07/28/10 - Remarks submitted for the Congressional Record - Madam Speaker, I rise today to recognize the 36th anniversary of the Turkish invasion and continuing occupation of the northern part of Cyprus. Since then, Cypriots have suffered from the division of their country and countless violations of their human rights by Turkish occupation forces. Even today, there is one Turkish soldier for every 2 Cypriots, making Cyprus one of the most heavily militarized places on Earth. It is important that we recognize not only the anniversary of the invasion, but also the island?s ongoing problems at the hands of Turkey.
On July 20, 1974, Turkish troops unlawfully occupied the northern part of Cyprus with a heavily-armed force that maintains control of 37 percent of Cyprus today. This has resulted in the usurpation and exploitation of Cypriot property, as well as the creation of hundreds of thousands of refugees. Additionally, an influx of Turkish immigrants has settled into the evicted Cypriots? homes, permanently altering the demographics of Cyprus and outnumbering native Cypriots by two to one. The UN has passed a multitude of resolutions calling for Turkish withdrawal from Cyprus, but they have been continually ignored.
As Cyprus has always been a reliable partner of the United States, we must not forget the injustices suffered by its people. We must uphold the ideals of freedom, democracy, justice, human rights, and the international rule of law. By invading Cyprus, Turkey is in direct offense to all of these. As much as we would rather have no such grievance to recognize, it is important that we commemorate these injustices today.
I urge my colleagues to join me in expressing the hope that Cyprus will be reunified soon and that peace will return to this beautiful and historic land in the eastern Mediterranean.
06/08/10 - Remarks delivered on the House floor - Last week?s interdiction by the Israeli Navy of a small flotilla of ships trying to run the blockade on Hamas-controlled Gaza ignited a firestorm around the world.
Foreign commentators, who look askance at the Jewish state in the best of times, condemned the raid in the strongest of terms, attempting to cast it as another example of Israel?s supposed slide toward South African-style apartheid or even fascism.
Here and in Israel, itself, the reaction reflected a deeper understanding of the broad spectrum of threats confronting Israel. The execution of the raid, itself, was criticized in some quarters, but there remains a fundamental understanding of the underlying conditions that gave rise to Israel?s blockade of Gaza and a realization that those conditions persist and that, as long as Gaza remains under the control of Hamas, there can be no lasting peace between Israel and the Palestinians.
Hamas leaders and their masters in Tehran and Damascus have repeatedly refused to renounce terror, to abide by agreements signed by the Palestinian Authority and Israel and to recognize Israel?s right to exist. They have used Gaza?s impoverished population as human shields in their war of attrition with Israel and have subordinated their people?s needs to the quest for rockets and other weapons. Two days ago, Israeli forces intercepted an armed squad of five terrorists who were wearing diving suits and who were apparently on their way to attack Israeli targets.
Madam Speaker, there can be no doubt that these are dangerous times for Israel and that America must stand by the Middle East?s only democracy in its quest for peace and security.
Despite four rounds of U.N. sanctions, including today?s passage of tighter finance curbs and an expanded arms embargo, Iran has not been deterred in its quest to develop nuclear weapons. While this latest round of sanctions is a welcomed step, there is deep skepticism that President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the hard-line clerics who rule Iran can be dissuaded from their present course. An Iran armed with the bomb would be a catastrophe, destabilizing the Middle East and triggering an arms race in the region.
President Obama and Secretary of State Clinton have done a great service to Israel, to the greater Middle East, and to the cause of international peace and security through their efforts to forge a consensus in the Security Council, and I offer them my personal thanks. Yet, even as we applaud today?s sanctions vote, we must redouble our efforts to prevent Iran from acquiring nuclear weapons, and I look forward to further diplomatic and unilateral initiatives to convince Tehran that the costs of continuing on this reckless path are greater than any perceived benefit.
Hezbollah, the Shiite militia cum political party created in Lebanon by Iran?s Revolutionary Guards in 1983, has rearmed in the aftermath of the 2006 war with Israel. Its arsenal of short-range missiles has reportedly been augmented by longer range Scuds, which can reach targets throughout Israel. The Scuds, believed to be supplied by Syria, augment Hezbollah?s existing stockpile of up to 40,000 rockets stored in underground bunkers in southern Lebanon.
Turkey, which had been Israel?s strongest Muslim majority ally and an important mediator between Jerusalem and Arab capitals, has, in recent months, become deeply hostile to Israel. In addition to hosting the organizers of the Gaza flotilla, Turkey has said it would reduce military and trade ties, and it has put off discussions of energy projects, including natural gas and freshwater shipments. Last year, Prime Minister Erdogan accused Israel of being a greater violator of human rights than Sudan, and today, Turkey was one of only two votes against new rounds of sanctions against Iran in the Security Council.
Most worrisome in the long term is the broad-based international campaign to delegitimize Israel. University campuses have been divided by divestment campaigns. There have been academic and economic boycotts of Israel in Europe, and many Israelis are wary of traveling to several European countries.
The great majority of the world?s people alive today were not born until well after World War II and did not bear witness to the Holocaust. They did not watch as thousands of Jewish refugees, desperate to start new lives in Palestine after the war, were forcibly prevented from entering the country by Britain. They did not witness the miracle of Israel?s birth in 1948 and the immediate invasion of the new state by five Arab armies.
For more than six decades, this country has stood by Israel. We have admired its pluck, its ingenuity, and its dedication to democratic principles in spite of all of the threats it faces. While there has always been a strategic dimension to the U.S.-Israel alliance, the relationship has really been rooted in our shared values.
Madam Speaker, 17 years ago, on the occasion of the signing of the Oslo Accords, late Prime Minister Rabin spoke movingly of his journey.
He said, ?We have come from Jerusalem, the ancient and eternal capital of the Jewish people. We have come from an anguished and grieving land. We have come from a people, a home, a family, that has not known a single year?not a single month?in which mothers have not wept for their sons. We have come to try and put an end to the hostilities so that our children and our children?s children will no longer have to experience the painful cost of war, violence, and terror.
?We have come to secure their lives and to ease the sorrow and the painful memories of the past?to hope and pray for peace.?
We share the prime minister?s sorrow, and to the people of Israel, we say, America is with you.
05/28/10 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record - Madam Speaker, I rise to commend Archbishop Hovnan Derderian on the 30th anniversary of his ordination into the Priesthood and the 20th anniversary of his elevation to the rank of Bishop. Archbishop Derderian is Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church of North America. The Western Diocese covers the Western United States.
Archbishop Derderian was born in 1957 in Beirut, Lebanon. In 1980, he was ordained as a priest in the Armenian Apostolic Church. In 1987 Archbishop Derderian received his Master?s Degree in Theology from Oxford University, and was raised to the rank of ?Dzairakuyn Vartabed.? In 1990 he was elected Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Canada, and later in 1990, was ordained as a Bishop by His Holiness Vazken I. On February 18, 1993 he was made an Archbishop. In 2003, Archbishop Derderian was elected Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America by the 76th Annual Assembly.
Since being elevated to the rank of Archbishop, he has led many projects of great importance to the Church and the community. He created the Christian Youth Mission to Armenia in 2003 which builds ties between youths living in America to Armenia through travel and internship programs. Under his leadership, the Church is nearing completion of the first ever Cathedral of the Armenian Apostolic Church on the West Coast, located in Burbank, California. Additionally, since his appointment as Primate he has ordained five new priests to serve the Western Diocese.
Archbishop Derderian?s commitment to serving the faithful and the community are admirable. I congratulate him on his 30 years of service in the Priesthood and thank him for his leadership.
04/21/10 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record - Madam Speaker, I rise today to honor the Armenian Relief Society as it celebrates its 100th anniversary.
The Armenian Relief Society, ARS, established in 1910, is a non-profit organization devoted to community and cultural service. Initially a mostly women?s organization, it empowered women to take leadership roles and act for the betterment of society, and encompass the importance of serving the needs of Armenian genocide victims.
As time elapsed, the goals of the ARS branched out to reach all communities in distress? Armenians and non-Armenians alike. In addition to disaster relief and assistance during wars and epidemics, the ARS has broadened its activities and developed a mission and a common purpose. Today, they address social, educational, developmental, and cultural roles within communities.
Over the course of a century, the organization has launched chapters in more than 26 countries. The ARS situated its western roots in Fresno in 1915 and has expanded to include 26 chapters in California, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Utah. Hence, the ARS of Western USA was established in 1984 in response to the growing needs of expanding communities. Geographical location has never steered members off their precise course of making a difference in local communities and around the world simultaneously.
The ARS?s passion to help people has blossomed into various constructive projects. Since its establishment in 1980, Armenian Relief Society Social Services Centers have aided approximately 60,000 people annually regarding issues such as immigration, counseling, and services for the elderly. In the year 2000, the ARS Child, Youth & Family Guidance Center was created to provide a gateway to individuals and families suffering from problems such as marital and family conflicts and substance abuse. Supportive professional therapists offer individual and group psychotherapy, family psychotherapy, and crisis intervention. With the support of generous donors, the ARS continues to support such centers as well as schools, scholarship programs, cultural centers, health-care clinics, and orphanages to name a few examples. Today, ARS chapters also work hand-in-hand with other charities such as the American Red Cross, Catholic Charities, Salvation Army, and YWCA.
I am proud to recognize the past and present members and supporters of the ARS for their unique contributions to the global community, and I ask all Members to join me in congratulating the Armenian Relief Society for 100 years of dedicated service.
12/09/09 - Meeting with Chairman of the Armenian Parliament's Foreign Relations Committee, Armen Rustamyan.