YEREVAN–Representatives from 84 countries and leaders of 34 nations converged on the Karen Demirchyan Sports Complex on Thursday to kick off the much-anticipated 17th Summit of the Francophonie, where Armenia assumed the presidency of the organization for the next two years. The summit marks the largest international gathering to be hosted by Armenia.
Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and his wife, Anna Hakopyan were on hand their arrival, as were President Armen Sarkissian and the first lady, Nune to greet the delegates and leaders, among them French President Emanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and Lebanese President Michel Aoun.
At the conclusion of the official welcoming ceremony, Pashinyan was joined by Macron to dedicate a commemorative stamp in Aznavour’s memory.
Pashinyan addressed the opening of the summit in French, paying a special tribute to Aznavour, which was met with thunderous applause and standing ovation by the participants.
“I and all Armenian people are happy to host in Yerevan the 17th summit of the heads of Francophone states and governments,” said Pashinyan. “Welcome to Armenia!”
“Armenia is a young member of the Francophonie … and yet there is no need to prove its commitment to promoting cultural and linguistic diversity and fundamental values of the French language and the Francophonie,” he said.
“As we prepare to celebrate the 70th anniversary of the UN Convention on Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide, it is our duty to redouble our efforts to prevent the emergence of new genocides, war crimes and crimes against humanity. The persistence of these conflicts binds us to reiterate our firm commitment to the peaceful settlement of conflicts in the frame of internationally recognized negotiating formats,” said Pashinyan.
“This is the case of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, negotiated in the format of the OSCE Minsk Group with its three co-chairs – France, the United States and Russia; a conflict that has been going on for several decades now and that has caused so much suffering; a conflict that opposes Nagorno-Karabakh, which for more than 25 years has exercised its right to self-determination, and Azerbaijan, which refuses any dialogue with the elected representatives of Nagorno-Karabakh,” added Pashinyan.
“We are convinced that Nagorno-Karabakh should have a decisive voice in the peace process and that its future status must be determined taking into account the expression of the legally-binding will of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh,” explained the prime minister.
“The issue of security has existential significance for the population of Nagorno-Karabakh. The latter has so often been subject to violations of its rights, discrimination and atrocities that the rejection of dialogue and the renewed attempts to use force against it endanger the physical existence of the population of Nagorno-Karabakh,” said Pashinyan.
“We do not have the same skin color, our gods do not bear the same names and some of us do not believe in God,” said French President Macron in his remarks at the opening of the Summit. “We also live in very different climate zones and our songs are not similar. Our histories do not originate from the same sources and there have been many wounds between us which are only now starting to heal.”
“Yet strangely enough, this diverse family is united around a single language … That language does not belong to anyone, it belongs to all of us,” added Macron.
The Francophonie Summit has brought a celebratory atmosphere to Yerevan, where international leaders, among them Macron and Trudeau strolled the streets of the capital meeting its residents and, at times, stopping to take selfies—even with the prime minister and his wife.
Thursday’s Francophonie events concluded with a jubilant concert at Republic Square, attended by summit participants and open to the public.
Pashinyan hosted the leaders at this residence for a welcoming dinner reception, where, a video posted on social media depicts Macron, Trudeau and other leaders dancing to Armenian music.
The summit will conclude on Friday