GLENDALE, CA – Members of the Armenian National Committee of America – Western Region (ANCA-WR) and the Foundation for Economic Development (FED) met U.S. Ambassador John Marshall Evans and his visiting delegation of U.S. officials, including Robin Phillips, Director of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Mission in Armenia, Eugenia Sidereas, U.S. Department of State Desk Officer for Armenia and Aaron Shirinian, who serves as the Political Officer and Assistance Coordinator at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan.
Berdj Karapetian, a member of the FED Board of Directors, introduced Ambassador Evans to the FED’s mission and its on-going efforts to launch the California Regional Trade Office in Armenia. Karapetian explained that the trade office contract that was awarded to the FED by the State of California would serve California’s small to medium enterprises that were interested in investing and/or selling products in Armenia. Like his predecessor, Ambassador John Ordway, Ambassador Evans expressed support for the initiative. While the Trade Office is an official State of California representative, due to budgetary issues, the funds necessary to commence operations are being raised privately.
Zanku Armenian, a member of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors, led the discussion on the ANCA-WR’s concerns over various issues including the recent statement made by Assistant Secretary of State Elizabeth Jones, which mischaracterized the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s leaders as “criminal secessionists” by grouping the NKR’s legitimate government with the leaders of movements in other regional conflict areas . The issue was of high concern to the Ambassador, who explained that while he understood how many misconstrued Jones’ comments, the Assistant Secretary had not intended the term “criminal secessionists” to reflect on the leaders of Nagorno Karabakh. The Ambassador hoped that the incident was resolved as he and the Assistant Secretary had reached out to the Armenian government and public.
Several of the meeting participants, including members of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors Leonard Manoukian and Armen Martin, pointed out the recklessness of Azerbaijan’s recent efforts to jeopardize the peace negotiations by seeking any forum that may result in a more favorable outcome for Azerbaijan. The group also discussed the aggressive rhetoric that continues to come from Baku. Ambassador Evans expressed continuing support of the Minsk group process as an honest broker in the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
Zanku Armenian, while commending the Bush administration ultimate decision for continuing military aid parity in the budget proposal for 2006, expressed concern that there were attempts by the Department of Defense in this budget cycle to tilt military aid toward Azerbaijan. Armenian stressed that such parity helps maintain a balance in the fragile cease fire that has existed between Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan for over ten years. Continuing on the topic of general aid, Armenian stated that the ANCA would persist in securing high levels of aid to Armenia given Turkey’s blockade of the fledgling democracy.
An overarching issue that the group brought up with the Ambassador was the matter of recognition of the Armenian Genocide and the continuing denial by the Republic of Turkey. Representatives of the ANCA-WR asked that the US State Department include the proper history and characterization of the Armenian Genocide on its website under Armenia’s country profile. In addition, the ANCA-WR expressed the expectation of the Armenian American community that the U.S. government will not participate in Turkey’s denial and show leadership on this issue by properly recognizing the Genocide.
“It is important for groups like the ANCA-WR to regularly meet with U.S. government officials who administer U.S. policy firsthand in Armenia. Ambassador Evans is certainly a competent diplomat and knowledgeable on the Genocide and Armenia’s modern history. We are hopeful that he will continue to play an effective role in helping Armenia overcome the challenges that lay ahead in guaranteeing Armenia’s right to self determination and security and insuring continued development of her democratic institutions. A strong and prosperous Armenia is good for Armenia and America ” commented Steven Dadaian, Chairman of the ANCA-WR Board of Directors, who met the Ambassador’s delegation at an event later in the day hosted by His Eminence Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian.
The breakfast meeting with the ANCA-WR and FED kicked off a day of scheduled visits for the Ambassador’s delegation. The delegation went on to meet with Professor Richard Hovannisian of UCLA, followed by a talk given to UCLA students. Meetings also were held with Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian of the Western Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church and leaders of community organizations. A reception was also held by the Western Diocese Armenian Apostolic Church later the same evening.
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.