaken–waive or eliminate this law until Azerbaijan has lifted its blockades and ended its aggression against Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia?

We must never tolerate aggression. In the Senate–I will make sure that the United States insists on a peaceful and just solution to the struggle in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In 1998–I voted for the Radanovich-Pallone Amendment to preserve Section 907 of Freedom Support Act–limiting US aid to Azerbaijan–until Azerbaijan demonstrably takes steps to eliminate its blockade on Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. Section 907 is exactly the kind of legislation I believe in.

We must never reward an aggressor. My record on these matters is consistent. I strongly disagree with Secretary of State Madeline Albright who–acting for the Clinton Administration–pushed to repeal Section 907. We should not sacrifice our nation’s principles.

I will not spend American money on Azerbaijan until the people of Nagorno-Karabakh have the power to choose their own destiny.

Self-Determination For Nagorno Karabakh

Do you support Nagorno Karabakh’s right to self-determination within secure borders?

Yes. Nagorno-Karabakh’s separation from Armenia in 1923 is a grim illustration of the Stalinist era. As long as a decision for independence is peacefully and democratically arrived at–I will strongly support it.

Self-Determination through free elections is a fundamental human right that I believe in. In the United States Senate I will work to make sure that we remain committed to democracy in all parts of the world.

The Armenian Genocide

Do you support–and will you participate in–Congressional initiatives and resolutions to recognize and commemorate the Armenian Genocide?

I am vividly aware of the horror of the Armenian Genocide that took place during and after World War I. By the time World War I had ended–more than 800,000 Armenia’s had been killed. The massacres continued into the 1920’s.

Fortunately–some Armenia’s escaped–and a number settled in New York.

This laid the foundation for strong cultural ties between the United States and Armenia–ties that must be reinforced. In June of 1996–I voted for the Radanovich-Bonior Amendment to cut foreign aid to Turkey by $3 million a year until the Turkish Government confesses its responsibility for the Armenian genocide. Furthermore–I am a proud cosponsor of HR 398–the Armenian Genocide Resolution–and encouraged Chairman Gilman to speed up consideration of the bill.

I believe it is important for a nation to recognize the oppression of others in the past. I have introduced legislation recognizing the mistreatment of Italian Americans in this country during World War II. The US House of Representatives had the courage to admit that past actions were wrong and passed this legislation. I hope a Turkish Member of Parliament can step forward and do the same for his nation.

My opponent–Mrs. Clinton–may believe that "Turkey has a long history of religious tolerance" (Liberal Opinion–4/15/96). I–on the other hand–insist that the Turkish Government face up to its own history. The acknowledgment of past crimes is a small step that can go a great way toward healing old wounds. We should not countenance Turkey’s failure to admit the truth about the genocide.

Turkish Blockade of Armenia

The Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act–which became law in 1996–prohibits US foreign aid to nations–such as Turkey–which obstruct US humanitarian aid deliveries to a third nation. Do you support enforcement of this law as a means of encouraging Turkey to lift its blockade of Armenia?

I was pleased to vote for the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act–which limits US foreign aid to Turkey. I believe we need to enforce laws passed by Congress. Unfortunately–enforcement in general seems to have fallen out of favor with the Clinton- Gore Administration. Turkey’s blockade against Armenia has had a disastrous economic impact. Blockages of humanitarian assistance are completely unconscionable and should be condemned.

Attempts by Armenia to negotiate with Turkey to end this blockade have stalled time and again: a peaceful settlement of differences is critical for this landlocked nation. This illustrates the need for better use of America’s diplomatic muscle. During her week-long trip to Turkey last year–Mrs. Clinton never once bothered to mention that Turkey’s blockades prevent US humanitarian relief supplies from reaching Armenia.

US Arms Sales to Turkey

Do you support creating links between US arms sales and transfers to Turkey to that nation’s ongoing blockade of Armenia–continued occupation of Cyprus–mistreatment of the Kurds–unfair restrictions on Christian communities–and worsening human rights record?

I would consider establishing links between US arms sales to a country–and that country’s humanitarian record. The continued occupation of Cyprus creates instability in NATO’s southern flank. Persecution of any minority group–including the Kurds and Christian communities must not be tolerated.

The ANCA questionnaires were sent to over 1,000 Congressional candidates throughout the country–including Congressman Lazio’s opponent–First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton. The ANCA’s election year voter education campaign helps inform Armenian Americans about the policy issues impacting Armenia–Nagorno Karabakh–and the Armenian American community. The campaign also provides timely and reliable information on the records and views of the candidates seeking Armenian American votes–while encouraging increased civic participation in local–state–and national elections.

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