STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)–Mountainous Karabagh Republic President Arkady Ghukasian held a meeting with cabinet members on December 2–to discuss the results of the November 25 telethon held in the US. Ghukasian gathered National Security Council members–Prime Minister Anushavan Danielian–National Assembly Speaker Oleg Yesayan–cabinet ministers–and other officials to stress the necessity of strict control over the spending procedures of the $11.5 million raised for the construction of the strategic North-South "backbone" highway–which will facilitate communication between northern and southern sections of Karabagh–boost the local economy–and further improve the unrecognized republic’s security. Nearly 100 kilometers of it has already been built since the project’s launch four years ago.
One of the most important issues for the Armenian diaspora–Ghukasian noted–is the future of Karabagh–more specifically the strengthening of its political and economic independence. "The diaspora believes in Karabagh and considers it a duty to contribute to its development," the President emphasized. The next telethon–he said–should be directed towards developing the economy of the Mardakert region–which has suffered most from Azeri aggression.
Summarizing his US visit–Ghukasian expressed gratitude to the diaspora–as well as citizens of Armenia and Karabagh for their active participation in the telethon. He also noted that diaspora organizations have expressed their willingness to be more actively involved in lobbying for Karabagh’s position in the international arena and stressed that the Armenian people can realize pan-national issues only through the joint efforts of Armenia–Karabagh–and the diaspora.
All-Armenian Hayastan Fund executive director–Naira Melkumian–said she expects at least 90 percent of the pledges to materialize into cash in the coming weeks. She said the fund will need only $1.5 million to finish by 2007 work on the 170-kilometer road that will connect the northern and southern sections of Karabagh through the capital Stepanakert.
The money promised is about twice the sum collected at the previous Los Angeles telethon in November 2003. Melkumian–who previously served as Karabagh’s foreign minister–described the figure as "unprecedented," attributing it to "economic progress" witnessed by diaspora Armenia’s visiting Armenia and Karabagh.