U.S State Department Praises Armenia for Major Reforms After the “Velvet Revolution”

The United States has praised Armenia for reforms in a number of areas, including the holding of elections “with respect for fundamental freedoms” and fighting “systemic government corruption” reported Radio Free Europe.

A U.S Department of State report on human rights practices for 2018 also referred to other developments in Armenia over last year, including a renewed investigation of the 2008 post-election crackdown.

“[Prime Minister Nikol] Pashinyan’s gave new impetus to accountability for the events surrounding the aftermath of the 2008 presidential election, in which eight civilians and two police officers were killed,” the report says, noting that former president Robert Kocharian is among high profile suspects in the criminal cases launched by the Special Investigation Service.

The U.S Department of States cites Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Dunja Mijatovic as noting the steps taken by the Armenian government “to finally establish responsibility to the ten deaths,” but stressing that “this should be done carefully and in strict adherence to the principles of rule of law, judicial independence, transparency and guarantees of fair trial, in order to dispel any accusations of alleged revenge politics or selective justice.” In previous years’ reports the U.S Department of State usually criticized the Armenian government for systemic corruption, violence against journalists and the opposition, violations of the freedoms of speech and assembly, arbitrariness of law-enforcement bodies and electoral fraud. This time the report says: “The new government launched a series of investigations to prosecute systemic government corruption, and the country held its first truly competitive elections on December 9th, 2018.

As an example of combating corruption the report cites “the first criminal case of illicit enrichment” in which Vachagan Ghazarian, the longtime chief bodyguard of former president Serzh Sarkisian was arrested “after law enforcement personnel found more than one million dollars in cash in a nightclub owned his wife.”

It is mentioned in the report that according to the prime minister’s anti-corruption adviser, between May 7th and August 10th, law enforcement bodies and tax services uncovered violations in the amount of 41.7 billion drams (almost $87 million), constituting damages to the state, embezzlement, abuse of official duty, and bribes. “Headline cases included tax underpayments and unexplained wealth on the part of parliamentarians, well-connected political figures, or their respective business holdings. In one illustrative case, according to the government, the Yerevan City supermarket chain, affiliated with member of parliament Samvet Alexanian, was found to have underpaid tens of millions of dollars in taxes.”

After the change of government in Armenia the U.S Department of State also observes positive changes in terms of political freedoms and rights in the South Caucasus country. “Before the May change in government, there were numerous reports of authorities tapping telephone communications, email, and other digital communications of individuals the government wanted to keep under scrutiny, including human rights defenders, activists, political figures, and others that were used to exert pressure on a person. Following the “velvet revolution,” many activists and human right defenders expressed their belief that they were no longer under surveillance,” the report reads.

The report notes that “following the ‘velvet revolution,’ many judges released from pre-trial detention many suspect in politically sensitive cases. According to human rights groups, since no other circumstances had changed in their cases, this was an indication that, before the April/May events, judicial decisions to hold those suspects in detention, instead of on bail were politically motivated.”

In the section on “Political Parties and Political Participation” it is said: “The law does not restrict the registration or activity of political parties. Prior to the ‘velvet revolution’, however, authorities suppressed political pluralism in other ways. While political pluralism expanded after the May change in government, observers noted increased radicalization in society, reflected most acutely in social media, that shrank the space for criticism of the new government, since any dissent was labeled as “counter-revolutionary” by Civil Contract supporters. Some opposition political actors alleged that the new government directed public pressure against them.”

In terms of freedom of expression, the U.S Department of State’s report says that before the ‘velvet revolution’, the government exerted economic pressure on media outlets for favorable and uncritical coverage. After the May change in government, the media environment became more free as some outlets began to step away from self-censorship; however, some still refrained from critical comments of the new government not to appear “counter-revolutionary”…According to some media watchdogs, public television continued to present news from a pro-government standpoint.”

Use of fake social media accounts and attempts to manipulate the media, however, increased dramatically after the ‘velvet revolution’. According to media watchdogs, individuals used manipulation technologies, including hybrid websites, controversial bloggers, “troll factories,” fake Facebook groups and fake stories, to attack the government. In one example, a video circulated on September 17 supposedly showing Minister of Health Arsen Torosyan calling himself “crazy” and “absolutely abnormal”. The Union of Informed Citizens media watchdog published a document alleging the video was fake because of several inconsistencies in the video.

The country’s few independent media outlets, mostly online, were not self-sustainable and survived through international donations, with limited or no revenues from advertising. The media advertising market did not change substantially after the “velvet revolution” and key market players remained the same. According to a 2016 report by the Armenian Center for Political and International Studies, the advertising sales conglomerate Media International Services (MIS) controlled 74 percent of the country’s television advertisement gross value, with exclusive rights to sell advertising on the country’s five most watched channels. Another company, DG Sales, was majority owned by MIS shareholders and controlled more than one-third of the online commercial market, operating in a manner similar to MIS.

In the past the U.s Department of State cited serious concerns of human rights activists about deaths in the army and dubious investigations with alleged use of torture to extract evidence. This time, according to the report, the Special Investigation Service has instituted criminal proceedings over one such case. “According to Peace Dialogue [human rights organization] his was the first case in recent years when, parallel to the investigation of a death in the armed forces, a criminal investigation was opened to assess possible violations of the law by the investigative body,” the report says.

The U.S Department of State report says that the Armenian authorities are now more open in terms of holding accountable police officials and other representatives of the law-enforcement system. “Lieutenant-general Levon Yeranosian, the former chief of the internal police troops, faced charges of exceeding official authority committed with violence and leading to grave consequences for his role in the violence against protesters,” the report says, reminding also that “on May 13, the Special Investigation Service charged the commander of the Yerevan Police Department Escort Battalion, Armen Ghazarian, with torture for his rile in the June 2017 police beatings of four members of the armed group Sasna Tsrer during an altercation.”

The most controversial area in which the U.S Department of State observed no changes is the judicial system. The report notes: “Although the law provides for an independent judiciary, the judiciary did not generally exhibit independence and impartiality. After the May change in government, distrust in the impartiality of judges continued, and some human rights lawyers stated there were no legal safeguards for judicial independence. Attorneys reported that in the past, the Court of Cassation dictated the outcome of all significant cases to lower court judges… Many observers blamed the High Judicial Council [headed by former Constitutional Court Chair Gagik Harutunian] for abuse of power and for appointing only judges who were connected to the previous ruling party. Attorneys also stated the HJC’s control of the appointments, promotions, and relocation of judges weakened judicial independence,” the report reads.

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Armenian Assembly Regional Director Meets with U.S Assistant Secretary of State for Public Relations

LOS ANGELES – On March 15, 2019, Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) Western Region Director Mihran Toumajan was honored to attend a Signature Series meet and greet in Downtown Los Angeles hosted by the National Association of Women Business Owners, Los Angeles chapter (NAWBO-LA) in partnership with Town Hall L.S. The Assembly extends its congratulations to MAWBO-L.A President Schenae Rourk and Advocacy Co-Chair Jessica Flores for organizing a most enlightening forum with a distinguished public servant, Michelle s. Giuda.

Toumajan was pleased to meet with Ms. Giuda, who serves as the current acting United States Under Secretary of State for Public Diplomacy and Public Affairs, and as United States Assistant Secretary of State for Public Affairs at the U.S Department of State. During a brief exchange, Toumajan highlighted to Ms Giuda, the serious and longtime working relationship between the Assembly and two branches – the Executive and Legislative – of the United States government. He stressed the Assembly’s longstanding ties with the U.S Department of State, and the Assembly’s service as a bridge to buttress U.S-Armenia relations at various levels of government and among civil society stakeholders.

Toumajan shed light one the Republic of Armenia as a global success story highlighting the power of grassroots democratic change, given the 2018 civic movement and peaceful governmental transition to the Pashinyan Adminsitration, culminating in economic and judicial reforms, a clampdown on corrupt activities, as well as free, fair and transparent Parliamentary elections in December 2018, with a clear vote of confidence entrusted int he current administration by the policy.

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AAMS to Honor Anna Hakobyan and Serj Tankian, April 6

LOS ANGELES, CA – The Armenian American Medical Society’s (AAMS) annual gala is fast-approaching and marks 34 years of promoting health services, education, and professional growth in the healthcare industry.

AAMS’ continued mission of benevolence is at the forefront of the celebration, this year spotlighting City of Smile Foundation’s pediatric oncology initiative in Armenia.

The 34th anniversary gala will honor City of Smile’s Chairwoman and the event’s keynote speaker, the Honorable Mrs. Anna Hakobyan, spouse of the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia.

The 2019 AAMS Lifetime Achievement Award will be presented to Serj Tankian, singer, poet, songwriter, visual artist, activist, composer, and the voice of System of a Down. “The Armenian American Medical Society has a wide-reaching legacy of supporting and promoting healthcare programs and professionals across the globe,” said AAMs President Armond Kotikian, DDS, MD, FACS. “This year’s partnership with City of Smile creates an opportunity for our organization to impact the lives of children suffering from oncological and hematological diseases directly in the heart of Armenia, making it a heartfelt initiative for our Board and the entire AAMS community.”

As the spouse of the Republic of Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, Mrs. Anna Hakobyan played an instrumental role in the 2018 Velvet Revolution. A graduate of Yerevan State University, Hakobyan’s background in journalism propelled her into her current role as editor-in-chief if Haykakan Jamanak (Armenian Times), the largest circulation in the country. Hakobyan’s leadership in advocating for charitable organizations throughout the country led to the formation of the City of Smile Foundation, whose mission is to help improve the current state of pediatric cancer care in Armenia, specifically hematological and oncological. She is also at the forefront of My Step Foundation who mission is to identify social solutions to problems that, for certain reasons, cannot be addressed by the government. She heads the Women for Peace campaign, dedicated to promoting the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, taking the focus away from politics and instead approaching it as an action of a woman and a mother.

The AAMS is honored to present Hakobyan as this year’s keynote speaker. Her contributions to the healthcare needs of Armenian children, as well as her leadership role throughout the nation, reach far beyond the borders of Armenia.

Mr. Serj Tankian is best known as the voice of the acclaimed rock band System of a Down, but his creative genius goes much further. His mission to promote diversity and understanding transcends music and poetry and dives deep into the world of advocacy. As a true Armenian activist, Tankian has created his own legacy in the healthcare community. “The AAMS is proud to honor Tankian with the much deserved 2019 AAMS Lifetime Achievement Award,” stated a committee spokesperson.

“The Armenian American Medical Society’s goal to impact healthcare begins locally and extends globally with international leaders such as Anna Hakobyan and Serj Tankian,” says AAMS Gala Chair Kevin Galstyan, MD, FACOG. “Their contributions to the AAMS’ mission are commendable, and it is our honor to celebrate them along with our entire community during the 34th anniversary gala.”

The gala will take place on Saturday, April 6 2019 at the Sheraton Universal Hotel. 333 Universal Hollywood Drive, Universal City, California. Cocktail hour will begin at 7:00pm, followed by dinner at 8:00pm.

To RSVP please email info@aamsc.org or call (818) 980-7777. To learn more about AAMS, visit www.aamsc.org.

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Nikol Pashinyan, Cyril Muller Discuss Expanding Cooperation Between Armenia and World Bank

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on March 15 met with the World Bank Vice President for Europe and Central Asia Cyril Muller.

Stressing the importance of World Bank’s financial and technical support to Armenia, the Prime Minister expressed his government’s interest in deepening cooperation and increasing the effectiveness and targeting of those programs implemented with the Bank.

Pashinyan said the Government’s goal is to turn the political revolution into an economic revolution. He noted that active cooperation with the World Bank could promote economic activity in the country. Speaking abou thte steps aimed at improving the business climate, Pashinyan emphasized that his government is committed to creating a highly transparent and competitive business environment.

Effective Partnership

Muller described the on-going cooperation with Armenian partners as quite effective. He assured the World Bank’s readiness to work closely with the Government to help implement the planned reforms and priorities, as well as to develop the economy, including small and medium sized enterprises.

The Vice-President of World Bank believes that the Government’s efforts to fight corruption and strengthen democracy will create a propitious environment for Armenia’s development and economic progress. In the context of bilateral cooperation, the parties discussed issues related to infrastructure development, cooperation in high-tech industry, education and healthcare.

Pashinyan and Muller took the opportunity to review the priorities envisaged in the 2019-2023 strategic document on Armenia World Bank cooperation.

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Assembly Co-Chair Requests $100 Million for Armenia in Democracy and Economic Assistance

WASHINGTON, D.C – Testifying in person before the House of Appropriations Subcommittee on State Foreign Operations and Related Programs (Subcommittee), on behalf of the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly), Board of Trustees Co-Chairman Van Krikorian urged the Subcommittee to allocate $100 million in democracy, and at least $10 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) and International Military Education Training (IMET) to Armenia for Fiscal Year (FY) 2020, with at least $25 million in assistance to Artsakh.

“Armenia had a remarkable year. The Economist objectively named it country of the year because of the democratic changes – peaceful change in government, extremely clean elections, rule of law, you name it – across the board. Time Magazine named the current leader of Armenia ‘Crusader for Democracy,” Krikorian said.

Given the watershed moment in history, Krikorian explained “that’s why we’re asking for something substantially more. We’re asking for $100 million in economic and democracy aid to Armenia; we’re asking for $10 million in FMF and IMET; we’re asking for $20 million because Armenia has resettled (Christians at risk) from Syria and the Middle East and given them a safe haven; and finally we are asking for $25 million for the benefit of Nagorno-Karabakh, just one of the places where the The Halo Trust works, but has also been a model of democracy in the region,” he noted.

The Assembly’s written testimony also discussed the need for aid given Turkey and Azerbaijan’s ongoing blockade of Armenia and Artsakh, the need to fully enforce Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act, as well as targeted assistance for economic development and job-creation programs in the Samtskhe-Javakheti region of Georgia. The Armenia Assembly’s submitted testimony for FY 2020 is available here.

Other Witnesses also Testified

In addition to Van Krikorian, other witnesses who testified included the Armenian Bar Association (ABA), the Asia Foundation, The HALO Trust, and the International Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES), among others.

Krikorian picked up on a question raised by Congresswoman Lois Frankel (D-FL) about democracy backsliding, what the United States can do about corruption, and how it can help. “First of all, reward people who have made progress towards democracy. And second of all, when it comes to corruption, I think the United States has to look at whether examples are made of corrupt individuals. They targeted high profile people who were corrupt and they went after them. The United States still uses that philosophy successfully. The fact that we write laws and when judges themselves can be corrupt is completely counterproductive,” Krikorian said. “In our experience, going after people even if it’s years later, to say that ‘you cannot get away with this, there will be consequences, the Rule of Law will apply’ is the best approach. And I would expect that if countries were analyzed based on that -which it doesn’t always have to be punitive, it can also be forms of a reconciliation type of process where people acknowledge what they’ve taken and give it back – I think might be a good metric for this Committee and the United States to start using, he added.

Krikorian welcomed the recent announcement that the Department of Justice is going to more actively enforce the Foreign Agent Registration Act (FARA). He pointed out that the last organization scheduled to testify has been clearly identified as one that benefits from corrupt funds from a foreign government – Azerbaijan – and has not reported it under the foreign agent registration act, nor has it reported under Congress’ lobbying laws.

Krikorian’s panel included The HALO Trust, whose humanitarian work in the South Caucasus has saved lives from being lost needlessly, and especially considering the pressure Azerbaijan has put to stop that demining work in Artsakh. Krikorian began his testimony paying resources to The HALO Trust and its Board Chair Anastasia Staten who lost three of its members last year while conducting demining activities. He stated that the Armenian Assembly fully supports their request for U.S aid so they can continue the critical work they do in the region, adding that the Assembly has also raised funds privately to help in landmine clearance efforts. “I think this Committee can do a world of good if it removes restrictions on U.S aid to them, removing mines based on artificial Soviet borders,” Krikorian said.

“We applaud the Subcommittee for holding today’s important hearing, and greatly appreciate Chairwoman Nita Lowey’s leadership and steadfast support for Armenia and Artsakh,” Krikorian stated.

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Armenia Begins Substantive Reforms to Improve its Ranking

What could be done to improve the country’s position in the World Bank’s Doing Business Index.

Currently Armenia ins ranked 41st among 190 countries, having improved its place by six points from the previous ranking for 2018.

VPM Avinyan said that improving the business environment is a priority of the government which will be strictly consistent in the implementation of the necessary measures.

The meeting discussed also ways to simplify permits, connecting to the power grid, registering property, obtaining loans, protecting small shareholders, paying taxes. Through the implementation of these measures, the government intends to reduce the administrative burden, eliminate barriers to doing business, simplify tax and customs policies, and define a predictable environment for foreign trade.

Avinyan said various platforms will be used to bring the outcome of the measures to the business community.

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Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan, Patriarch of Istanbul, Passed Away on Friday, March 8th

Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan, the 84th Armenian Patriarch of Istanbul, passed away on Friday, March 8th 2019, at Sourp Pirgich (Holy Saviour) Hospital in Istanbul, where he was being cared for. He has been incapacitated since 2008 with early onset dementia. He was born in 1957, educated in Germany and the United States from 1974 to 1979 in Memphis Tennessee, studying sociology and philosophy. Between 1979 and 1981 he continued his theological studies in Jerusalem at St. Monastery. He attended the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum) in Rome, Italy in 1988 to 1989.

On May 13, 1979, he was ordained into the priesthood and became the pastor of Kinan Island in Istanbul. On September 21, 1986, Mesrob Mutafyan was elevated to the rank of Bishop in Holy Etchmiadzin, Armenia. In 1993, he was elevated to the rank of archbishop to serve the church of Princes’ Islands. From 1997, Mutafyan acted as the vicar of general of the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople.

Following the death of Karekin II of Patriarch Karekin II, Kazanjian of Constantinople, Mesrob Mutafyan was elected locum tenens on March 16, 1998 to serve as the temporary leader of the Church until an election was held. Even though the Turkish authorities local authorities demanded Abp. Shahan Sivacyan of Uskudar, the retired longest serving archbishop should succeed, Mesrob Mutafyan was finally elected the 84th Armenian Patriarch of Constantinople on October 14, 1998.

During his apostolic journey to Turkey, Pope Benedict XVI visited, also the Sourp Asdvadzadzin Patriarchal Church in Kumkapi, Istanbul where he attended a religious ceremony and held later talks with Patriarch Mesrob Mutafyan on November 30, 2006. In 2008, Archbishop Aram Ateshyan was appointed to fulfill Patriarch Mesrob’s duties, because he was incapacitated and had dementia. Since then, there has been controversy within the Armenian community arguing that the government would not let election to take place because technically Patriarch Mutafyan was still alive but incapacitated.

A committee has formed to make funeral arrangements. Although the date is not set yet, committee members think it should be the following Saturday or Sunday, and thousands of people are expected to pay their respect. Also, a committee has been formed to organize the election of a new Patriarch after 40 days. At the moment, there are eight possible candidates. The Istanbul Patriarch needs to be Turkish born, therefore the list is very limited.

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OSCE Minks Group Co-Chairs Statement on the Meeting of PM Pashinyan and President Aliyev

Co-chairs of the OSCE Mink Group (Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stephane Visconti of France and Andrew Schofer of the United States of America) issued a statement on the upcoming meeting of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev. The statement runs as follows:

“In their March 1st statement, the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minks Group (Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, Stephane Visconti of France and Andrew Schofer of the United State of America) welcomed the commitment of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan to meet soon under the auspices of the Co-Chairs. The Co-Chairs, working closely with the two foreign ministers, have been making preparations for this important leasers’ meeting, which will be the first direct contact between the two leaders conducted under Co-Chair auspices.

The Co-Chair underline the importance of maintaining an environment conducive to productive discussions and continue to assess positively the recent lack of casualties on the front lines. The Co-Chairs also welcome some initial steps being taken in the region to prepare the populations for peace and encourage the sides to intensify such efforts, At the same time, the Co-Chairs reiterate the critical importance of reducing tensions and minimizing inflammatory rhetoric. In this context, the Co-Chairs urge the sides to refrain from statements and actions suggesting significant changes to the situation on the ground, prejudging the outcome of or setting conditions for future talks, demanding unilateral changes to the format without agreement of the other party, or indicating readiness to renew active hostilities.

With reference to some contradictory recent public statements on the substance of the Minsk Group process, the Co-Chairs reiterate that a fair and lasting settlement must be based on the core principles of the Helsinki Final Act, including in particular the non-use or threat of force, territorial integrity, and the equal rights and self-determination of peoples. It also should embrace additional elements as proposed by the Presidents of the Co-Chair countries in 2009-2012, including: return of the territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh to Azerbaijani control; an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh providing guarantees for security and self-governance; a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh providing, future determination of the final legal status of Nagorno-Karabakh through a legally binding expression of will; the right of all internally displaced persons and refugees to return to their former places of residence; and international security guarantees that would include a peacekeeping operation.

The Co-Chairs stress their view that these principles and elements must be the foundation of any fair and lasting settlement to the conflict and should be conceived as an integrated whole. Any attempt to put some principles or elements over others would make it impossible to achieve a balanced solution.

The Co-Chair are prepared to meet with the leaders and foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan at any time, and call on the leaders to resume negotiations in good faith at the earliest opportunity. Continuous and direct dialogue between Baku and Yerevan conducted under the auspices of the Co-Chairs remains an essential element in building confidence and advancing the peace process. The Co-Chairs will also continue to discuss, as appropriate, relevant issues with the interested parties directly affected by the conflict, recognizing that their views and concerns must be taken into account for any negotiated solution to succeed.

The Co-Chairs stress that they remain fully committed in accordance with their mandate, to helping the sides find a peaceful solution to the conflict. The Co-Chairs also express their full support for the impartial and critical monitoring work undertaken by the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and his team.”

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Armenian Assembly Praises Congressman Pallone’s Bipartisan Resolution Supporting Travel and Communication in Artsakh

WASHINGTON, D.C — The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) praised Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues Co-Chair Congressman Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) for introducing H. Res. 190.

The bipartisan legislation supports United States-Artsakh relations, and calls as travel, between the two nations at all levels of civil society and government.

“The United States has always been a strong supporter of open dialogue and communication, and this resolution was introduced in the vein of that tradition. We should always seek to engage friendly nations with democratic values like Artsakh, not disregard them as has been U.S policy for too long. I hope that our government will take this message to heart by fully recognizing Artsakh as an autonomous nation and encourage more direct U.S-Artsakh cooperation,” Congressman Pallone said to the Armenian Assembly.

The resolution notes: “Department of State policies and practices place self-imposed restrictions on travel and communications between the United States and Artsakh, limiting oversight of United States taxpayer-funded, assistance programs and discouraging the open dialogue.”

H.Res.190 also states: “open dialogue and communications contribute to greater international understanding and facilitate more effective conflict resolution. We welcome the introduction of H.Res.190 and appreciate the continued support by Congressman Pallone and his colleagues in this and other important issues related to the Artsakh-U.S bilateral agenda. In Artsakh, we look forward to eliminating all the unnecessary restrictions, and are very much interested in expanding ties and cooperation with the United States towards our shared vision of a peaceful, predictable, and prosperous South Caucasus,” Artsakh Representative to the United States Robert Avetisyan.

Spearheaded by Rep. Pallone, the resolution is co-sponsored by Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R-FL), and Rep. Jackie Spier (D-CA), Armenian Caucus Vice-Chair Rep. Adam Schiff (D-CA), Rep. Salud Carbajal (D-CA), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), rep. Katherine Clark (D-MA), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Grace Napolitano (D-CA), and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA).

H.Res.190 resolves that the House of Representatives: “(I) affirms its commitment to supporting actions that encourage visits and communication between officials from the United States and Artsakh at all levels, including cabinet level national security officials, to travel to Artsakh and openly and directly communicate with their Artsakh counterparts, (2) encourages open communication, meetings, and other direct contacts between officials of Artsakh and the executive and legislative branches of the United States government, representatives of State and local governments, and representatives of American civil society; and (3) calls for the full and direct participation of the democratically elected Government of the Republic of Artsakh in all OSCE and other negotiations regarding its future.”

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Armenia and Iran Are Committed to Expansion of Good Relations

Contrary to what the U.S desires, the relations between Iran and Armenia should be strong, persistent, and friendly, according to Leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ayatollah Khamenei in a meeting with visiting Armenian Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, according to Iranian news agency.

Khamenei received Pashinyan, and his entourage on Wednesday February 27. In the meeting, Ayatollah Khamenei described Iran and Armenia as good neighbors, enjoying historical relations and stressed on the necessity to increase levels of economic cooperation, “contrary to what the U.S desires, the ties between Iran and Armenian should be strong, persistent, and friendly.”

The Leader regarded increased cooperation and friendly relations as a duty to be conducted in favor of common interest of Iran and Armenia. Highlighting the friendly relations of Iran and Armenia throughout history. “Iran and Armenia have never had any problems with each other,” he said.

Khamenei mentioned that the level of economic cooperation between Iran and Armenian is much lower than the potentials the two nations possess and held that “the agreements and ratifications concluded during this trip should be vigorously pursued.”

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