I wish you a Merry Christmas and a very Happy New Year on behalf of the Embassy staff and my family. During this past year, Armenia’s political and economic progress continued, Diaspora-Homeland relations grew stronger and Armenia’s relations with the United States further deepened.
Bilateral cooperation in political, economic, and security areas were among the subjects discussed during the very successful and high-profile visit by Armenia’s Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan in October 2007 and his meetings with Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates, CEO of the Millennium Challenge Corporation John Danilovich, and U.S. Senate leadership. The high level of meetings and the warm reception accorded to the Prime Minister of Armenia is indicative of the strength of our bilateral relations and of Armenia’s impressive achievemen’s since independence. The Prime Minister also presided over the session of the U.S.-Armenia Economic Task Force, which addressed the bilateral economic cooperation and U.S. assistance to Armenia. The U.S.-Armenian Agreement on Civil Aviation, which was signed during the USATF session, will pave the way for direct flights between our countries and further strengthen our ties.
A session of U.S.-Armenia bilateral defense consultations was held in Washington in July, discussing our military cooperation and regional security issues. In December, the Armenian National Assembly extended the presence of the Armenian humanitarian contingent in Iraq by another year and Armenia will thus remain actively engaged in the reconstruction efforts in Iraq along with its coalition partners. The United States appreciates Armenia’s contribution to preserving peace and stability in Iraq and Kosovo.
The $235 million compact between Armenia and the U.S. Millennium Challenge Corporation entered its second year of implementation, and is already making its presence felt in rural parts of Armenia. As recently as December 2007, the MCC Board extended Armenia’s continuing eligibility for MCC funds by another year. The program’s goals of promoting economic growth and reducing poverty are entirely compatible with the government’s goals of just governance, economic freedom, and investing in its people. The government’s program was endorsed by Armenia’s voters in the May parliamentary elections, which the international community viewed as the most free and fair in Armenia’s history.
Equally important on our bilateral agenda was a peaceful Nagorno-Karabakh settlement and U.S.-Armenian relations, which among others, was discussed during Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian’s March visit to the U.S. as well as during the visits of high-ranking U.S. officials to Armenia.
And of course, the Embassy of Armenia has continued its daily dialog with the Administration, State Department, the Pentagon, other executive agencies, as well as with the U.S. Congress, think-tanks and the academic community. During this year, we also continued our work with Washington-based international financial institutions, such as the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank. The Embassy organized a unique one-month cultural event at the World Bank on the occasion of sixteenth anniversary of Armenia’s independence, showcasing Armenian arts, sculpture, and music, as part of its efforts to promote the Armenian culture in the United States.
The recognition of the Armenian Genocide gained unprecedented support in the U.S. Congress this year. While counterargumen’s made on the timing of this resolution led to the postponement of a full House vote on it, the hearings demonstrated tangible progress in the U.S. process of understanding and recognizing the Armenian Genocide.
The pontifical visit to the United States by the Catholicos of All Armenia’s, His Holiness Garegin II, in October’sNovember reinvigorated and re-energized the Armenian American community.
The strength of the Diaspora-Homeland relations was demonstrated again during the annual telethon by the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, which raised a record-breaking $15 million for Artsakh and the Armenian Rural Villages program. Local community leaders and activists, patriotic individuals and representatives of the Armenian-American organizations share the aspirations and the will to support the efforts to build a democratic, economically prosperous, and strong Republic of Armenia. The Embassy continues to work with them to this end.
Dear compatriots, with sincere thanks for your continued support, I look forward to working together to the benefit of Armenia and the Armenian people. I wish a happy and joyful New Year to all of you!