Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan, left, with Annie Totah and Aram Hamparian in the background (photo: Aram Arkun)

Washington Armenian Community Unites in Support of Artsakh

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By Aram Arkun

Mirror-Spectator Staff

From left, Robert Avetisyan, Masis Mayilian and David Babayan

WASHINGTON — Upon the initiative of the representation of Artsakh in the United States, the Armenian Assembly of America and the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) organized a reception and banquet for the Armenian community on March 17 at the University Club in Washington D. C. to honor the visiting delegation of the Republic of Artsakh led by President Bako Sahakyan.

The bilingual event was moderated by Annie Simonian Totah, board member of the Armenian Assembly, and Aram Hamparian, executive director of the ANCA. Ambassador Grigor Hovhannisian of the Republic of Armenia to the United States welcomed the guests, after which Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, Diocesan Legate and Ecumenical Director for the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), gave the opening prayer.

Totah expressed her happiness that the two Armenian lobbying organizations of the United States have joined together to organize this event, and said that the more Armenians worked together, the more success they would find while presenting Armenian issues in Congress and the White House. She presented a brief history of the humanitarian aid to Artsakh that the Armenian Assembly helped to initiate and pointed out that the ANCA and the Assembly work with Congress to try to increase travel and communication with Artsakh, an OSCE-monitored system to try to stop the gunfire and other violations of the truce with Azerbaijan. Totah concluded that the next challenge for the Armenian lobbies would be to have President Sahakyan invited again to the US, this time officially by the White House.

From left, Bryan Ardouny, Annie Totah, Victoria Hovhannisian, and Aram Bakshian

Totah invited Hamparian to speak. Hamparian thanked Sahakyan for making his work in Washington easy. He said, “Artsakh is on the right side of the defining issues that matter here in Washington DC, on questions of peace, on questions of dialogue and on questions of democracy…” Artsakh wants accountability on questions of peace and truce violations, open communication and dialogue. Hamparian said that Artsakh is an American story: it is the victory of a free people over foreign rule.

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Hamparian declared that in honoring President Sahakyan, they were honoring a generation, starting in the late 1980s, that turned the tide of one thousand years. Armenians went from losing land and hope to a rebirth thanks to the people of Artsakh. He encouraged the guests to honor the president and his coevals by showing their support through money, time and effort to those on the frontlines of Armenian independence.

Totah then invited Sahakyan to speak. Deputy Head of the President’s Administration David Babayan, translated his remarks into English. Sahakyan said that that the American-Armenian community was one of the most powerful and accomplished segments of the Armenian diaspora, and was carrying out important work in developing Artsakh-US and Armenian-American relations and supporting Artsakh.

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian

In particular, Artsakh, he said, is interested in developing a partnership with the United States. The peoples of the two countries share much in common in their system of values, Sahakyan continued, including dedication to the principles of democracy, freedom, and initiative, and the unacceptability of stereotypes.

Sahakyan then bestowed Artsakh state medals of gratitude to the ANCA and its representatives for their consistent support and services rendered to the Artsakh Republic. The same awards were previously awarded to the Assembly. ANC American-Armenian activist Dr. Sarkis Agasarkisian of Georgia was called to the front to receive the medal of gratitude, while Kaspar Karampetian, president of the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy, visiting from Belgium, was given the Mesrop Mashtots Medal by the Artsakh president.

At this point, Armenian Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny declared that it was truly an honor to come together as one community united in support of Artsakh on this auspicious occasion. He called up Annie Totah, and together with Aram Hamparian, the three organizational leaders toasted the president.

Totah repeated that they would be working for the president’s next visit to be on the invitation of the White House. Hamparian concluded the evening by emphasizing that our community is deeply united when it comes to issues like Artsakh.

During the banquet, a 20-year-old pianist from Artsakh, Anahit Arushanyan, performed three musical selections for the gathering during a break in between speeches.

The Artsakh delegation, in addition to the president and Babayan, included Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian, parliamentarians David Ishkhanyan and David Melkumyan, and was accompanied by Artsakh’s Permanent Representative in the United States, Robert Avetisyan.

Amb. Grigor Hovhannisian welcomes the guests (photo: Aram Arkun)

In the audience were several clergymen, including, in addition to Archbishop Aykazian, Bishop Anoushavan Tanielian, Vicar General of the Eastern Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America. Aram Bakshian, a speechwriter for US Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan, and former US Ambassador to Armenia John Evans were present. The leaders of Armenian political parties like the Armenian Democratic Liberal Party and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, cultural organizations like the Tekeyan Cultural Association of the United States and Canada and the Hamazkayin Armenian Cultural Association of the Eastern United States, as well as service organizations like the Knights of Vartan were in attendance.

 

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