Glendale, California Councilmember unable to visit sister city Martuni in Artsakh due to Azeri blockade
YEREVAN, JANUARY 5, ARMENPRESS. Glendale City Councilmember and California Democratic Party member Elen Asatryan says the United States government’s military aid to Turkey and Azerbaijan is “unacceptable”. Asatryan notes with regret that the international community is swiftly reacting to Ukraine’s appeal for aid, whereas Armenia and Artsakh – who are almost in the same situation – are virtually ignored.
Thanks to Asatryan’s efforts the California Democratic Party resolution calling on the United States Congress and the Biden Administration to take action to repatriate the Armenian prisoners of war held in Azerbaijan and to sanction Azerbaijan and Turkey is one of the 13 priorities of the party.
The resolution condemns Turkey and Azerbaijan for their war crimes committed during the 44-Day War in 2020.
Elen Asatryan was visiting Armenia on New Year and met with the city authorities of Kapan and Gyumri – the sister cities of Glendale, California – to restore and enhance cooperation.
Councilmember Asatryan was also planning to visit Glendale’s sister city Martuni in Artsakh as well, but she was unable to do so because of the Azerbaijani blockade of the Lachin Corridor. She was hoping that the road would be opened before her departure so that the planned visit would take place.
ARMENPRESS spoke with Elen Asatryan on her visit to Armenia and plans.
ARMENPRESS: Councilmember Asatryan, let’s start with your visit to Armenia. You visit Armenia quite often. What’s the goal of this particular visit?
Elen Asatryan: A month ago, I met with representatives of the Los Angeles Opera to create partnership with Glendale. I used that occasion to speak about the Armenian National Academic Theatre of Opera and Ballet after Alexander Spendiaryan to create cooperation between them too. The representatives of the Los Angeles Opera gladly accepted my suggestion. At that time, I was in contact with the Yerevan opera theater and as a result I managed to organize the first meeting of representatives of the two operas. As a result of the meeting, the Los Angeles opera will stage its plays in Armenia, while the Yerevan opera theater in Los Angeles. In this regard I attach importance to exchange of experience because the Los Angeles Opera is considered to be one of the best operas in the world. I came here to participate in the New Year event of the Yerevan opera theater, but during every visit I pay attention to community work. I am visiting Armenia for the first time as a Glendale City Councilmember, that’s why it was very important for me to visit the sister cities of Glendale – Gyumri and Kapan and Artsakh’s Martuni. I have already traveled to Gyumri and Kapan, I hope the Lachin Corridor will be opened and I will be able to visit Martuni as well.
The purpose of the visit is to intensify cooperation – shift it from paper to practical arena. I can say that both visits were wonderful and it will truly deepen our cooperation.
ARMENPRESS: What discussions did you have with the city authorities of Kapan and Gyumri?
Elen Asatryan: The situation is different in Kapan now, you can’t just talk about the improvement of the city there when there are security issues. The first discussion was about that, we will try to connect different bodies of Glendale city with the Kapan City Hall for exchange of experience. The Kapan City Hall will present a list of needs to Glendale so that we will be able to utilize our connections and solve the issues they have. The Kapan and Glendale City Halls have officially invited their colleagues to pay a mutual visit. We will start working in this direction upon return. The issues were different at the meeting with the Gyumri authorities. We spoke more about green energy and cultural programs. We asked them to present a list of needs too.
ARMENPRESS: What can you say about cooperation with Artsakh’s Martuni?
Elen Asatryan: About two months ago a delegation from Artsakh visited Glendale, where a memorandum of cooperation was signed. Now, a committee has already been set up for Martuni in order to develop a program and work in that direction.
ARMENPRESS: You were elected as Glendale City Councilmember in July of 2022, becoming the city’s first immigrant, first Armenian-American and youngest woman to be elected to the council. What kind of a responsibility is this for you?
Elen Asatryan: I have always assumed that responsibility. I’ve always considered everything related to women’s rights to be a priority. I hope my success will inspire women because I consider women’s involvement in politics important. I hope that my success and struggle will inspire young people who are interested in politics.
ARMENPRESS: You are a member of the California Democratic Party and you have numerously condemned Azerbaijan for its actions against Armenia and Artsakh and called on the United States government to sanction Azerbaijan and its sponsor Turkey. Do you find the United States government’s reaction to be sufficient in this matter?
Elen Asatryan: Of course not. The United States’ reaction and attitude for the events taking place around Armenia and Artsakh is unacceptable for me. Being a democratic country and announcing that we stand by the Armenians, but at the same time providing large funds to the Azerbaijani military, that’s blood on their own hands because you give money and at the same time don’t take measures to stop the war. The resolution which I presented to the California Democratic Party was historic because the party had never before adopted a resolution with such content. I’ve struggled much for the wording not to be changed. This resolution is important because it becomes the platform of the party.
ARMENPRESS: As we enter 2023, what would you wish to the Armenian people?
Elen Asatryan: First of all I wish security. You can’t speak about anything else when Armenia and Artsakh are in this situation now. I visited Syunik, I’ve been in Artsakh in the past and I can confidently say that there is no fear in the eyes of the Armenian people, thus I wish them never to lose their will and strength.
Interview by Karen Khachatryan
This interview was conducted on 30 December, 2022.