WASHINGTON—Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) national and regional leaders explored opportunities for broader U.S.-Armenia cooperation, expanded foreign assistance, checks on Azerbaijani aggression, and justice for the Armenian Genocide during a week of policy-level consultations with the White House, State Department, and Members of Congress.
ANCA National Chairman Raffi Hamparian led the delegation, which included ANCA Eastern Region (ANC-ER) Chair Steve Mesrobian, ANCA Western Region (AMCA-WR) Chair Nora Hovsepian, Esq. and national board member Aida Dimejian. They were joined by ANCA staff, including Government Affairs Director Raffi Karakashian, Esq.
A special focus was placed on ANCA priorities in the Fiscal Year 2018 Foreign Aid bill, including increased aid to Artsakh for HALO Trust de-mining and healthcare services provided by the Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center. Also among the ANCA’s top aid priorities are maintaining U.S. economic aid to Armenia and expanding U.S. support for Armenia as a safe haven for Middle East refugees. The President’s proposed FY 2018 budget included extremely sharp proposed reductions to all aid programs, including those for Armenia. Parallel to the ANCA’s assistance advocacy, the delegation pressed for key provisions of Armenia’s aid-to-trade transition, including a Double Tax Treaty and direct commercial and cargo flights between Los Angeles and Yerevan.
Among topics of discussion were the May 16th beating of peaceful protesters in Washington D.C., by President Erdogan’s security forces and the need for a fundamental re-evaluation of U.S.-Turkey relations, including its policies regarding justice for the Armenian Genocide and the ongoing occupation of Cyprus.
“On behalf of the hundreds of thousands of Americans of Armenian heritage east of the Mississippi River, we welcomed this most recent opportunity to build on our grassroots base and our Washington advocacy to ensure that our community’s voice is heard and that our priorities are advanced in our nation’s capital,” said ANCA National Board Member and ANCA-ER Chair Steve Mesrobian. “Our Eastern U.S. community is truly blessed with both great diversity and rock-solid resolve on our shared national aspirations for our homeland and heritage.”
“I was pleased to join with Aida Dimejian from our national board in representing Armenian Americans from California and across the Western United States in once again personally conveying the depth and scope of our community’s concerns in support of Armenia, in defense of Artsakh, and in pursuit of our Western Armenian homeland,” noted ANCA WR Chair Nora Hovsepian. “Our community across America stands shoulder to shoulder with the brave soldiers who stand guard on the frontiers of Armenian freedom, working in the civic arena here in the United States for the same universal liberties, security, and freedom that these brave souls protect on the field of battle.”
At the State Department, the ANCA held policy meetings with officials responsible for a range of regional areas and issues, including senior Trump Administration appointee Pam Pryor. Within the Europe and Eurasia Bureau, meetings were held with Acting Assistant Secretary John Heffern, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Bridget Brink, Acting Deputy Assistant Secretary of State Mark Libby, Director of the State Department Office of Caucasus Affairs and Regional Conflicts Natasha Franceschi, and the U.S. Co-Chair of the OSCE Minsk Group, Ambassador Richard Hoagland. At the White House, ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian took part in a meeting with National Security Council officials, lead by Admiral Garry Hall, a Trump Administration appointee who serves as Senior Director for International Organizations and Alliances. A separate meeting was held with the U.S. Department of Commerce regarding the growth of U.S.-Armenia bilateral economic cooperation.
On Capitol Hill, the ANCA leadership spoke with several dozen Members of Congress and key staff, including Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker (R-Tenn.), senior Committee member Ed Markey (D-Mass.), Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Rep. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), House Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Ranking Democrat on the House Appropriations Committee Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.), U.S. Helsinki Commission Co-Chair Chris Smith (R-N.J.), Ranking Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific Brad Sherman (D-Calif.), Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus (D), Rhode Island’s Jim Langevin (D), Texas Republican Ted Poe, Central California’s Jeff Denham (R) as well as Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.). Rep. Valadao, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, has been an outspoken advocate for expanded U.S. assistance for Artsakh.
Extensive consultations were also held with key staff from the offices of Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Democrat Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Senators Kamala Harris (D-Calif.), Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), and Marco Rubio (R-FL), House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes (R-Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe Chairman Dana Rohrabacher (R-Calif.), and House Appropriations Committee members Katherine Clark (D-Mass.) and Jeff Fortenberry (R-Nebr.).
ANCA leaders held a meeting with the senior leadership and staff of In Defense of Christians, led by President Toufic Baaklini, to discuss expanding legislative and other efforts to address the ongoing violence against Christian and other minority communities in the Middle East as well as passage of the Armenian Genocide Prevention Resolution (H.Res.220). The ANCA joined with IDC in co-hosting their 2016 convention, which brought together hundreds of citizen advocates from across the U.S. in support of a broad range of issues, including the protection of Christian communities in the Middle East and U.S. reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide.
Discussions also held with San Jose State University President Dr. Mary Papazian regarding education policy and opportunities for future cooperation.
During consultations with Armenian Ambassador to the United States Grigor Hovhannisian and Artsakh Permanent Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan, ANCA leader discussed expanding U.S. ties with both republics.