Artsakh Foreign Minister David Babayan affirmed the resiliency and resolve of the Artsakh Republic’s indigenous Armenian population – defending their right to liberty and security – in powerful remarks offered to a capacity crowd of Congressional leaders and community members gathered at the U.S. Capitol, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We face existential threats. Any minute, the enemy can launch large-scale attacks – a genocide. Every minute,” stated Babayan, who characterized President Aliyev’s aggression as “an attack on civilization – on international norms and laws.” Babayan reaffirmed Artsakh’s commitment to self-determination and freedom. “Artsakh will never be part of Azerbaijan – I would like to restate that,” remarked Babayan, to thunderous applause. “We are going to continue our struggle because we are struggling not only for our future – we are struggling for our past; we are struggling for our present and future. We are struggling for humanity.”
ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian, who served as master of ceremonies for the evening welcomed attendees on a “momentous occasion – a pivotal moment of our history.” Juxtaposing U.S. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s historic trip to Armenia and Foreign Minister Babayan’s trip to Washington, DC, Hamparian stated, “These two visits bookend a very important moment, and they demonstrate that the Armenian American community has the back of Artsakh, has the back of Armenia – that the people of Armenia are not alone.”
Hamparian went on to stress that, “we would like to see [Babayan’s] visit and Speaker Pelosi’s visit translated into policy – not a penny of U.S. military aid to Azerbaijan; robust U.S. assistance to Artsakh; the return of our prisoners; and investigations of Azerbaijani war crimes.”
The evening featured remarks by Members of Congress condemning Azerbaijan’s most recent attack on Armenia and the 2020 Artsakh war, each echoing Hamparian’s calls for concrete action.
Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), who traveled to Artsakh in 2019, explained that prior to the 2020 war, Armenians were thriving in Artsakh. That trip and sentiment have gotten Rep. Chu banned from Azerbaijan – a fact she holds as a “badge of honor.” “It makes me want to speak out even more for the peaceful people of Artsakh and Armenia,” stated Rep. Chu, who described these latest attacks on Armenia as “yet another attack on the ideas of self-determination, democracy and freedom – and we must fight back. There must be no more American assistance to Azerbaijan, and further violence must result in sanctions.”
Central Valley Congressman Jim Costa (D-CA) who spoke eloquently about Speaker Pelosi’s trip to Armenia, noted that Azerbaijan has clearly no interest in complying with international norms and “we must hold them accountable.”
House Intelligence Committee Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) stated that “it is absolutely essential that the US speaks unequivocally about this naked war of aggression by Azerbaijan, by Aliyev, directed against the Armenian people. It is pre-meditated, it is just plain bloody murder – and it has to be stopped.” Chairman Schiff introduced legislation (H.Res.1351) which condemns the latest Azerbaijani attacks, and calls for zeroing out military aid to Azerbaijan. Chairman Schiff is also looking into Azerbaijan sanctions for war crimes committed against the Armenian people.
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), who accompanied Speaker Pelosi and Armenian American Representatives Jackie Speier (D-CA) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) to Armenia, explained that an overarching goal of the trip was to ensure “Armenia continues to be independent, and Artsakh is part of that.” Rep. Pallone went on, “we basically had three or four goals for the trip – one was to say this was aggression by Azerbaijan and that they have to pull back – they need to remove themselves from Armenian soil.” Rep. Pallone continued, “we have to be involved their [Armenia’s] security – we need to be sure they can defend themselves. The Armenian Caucus founding Co-Chair stated, “we were quite clear that the self-determination of Artsakh is a priority. The trip was very valuable and we made it clear to the Armenians, that we have their backs.”
Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline (D-RI) explained “From a very young age in politics, I learned about the struggle of the Armenian people and particularly Nagorno Karabakh (Artsakh). I will continue to be a strong advocate for Armenia, a strong advocate for this [Armenian] community.”
The Congressional program was opened with a prayer by Soorp Khatch Armenian Church pastor, Fr. Sarkis Aktavoukian, who noted, “in this momentous turning point in the continued survival of this tiny landlocked nation, we pray for justice and your protection and guidance and for your abundant grace so that the Republic of Armenia and Artsakh with continue to stand side by side with the other free, democratic and progressive nations of the world. We also pray for a just resolution for the people of Artsakh, as well as pray for the prisoners of war captured by Azerbaijan during the 44-day war of 2020 and have yet to be released.” The program closed with a benediction by St. Mary’s Armenian Church pastor, Fr. Hovsep Karapetian.
The Capitol Hill Salute to Artsakh’s Independence coincided with the third day of the ANCA Federal Policy Seminar. Earlier in the day, ANCA advocates from across the U.S. were on Capitol Hill sharing pro-Artsakh/Armenia legislative priorities, participating in over 200 Congressional meetings. The four-day fly-in to Washington, DC included a series of presentations, roundtable discussions and Capitol Hill visits for ANCA leaders, with a sharp focus on advancing ANCA strategic priorities: saving Artsakh, strengthening Armenia, holding Azerbaijan and Turkey accountable for their crimes.
The evening program, organized in cooperation with the Congressional Armenian Caucus by the ANCA and the Armenian Assembly of America, included remarks by Assembly board member Herman Purutyan and the participation of Executive Director Bryan Ardouny.