GLENDALE—A bi-partisan delegation of prominent city and state officials along with representatives from the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) participated in a 5 day in-depth visit to Armenia followed by a two day visit to Artsakh.
The groundbreaking trip, which took place from September 17-24, 2013 was hosted by the Governments of Armenia and NKR and facilitated by the Consul General of Los Angeles in cooperation with the CA State Assembly, LA City Council, and the ANCA-WR to provide policymakers with a first-hand understanding of the rich Armenian history and culture while giving them an opportunity to meet with influential political, social and nonprofit leaders in order to strengthen ties and discuss better means of collaboration.
“I was delighted to join my colleagues on this informative and productive bipartisan delegation visit to Armenia,” said CA State Assembly Speaker John A. Perez. “California is home to the largest population of Armenians outside of Armenia, and we were proud to build on the historic ties of history, commerce and culture that have produced a prosperous and close partnership on the world stage between California and Armenia,” added Speaker Perez.
Within hours of arriving in Yerevan, the delegation set off for back to back high level meetings – from President Serzh Sarkisian and cabinet members, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos, His Holiness Karekin II, the Speaker of the National Assembly Hovik Abrahamyan, President of Nagorno Karabakh Bako Sahakyan, A.R.F. representatives Armen Rustamyan, Hagop Der Khatchadourian, and Giro Manoyan; opposition leaders Vartan Oskanian and Raffi Hovanissian; members of the Armenia-US Friendship Group, Mayor of Yerevan Taron Margaryan, and United States Ambassador to Armenia John Heffern, amongst others.
Issues discussed during the meetings included the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the United States Government, the failed Armenia-Turkey Protocols, the Russian Customs Union, the US-Armenia Trade Office, self-determination for the people of Artsakh, the current state of Armenia, the continuous hostility shown by the Azeri government, as well as how the State of California and the Republic of Armenia can continue to build on the already strong foundation the two share.
During his opening remarks, President Sarkisian thanked the United States and California for its continued support, especially California for its Genocide resolutions, expressing hope that Congress would follow suit especially on the centennial.
“I would like to thank the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region for helping organize our delegation and making this trip, the first of its kind, possible. The ANCA-WR played a pivotal role during meetings with our government counterparts, assisted in initiating and engaging in frank dialogue regarding issues such as fostering of economic growth, the peace process and economic development of Artsakh, and the Armenian Genocide,” stated CA Assemblymember Adrin Nazarian. “I would also like to thank Speaker John Pérez for his leadership and tenacity, during and after, the delegation’s trip. His solidarity with the people of Armenia and Artsakh is essential to the bridge building process. I have great confidence that this trip will pave the way for future delegations to Armenia and Artsakh. I would like to especially thank the governments of Armenia and Artsakh for graciously hosting our delegation and look forward to continuing to build the important relationship between our communities and respective governments,” added Nazarian.
“In traveling to Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh, I realized that my people and the Armenian People have a shared history of discrimination and injustice, just as African-Americans were victimized by slavery and Jim Crow laws. As a lifelong civil rights activist, I strive for justice and equality for all people, and I look forward to working with the Armenian National Committee of America as they work on the issues that affect their respective countries. Additionally, I look forward to establishing joint projects between California and Armenia, especially with the American University of Armenia and the TUMO Center, as we work together to promote education and youth programs. I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to make this journey, and I am very optimistic for future joint ventures between California and Armenia and Karabakh,” stated Assemblymember Cheryl Brown.
The most moving portion of the trip was the delegation’s visit to the Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum where Los Angeles Councilmember Paul Krekorian found a photo of his great-uncle who had returned to Kharpert from the US only to be slaughtered. At the end of the museum tour, delegation members each took the time to write their personal thoughts in the Museum’s visitor’s book; forever becoming part of the long list of individuals who had paid respect to those who perished during the 1915 Genocide.
“As a proud Armenian-American, and descendent of victims and survivors of the Armenian Genocide, I was extremely proud to have the opportunity to help organize and join a delegation of California elected officials to the Republic of Armenia. The purpose of the trip was to strengthen ties between the Republic of Armenia and California, which is home to the largest community of ethnic Armenians in the United States. With the 100th Anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approaching, I am hopeful that the trip will also shed light on the need for international recognition of the Genocide, which took the lives of over 1.5 million Armenians,” stated Assemblymember Katcho Achadjian.
“My visit vividly brought to life the stories I heard from my wife’s family membe rs about the homeland and the Genocide. I returned with an added resolve to continue to advocate for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, and to push federal officials to do more to support a young democratic country in a dangerous part of the world,” noted Assemblymember Scott Wilk.
The visit also provided officials an opportunity to see Armenia’s hidden treasures such as Etchmiadzin, Garni, Geghard, Cascade, Oshagan Brandy and Wine Factory, Lake Sevan, and the Region of Tsaghkadzor as well as more recent establishments like Civilnet, the Cafesjian Art Museum, the TUMO Center, and the American University of Armenia, the only University of California-affiliated campus outside the U.S.
“Helping to lead this delegation of state, city and community leaders offered everyone a much deeper appreciation for the Armenian heritage while also strengthening ties between Yerevan, Los Angeles and California. Throughout more than a week of touring the country and Artsakh, our entire delegation explored the history of Armenia, including some of its darkest chapters, while gaining a new level of admiration for the Armenian ingenuity, spirit and creativity embedded in its present and future. I look forward to continuing the much valued relationship Yerevan has with Los Angeles and deepening the economic cooperation our state has with Armenia. I know that all who took part in this historic trip will bring back to their community a renewed sense of excitement and awareness of Armenia and Artsakh to forge a bond that will only grow with time,” stated Los Angeles City Councilmember Paul Krekorian.
“The trip was fascinating and inspiring. I gained a new appreciation of the centuries of trial and tribulation of the Armenian people, and for their current day challenges. I en joyed forging new relationships with Armenian officials and strengthening my bond with the ANCA,” added Los Angeles City Councilmember Bob Blumenfield.
Given the timing of the trip, the Delegation also participated in Armenia’s Independence Day celebrations, which included attending the Presidential Reception followed by an open air concert in Republic Square that highlighted Armenia’s struggles and successes throughout history.
“On behalf of the ANCA-WR, which represents over one million Armenian-Americans in California alone, I want to extend our heartfelt gratitude and appreciation to the entire delegation for joining this groundbreaking trip as well as for standing strong on the right side of the issues, even with pressure and threats coming from bullies like Azerbajan,” stated Elen Asatryan Executive Director of ANCA Western Region. “I also want to extend the same warmth and indebtedness to the Governments of Armenia and Artsakh for helping plan and graciously hosting our officials and look forward to working with them to plan similar trips for other delegations in the near future,” added Asatryan.
The delegation included CA State Assembly Speaker John Perez, Assemblymembers Katcho Achadjian, Cheryl Brown, Adrin Nazarian, Scott Wilk, Los Angeles City Councilmembers Bob Blumenfield and Paul Krekorian, Assemblymember Nazarian’s Chief of Staff Dan Savage, Councilmember Krekorian’s Chief of Staff Areen Ibranossian, Communications Director Jeremy Oberstein and Director of Planning and Land Usage Karo Torossian, ANCA-WR Chair Nora Hovsepian, and ANCA-WR Executive Director Elen Asatryan.
The Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots advocacy organization in the Western United States. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the Western United States and affiliated organizations around the country, the ANCA-WR advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.