Members of the U.S. House and Senate joined with more than one hundred Armenian American community leaders at December 5th Capitol Hill celebration of Nagorno Karabakh’s independence, featuring a keynote address by the Foreign Minister of Nagorno Karabakh, Karen Mirzoyan.
The Congressional event, held in the historic Russel building on the Senate side of Capitol Hill was sponsored and organized by the Co-Chairs of the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Rep. Ed Royce, the incoming Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, and Rep. Frank Pallone, in cooperation with the Armenian Embassy, the Office of Nagorno Karabakh Republic in the United States, and leading Armenian American organizations. Diplomats, religious leaders, think tank community representatives, Congressional staff members, Armenian-Americans community leaders, and representatives of local and international media joined the legislators in participating in the celebration.
The event marked the day, 21 years ago, when Artsakh held a national referendum on its independence that delivered an overwhelming vote (98.9 % of eligible Artsakh voters) in support of an independent state that, acting on its own authority, was empowered to decide forms of cooperation with other states and communities. In 2006, more than a decade later, also in December, the citizens of Artsakh reaffirmed their commitment to live in a free and independent state by adopting Artsakh’s primary law, namely the Constitution of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic, Artsakh, which consolidated all the basic principles of state sovereignty and marked a new stage in the Republic’s development.
Minister Mirzoyan, in his keynote address, emphasized the importance of both democratic votes, as well as the symbolism of their having taken place on or near International Human Rights Day. He stressed, in his remarks, that: “For us, independence is not just an ultimate goal, but also the means by which the Nagorno Karabakh Republic can take its rightful place as a responsible member of the international community; by which our people can best fulfill their potential, realize their aspirations, and enjoy all the rights and freedoms that everyone deserves.” While taking about the Karabakh-Azerbaijani conflict, Minister Mirzoyan stressed Artsakh’s alliance with the international community in seeking a peaceful resolution of the conflict. He also expressed confidence that “effective negotiations require the immediate restoration of Artsakh’s full participation in all aspects of the negotiation process”.
In his speech, Karen Mirzoyan expressed gratitude to the United States and other mediators for their efforts in seeking for a peaceful resolution of the Karabakh conflict. He stressed, in particular, that “an unimpeded involvement of NKR in international processes would … send an appropriate signal to Azerbaijan to abandon its revanchist aspirations, and show political will for the sake of a stable and predictable South Caucasus”.
Ambassador Markarian addressed the gathering and praised the Armenian Congressional Caucus for their unwavering support for independence, security and democratic development of Artsakh. He strongly condemned the recent hostile actions of Azerbaijan and understood the urgency of support and recognition of the independence of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic by the international community. As part of the evening’s program, Ambassador Markarian presented “Mkhitar Gosh” medals to the Representatives Anna Eshoo and Brad Sherman. These honors, bestowed by the President of Armenia, Serzh Sargsyan, recognized their many contributions to the advancement of Armenian issues, including universal recognition of the Armenian Genocide. At the same time, during the event, Minister Mirzoyan awarded both Reps. Sherman and Eshoo commemorative medals dedicated to the university of the Artsakh’s independence.
Members of Congress congratulated people of Artsakh on the occasion of those anniversaries and highlighted their support for the legitimacy of the Artsakh’s independence and its many achievements since independence. They expressed their readiness to continue supporting international recognition of the Artsakh Republic and condemned the escalation of threats and acts of anti-Armenian hatred and violence by the Azerbaijani government, a troubling trend that recently culminated in Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev’s pardoning of convicted axe-murderer Ramil Safarov.
In his opening remarks, Representative Pallone, who moderated the event, stressed that the people and leaders of Artsakh realized their right to self-determination and independence in full conformity with all existing national and international law, legal precedent and democratic traditions. He called for continued American support for Artsakh’s democracy. Joining Congressman Pallone in offering remarks, and making statements, were Senator Jack Reed (DRI), and Representatives Adam Schiff (D-CA), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), David Cicilline (D-RI), and Eliot Engel (D-NY), the incoming Ranking Member of the Foreign Affairs Committee, as well as Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Representative Jackie Speier (D-CA). Reps. Jeff Denham (R-CA) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) were also among those participating in the celebration.
John Evans, the former US Ambassador to Armenia attended and addressed the event.
The program was rounded out by powerful speech by Anna Astvatsaturian Turcotte, an Armenian refugee from Azerbaijan, who was an eyewitness to anti-Armenian violence in Baku. She spoke movingly of those dreadful days, which reaffirmed, she explained, her resolve to see Artsakh in freedom. She recently published her memoirs, titled “Nowhere, a Story of Exile,” that tells the story of her life in Baku, and Azerbaijan’s brutality against Armenian citizens in Baku and elsewhere. She called upon the global community to pay proper attention to the plight of Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan, and expressed her hope that one day Azerbaijani society would be able to overcome its hatred towards Armenians.
The event was concluded by the invocation served by the Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate of the Armenian Apostolic Church of Armenia (East), as well as Reverend Fathers of both Armenian churches in Washington.
On December 5, 2012, the Foreign Minister Mirzoyan, who arrived in the US to take part at the congressional event marking the 21st anniversary of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic’s independence, has held separate meetings with members of the US Congress Adam Schiff, Brad Sherman, and Frank Pallone, Jr. Issues related to the regional developments, Karabakh peace process, as well as economic development and democratic achievement in the NKR were discussed during the meetings. The NKR Foreign Minister expressed gratitude to the members of Congress for their steadfast support of Artsakh’s cause, and their efforts for continuation of the US assistance to Artsakh.
Members of Congress, in their turn, expressed their concern with Azerbaijan’s destructive stance in the negotiations, and pledged to continue promoting Artsakh’s security and economic prosperity.