Rep. Schiff Presses Erdogan, Gul and Officials on the Armenian Genocide at Ankara Meeting

WASHINGTON, D.C — As part of a Congressional Delegation to the Middle Wast and Asia focused on terrorism, homeland security and the war in Syria, Representative Adam Schiff (D-CA) had separate meeting with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, President Abdullah Gul and other Turkish high government officials.

In this meeting with the Prime Minister, Schiff challenged the notion expressed by Erdogan in a recent interview that because there are Armenian survivors still living in Turkey, there could have been no genocide. This is the equivalent, Schiff argued, of saying that because some Jews in Europe escaped death, there was no Holocaust. Schiff also questioned whether it was possible to have the open discourse in Turkey about the events of 1915-1923 that Erdogan called for in his statement of April 23rd, if Turkish professor, historians, journalists and ordinary citizens still face demotion, intimidation, potential prosecution or violence for expressing the conviction that the Armenian Genocide is a historic fact.

In his meeting with President Gul, Schiff said that he wanted to speak for the many tens of thousands of his constituents of Armenian descent who may never get the chance to address the President directly.

“You will not find on of my 80,000 Armenian constituents untouched by the Genocide,” he said. “Each of them has lost a parent or grandparent, their cousins, brothers or sisters, of their entire family. Their pain is real, their wounds are open, this is not distant relic of the past. To say, as you and the Prime Minister have, the yes, Armenians suffered but so too did Turks during World War I, is akin to saying that the Germans also suffered during World War II. It is true that many German civilians died, many noncombatants, but that does not negate the Holocaust any more than the fact that many Turks died could negate the Genocide. To propose, as you have, that a historic commission be established to ascertain the facts of the Genocide is not unlike suggesting that a commission needs to be established to determine whether the Holocaust took place.”

Schiff also raised the issue of Kessab, and his concern over the forced evacuation of the historic Armenian community there and the well being of those residents who are now refugees -in Turkey. He also urged Turkey too decouple the blockade of Armenia from resolution of the issues concerning Nagorno-Karabakh, so that we can bring about an end to Armenia’s economic isolation and a normalization of trade relations.

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Paul Halajian Designed Armenian Martyrs Monument in Fresno

Fresno’s Armenian community has come together to form the Armenian Genocide Centennial Committee, an umbrella association established to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide throughout this year and 2015.

Working under the theme “Commemoration, Education, Inspiration,” the committee is made up of representatives from the community’s religious, educational, social, and political organizations.

“This commemoration of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide is clearly a significant moment for Armenians all around the world,” said AGCC Chairman and California State University, Fresno, Professor of Armenian Studies, Sergio La Porta. “As Fresno is one of the largest and most active Armenian communities in the Western Hemisphere, I think it resonated particularly strongly here. It is home to a proud and resilient Armenian community and is an especially poignant place to commemorate those who died in the Genocide and those who toiled afterward to insure that we would have much better world to live in.”

The centerpiece of the AGCC’s efforts will be the monument that will be constructed on the Fresno state campus. Designed by Fresno architect Paul Halajian, the structure will embody symbols of cultural meaning to the Armenian people. Built from beton brut and tufa stones, its principal components will be nine columns arrange in circular pattern and angled inwards, reminiscent of the Tzizernagapert monument in Armenia. The nine pillars represent the six provinces of historic Armenia, Cilicia, the Diaspora, and the Republic of Armenia. The columns will gradually descend in height around the circle, with the first measuring 19 feet high and the last 15 to underscore the significance of the year 1915. An incomplete halo will be set above the columns, symbolizing both the fracture left by the Genocide and the unity of the Armenian people.

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Armenian President’s Condolences to Turkey over Deadly Mine Blast

President Serzh Sargsyan sent a telegram of condolences to the President of the Republic of Turkey Abdullah Gul concerning the accident in Turkey’s Manisa province which took the lives of more than 300 Turkish citizens.

The President of Armenia extended his deepest condolences to President Gul and the Turkish people, sent words of comfort to the relatives of the victims wishing the injured a speedy recovery.

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California Assembly Votes 70-1 to Recognize Karabakh’s Independence

In another foray into international politics, the California Assembly passed a resolution calling for the independence of an Armenian-dominated enclave in Azerbaijan.

Calling the Azerbaijani borders that encompass the despite Nagorno-Karabakh region an example of country “improperly draw by Stalin”, Assemblyman Mike Gatto (D) Los Angeles, urged the Assembly to take a stand despite its lack of authority to set or enforce foreign policy. He drew a parallel to resolutions condemning apartheid in South Africa or the treatment of gays and lesbians in Russia.

“California can, on issues of relevance to our constituents and, on issue of moral clarity, continue to be a thought leader that seeks to motivate change,” Gatto said.

Many lawmakers invoked lofty ideals of freedom self-determination. Others delved into their personal relationship to the issue.

“This is one of those issues, probably one of the hallmark issues, that’s led me to want to serve in public service and to be here,” said Assemblyman Adrin Nazarian, D-Burbank, describing how his grandparents were forced to flee the region Armenians call Artsakh. “This has been the tormented history,” Nazarian added, “of a group of people who have been very determined to pursue their freedom.”

Assembly Joint Resolution 32 passed overwhelmingly in a vote 70-1, with only Assemblyman Rocky Chavez (R-Oceanside) dissenting and formally called upon the United Stated Congress and the President to support the initiative.

Many Armenian visitors in the gallery applauded loudly after that measure advanced. Gatto then introduced the Armenian deputy counsel general on the Assembly floor, also prompting an ovation.

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Glendale Demographics: White Workers Drop, Armenians Increase at City Hall

Armenians Make One-third of Glendale’s Population

By Brittany Levine

In looking at racial and ethnic groups tracked by the city, the number of white workers at city Hall has seen the most drastic change over the past decade, making up 39% of Glendale’s workforce last year, down from 49% in 2004, according to a recently released city report.

The percentage of white workers was heavily impacted by the city’s reorganization last year, which cut about 11% employees through early retirement incentives. The number of white workers dropped about 14% to 792 in 2013 compared to the prior year, according to the report.

At the same time, Armenians workers have been steadily increasing, Armenians made up 17% of the city’s workforce in 2013 up from 11% in 2004. In 2013, the city had 343 Armenian workers compared to 251 in 2004.

Although Armenians consider themselves to be racially white, the city counts the ethnic group in a distinct category. Glendale City Council members have long encourage city officials to hire more employees that reflect Glendale’s overall demographics, About a third of Glendale’s population is Armenian.

“The trends noted have been and will continue to be gradual as evidenced by the large number of employees who have been with the city for over 10 years,” according to the March demographic report.

Changing the composition of the cut workforce will depend on employees retiring, separating from the city and new positions opening, the report stated.

Glendale officials may undergo another round of retirement incentives in order to improve Glendale’s long term fiscal health, The biggest burden on the city is the cost of salaries and benefits, officials said.

As officials forecast deficits — ranging from $1.7 million to $5.5 million — over the next seven years, officials may consider trimming the workforce again.

The total number of city workers in 2013, including salaried and hourly, was 2,010. Glendale officials have used a much smaller figure of 1,588 during city budget discussions, but that reflects authorized positions and the city does not include hourly workers in that headcount.

Other minority groups also saw gains in employee numbers. Asian/Pacific Islanders in 2013 made up 9.5% of city employees, a jump from about 8% in 2004. Blacks mostly remained steady, account for 3.6% of the workforce last year. Latinos increased slightly to about 30% of the workforces in 2013, compared to nearly 27% in 2004.

Of the 266 executive and management employees in 2013, 56% were white and 13% were Armenian. Of the 256 who held top jobs in 2004 about 69% were white and approximately 5% were Armenian.

While the racial and ethnic composition at City Hall has changed significantly over the past decade, gender composition has remained relatively constant with males making up roughly 70% of the workforce both in 2013 and 2004, according to the city report.

The high percentage of males, according to the report, is due to women not historically applying for positions in the Fire, Police, Public Works, Information Services, and Glendale Water & Power departments.

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Vatican Meeting of the Catholicos of All Armenians and Pope Francis

On May 7th, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, left for the Vatican on fraternal visit. On May 8th, in the Apostolic Palace, His Holiness met Pope Francis, Bishop of Rome and Leader of the Catholic Church. Present at the meeting were His Eminence Archbishop Gisak Muradyan, Primate of the Armenian Diocese in Argentina; His Eminence Archbishop Khaiak Barsamian, Primate of the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America; His Grace Bishop Hovakim Manoukian, Director of the Inter Church Relations Department of the Mother See and Primate of the Artik Diocese; Rev. Fr. Anania Tsaturyan, Staff Bearer of His Holiness Karekin II; rev. Fr. Tovma Khachatryan, Spiritual Pastor of the Armenian Diocese in Italy; rev. Fr. Vahram Melikyan, Director of Information Services Department of the Mother See; and Mr. Michael Minasyan, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Republic of Armenia Holy See.

The Catholicos of All Armenians and the Leader of the Catholic Church had a private conversation prior to their meeting in the Apostolic Palace library.

His Holiness Pope Francis also greeted His Holiness Karekin II and the delegation of the Armenian Apostolic Holy Church. Pope Francis reflected on the current relationship between the Armenian Apostolic and Roman Catholic Churches, gladly noting that their bond had become close and stronger over the last decade. The Bishop of Rome also expressed his appreciation to the Catholicos of All Armenians for the effective support in strengthening ecumenism among the churches. The Leader of the Catholic Church also discussed martyrdom during our days. “In truth, the number of disciples who is certainly higher than that of the martyrs of the first centuries, and the sons of the Armenian nation have a place of honor in this martyrology. The testimony of the martyrs, both tragic and lofty, must not be forgotten. As in the the first centuries the blood of martyrs became the seed of new Christians, in our days to the blood of many Christians have become the seed of unity. The ecumenism of suffering and martyrdom is a powerful remind to walk the long path of reconciliation between the Churches.”

Following an official exchange of gifts, under the presidency of Pope Francis and His Holiness Karekin II, a united prayer was extended from the Redemptoris Mater Chapel, for world peace.

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President Serzh Sarkisian Urges Turkey to Recognize the Armenian Genocide

President Serzh Sarksian urged Turkey to recognize the 1915 Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire as genocide and unconditionally implement 2009 agreements to normalize its relations with Armenia.

“Today, we stand on the threshold of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide. This can afford Turkey a good change to repent and to set aside the historical stigma in case if they can make efforts to set free their state’s future from this heave burden,” Sarkisian said in written address to the nation issued ahead of the 99th anniversary of the tragedy.

“At the same time, I publicly reaffirm: we do not consider the Turkish society as our enemy,” he stressed. “Bowing to the memory of the innocent victims we remember all those Turks, Turkish families who lent a helping hand to their Armenian neighbors and friends being annihilated by the barbarians and helped numerous Armenian children escape from the clutches of the mob. God bless the memories of those who gave plenty of our compatriots a helping hand by risking even their and their families’ lives.”

“The year 2015 should convey a strong message to Turkey,” the Armenian leader added in reference to the approaching the 100th anniversary of the genocide. “The attitude toward Armenia can no longer be measure by words because it presumes clear steps: the opening of the closed borders and the establishment of normal relations [with Armenia.]”

“Our position on the Armenian-Turkish protocols has not changed and the idea of ‘reasonable time frames’ [for their ratification] is becoming more urgent than ever,” he warned.

The two protocols signed in 2009 in the presence of top U.S, European and Russian diplomats call for the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations. Ankara makes their ratification by Turkey’s parliament conditional on the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a precondition rejected by Yerevan.

Sarksian has threatened in the past to withdraw his government’s signature from the Western backed accords if the Turks continue to insist on this linkage. In recent days, the Armenian press has been rife with speculation that he could act on that threat soon. Sarkisian’s office has commented ambiguously on such a possibility.

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GeoProMining’s Investments in Armenia Total $400 Million, Roman Khuloy Said

YEREVAN — ARKA News Agency reported that on April 29, GPM president Roman Khuloy told reporters, that a total of $400 Million investments were made by GeoProMining (GPM) group of companies in Armenia.

Direct investments in technology and production alone totaled about $200 million dollars, he said at the commissioning of “Albion” technology at Ararat Gold Recovery Factory.

The president said investments in modernization of the factory totaled $35 million dollars and the new line based on “Albion” technology cost $140 million dollars.

The commissioning ceremony held on April 28 was attended by Armenia’s president Serzh Sarkisian. The Albion technology, developed by Australian Xstrata Techonology and Core Process Engineering companies will significantly increase extraction of metal from refractory sulfide ores in Sotk gold field.

GPM has enterprises in Russia and Armenia. GeorProMining owns two assets in Armenia – The Agarak Copper and Molybdenum Combine and GPM Gold. The latter is developing the Sotk Gold Mine and runs the Ararat Gold Recovery Factory.

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Rep. Adam Schiff Announces White House Will Display Armenian Orphan Ghazir Rug

WASHINGTON, D.C — On Monday, April 28, 2014, Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA) announce that the White House has agreed to exhibit the “Armenian Orphan Rug” in the near future, likely this fall.

The rug, woven by orphans of the Armenian Genocide in 1920, was presented to President Calvin Coolidge in 1925 as a symbol of gratitude for American aid and generosity for U.S assistance during the genocide. The Armenian Orphan Rug, which measures 11’7″ x 18’5″, has over 4 million hand tied knots and took the Armenian girls in the Ghazir Orphanage of the Near East Relief Society 10 months to weave.

President Calvin Coolidge note that, “The rug has a place of honor in the White House where it will be a daily symbol of goodwill on earth.” The rig — which has been in storage at the White house for decades — was supposed to be released for exhibition in a Smithsonian event for the launch of Hagop Martin Deranian’s new book “President Calvin Coolidge and the Armenian Orphan Rug.” Unfortunately, the rug was not able to be displayed at the time.

“Since first raising this issue with the Administration, I have worked diligently with the White House to find a way for the Ghazir rug to be sensitively and appropriately displayed,” said Rep. Schiff. “Today, I’m pleased to be able to say that planning is underway for the Armenian Orphan Rug to be displayed as early as this fall. I have worked out with the White House that the display will take place in a venue that is open to the general public, and I appreciate their willingness to place this significant artifact on display for all to see.

Rep. Adam Schiff and Rep. David Valadao (R-CA) sent a letter, along with 31 other members, to President Obama last year urging the Administration to allow exhibition of the rug. In a letter, they stated: “The Armenian Orphan Rug is a piece of American history and it belongs to the American people. For over a decade, Armenian American organizations have sought the public display of the rug and have requested the White House and the State Department grant their request on numerous occasions. Unfortunately, Armenian Americans have yet to have their requests granted. We urge you to release this American treasure for exhibition.”

Since sending this letter, Schiff has worked with the White House to find a way for the rug to be sensitively and appropriately displayed.

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Turkey’s Prime Minister Issues a Statement Expressing Condolences for the First Time

“The 24th of April carries a particular significance for out Armenian citizens and for all Armenians around the world, and provides a valuable opportunity to share opinions freely on a historical matter.

It is indisputable that the last years of the Ottoman Empire were a difficult period, full of suffering for Turkish, Kurdish, Arab, Armenian, and millions of other Ottoman citizens, regardless of their religion or ethnic origin.

Any conscientious, fair and humanistic approach to these issues requires an understanding of all the suffering endured in this period, without discriminating as to religion or ethnicity.

Certainly, neither constructing hierarchies of pain nor comparing and contrasting suffering carries any meaning for those who experienced this pain themselves.

As a Turkish proverb goes, ‘fire burns that place where it falls,’ it is a duty of humanity to acknowledge that Armenians remember the suffering experienced in that period, just like every other citizen of the Ottoman Empire.

In Turkey, expressing different opinions and thoughts freely on the events of 1915 is the requirement of a pluralistic perspective as well as of a culture of democracy and modernity.

Some may perceive this climate of freedom in Turkey as an opportunity to express accusatory, offensive and even provocative assertions and allegations.

Even so, if this will enable us to better understand historical issues with their legal aspects and to transform resentment to friendship again, it is natural to approach different discourses with empathy and tolerance and expect a similar attitude from all sides.

The Republic of Turkey will continue to approach every idea with dignity in line with the universal values of law. Nevertheless, using the events of 1915 as an excuse for hostility against Turkey and turning this issue into a matter of political conflict in inadmissible.

The incidents of the First World War are out share pain. To evaluate this painful period of history through a perspective of just memory is a humane and scholarly responsibility.

Millions of people of all religions and ethnicities lost their lives in the First World War. Having experienced events, which had inhumane consequences – such as relocation -during the First World War, should not prevent Turks and Armenians from establishing compassion and mutually humane attitudes among one another.

In today’s world deriving enmity from history and creating new antagonisms are neither acceptable nor useful for building a common future.

The spirit of the age necessitates dialogue despite difference, understanding by heeding others, evaluating means for compromise, denouncing hatred, and praising respect and tolerance.

With this understanding, we, as the Turkish Republic, have called for the establishment of a joint historical commission in order to study the events of 1915 in a scholarly manner. This call remains valid. Scholarly research to be carried out by Turkish, Armenian and international historians would play a significant role in shedding light on the events of 1915 and an accurate understanding of history.

It is with this understanding that we have opened our archives to all researchers. Today, hundreds of thousands of documents in out archives are at the service of historians.

Looking to the future with confidence, Turkey has always supported scholarly and comprehensive studies for an accurate understanding of history. The people of Anatolia, who lived together for centuries regardless of their different ethnic and religious origins, have established common values in every filed from art to diplomacy, from state administration to commerce. Today they continue to have the same ability to create a new future.

It is our hope and belief that the peoples of an ancient and unique geography, who share similar customs and manners will be able to talk to each other about the past with maturity and to remember together their losses in a decent manner. And it is with this hope and belief that we wish that the Armenians who lost their lives in the context of the early twentieth century rest in peace, and we convey our condolences to their grandchildren. Regardless of their ethnic or religions origins, we pay tribute, with compassion and respect, to all Ottoman citizens who lost their lives in the same period and under similar conditions.”

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