Karabakh Foreign Minister Wraps Up Washington Trip

WASHINGTON–DC–Nagorno Karabakh Foreign Minister Naira Melkoumian returned to Yerevan this week–following a successful whirlwind visit to Washington–DC–June 10-14. The foreign minister met with U.S. Government officials–Members of Congress–think tanks representatives and members of the Armenian-American community.

"My visit to Washington was very productive," Melkoumian said. "The briefings gave an opportunity to provide updates on important developmen’s in Nagorno Karabakh and to inform U.S. policymakers–think tank leaders and members of the Armenian Diaspora of how they can help."

"Nagorno Karabakh is a functioning democracy and we look at the U.S. and the international community for broader support in our quest to ensure and promote greater regional stability–free trade and equal opportunities for all the peoples in the South Caucasus region," said Minister Melkoumian.

On the final day of her working visit–the foreign minister briefed Harold Saunders–Director of International Affairs at Kettering Foundation on the current situation in Nagorno Karabakh. She expressed concern at the limited democratic progress in Azerbaijan. Saunders pledged to continue The Kettering Foundation’s dialogue between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karabakh.

Melkoumian also conducted an interview with Nora Boustany of The Washington Post. She discussed how U.S. funds are being utilized in the region–particularly housing–health–water and sanitation projects–as well as micro-credit projects for war widows.

During her June 13 morning briefing at the Radio Free Europe Radio Liberty and the afternoon presentation at American University’s Washington College of Law–Melkoumian reviewed the current status of the peace talks and proposed a concrete set of confidence building measures with Azerbaijan. She called on Azerbaijan to accept the proposal and start building horizontal ties with Nagorno Karabakh "for the sake of our common future."

Melkoumian also attended a June 13 reception–honoring U.S. Representative Frank Pallone–Jr. (D-NJ) as he received the Order of Mkhitar Gosh from Armenia’s Ambassador Arman Kirakossian. During the reception–held at the home of Armenian Assembly of America’s Board of Directors Vice Chair Annie Totah–Melkoumian underscored the role of the Armenian-American community in educating their elected officials on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

Representative Pallone told reception guests that the U.S. Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues strongly supported Nagorno Karabakh–noting "we will continue to support confidence-building measures in order to bring a resolution to the conflict."

Melkoumian met with Pallone and his congressional colleague–Representative Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) on June 12 to thank them for their leadership on the Armenian Caucus and emphasize the ongoing need for humanitarian assistance to Nagorno Karabakh.

Minister Melkoumian also met with members of the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations and Appropriations Committees and House Appropriations Committee and thanked the United States for the ongoing U.S. direct humanitarian assistance to Nagorno Karabakh. She underscored the need to continue such assistance to meet pressing humanitarian needs–a direct result of the Azerbaijani-imposed war.

The minister also pointed to the growing development needs in Nagorno Karabakh–particularly democracy-enhancing projects and measures to promote a market-oriented economy and civil society by supporting the non-governmental sector.

Minister Melkoumian also met with U.S. State Department representatives to discuss the status of the Nagorno Karabakh peace talks and the possibility of implementation of confidence-building measures in the region.

To welcome her to Washington–the Armenian Embassy together with the Office of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the United States held a June 11 reception for Foreign Minister Melkoumian. Addressing the guests–she outlined the purpose of her visit and thanked the Armenia Diaspora for their role in the economic development of Nagorno Karabakh.

Melkoumian met with representatives of the Armenian Assembly of America–the Armenian National Committee of America and other Armenian-American organizations June 10 to discuss issues such as humanitarian assistance and economic development.

"I thank the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee of America–in particular–for their participation and assistance in making my visit effective," she said. "It is my hope that both organizations will continue their activities to ensure a brighter future for both Armenia and Artsakh."

The Karabakh foreign minister’s visit was organized and managed by the Nagorno Karabakh Office with support of the Armenian Community.

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