WASHINGTON — The Armenian Assembly of America this week joined the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues in co-hosting the annual Nagorno Karabagh/Artsakh independence celebration on Capitol Hill, alongside the US Office of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic (NKR), the Embassy of Armenia in the US, and the Armenian National Committee of America. Tonight’s event was in celebration of “Freedom and Democracy of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic,” marking the 24thanniversary of independence.
Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Robert Dold (R-IL) opened the program. He was joined by fellow Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) who gave remarks, and introduced keynote speaker NKR Foreign Minister Karen Mirzoyan. Also in attendance at the celebratory event was House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), House Intelligence Committee Ranking Member Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), as well as Reps. Judy Chu (D-CA), Katherine Clark (D-MA), Jim Costa (D-CA) and Dina Titus (D-NV).
Armenia’s Ambassador to the US Tigran Sargsyan, NKR Representative to the US Robert Avetisyan, US OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Ambassador James Warlick, former US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, Westbrook (Maine) City Councilor Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, and many others attended the Capitol Hill celebration.
Diocesan Legate of the Armenian Church of America Archbishop Vicken Aykazian and St. Mary Armenian Church of Washington Rev. Hovsep Karapetian performed the invocation and benediction.
During his three-day trip to Washington, Mirzoyan met with US government officials, Members of Congress, and Armenian American community leaders. Prior to the Capitol Hill event, Mirzoyan visited the Assembly headquarters to meet with Executive Director Bryan Ardouny. Mirzoyan and Ardouny discussed ways to strengthen the US–Nagorno Karabagh bilateral relationship, critical US assistance to Karabagh, updates on the increased Azerbaijan attacks along the line of contact, as well as regional and global challenges. Mirzoyan thanked the Assembly for its steadfast commitment to the people of Artsakh and for the Assembly’s work in Karabagh and Armenia.
On the 24th anniversary of NKR on September 2, 2015, Co-Chairs of the Congressional Armenian Caucus Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Robert J. Dold (R-IL) wrote a letter congratulating NKR President Bako Sahakyan and the people of Artsakh on their independence. The co-chairs noted that “the formation of the [Artsakh] republic in 1991 opened a path towards freedom and democracy, and your people continue to demonstrate their dedication to these universal values.” In the letter, Pallone and Dold also expressed support to Artsakh’s “efforts toward international recognition, and look forward to the day when it assumes its deserved place in the community of nations.”
As Members of Congress were set to gather on Capitol Hill to mark the freedom movement of Karabagh Armenians, Azerbaijan’s military again launched attacks on Nagorno Karabagh, this time using heavy tank fire for the first time since the ceasefire was signed in 1994. US Ambassador Warlick personally witnessed Azerbaijan’s ceasefire violations on the frontline as the OSCE Minsk Group delegation came under fire when visiting the region in October.
The annual Capitol Hill celebration is an opportunity for the US and Nagorno Karabagh to reinforce their bilateral partnership. According to State Department coordinator for US assistance to the former Soviet Union Alina Romanowski the US will continue to finance humanitarian projects in Nagorno Karabagh as part of the annual economic assistance package appropriated by the US Congress.
At least $44.5 million in direct aid to Karabagh has been approved by Congress since 1998. The majority of the aid goes toward humanitarian efforts, demining operations, and the reconstruction of the NKR’s water distribution network. The Assembly has also worked towards demining initiatives in Karabagh in cooperation with HALO Trust and the Marshal Legacy Institute.