Los Angeles, CA — On Tuesday, May 26, 2003, representatives of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region met with U.S. Senator John Edwards at a private reception in Los Angeles. Senator Edwards was visiting California to garner support for his bid for the 2004 Democratic Party Nomination for President. The freshman Senator from North Carolina was one of the first candidates to assemble an exploratory team and pursue support for his candidacy. ANCA-WR Chairman Raffi Hamparian and Board Member Steven J. Dadaian discussed issues of concern to the Armenian American community with the Senator during the reception. During his remarks to the audience, the Senator spoke about recognition of the Armenian Genocide and addressed Turkey’s illegal blockade of Armenia. The Senator explained that it is in America’s interest to recognize the Armenian Genocide and added that “It is the just thing to do. It is about time we [Americans] recognized it.” Last year, Senator Edwards signed on as one of 32 co-sponsors of Senate Resolution 307, which anticipated the 15th Anniversary of the U.S. ratification of the Proxmire Act. A bill with similar language, House Resolution 193, was introduced this year in the House of Representatives and passed the House Judiciary Committee by a voice vote last week. Chairman Raffi Hamparian spoke to Senator Edwards about Turkey’s continuous illegal blockade of Armenia which is in direct violation of Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act (S.230). The measure was introduced by Sen. Bob Dole (R-KS) in 1995. The Republic of Turkey has been in violation of the act for nearly a decade. Senator Edwards agreed that the illegal and “wrongful blockade” must end stressing that America has to stand behind Armenia and let its neighbors know that “We [America] stand fully behind Armenia.” “Armenia is an island of Democracy in the region” acknowledged the Senator. ANCA-WR representatives said that they were glad the Senator had demonstrated a sound understanding of the issues of concern to Armenian Americans. Chairman Raffi Hamparian noted that, “Armenians are a major political force in the State of California and we’re glad that Senator Edwards recognizes this and so do other public officials.” The son of a textile worker, Edwards was the first member of his family to attend college, eventually moving on to earn his law degree from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Elected in 1998, the Senator currently serves on four committees: Health, Education, Labor and Pensions; Intelligence; Judiciary; and Small Business. He is one of at least eight candidates that have formally announced a bid for the Democratic Party Nomination in 2004. ANCA-WR Government Relations Director, Ardashes Kassakhian, explained that the ANCA-WR plans on reaching out to all of the major candidates as the races for nominations pick up. ”Our organization is committed to ensuring that the Armenian voice is heard in the upcoming elections. We will meet with candidates to explain to them the issues facing the Republic of Armenia and Armenian Americans living in the Western United States, and we will make sure the public knows where the candidates stand on the issues,” added Kassakhian. The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.