ANC Reception for SF Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin

ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian and Executive Director Aram Hamparian in SF

SAN FRANCISCO–The Bay Area Armenian National Committee held a reception in honor of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors’ President Aaron Peskin–at ANC’s San Francisco offices on February 4. ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian and Executive Director Aram Hamparian were also present for the occasion.

The Bay Area ANC endorsed Supervisor Peskin in both his elections to the Board of Supervisors in 2000 and 2004. Peskin–who has sponsored the Armenian genocide commemorative resolution in San Francisco for the past 5 years–has attended all of the commemorative events during his tenure–as well as assisted the ANC in various city and county initiatives and sponsored a resolution calling on Bay Area Congressman Tom Lantos to support Congressional recognition of the Armenian genocide.

"I’ve always believed that the most important thing to understand in politics and human development is the ‘how come’ and ‘why,’" said Peskin–explaining his early awareness of Armenia’s because of his father. Peskin’s father is a psychiatrist and professor who studied the impacts of the Holocaust on the children of Holocaust survivors.

Referring to the Armenian genocide–Peskin said–"It’s an experience shared by our communities." On a trip to Israel with his parents–Peskin visited Jerusalem’s Armenian Quarter as a boy. "We met the Armenian Patriarch–and it was something I never forgot."

Having been elected by his peers last month to head the Board of Supervisors–Peskin said he was optimistic about what the Board could accomplish. "We have reached our stride," said Peskin–when speaking about the working relationship of the Supervisors.

ANCA Chairman and Executive Director Report on Armenian-American Issues

Armenian National Committee of America Chairman Ken Hachikian and Executive Director Aram Hamparian reported on the current political environment in the nation’s capitol on Armenian-American issues.

"This is going to be a very tough year for Nagorno-Karabagh," said Hamparian. "The powers in the region are looking for a settlement–and pressure has come down on Armenia and Karabagh." Hamparian cited the recent statement by Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones–calling Karabagh’s leaders "criminal secessionists." He also noted the recent moves by Azerbaijan to get anti-Armenian resolutions passed in the Council of Europe and United Nations.

Hamparian said the ANCA is working to have an Armenian genocide Resolution initiated in Congress within the next 8-10 weeks–as well as planning a large Congressional reception in Washington–DC on April 20–commemorating the Armenian genocide. He referred to the foreign aid negotiations and US-Armenia tax treaties as areas of success–saying similar successes are being sought in the area of Social Security benefits for US citizens living in Armenia.

"The biggest issue we’re addressing now is military aid parity," Hamparian said. After three years during which the US administration provided an equal amount of military aid to Azerbaijan and Armenia–last year the administration broke its earlier promise of parity and put forth a budget allocating four times more aid to Azerbaijan. "This sends a signal that the US is on the side of Azerbaijan," said Hamparian. He also raised concerns that Azerbaijan may arm itself more once it begins to receive oil revenues from the Baku-Ceyhan pipeline due open in 2006.

Chairman Ken Hachikian described the political perspective of the current administration. "We have a Republican-controlled Congress; an administration with a very conservative view of the Middle East and of the political weight of Israel; and a perception of the importance of Turkey." He said the view of the importance of Turkey to the US "transcends Republicans and Democrats." Hachikian said that although Armenian-Americans have friends among the Democrats–the Democratic leadership is in disarray. "We have friends among Republic congressmen as well–but their leadership is not allowing them to confront the administration on our issues. We have to look for ways to develop key relationships with key Republicans."

Notwithstanding the government’s alliance with Turkey–Hachikian said Turkey’s recent actions have been an asset for our cause including it’s refusal to allow US troops to attack Iraq from Turkey; calling US actions in Iraq "genocidal;" and taking actions which aggravate its other important ally–Israel.

In order to be effective in the current political arena–Hachikian said–"We must be intelligent–we must be selective and well organized. We have to recognize who has the levers of power today and work with them. We need to seek victories where the administration will let us succeed."

Hachikian said the real assets of the ANC are the local activists who cultivate and maintain relationships with their representatives. He said one of the consequences of those local efforts is that while Armenian-Americans represent one half of one percent of the US population–one third of the members of Congress (144 members) are part of the Armenian Issues Caucus in Congress. "That’s not because we have an office in Washington DC. That’s because of the local ANCs," said Hachikian. "Hopefully–the political capital that you build locally–we spend wisely in Washington."


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