GLENDALE, Calif.–As part of her recent visit to Southern California, US Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch held a two-hour, closed-session discussion with Armenian Youth Federation (AYF) activists this past Monday at the Glendale Public Library.
The meeting was organized by Ambassador Yovanovitch for the purpose of creating a closer dialogue between the AYF and the US Embassy in Armenia. It is one of many gatherings she has called with Armenian-American organizations on her visit.
“We appreciated the invitation to sit down with the Ambassador and have an intimate conversation,” said Caspar Jivalegian, a member of the AYF Central Executive. “The AYF-Western Region is active both here and in Armenia so we welcome any opportunity to engage on matters of US policy as it relates to our homeland.”
The meeting began with an overview of the AYF’s Youth Corps program in Gyumri. After expanding upon the details of the summer day camp the AYF runs for underprivileged children in the city, possible assistance for aspects of the project were discussed.
Yovanovitch went on to outline the activities of the US Embassy in Armenia and the main areas which have been prioritized; namely economic assistance, democratic development and security. She gave detailed insight into various initiatives supported by the US such as trainings for judicial professionals and work with local civil society groups. She also spent time discussing US support for the Karabakh peace process and Turkey-Armenia relations.
“Having this exchange with Ambassador Yovanovitch further highlighted the nature of engagement the US has in Armenia,” said AYF Executive Director Serouj Aprahamian. “On the one hand, there is a great deal of talk about democracy and dialogue, which we welcome. Yet, the weight given to such principles noticeably diminished when we raised matters such as Karabakh, the Genocide, or the Turkey-Armenia Protocols.”
AYF members asked the Ambassador several questions related to Karabakh, including why representatives of the Karabakh Republic are not included in the peace process and why the US has not championed self-determination for the people of Karabakh as it had for Albanians in Kosovo. The issue of the Armenian Genocide and US refusal to speak truthfully about this crime against humanity were also raised. Other topics in the question and answer period included Turkey-Armenia relations, economic assistance, and sustainable investment in human capital.
The Ambassador engaged each of the questions and attempted to adequately address the audience members’ concerns. For the most part, participants felt the responses reflected a continuation of past US positions on such matters, without the signs of change the community expects. At times, even Yovanovitch prefaced her comments by saying, “I know this may not satisfy you.”
“Although it was interesting to meet with the Ambassador in this setting, it was disappointing not to hear much of anything new,” said Sevag Tchekidjian, a member of the Glendale “Roupen” AYF Chapter. “The answers seemed very politically coated and constrained.”
The exchange ended with further discussion of the AYF’s plans and projects in connection with Armenia. The Ambassador and her staff genuinely encouraged participants to use the gathering as a springboard for continued future communication and dialogue.