Discusses Support for Armenian American issues with ANCA Leaders

March 31, 2004

LOS ANGELES, CA – Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry thanked Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Chairman Ken Hachikian and other leaders and supporters of the ANCA, who participated as sponsors in a major Beverly Hills campaign fundraiser that brought an estimated $3 million dollars into the Kerry campaign.

During a private reception, Hachikian spoke with the Massachusetts Senator, who noted his long-time support for Armenian American issues and his close relationship with the Massachusetts Armenian community. He recalled the 1990 bipartisan Senate battle to adopt the Armenian Genocide resolution, led by Senate Majority Leader Bob Dole, noting his commitment to the passage of that and subsequent legislation recognizing the Armenian Genocide. The 1990 bill was defeated with a filibuster by Sen. Robert Byrd (D-WV), an outspoken advocate in the Senate of Turkish Government interests. In a September, 2003, meeting with ANCA Western Region Executive Director Ardashes Kassakhian and community activist Mihran Toumajan, Sen. Kerry commented on the 1990 Genocide recognition effort, stating “I was incensed when the Turkish lobby and its allies disrupted the bill in the Senate… It is called justice, and we will get there together.”

Former Clinton Administration official and leading community activist Mike Mahdesian, who took part in the event, commented on the key role of Armenian Americans in the upcoming presidential race, noting the community presence and activism in key swing states around the country. “This was a great opportunity to speak to Senator Kerry and build on his strong twenty-year relationship with the Armenian American community,” commented Mahdesian following the function. “Senator Kerry spoke highly of the efforts of the Armenian National Committee and looks forward to working closely with the Armenian American community on the road to victory in November.” Mahdesian served for more than seven years as Deputy for the Bureau of Humanitarian Response at the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development. During this period, he was integrally involved in the U.S. response to crises in Haiti, Rwanda, Bosnia, Kosovo, Indonesia, and other trouble spots around the world.

Hachikian and Mahdesian were joined by a leading group of Armenian American activists at the gala event, including ANCA Western Region Chairman Raffi Hamparian, Board Members Aida Dimejian and Souzi Zerounian-Khanzadian, Executive Director Ardashes Kassakian, United Armenia Fund Executive Director Harout Sassounian, as well as several other long-time ANC supporters.

The March 30th event was held at the home of noted Los Angeles businessman Ron Burkle and featured a concert by James Taylor. Among the notable Hollywood stars present at the event were Barbra Streisand, Danny DeVito, Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, Michael Keaton, Jason Alexander, Lucy Liu, Sharon Stone, Leonardo DiCaprio, Ted Danson, Mary Steenburgen, Christina Applegate, Oliver Stone, Dustin Hoffman and Angelica Huston.

Senator Kerry, during his long tenure in the U.S. House and Senate, has consistently been a leading advocate of issues of concern to Armenian Americans. As a U.S. Senator, Kerry has forcefully fought for U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He is currently a cosponsor of the Genocide Resolution, S.Res.164, and he voted, in 1990, on the Senate floor for Senator Bob Dole’s (R-KS) Genocide Resolution.

The Massachusetts Senator has been a vocal and effective champion of stronger U.S.-Armenia relations and has consistently backed legislative initiative to increase aid and expand trade with Armenia. He is currently a cosponsor of legislation, S.1557, which would grant Armenia permanent normal trade relations status.

Senator Kerry has spearheaded a number of initiatives to lift the Turkish and Azerbaijani blockades. In 1991, he was the lead sponsor of legislation, which was later enacted as Section 907 of the Freedom Support Act that restricted U.S. aid to the government of Azerbaijan until it lifted its blockades of Armenia and Nagorno Karabagh. He also worked for the adoption of the Humanitarian Aid Corridor Act, which called for U.S. aid to Turkey to be cut off unless Turkey lifted its blockade of Armenia. As recently as this January, Senator Kerry formally called on President Bush to press the visiting Prime Minister of Turkey to lift his nation’s illegal blockade of Armenia.

First elected in 1984 from Massachusetts, Sen. Kerry is currently serving a fourth term in the US Senate, where he represents one of the largest Armenian American communities. He serves on the Senate Finance Committee, the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, the Committee on Foreign Relations, and the Subcommittee on Central Asia and South Caucasus.

The ANCA recently released its Armenian American Presidential Report Card, which gave the Bush Administration generally low marks on fifteen issues of special concern to Armenian American voters.


For Immediate Release
Media Contact: Elizabeth S. Chouldjian
Email / Tel: (202) 775-1918
Armenian National Committee of America
888 17th Street, NW, Suite 904, Washington, DC 20006
Tel. (202) 775-1918 * Fax. (202) 775-5648 *
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