Congressman Pallone at Hairenik Building

Thanks ANCA for Kerry endorsement–assuring Armenian issues would be handled differently under Kerry administration

By Jason Sohigian

WATERTOWN–MA–On the evening of July 27–Rep. Frank Pallone Jr. (D-NJ) visited the Hairenik Building in Watertown for a briefing with various Armenian-American community leaders. Rep. Pallone–who was in Boston to attend the Democratic National Convention–is the co-chair of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues.

Before the visit–Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Eastern Region director Arin Gregorian accompanied Rep. Pallone and his wife Sarah on a tour of the Armenian Library and Museum of America (ALMA). During the tour–which lasted over one hour–Rep. Pallone commented that ALMA has made great strides since he last visited about five years ago.

The meeting at the Hairenik was attended by representatives of the ARF Eastern US Central Committee–the Hairenik and Armenian Weekly newspapers–and the regional and local Homenetmen and Armenian Relief Society–and the Armenian National Committee.

Rep. Pallone briefed the approximately 12 community leaders on the primary issues that he and the other co-chair–Joe Knollenberg (R-MI)–address in the Congressional Armenian Caucus–including recognition of the Armenian Genocide–US aid to Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh–the Karabagh negotiations–and the socio-economic situation in Armenia.

He noted that all US administrations have tried to lower the level of US aid to Armenia–including President Bill Clinton and most recently George W. Bush. "The State Department bureaucracy is not very friendly toward Armenia," he stated.

Rep. Pallone added–however–that Armenia will probably receive $65 million in economic assistance and Karabagh will receive $5 million. He called the US aid to Karabagh a "form of recognition," which he said was particularly important.

After expressing disappointment over the waiver following September 11 of Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act–a US law which restricted military aid to Azerbaijan until it lifted its blockade of Armenia and Karabagh–Rep. Pallone discussed the importance of maintaining "parity" in levels of military aid to Armenia and Azerbaijan.

"This promise was made by the Bush administration in meetings–I was there," he emphasized. The Bush administration has since proposed increasing military aid to Azerbaijan by four times–which is considered especially dangerous since the Karabagh conflict rests on a shaky cease-fire negotiated in 1994.

In a discussion of the Schiff Amendment passed in July–which would prevent Turkey from using US aid to lobby against the current resolution commemorating the 15th anniversary of the US implementation of the Genocide Convention–Rep. Pallone noted that the resolution was strongly opposed on the next day by the Republican leadership.

He explained that the Schiff Amendment forced the Republican leadership to "show their hand" concerning the Genocide resolution–since they revealed that they had no intention of bringing the resolution to a vote during this Congress. "The amendment also made a point because it was specific to Turkey," added Rep. Pallone.

The Congressman explained that the statement–which was posted on the Web site of House Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL)–was very supportive of the Republic of Turkey. "Speaker Hastert seems to have amnesia about the Iraq war–but there seems to be a lot of amnesia in Congress–especially when it comes to Turkey," declared Rep. Pallone.

After expressing his appreciation for the ANCA endorsement of Senator John Kerry (D-MA) in the upcoming elections–Rep. Pallone assured those in attendance that things would be different during a Kerry presidency. He explained that while the past three US presidents were not familiar with Armenian issues–Senator Kerry has represented a large Armenian-American community in Massachusetts–and he has had strong contacts with the community–so he is fully aware of their concerns.

At the conclusion of the meeting–Rep. Pallone answered questions–and his wife Sarah described her impressions of visiting Armenia and Karabagh. She cited the energy shortages of the early 1990s–and the maintenance of the Christian faith in Armenia–even after 70 years of Soviet rule.

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