WASHINGTON—The bipartisan Congressional Armenian Caucus held a reception on March 7 in the U.S. Capitol celebrating the Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary delegation’s visit to Washington, D.C., and highlighting the growing diplomatic and economic ties between the two countries, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).
“We are pleased to help host tonight’s program and gratified to see, at this event and throughout their visit, constructive and productive discourse around key bilateral deliverables, including a working U.S.-Armenia Tax Treaty – an inter-Parliamentary priority that will help create a business-friendly environment for expanded U.S. trade and investment in Armenia’s growing IT, agriculture, tourism and other commercial sectors,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.
Congressional Armenian Caucus co-Founder and Co-Chair Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) kicked off Congressional remarks noting, “We had a great discussion, this morning about a number of issues, the taxation treaty, and the fact that Armenia has now signed this agreement with the European Union. We talked about Millennium Challenge [funding] and a number of other things that the [Armenian] Caucus is working on in trying to improve relations between our two countries and helping Armenia as well as Nagorno-Karabagh.”
Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), one of two U.S. House members of Armenian descent, commented on the Armenia Parliamentary delegation’s meeting with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier in the day. “I said to her, ‘this is the new Armenia and the new Armenia is all about moving to this parliamentary structure to create greater democracy and we want to be part of seeing Armenia succeed in this 21st century,’” said Rep. Speier, who went on to share her efforts to expand U.S.-Armenia cooperation in the IT sector.
Congressional Armenian Caucus Republican Co-Chair Dave Trott (R-Mich.) echoed the need for a U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty and went on to explain: “Friends like Armenia we need to have a strong relationship with… We want to make sure the Administration and State Department continue to understand how important this relationship is and I’ll do everything I can to accomplish that.”
New York Congressman Paul Tonko (D) discussed the importance of the gift of shared heritage in his remarks, describing a recent visit to an Armenian community event in his district. “I witnessed the other day, very young children singing in the Armenian language sharing songs and messages and everyone is so proud. They are carrying on their heritage in a powerful way and that expression is so important because I’m a grandson of an immigrant and I believe we are invited to join a common table here in America and that we come to that table with all sorts of traditions and cultures and faith and we do that in a way that shares heritage as a gift.”
Referencing pro-Armenia proposals for the Fiscal Year 2019 foreign aid bill, Central Valley Congressman Jim Costa (D-Calif.) noted “We need to make sure also to ensure the ‘peace and prosperity’ aid package for Artsakh and Armenia. We want to ensure that we can negotiate a Double Tax Treaty and show progress on other issues that we have to resolve.” The Congressman then cited the importance of both grassroots advocacy and expanded community participation in the U.S. political process. “All of you make a difference. The Armenian National Committee makes a difference,” said Congressman Costa, then citing the good work of past and present Armenian American staffers Denise Altounian, Alexa Fox, Tadeh Issakhanian, and Elina Karapetyan—all alumni of the ANCA Hovig Apo Saghdejian Capital Gateway Program.
Armenia Parliamentarians Look to Usher in a ‘New History of U.S.-Armenia Relations’
Members of the Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary delegation stressed Armenia’s commitment to expanded relations with the U.S. as the country transitions to a parliamentary system in the months ahead. Armenia National Assembly Vice-Speaker Arpine Hovhannisyan described the delegation visit as a beginning to “to create, to make a new history on the basis of our heritage and the spirit we have, your commitment, your desire, our desire, our commitment we have very good basis; to establish, to continue the work you did and to create new history. As [Rep.] Jackie [Speier] said, it is about a ‘New Armenia’, about a new history of US – Armenia relations.”
Parliamentarian Armen Ashotyan noted: “Armenia is not very big, Armenia is not very densely inhabited, but Armenians have spirit and this spirit is also here. The American community of Armenians represents a strong bridge, so I would like to say words of thanks to all Armenians who are citizens of the United States, because you are doing a job that is highly appreciated.” He went on to note, “I would like to extend our gratitude also to the United States of America for hosting our compatriots 100 years ago. American Armenians found here a second motherland, and it’s due to this spirit of freedom that they never lost and never will lose their roots of origin, because America likes tradition, America likes culture and Armenians bring their tradition and culture to America.”
Parliamentarian Edmon Maroukian encouraged greater U.S. engagement in Armenia and in the Caucasus. “We need ‘America First’ in Armenia as a supporter, promoter of democracy, human rights, of fundamental freedoms,” said Maroukian, referencing President Trump’s popular refrain. “It’s time for the United States to be engaged in Armenian reforms – to support Armenia to establish new institutions with all the traditional checks and balances institutions and mechanisms that we need for our new democracy.”
Parliamentarian Aghvan Vardanyan, in interviews with media, noted the importance of this multi-party Armenian parliamentary delegation visit at this critical time of the transition to a new parliamentary form of government. He noted that Armenia is at the threshold of reforms, politically and economically, and cited the key role the U.S. can continue to play in the region.
Armenia’s Ambassador to the United State Grigor Hovhannissian said, “I am very pleased to welcome a group of young, brilliant politicians, representing the new generation, the young generation of leaders in Armenia,” outlining the Armenia Parliamentary delegation’s high levels meetings in the nation’s capital.
Armenia Parliamentary Delegation Meets with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi; Chairman Ed Royce
Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-N.J.), David Trott (R-Mich.), and Jackie Speier (D-Calif.) were joined by Representatives Judy Chu (D-Calif.), Jim Costa (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.), Brenda Lawrence (D-Mich.), Linda Sanchez (D-Calif.), Dina Titus (D-Nev.), and Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.) in welcoming the Armenian delegation. Earlier in the day, the visiting group met with Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-Calif.), Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat and Armenian Caucus Co-Vice Chair Adam Schiff (D-Calif.), Armenian Caucus Co-Vice Chair Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), Foreign Affairs Committee member David Cicilline (D-R.I.) and founding co-chair of the House Democracy Partnership Program David Price (D-N.C.).
Following their meeting, Chairman Royce noted: “Armenia and the United States enjoy a valuable and growing relationship. In particular, Armenia’s contributions to counterterrorism efforts and its assistance to Syrian refugees have been crucial. But there are still many opportunities to further strengthen our relationship on security and human rights priorities in the region. I look forward to doing just that.”
The Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Delegation—headed by Arpine Hovhannisyan, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly of Armenia and includes Parliamentarians Armen Ashotyan, Edmon Marukyan, Aghvan Vardanyan and Naira Zohrabyan—is the first ever of its kind in Armenia’s 27 years of independent statehood. Their visit is aimed at strengthening U.S.-Armenia political, economic and military relations, deepening the enduring friendship between the American and Armenian peoples, and encouraging continued constructive engagement by the United States on a range of regional development and conflict resolution priorities.
Earlier in the day, the ANCA posted a live Facebook video outlining key aims and outcomes in terms of the U.S.-Armenia relationship. This 20-minute review is available below:
Among the U.S. Representatives who have, to date, publicly welcomed the delegation with official statements are Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs David Valadao, David Trott, and Jackie Speier, and Vice-Chairs Gus Bilirakis and Adam Schiff.
This month’s Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary Delegation visit follows a Congressional Armenian Caucus visit to Armenia last year by Rep. Speier along with Congressional Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-N.J.) and David Valadao (R-Calif.) and Representatives Anna Eshoo (D-Calif.), Tulsi Gabbard (D-Hawaii) and James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.). Representatives Pallone, Valadao and Gabbard also visited the Republic of Artsakh, where they reviewed the U.S. funded demining work of The HALO Trust and offered remarks at the Artsakh Parliament in addition to visits with government leaders and various schools and historic sites.
The ANCA has provided video of all remarks offered during the course of the Capitol Hill welcome for the Armenia-U.S. Parliamentary delegation as follows:
- Jim Costa (D-Calif.): https://youtu.be/j2eWkx63x08
- Frank Pallone (D-N.J.): https://youtu.be/PGrxPpLWZO0
- Jackie Speier (D-Calif.): https://youtu.be/4X1GCQ_wQkM
- Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.): https://youtu.be/EjU_C69fxAY
- Dave Trott (R-Mich.): https://youtu.be/eB2Li_F9PKs
- Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannissian: https://youtu.be/WXhXr0ZIGLM
- Armenia MP Arpine Hovhannisyan: https://youtu.be/QWvkltIJxv4
- Armenia MP Armen Ashotyan: https://youtu.be/vN-lgOumXdo
- Armenia MP Edmon Marukyan: https://youtu.be/T7q51ZqfLE8
An ANCA Playlist with all the videos is available at: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLdr-wcXFvNMs_7pHx6NsD6SNpWnu5UCy4