|WOODSIDE, NY--On November 16, 2003, over 125 people attended a public forum hosted by the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of New York featuring Congressman Joseph Crowley (D-NY). The event was held to give the Congressman an opportunity to share with the Armenian American community his views on his recent visit to Armenia.
ANC of New York Chairman Tony Vartanian welcomed Congressman Crowley, as well as his Chief of Staff Christopher McCannell and legislative assistant Sarig Armenian. Vartanian presented Congressman Crowley's impressive record as representative of the 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of the Bronx and Queens. The Congressman is currently serving his third term and serves on the Committee on Financial Services and the International Relations Committee.
Congressman Crowley has been a strong supporter of a number of issues of concern to the Armenian-American community including cosponsoring the current Genocide Resolution (H.Res.193) and legislation granting Armenia permanent normal trade relations with the US (H.R.528). Congressman Crowley also recently joined over 45 of his colleagues in co-signing a letter to the House Foreign Operations Subcommittee requesting increased US aid to Armenia and a $5 million earmark for Nagorno Karabagh. Additionally, during the October 6, 2003 House International Relations Committee markup of the reauthorization for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation, the Congressman criticized the routing of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil and gas pipeline, which bypasses the more economic and commercially viable route through Armenia.
Vartanian mentioned the various dignitaries with whom Congressman Crowley met in Armenia such as His Holiness Karekin II, Catholicos of All Armenians; Arthur Baghdasaryan, National Assembly Speaker; Vartan Oskanyan, Foreign Minister of Armenia; John Ordway, US Ambassador to Armenia; Vahan Hovhanesyan, Deputy Speaker of the National Assembly; Levon Mkrtchyan, Chairperson of the ARF Parliamentary Group, and Archbishop Mesrob Ashjian Vartanian also pointed out the various cultural and historic sites the Congressman visited, such as Etchmiadzin, Tzitzernakaberd, and the ruins of Ani.
Following the introduction, Congressman Crowley thanked the ANC for sponsoring the forum and his trip, especially ANCA Eastern Region Chairperson Sharistan Ardhaldjian and ANCA Eastern Region Director Arin Gregorian for coordinating his four-day visit to Armenia.
Speaking about his first visit to the region, and to a former Soviet-bloc country, Congressman Crowley conveyed his positive impression of Armenia's fledgling democratic system, the thriving culture and, above all, the hospitality of the residents who warmly welcomed him and spoke highly of the Diasporan Armenians. He remarked that the Armenian Genocide, the recognition of which is one of his highest priorities for his work for the Armenian community, was addressed by each dignitary with whom he met.
Congressman Crowley spoke of the sites he visited, noting his awe of the ruins of Ani, his satisfaction in planting a tree on the grounds of Tzitzernakaberd following his tour of the monument and museum, and his sadness in viewing the poverty of Gyumri, still ravaged by the 1988 earthquake. In Gyumri, Congressman Crowley visited the ARS "Mother and Child" Health Center and observed the ongoing work of USAID and the Lincy Foundation. The Congressman also mentioned that while he had not had the honor of meeting Pope John Paul II, he felt privileged to meet His Holiness Karekin II.
He stressed that Armenia is in great need of additional financial assistance from the US than what is currently earmarked ($45 million) to improve its infrastructure and help stem the tide of depopulation, as many young Armenians seek employment opportunities abroad.
Congressman Crowley expressed his interest in returning to Armenia, including visiting Karabagh, with an official delegation of Congressmen. Finally, he congratulated the ANC on its work and reiterated his pledge to continue promoting issues of concern to Armenia and the Diaspora.
Following Congressman Crowley's presentation, a question and answer period followed where he addressed issues such as pending Congressional resolutions, foreign aid, the Baku-Tblisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the dual blockade of Armenia by Turkey and Azerbaijan.
Tony Vartanian thanked the Congressman for his address and presented him and his staff with copies of Peter Balakian's recent book, The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response. A reception followed the forum where Congressman Crowley greeted the attendees.
The Armenian National Committee (ANC) is the largest Armenian American grassroots political organization in New York and nationwide. The ANC actively advances a broad range of issues of concern to the Armenian American community.