Fifth Armenia-Diaspora Conference Concludes

YEREVAN — The 5th Armenia-Diaspora Conference, organized by the Ministry of Diaspora, concluded on September 20.

The event brought together more than 1,000 attendees from around the world, including 741 leaders and representatives of Armenian organizations from nearly 60 countries, a 20-member delegation from Artsakh, as well as 310 state, political, cultural figures, scientists and journalists from Armenia. There were participants from Russia (129), Syria (103), Lebanon (74), US (77), Georgia (45), France (31), Iran (25) and Canada (22), Australia (15), Argentina (11), Chile (3) and the South African Republic (1).

The Tekeyan Cultural Association of US and Canada was represented by Kevork Marashlian and Baydzig Kalaydjian. Among others from the US were Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian from Massachusetts, Knights of Vartan Commander Steve Kradjian, painter Daniel Varujan Hejinian, Rita Balian and Knights of Vartan former Grand Commander Dr. Dennis Papazian.

Prime Minister Hovik Abrahamian kicked off the plenary session. In his speech, he said, “We are strong when we stand united as one. Armenia is strong with its two ‘wings’ — the two Armenian states and the diaspora. All Armenians share the same interests.”

He added, “It’s very important for Armenians to remain in Armenia and shape their future in the homeland.”

The prime minister mentioned that Armenia no longer expects diasporan Armenians to carry out charity acts and that the Armenian government is calling for a mutually-beneficial partnership between Armenia and the diaspora.

Reflecting on the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, he explained his frustration that Turkey isn’t coming to grips with its past. “Nevertheless, we are taking measures to make sure the international community expresses the right position on the issue. What connects Armenians? What connects Armenians is their historical memory, but what connects them more are the free and independent Armenia and Artsakh and the idea of strengthening our two states,”

In his welcoming remarks, President of the Nagorno-Karabagh (Artsakh) Republic Bako Sahakian said, “We must do everything possible to make sure the Armenia-Artsakh-Diaspora triumvirate remains strong and helps strengthen our two countries. Our coordinated efforts, the high level of readiness of Armenian soldiers and our will during the tension on the border between Karabagh and Azerbaijan in the summer made the opponent fail.”

Among other speakers were Patriarch-Catholicos Nerses Petros XIX (Catholic Church), Rev. Dr. Hovel Mikayelian (Evangelical Church) Hrant Margarian (ARF) Hagop Dikranian (Hunchakian), Vasken Yacoubian (AGBU), Vickie Marashlian (ARS), Ara Abrahamian (World Armenian Congress), Megerdich Megerdichian (Hamazkayin) Ken Hachikian (ANC), Armine Darbinyan (Armenian Assembly), Gagik Gevorgyan (Armenian Jewelers), Karnig Megerdichian (Homenetmen), Kevork Marashlian (Tekeyan Central Board).

The second plenary session included speeches by Minister of Diaspora Hranush Hakobyan; Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Hayk Demoyan; Chief of Staff of the Ministry of Diaspora Firdus Zakaryan and editor-in-chief of Aztag daily, Shahan Kantaharian.

Meeting with Foreign Minister of Nalbandian

After summing up the panel sessions, the participants of all the sessions listened to a speech by Minister of Foreign Affairs Eduard Nalbandian who said: “Under the leadership of the president of Armenia, Armenia’s diplomats continue to defend and represent the interests of our nation in the international arena. The fact that Armenia has established diplomatic relations with nearly 160 countries, has joined nearly 90 international organizations, has signed nearly 1,800 international treaties and agreements says a lot about the large-scale efforts made by Armenian diplomats serving the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the more than 60 diplomatic representations abroad. This would be impossible, if it were not for the support of all Armenians around the world.”

The minister talked about the achievements and current challenges of the Foreign Ministry.

Nalbandian attached importance to the five joint statements made by the leaders co-chairing the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict settlement between 2009 and 2013, reaffirming the fact that the international community completely understands Armenia’s principled position.

Nalbandian touched upon the efforts being made by the ministry for recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide and elimination of the consequences.

Nalbandian praised the role of the Armenian Diaspora in raising the profile of Armenia in the world and noted: “We enjoy the support of diasporan Armenian structures, organizations and individuals in the implementation of many initiatives, and the guarantee of our success lies in that.”

Defense Ministry Visit

The participants of the 5th Armenia-Diaspora Conference met with  Minister of Defense Seyran Ohanian at the Ministry of Defense.

Ohanian in his speech said, “The conferences help us gather and discuss the issues facing the nation and find ways to solve those issues. The only way to carry out activities is by uniting as one. The collaboration between the Ministries of Diaspora and Defense are also important, and Hranush Hakobyan’s working style has helped make that collaboration a success over the past years.”

Ohanian also touched upon the events taking place globally, which have an impact on Armenian communities and Armenia. “The geopolitical crises cause a threat to not only Armenia, but to Armenian communities of the diaspora as well. The tragic events in Iraq and Syria caused a serious blow to our communities in those countries. Those events were followed by the crisis in Egypt and the latest events unfolding in Ukraine. This makes us become more united to help our compatriots living in countries in a state of war,” Ohanian noted. “Armenia’s armed forces were in tense situations this year. Artsakh and the bordering regions of Armenia were in tense situations due to the events that took place in January, July and August. With its attacks, our opponent put the ceasefire signed in May 1994 and the OSCE Minsk Group’s efforts at risk, but the Armenian army fulfilled its duty with honor and managed to push the opponent back.”

President Sargisian at Closing Ceremony

On September 20, President Serge Sargisian participated in the final plenary session of the conference. In his speech, he said, “The free and independent Republic of Armenia hosted the Armenia-Diaspora Conference once again. The people gathered in this hall are clergymen, leaders and representatives of pan-Armenian organizations and community organizations, journalists, as well as reputable individuals who play a huge role. I cordially welcome all of you to the Homeland. No matter how difficult the road is, all children return to their families, and this fifth meeting is like a family reunion.”

Reflecting on the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide, the President mentioned: “In 2015, we will be commemorating the Centennial of the Armenian Genocide. This will reaffirm the will and determination of the Armenian nation deprived of its homeland to live and create and will show our unity and how consistent we are to make our wishes come true. The year 2015 will become a year of serious events and initiatives for the Armenia-Diaspora-Artsakh triumvirate.”

President Sargisian added: “I would like to suggest, and I would like you to give your opinion, that after April 24, 2015, the State Committee of the Centennial, which is comprised of the leadership of Armenia, Artsakh, and the heads of major Armenian organizations worldwide, be named Pan Armenian Council (Hamahaykakan  Khorhourt), to oversee all the problems of the Armenian nation.”

The audience met this suggestion with prolonged applause.

Hagopian concluded the two-day conference by announcing that the Pan-Armenian Council will be formed and that steps are being undertaken  for the  creation of a pan-Armenian television channel.

At the end Hampig Mardirossian read the declaration adopted by the participants of the 5th Armenia-Diaspora Conference.

During their stay in Armenia, conference participants visited Dzidzernagapert, Echmiazin, Yerablour and celebrated the 23rd anniversary of the independence of Armenia by attending a presidential reception.