WASHINGTON–Representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation met in Yerevan this week with Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ)–the Co-Chair of the Congressional Armenian Caucus.
The ARF was represented at the meeting–held on January 7 in Hotel Armenia–by Massis Baghdassaryan from the ARF Bureau–and Gagik Mkrchyan from the ARF Executive Council for Armenia. They opened the meeting by recognizing the Congressman’s leadership across a broad range of issues–including the restriction on US aid to Azerbaijan–US aid levels to Armenia–and Turkish acknowledgment of the Armenian Genocide. They thanked him for his hard work and expressed their appreciation for his special concern for democracy and human rights in Armenia.
Rep. Pallone then asked a number of questions concerning the status of the court proceedings launched by the government against the ARF; the conditions under which the ARF now operates–and; the prospects for political reconciliation. He expressed a personal interest in the status of the ARF and explained that the Congressional Armenian Caucus considered it unacceptable that as important a party as the ARF is denied the ability to operate freely.
With regard to the court proceedings–the ARF leaders pointed out that they had ended without any evidence being found by the court that the ARF had engaged in illegal activities. They added that–despite the ongoing efforts of a narrow element within government circles to portray these trials as a criminal matter–the Armenian public and the international community recognize that they were–in fact–politically motivated. As such–they pointed out that the damage done by these proceedings can only be corrected through constructive measures on the part of the nation’s governmental leadership.
On the question of ARF’s activities in Armenia–they explained that–because of the ban–they operate in an uncertain–often contradictory–environment. On the one hand–in the three year’s since the ban–the party has actively participated in nearly every aspect of the nation’s development. The ARF publishes a newspaper–meets with foreign ambassadors–international organizations–and political figures–and is taking part in discussions with senior Armenian government officials. On the other hand–due to the ban–the ARF is prevented from taking part in elections–a fundamental and essential aspect of any political party’s activities. They informed Rep. Pallone that they hoped the government would take steps to remove the artificial barriers to their full participation in Armenia’s political life. Rep. Pallone said that he is impressed with the ARF’s work in the Diaspora–particularly in the US. He also praised the unified efforts of Armenian-American groups to help Armenia and Karabakh.