YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The opening of the 28th World Congress of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation took place at the government meeting hall on January 30. The ARF Executive Council of Armenia Representative–Chairman of the National Assembly Standing Commission for Defense–Interior and National Security Affairs Vahan Hovanessian suggested observing a minute’s silence in commemoration of the fallen freedom fighters–the victims of the October 27 killings in parliament–and the late Representative of the ARF Bureau Hrair Maroukhian–who had lead the organization for many years.
"For decades–since the 9th World Congress held in Yerevan in 1919–the ARF had no chance to convene its general meetings in Armenia," Hovanessian said in his opening remarks. "Now we are able to convene our supreme assembly in Armenia at the cost of great hardship and privation not only of the organization but of the entire nation as well," the ARF official emphasized.
Locum Tenens of the Ararat Diocese of the Armenian Apostolic Church Archbishop Navasard Kchoyan addressed the meeting participants wishing them fruitful work. Presidential Advisor Razmik Davoyan read out President Robert Kocharian’s message. "It is remarkable that after decades the ARF has been able to convene its World Congress in the Motherland again," Kocharian’s message read.
"It’s an historic moment today–and I am glad that the ARF has decided to hold this meeting in Armenia to show that the situation in the country is calm," Prime Minister Aram Sargsyan said in greeting the meeting delegates and guests. He thanked ARF officials Hrant Margarian–Vahan Hovanessian–Levon Mkrtchian and Vahe Yacoubian "for supporting the government in these difficult days." Mentioning the role of the ARF in furthering the Armenian Cause and promoting ties between Armenia and the Diaspora–he announced that a Governmental Committee on Diaspora Affairs was to be set up soon following a government decision and that the Committee would be led by an ARF representative whose candidacy had already been selected. "I am always glad to get advice from the ARF–to consult you," the Prime Minister underscored.
Republican Party of Armenia Chairman Andranik Margarian noted in his speech that the ARF "is a party that would not second the calls made by some political parties following the events of October 27 to re-shape the country’s politics." He also stressed that the task of shifting the ARF’s center to Armenia was not only that of the ARF but of the entire Armenian nation as well.
National Democratic Union representative David Vardanian noted that the ARF is not only a party operating in Armenia–but also a pan-national structure. "There are parties that come and go–but the ARF is a pan-national structure for all times to come," he said–stressing that the ARF belonged to all Armenia’s.
The ARF World Congress was also hailed by Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian–who’s message was read by Oleg Yesayan. Deputy Speaker Gagik Aslanian read Armenian Parliament Speaker Armen Khachatrian’s message of praise. Also hailing the meeting was Chairman of the "Right & Unity" parliamentary faction Artashes Geghamian–Communist Party of Armenia representative Gagik Tadevossian–Orinats Yerkir Party Chairman Artur Baghdasarian–Ramkavar-Azatakan Party of Armenia Chairman Ruben Mirzakhanian–Union for Self-Determination representative Norayr Khanzadian.
"I subscribe to David Vardanian’s opinion that the ARF belongs to all Armenia’s and that it was founded to the order of the Armenian people," Vahan Hovanessian said in his speech.
"Today we are part of our statehood–which is more difficult than to stay on the opposite side of the barricade," he said–adding that "it’s difficult to be privy to power–do good and not to dissolve in it."In 1991 and later in 1992 and 1994 the former authorities offered the ARF a so-called compromise–in other words to dissolve; had we chosen–at least slightly–the party interests over the interests of the state–we might have done it long ago," the ARF official said–stressing that the fight between the ARF and Armenian authorities was not the only conflict in those years. He noted that there were also other opposition forces against the authorities and the people of Armenia against the authorities. "The paradox is that we deem it our achievement to be able to convene meetings in our native country–but in the past forces that saw danger in the rebirth of the ARF did not allow us to do it. In this sense–great and positive changes took place in Armenia over recent years," Vahan Hovanessian underlined. However–he also pointed out that at present the authorities are eager to change the situation for the better–"but there is no public trust–and this impediment is the biggest sin committed by the previous authorities."
The ARF’s motto remains the same: "To have a free–independent and united Armenia," the ARF Executive Council of Armenia Representative emphasized.
The opening session of the party’s World Congress ended with a speech from ARF Bureau Representative Beno Tondian.
"This World Congress of the ARF being held in Armenia for the first time in 80-years is an historic event and means that the ARF is now represented both in an independent state and in the Diaspora," Chairman of ARF Central Committee of Lebanon Benjamin Bujakchian told Noyan Tapan.
He said that the ARF World Congress will play its role in Armenia’s political and economic spheres in such a difficult period for the country.
Bujakchian expressed optimism that the meeting will make decisions on a number of important issues. In particular–special attention will be paid to the coordination of the activities related to the Armenian Cause and to ARF-Armenian authorities relations in the foreign and domestic policies.
"We must continue to demand complete independence for Nagorno Karabakh without any concessions," Bujakchian said.
Asbarez Executive Editor John Kossakian said that after Armenia gained its long-expected independence–a number of issues have been placed on the agenda including "the issue of Artsakh joining Armenia–the issue of Nakhichevan–and–why not–the issue of Western Armenia." Kossakian also emphasized the importance of discussing social and economic problems. "The ARF must make its modest contribution to the matter of strengthening Armenia," he said.