by Nana Martirosyan
The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) applauded the Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Reps. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ) and Michael Grimm (R-NY), along with Armenian Genocide resolution lead sponsors Reps. David Valadao (R-CA) and Adam Schiff (D-CA), for sending a letter to President Obama on the recent siege on Kessab, Syria, reported the Assembly.
"We are writing to express our serious concerns regarding credible reports that Islamist rebels entering from Turkey this past weekend were involved in attacks in the Latakia region of Syria, specifically the town of Kessab, which is a predominately Armenian populated area. Such actions shock the conscious and must be resoundingly condemned," the letter reads in part. In addition to the Caucus letter, earlier today, Congressman James McGovern (D-MA), who Co-Chairs the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, issued a strongly worded statement condemning the attacks and called for an investigation into reports of Turkish involvement.
"I am deeply concerned by the reports that these attacks allegedly originated in Turkey and demand that the United States and international community conduct a thorough and critical investigation of these claims," McGovern said. Meanwhile, yesterday Congressman Schiff, who sits on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, said that "The vicious attacks by al Qaeda affiliated terrorists against Armenians and other Christians in the Syrian town of Kessab in northern Syria are beyond appalling."
The Armenian Caucus letter comes on the heels of the Assembly's March 24 letter to President Obama which called on the Administration "to take all steps necessary to not only safeguard the Christian Armenian community of Kessab, but to increase efforts in coordination with the United Nations to ensure that all minority communities are afforded greater protection." "In addition, we urge President Obama to make it publicly clear that the United States will not tolerate its NATO ally's policy of providing support to extremist groups," the Assembly's letter stated.
On Wednesday, March 26, the Assembly firmly condemned the attacks on Armenians in Syria. Days after the Assembly's letter, executive director Bryan Ardouny, and Archbishop Aykazian, Diocesan Legate for the Armenian Church of America (Eastern), met with officials at the U.S. Department of State to directly express the concerns of the Armenian American community and to outline steps that the United States can take to assist and safeguard the Kessab Armenians. During today's State Department daily press briefing, spokeswoman Marie Harf stated, "We are deeply troubled by recent fighting and violence that is endangering the Armenian community in Kessab, Syria, and has forced many to flee. "
"We have seen some statements by groups fighting in Kessab saying they will not target civilians and will respect minorities and holy places," she said. "We expect those commitments to be upheld. The United States will continue its steadfast support to those affected by violence in Syria and throughout the region, including Syrian Armenians. We have long had concerns about the threat posed by violent extremists, and this latest threat to the Armenian community in Syria only underscores this further," the Harf said. "We applaud the action of the Armenian Caucus and welcome the statements of Congressmen Schiff and McGovern," stated Assembly executive director Bryan Ardouny. "Given the urgency of the matter, we must press forward to ensure that the Christian Armenian community in Syria is safeguarded," Ardouny said. Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues.