Upcoming Senate, House Hearings to Focus an Armenia, Caucasus Region

WASHINGTON–The focus of two key Congressional committees will turn to the Caucasus region next week as Senate Foreign Relations Committee and House Foreign Affairs Committee members will, in an exercise of their oversight responsibilities, have the opportunity to question State Department officials on US policy regarding Armenia and the surrounding area, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"In the days leading up to these important hearings, I want to encourage every Armenian American to pick up the phone and to share their thoughts with their legislators who serve on these two panels’s-the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and the House Foreign Affairs Committee," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.

"Simply call the Capitol Switch at (202) 225-3121 and asked to be connected to your Senator or Representative, leave your message, and then drop us a note at anca@anca.org with any feedback that you think might be helpful."

The ANCA has also provided sample phone scripts and contact information for Senators and Representatives at www.anca.org.

Assistant Secretary of State for Europe Dan Fried will testify before the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Wednesday June 18th at 10:00am EDT regarding US policy toward the Caucasus region. Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA) and his fellow Committee members will be focusing on a wide range of issues including the ongoing blockade of Armenia, US policy on the Armenian Genocide, and foreign aid. Turkish Ambassador to the US Nabi Sensoy recently denied the existence of a Turkish blockade, arguing that there are many Armenia’s who serve as "nannies" to Turkish children. The World Bank estimates that Turkey and Azerbaijan’s blockades of Armenia reduce Armenia’s GDP by up to 38% annually.

Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), along with Rep. George Radanovich (R-CA) and Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) recently introduced the "End the Turkish Blockade of Armenia" Bill (H.R. 6079), which calls upon Turkey to end its blockade of Armenia and asks the US Department of State to report on its efforts towards this end.

On Thursday, June 19th, at 2:15pm, the Senate Foreign Relations Committee is slated to hold a confirmation hearing for US Ambassador to Armenia nominee Marie Yovanovitch. On March 28, 2008, Pres. Bush nominated Amb. Marie L. Yovanovitch to serve as America’s next Ambassador to Armenia.

The ANCA has spoken to Committee members about the value of carefully uestioning Amb. Yovanovitch on the many issues she will face as the US envoy in Yerevan, among them the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, Turkey and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockades of Armenia, and the need for a balanced US role in helping forge a democratic and peaceful resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. These efforts have been supported by extensive on-line outreach and a national postcard campaign to key Senate Foreign Relations Committee members.

President Bush’s previous nominee as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Richard Hoagland, was subject to two legislative holds by Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) and was ultimately withdrawn by the Administration, following the nominee’s statemen’s denying the Armenian Genocide.

The last US Ambassador to Armenia, John Marshall Evans, was fired by President Bush for speaking honestly about the Armenian Genocide. The ANCA led the Armenian American community campaign opposing Hoagland’s nomination, stating that a genocide denier could not serve as a credible and effective U.S. spokesperson in Armenia.

Individuals will be able to follow both hearings live. Check the ANCA Website the day of the hearings for the Webcast links.

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