WASHINGTON–Members of the U.S. Senate and House joined with Armenian Americans last week in marking the 15th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Armenia, reported the Armenian National Committee of America. "We join with Armenian Americans throughout the United States in thanking our Congressional friends for marking this proud milestone in our nation’s history – the reestablishment in 1991 of the Armenia’s independence," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. In his remarks at the recently concluded Armenia-Diaspora Conference in Yerevan, ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian stressed that, "our greatest challenges lie ahead; for the independence of the Republic represents both the realization of our shared hopes and the foundation upon which we will build a strong and healthy, free, independent and united homeland.’" On the House side of the Capitol, Congressional Armenian Caucus Co- Chairmen Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI) urged their colleagues to participate in a series of "Special Order" speeches marking this milestone. In his remarks, Rep. Pallone noted that, "Since its independence, Armenia has emerged as a viable, vibrant society playing an important role in stabilizing the South Caucasus region. Armenia continues to be a trusted partner of the United States in a strategically important area of the world, a regional leader in political and economic reform, and a nation committed to the principles of democracy and the rule of law." Rep. Knollenberg concurred, stating that, "Armenia’s road to independence was not easy. Enduring centuries of foreign domination, the genocide against its people in the early 20th century, and suffering through seven decades of totalitarian dictatorship did not discourage the Armenian people. In the face of oppression, the Armenian people never wavered in their pursuit of freedom and a democratic nation of their own." Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), who visited Armenia’shortly before its declaration of independence, noted that, "I was honored to witness the resiliency, courage, and spirit of the Armenian people when I visited Armenia as a Member of Congress in 1991, in the aftermath of the devastating earthquake. During that trip, my commitment to recognizing the Armenian genocide was further strengthened." Congressional Armenian Genocide resolution co-authors George Radanovich (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA) each stressed the importance of the strong and growing bond between the U.S. and Armenia. "The mass killing of 1.5 million Armenia’s by the Ottoman Empire was the first genocide of the 20th century. I am proud that the United States stood by as an ally to Armenia at that time and has continued to do so throughout the last century," explained Rep. Radanovich. Rep. Schiff noted that, "Building upon the foundations of the first Armenian Republic of 1918, today’s Armenia has, in the years since it declared its independence from the disintegrating Soviet Union in 1991, strengthened democracy and the rule of law, promoted free-market reforms, and sought a just and lasting peace in a troubled region." Citing the challenges Armenia has faced, Massachusetts Democrat Ed Markey stated that, "Despite these difficulties, Armenia’s economy has continued to grow at an impressive pace. The United States must continue to provide economic and military assistance and do everything in its power to end these blockades so that Armenia’s economy can continue to grow and its young democracy can thrive." Rep. John Conyers (D-MI) cited examples of Armenia’s economic development, noting that, "it cannot be overlooked that in this year’s Index of Economic Freedom, Armenia ranked seventh best, tied with Japan and ahead of countries like Norway, Spain, Portugal and Italy. The rank puts Armenia in the category of Mostly Free countries, making it the most economically free state in the Commonwealth of Independent States."While there remains much work to be done, I am confident that the people of Armenia, with their long history of triumph over adversity, will succeed again in making their country a beacon of hope in its troubled part of the world," stated California Republican Howard "Buck" McKeon. New Jersey Republican Scott Garrett concluded his remarks, noting, "I congratulate Armenia on 15 years of freedom and progress and trust that our nations will grow even closer in the future as we seek to promote liberty around the world."