Rep. Pallone Meets with Cypriot Armenia’s in Nicosia

ANC-CYPRUS JOINS COMMUNITY ORGANIZATIONS IN WELCOMING ARMENIAN CAUCUS CO-CHAIRMAN

NICOSIA–Cyprus–Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) discussed a wide range of issues of concern to the Cypriot-Armenian community–including Armenian Genocide recognition efforts and the desecration of Armenian churches in Turkish occupied Cyprus–during a community briefing organized in his honor in Nicosia earlier this week–reported the Armenian National Committee of Cyprus (ANC-Cyprus). A capacity crowd of 150 community members attended the August 27th event–hosted by the Armenian representative to the Cypriot Parliament Bedros Kalaydjian–ANC of Cyprus–and the full range of Cypriot Armenian organizations.

"We were honored to help host Congressman Pallone–a great friend and tireless advocate for Armenia and Cyprus," said ANC-Cyprus spokesperson Dr. Antranik Ashdjian. "We look forward to his return and to visits by our many other good friends in the US Congress."

Rep. Pallone opened his remarks by thanking the Armenian National Committee and ABU for their efforts in helping coordinate his visit with the Cypriot Armenian community. Prior to his arrival–the Congressman noted that he had spoken with ABU president Berge Setrakian and Parliament Representative Kalaydjian and held a conference call with ANC Cyprus representative Dr. Antranik Ashdjian and ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian to arrange his schedule.

ST. MAGAR AND ST. ASDVADAZEEN COMPLEX DISCUSSED IN KEY MEETINGS WITH US EMBASSY–USAID REPRESENTATIVES

In his remarks–Rep. Pallone highlighted the status of two key Armenian sites–the St. Magar Monastery and the St. Asdvadzadzeen Church complex–both located in the Turkish occupied areas of Cyprus. The Congressman cited wide-spread reports that each have been neglected–vandalized–and left virtually in ruin for the past 30 years–since Turkey’s illegal invasion of the island in 1974. He reported that during meetings with US Embassy and USAID officials earlier in the day–USAID representative Elizabeth Cassinis described plans to help restore the St. Asdvadzdzeen complex–noting that the US agency has already commissioned detailed studies for the project. Regarding St. Magar–Rep. Pallone urged the Cypriot Armenian community to monitor its status and pledged his support in finding ways to provide for its restoration.

CONGRESSMAN UPDATES COMMUNITY ON KEY LEGISLATION; REGIONAL ISSUES

Rep. Pallone detailed the workings of the Congressional Armenian Caucus–a body of over 125 legislators working to promote closer US–Armenia relations. He went on to outline the ongoing Congressional Armenian Genocide reaffirmation efforts–discussing the House and Senate resolutions marking the 15th anniversary of the US implementation of the Genocide Convention. He noted that over 80 civic–religious–and human rights organizations have already pledged their support for the measure–making specific mention of the growing number of Jewish American groups in the coalition.

Focusing on the current situation in Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh–Rep. Pallone explained that he has visited the region six times to date–most recently as an observer of the Nagorno Karabagh presidential elections last summer. He remarked that he was impressed by the elections–which were held in a free–fair and transparent manner. Commenting on the recent presidential and parliamentary elections in Armenia–Rep. Pallone stated that despite some shortcomings–Armenia remains the most democratic state of the former Soviet Republics.

The Congressman then discussed the economic challenges facing Armenia–citing the devastating effects of the ongoing Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades on the country’s economy. The Congressman noted his Congressional efforts to lift the blockades–which would effectively increase the Armenian Gross Domestic Product by forty percent.

Discussing the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline–Rep. Pallone noted the fact that it circumvents Armenia–which would have been the natural course for the pipeline. He cited a recently released Amnesty International publication which outlines the pipeline’s harmful effects of the environment and stated–that upon his return–the Armenian Caucus will bring this report to the attention of the oil lobby.

Following his speech–attendees asked a series of questions–including one on the impact of the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC) on Armenian Genocide recognition efforts. Rep. Pallone said TARC had created problems within the Armenian American community and did not consider the effort helpful in recognition efforts. Specifically–he noted that President Bush–in his April 24th statement–welcomed reconciliation efforts between Armenia and Turkey–while failing to properly characterize the Ottoman Turkish atrocities against the Armenian people as "genocide."

Following his presentation–Kalaydjian thanked Congressman Pallone for his commitment to justice and his efforts to advance Armenian American concerns. He then presented him with a gift on behalf of the Armenian community of Cyprus. Cyprus ANC and ARF representatives held a short meeting with the Congressman at the end of the evening.

Representative Pallone visited Cyprus at the invitation of the International Coordinating Committee–Justice for Cyprus president Phillip Christopher.

The Congressman was a speaker at a worldwide conference–hosted by Justice for Cyprus–this week. Christopher–who joined Rep. Pallone at the Armenian community gathering–spoke of the strong ties between the Armenian and Greek lobbies–noting that they work closely in Washington–DC.

On August 28–Rep. Pallone visited the Melkonian Educational Institute and the Armenian Prelacy in Cyprus. While at the Prelacy–the Congressman met with religious and lay leaders of the church and later placed a wreath at the Armenian Genocide Memorial on the Prelacy grounds.

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