Independence Day Celebration on Capitol Hill

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Embassy of the Republic of Armenia, the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, and the Congressional Wine Caucus, in partnership with the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) and Armenian National Committee of America, hosted a reception on Capitol Hill celebrating Armenia’s 26th Independence Day and the Silver Jubilee of United States-Armenia diplomatic relations. The event was sponsored by the Armenian Assembly.

Special guests who attended the event are U.S. State Department Bureau of European and Eurasian Affairs Deputy Assistant Secretary Bridget Brink, U.S. Department of Commerce Deputy Assistant Secretary for Europe Dale Tasharski, Adjutant General of Kansas Major General Lee E. Tafanelli, U.S. OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Ambassador Andrew Schofer, former U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans (2004-2006), Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannissian, Artsakh Permanent Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan, Greek Ambassador to the U.S. Haris Lalacos, Georgian Ambassador to the U.S. David Bakradze, Kazakhstan Ambassador to the U.S. Erzhan Kazykhanov, including other Ambassadors and diplomats, St. Mary Armenian Church Reverend Father Hovsep Karapetyan, and Armenian Missionary Association of America (AMAA) Executive Director Zaven Khanjian, as well as Armenian Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian and Board Members Oscar Tatosian and Joyce Stein.

“As we celebrate diplomatic relations between the United States and Armenia, we are honored to have top diplomats who represent our country, both here in the United States to Armenia, and from Armenia to the United States,” Assembly Co-Chair Barsamian said.

Ambassador Hovhannissian welcomed guests, and stated: “We are celebrating our thriving relationship with the United States, a reliable friend and partner that helped Armenia face formidable odds as our country 26 years ago embarked on a nation building mission and embraced the family of freedom loving nations.” He continued: “We celebrate these milestones at the U.S. Congress, in recognition of the leadership role that Congress and its Congressional Caucus on Armenian issues played in fostering and cementing the reestablished relations between our nations. In this jubilee year, we were fortunate to host a large Congressional delegation to Armenia to see the fruits of our cooperation.”

State Department Deputy Assistant Secretary Brink, expressing her appreciation for the strong partnership between the U.S. and Armenia, generously credited her longtime working relations with the leadership of the Armenian Assembly. “This year, Armenia celebrates twenty six years of independence. In this time, it is quite remarkable how much progress has been made. We all remember all too well the difficult years immediately after independence. But in a relatively short period of time, Armenia has modernized its economy and has become a tech hub in the region, created a vibrant political system that allows space for civil society, and has built a strong, enduring partnership with the United States, of which I am deeply proud,” she said.

Brink also thanked Armenia for its contributions to North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) operations in Afghanistan and Kosovo, as well as the nation’s generosity for welcoming over 20,000 Syrian refugees. “These actions underscore the shared strategic interests between our two countries,” she added.

House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R-CA) congratulated Armenia on this important occasion, stating: “It is a pleasure to be here with you tonight to celebrate twenty-six years of Armenian independence. In 1991, the Armenian people courageously expressed their desire for independence from the Soviet Union in a referendum. The United States established full diplomatic with the newly sovereign state that same year, and since that time we have enjoyed good cooperation on a host of shared foreign policy, security, and human rights priorities in the region. As we celebrate the freedom that the Armenian people gained over two decades ago, let us also keep in mind those in Artsakh who continue in their struggle for independence.”

Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Representatives Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA) shared remarks about their recent visit to Armenia, as well as current affairs in U.S.-Armenia relations. The Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs spoke highly of the progress made to the economy in Armenia and Artsakh, as well as the modern infrastructure in the rural areas.

“Keep up the support. Do not give up by any means, because you are being successful with your help, as well as what we do on the congressional level to make a difference in Armenia,” Rep. Pallone told the guests. “On the day of independence, we were at the celebration with the [Armenian] President, and he talked about the IT sector, which grew over 30% in one year in Armenia. So despite the boycott, despite the military buildup in Azerbaijan, [and] despite all the negative things that are happening around Armenia in an effort to try and isolate – they are thriving, they are improving their economy, they are improving their democracy, and that’s just as true in Artsakh as well.”

Rep. Speier echoed the positive message from their visit to Armenia. “The trip was magical and exhausting. We met with everyone, and I came back with all kinds of hope and optimism,” she stated.

Reps. Royce, Pallone, and Speier were joined by House Foreign Affairs Committee Ranking Member Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Judy Chu (D-CA), Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Luis Correa (D-CA), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. Eliot Engel (D-NY), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (D-HI), Rep. Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-IL), Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Rep. Linda Sanchez (D-CA), Rep. John Sarbanes (D-MD), Rep. Brad Schneider (D-IL), Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), and Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV).

The event featured a photo exhibition announcing next summer’s 2018 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which will focus on the cultural heritage of Armenia. The 2018 Festival will feature hundreds of artisans, designers, musicians, and chefs from Armenia.

A capacity audience filled the House Rayburn Building Foyer and had ample opportunity to interact with their elected Representatives as well as enjoy musical performances. Guests also had the pleasure of sampling Armenia’s brandy and wine courtesy of the Armenian Embassy.

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