Artsakh President visits U.S. Congress

In a first-ever visit to the U.S. Capitol by an Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) head of state, President Bako Sahakyan delivered a powerful pro-peace and prosperity message to the American people, thanking U.S. legislators for ongoing aid programs and encouraging continued U.S. leadership toward a durable, democratic resolution of outstanding Artsakh-Azerbaijan status and security issues, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

“Our people are building an independent, sovereign, democratic state and civil society,” said President Sahakyan. “We are committed to these ideas consciously. They have been inherited from generation to generation, constituting part and parcel of the Armenian civilization.”

Citing Artsakh’s democratic and economic progress over the past 25 years, President Sahakyan noted “Representatives of numerous countries, including the United States, who periodically visit Artsakh, carry out observation missions in various elections also point to our achievements registered on this path. Artsakh people have earned the right to become a full member of the international community and to be integrated into the civilized world.”

President Sahakyan concluded, noting “Washington has a tangible role in maintaining peace and stability in our region, peaceful and just settlement of the Azerbaijani-Karabakh conflict conducting its mediation mission as a co-chair of the OSCE Minsk group.  Cementing and deepening ties with the United States of America have always been and will remain among the fundamental directions of our foreign policy.”

“Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan’s visit to Washington, DC marks a major milestone in U.S.-Artsakh relations – representing both a clear rejection of Baku’s reckless bid to block bilateral dialogue and a bold reaffirmation of America and Artsakh’s shared commitment to open discourse as the only viable path to peace,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “As we’ve long said, Artsakh is a very American story, the victory of a free people over foreign rule. So it’s particularly meaningful that Artsakh’s head of state was – in the spirit of the bilateral U.S.-Artsakh Travel and Communication Resolution – so very warmly welcomed in our U.S. Capitol.”

The Artsakh briefing and reception on Capitol Hill featured Congressional participation by Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Jackie Speier (D-CA) and David Valadao (R-CA), Vice-Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Representatives David Cicilline (D-RI), Jim Costa (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Brad Sherman (D-CA). They each welcomed the President and his delegation, which included Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian, Parliamentarians David Ishkhanian and David Melkoumyan, and the President’s Deputy Chief of Staff David Babayan. They were accompanied by Artsakh’s Representative in the United States, Robert Avetisyan.  Also in attendance was Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannisian and his Embassy team.

Opening up the Congressional briefing, Rep. Pallone cited the importance of lifting artificial barriers to dialogue and travel to Artsakh.  “When we were there (in Armenia) in September,” explained Rep. Pallone, “we were strongly urged by the Administration, by the State Department not to go to Artsakh, which I think is very wrong that they continue to do that.  That is one of the reasons that we introduced this bill (H.Res.697) – to make it clear that travel and communications with Artsakh – even though it is not recognized by the United States – is very important.”  Support for H.Res. 697, introduced in January, 2018, is growing with 12 cosponsors to date.  Congressman Pallone went on to stress the importance continued visits to Artsakh as well as the continuation of U.S. assistance to Artsakh and the implementation of the Royce-Engel proposals for peace in the region.

Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), one of two Members of Congress of Armenian descent, announced that she would be leading a Congressional delegation to Armenia and Artsakh this year “to help everyone understand and appreciate what a grand and prosperous country it is and how important it is for Artsakh to be recognized as part of Armenia.”

Following the briefing, Rep. Schiff told the ANCA of the importance of implementing the Royce-Engel proposals.  “That [the proposals], of course, are supported by Artsakh and Armenia but opposed by Azerbaijan, which has consistently been a belligerent and aggressor, but in the absence of that kind of deterrent, there is a grave risk that Azerbaijan may provoke a conflagration in the region,” said Rep. Schiff.  “As Aliyev struggles with conflicts and unpopularity at home and spends billions on his military, there is a great temptation to use that, and we have to insist upon the peace as well as hold those who violate it accountable.”

Congresswoman Anna Eshoo (D-CA), also of Armenian and Assyrian descent and from Rep. Speier’s neighboring district, spoke fondly of her trip to Armenia last September, and of her “Armenian family” present on Capitol Hill and across the United States, all dedicated to advancing pro-Armenia and Artsakh priorities.

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