09/05/12 - Statement released on the release and pardon of Ramil Safarov - As you may have heard, Azerbaijan?s president last week pardoned Ramil Safarov, an Azeri solider who was sentenced to life in prison for the brutal murder of unarmed Armenian Army officer Gurgen Margaryan in Budapest in 2004. The convicted ax-murderer spent eight years in a Hungarian prison until the government of Hungary allowed him to return to Azerbaijan.
Not only did Azerbaijan's president immediately free the criminal, the government promoted him to the rank of major and paid his salary for the eight years he was in custody for the murder. And, the New York Times reported over the weekend that ?Mr. Safarov was given a hero?s welcome in Azerbaijan, where thousands of people took to the streets to greet him.?
This injustice of international law committed by the government of Azerbaijan is an outrage, plain and simple. This illegal pardon glorifies a heinous crime committed against an innocent Armenian soldier and does a severe disservice to the peace process in the region. I believe Hungary was complicit in this action.
We in the United States stand firm with our friends in Armenia during these trying times because of our steadfast commitment to justice, peace and mutual respect. The actions of the Azeri government stand in stark contrast to these values and underline the need for the U.S. government to strongly support Armenia and its people.
In Congress, I will continue to support Armenia?s efforts to provide peace and security for its people. Please do not hesitate to contact me regarding this or any other issue in the coming days.
04/25/12 - Statement delivered on the House floor --- Madam Speaker, 97 years ago, the Ottoman Empire orchestrated a murderous campaign that resulted in the death of 1.5 million Armenian men, women, and children and forced hundreds of thousands into exile.
Growing up in Fresno, California, the place William Saroyan, a great American author of Armenian descent, called home, I heard the stories of this tragic time between 1915 and 1923. The sons and daughters of survivors, time and time again, told the stories of their families.
The facts are clear. What happened 97 years ago can only be called by one name: genocide - the first genocide of the 20th century. Yet after nearly a century, the House of Representatives and current and past American Presidents have refused to recognize the Armenian genocide as such.
We cannot wait for a convenient moment, for it's not a convenient truth. Man's inhumanity to mankind never is. Now is the time to pass House Resolution 304 that I am a cosponsor of and formally recognize the Armenian genocide.
03/22/12 - Mr. Speaker, I rise to pay tribute to the life of one of our Nation's most principled and generous business leaders, Mr. Pete P. Peters. Sadly, Mr. Peters passed away on March 13, 2012 at the age of 94. His remarkable impact on California's San Joaquin Valley will ensure that his legacy lives on for years to come.
The son of Armenian immigrants, Pete was truly a shining example of the American Dream. With hard work and perseverance, he and his family were able to become business leaders and generous community benefactors.
Mr. Peters, and his brother Leon, were both notable entrepreneurs; he was a self-trained engineer who pioneered a design for a stainless steel circular tanks that have been used for decades by winemakers worldwide. His innovative spirit and passion allowed the brothers to run Valley Foundry and Machine Works as a family operation.
Upon his retirement in 1989, Mr. Peters immersed himself in our community and was active in a number of organizations. He oversaw the Leon S. Peters Foundation and served as chairman of the Pete P. Peters Foundation. While he did not have the opportunity to go to college, Mr. Peters was an ardent advocate for higher education and felt it was necessary for young Americans have the opportunity to go to college, regardless of their financial circumstances. As a result, he was an enthusiastic supporter of colleges and universities in the San Joaquin Valley, including: California State University, Fresno (CSU Fresno), Fresno City College, and Reedley College.
Mr. Peters was also a supporter of Community Regional Medical Center, Valley Public Television, the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust, and the San Joaquin Valley Winemaking Association. His numerous gifts to our Valley enhanced thousands of lives.
Recognizing his immense contributions to the San Joaquin Valley, California, and our Nation, CSU Fresno conferred on him an honorary doctoral degree--the CSU's highest honor.
Mr. Speaker, I ask my colleagues to join me in celebrating the life of Mr. Pete P. Peters. His humility and unwavering commitment to the improvement of our community not only made him an asset to the San Joaquin Valley, but a role model for our entire Nation.
03/08/12 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record on Sumgait --- Mr. Speaker, once again I rise on behalf of the thousands of Armenian Americans in my congressional district to remember the evening of February 27, 1988, when a murderous campaign began against Christian Armenian civilians living in Sumgait , Azerbaijan. Tragically, police in nearby Baku ignored the atrocities and allowed the rampage to continue for three days.
Azerbaijani rioters murdered, raped and maimed Armenians, throwing women and children from windows and burning victims alive. While some estimate that more than 30 individuals were killed and more than 200 injured, others estimate that hundreds were murdered. The Soviets banned journalists from entering the area and, for two decades, Azerbaijani authorities relentlessly covered up, ignored and whitewashed these tragic events.
Even worse, many believe the atrocities were officially sanctioned by Azerbaijani authorities to send a clear message to the Armenians, who were peacefully demonstrating against Azerbaijani repression and discrimination in Nagorno Karabakh just days before the massacre.
The anniversary of this horrifying moment in history serves as yet another call to action to build a more peaceful and just world. The United States must stand firmly against repression and human rights abuses.
07/20/11 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record on Cyprus - Mr. Speaker, I rise today to draw attention to the anniversary of Turkey's invasion of Cyprus , which occurred on July 20, 1974. In violation of international law, Turkish troops occupied the northern part of Cyprus , and established an armed force that continues to occupy nearly over one third of Cyprus' territory.
The invasion and continuing occupation of the northern part of the island has resulted in the continuing presence of a force of thousands of Turkish troops, mass violation of the human rights and fundamental freedoms of the Cypriot people, and the destruction of cultural and religious artifacts. On September 28, 2010, the U.S. House of Representatives unanimously passed H. Res. 1631 which calls for the protection of religious sites and artifacts from and in Turkish-occupied areas of northern Cyprus , as well as for general respect for religious freedom.
Over the years, Cyprus has proven itself to be a reliable partner of the U.S. Throughout the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, Cyprus has provided over-flight and landing rights to United States aircraft and port access for U.S. ships. Furthermore, during the Lebanon crisis of 2006, Cyprus served as the principal transit location for people evacuating Lebanon, including some 15,000 U.S. citizens.
Cyprus and the U.S. also share a deep and abiding commitment to upholding the ideals of freedom, democracy, justice, human rights, and the international rule of law. It is time for Turkey to share this goal with the Government of the Republic of Cyprus and work earnestly and constructively with the Cypriots for a true reunification of the island as a bizonal, bicommunal federation with political equality, as defined in the relevant U.N. Security Council resolutions.
Such a solution would not only serve the best interests of all Cypriots, but ultimately the interests of the U.S. in promoting stability in the Eastern Mediterranean.
The aim remains to work towards a solution which will establish a bicommunal, bizonal federation with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms for all Cypriots.
04/15/11 - Statement on the House floor regarding the Armenian Genocide - (Mr. COSTA asked and was given permission to address the House for 1 minute and to revise and extend his remarks.)
Mr. Speaker, I too rise to thank Father Coughlin, Father Dan, for his spiritual sustenance and guidance that he has given all the Members of the House during his service to our country.
Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to be here today to commemorate the 96th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide, which was the first genocide in the 20th century and, sadly, the template for a cycle of genocide that continues to this day around the world.
Next week, in Fresno and around the country, there will be thousands of Armenian Americans, many who are sons and daughters and grandchildren of the survivors of the Armenian genocide. As a young man, I grew up listening to my friends the Kezirians, the Kolligians, the Bakers, the Abrahams, the Karabians and the Kashians, and many others who told the story of their parents and grandparents.
We are quickly approaching the 100th anniversary of the start of the Armenian genocide. I am hopeful we don?t have to wait until then to bring justice to the Armenian nation and our friends and neighbors who sadly recognize that event.
There is never a right time to recognize genocide. More than 90 years have passed since the start of these events, and we cannot wait for a convenient moment to recognize this truly catastrophic historical event. I will continue to stand for us to properly recognize this tragic event.
02/28/11 - Statement submitted for the Congressional Record on Sumgait --- Mr. Speaker, on behalf of the thousands of Armenian Americans in my congressional district, I rise to remember the evening of February 27, 1988, when a three-day rampage began against Christian Armenian civilians living in Sumgait, Soviet Azerbaijan. Armenian civilians were at the mercy of Azerbaijani rioters, who murdered, raped, and maimed Armenians, throwing women and children from windows and burning victims alive. Soviet authorities, who had prohibited journalists from entering the area and had instituted a press blackout, estimated over 30 individuals had been killed and over 200 injured, but others estimated hundreds were murdered.
In the days before the massacre, Armenians in Nagorno Karabakh had been peacefully demonstrating against decades of Soviet Azerbaijani repression and discrimination. Many believed the resulting massacres were officially sanctioned to send a message to Armenians to stop challenging Soviet Azerbaijani authorities.
Within months of the Sumgait massacres, the U.S. Senate unanimously passed Amendment 2690 to the FY 1989 Foreign Operations Appropriations bill (H.R. 4782) in July 1988, concerning the Karabakh conflict and calling on the Soviet government to ?respect the legitimate aspirations of the Armenian people.? The amendment also noted that ?dozens of ?Armenians have been killed and hundreds injured during the recent unrests.?
The anniversary of this horrifying instance of violence serves as a reminder that the United States must stand with those around the globe engaged in peaceful demonstrations against repression and human rights abuses