Rustamyan’s USA East Coast Tour a Success

Armenian National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Armen Rustamyan (r.) with U.S. House Committee on Foreign Affairs Chairman Howard Berman (D-CA)

Community Support for ARF’s Protocols Position Strong

Armenia National Assembly member Armen Rustamyan concluded his USA East Coast tour on Dec. 13 after a guest appearance in New York at an even commemorating the ARF’s 119th anniversary. During his Dec. 9-13 visit, Rustamyan, who is chair of the National Assembly’s Committee on Foreign Relations and of the ARF Supreme Body in Armenia, was welcomed in Washington, Philadelphia, Providence, Watertown, New Jersey, and New York, where the ARF hosted community meetings and arranged for private meetings with local, government, and community representatives.

Rustamyan arrived in Washington, D.C. on Dec. 9 for a full day of meetings with congressional representatives. During these meetings, he emphasized the dangers underlying the Armenia-Turkey protocols, and their use by the government of Turkey to impose preconditions that are detrimental to Armenian national interests.

Among the members of Congress Rustamyan met with was Rep. Howard Berman (D-Calif.), the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. Rustamyan wrote to Berman in March 2009, just prior to the April announcement of the “roadmap” that led to the Armenia-Turkey protocols. “Taking into account that the United States has not yet officially recognized the Armenian Genocide, Turkey makes its status more and more inflexible in the resolution of Armenian-Turkish relations,” Rustamyan said. “I am sure that the U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide will not become an obstacle to Armenian-Turkish relations, it will contribute to their improvement.”

Today, his words ring prophetic as the protocols have since been used as a sword by Turkey to block U.S. recognition of the genocide, to force Armenia to recognize its current illegal border with Turkey, and to push Armenia toward resolving the Karabagh issue in a manner that denies its people their right to self-determination.

The protocols are currently before Armenia’s Constitutional Court. Rustamyan stated earlier this month that the ARF considers the protocols illegal under Armenia’s constitution, and that the court has every reason to consider them invalid.

While in Washington, D.C., Rustamyan met with Rep. Diane Watson (D-CA), Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. Elliot Engel (D-NY), Congressional Armenian Caucus CoChair Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA) and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee Chairman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD). He also met with administration officials.

Rustamyan told members of Congress and State Department officials that the ARF favored open relations with Turkey, but opposed the heavy price preconditions would cost Armenia in exchange for an open border. Rustamyan strongly condemned the current protocols as dangerous to Armenia, noting as an example Turkey’s current push to resolve the Karabagh issue in Azerbaijan’s favor under cover of the protocols.

During his six-city tour, Rustamyan spread the ARF’s unwavering message of opposition to the controversial Armenia-Turkey protocols, which were signed by the foreign ministers of Armenia and Turkey in October.

Rustamyan explained the ARF’s current strategy to derail the protocols and warned that the party would press for regime change in Armenia if the protocols’ constitutionality is approved by Armenia’s Constitutional Court in January and if the National Assembly subsequently ratifies the document.