BEIRUT–YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan–Asbarez)–On the final day of his three-day official visit to Lebanon–President Robert Kocharian was met with an excited and warm welcome from more than 1500 Lebanese-Armenian community members who turned out at the UNESCO center in Beirut to hear the president.
The UNESCO building was filled with Lebanese-Armenian community members who had gathered there from the morning to greet Kocharian on his first visit to Lebanon. Students from all Armenian schools were present in their school uniforms and held welcoming signs for Kocharian. Hundreds of people were turned away from entering the hall because of the capacity crowd–but they hovered around the building and surrounding streets where the president’s remarks were heard over loud speakers.
In his remarks–Kocharian stressed the importance of Armenia-Diaspora relations–the current economic situation in Armenia–the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution process and the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide.
Visibly moved by the welcome and hospitality by the community–Kocharian outlined the important role of the Lebanese-Armenian community. He said that until his visit he had only heard of the Lebanese-Armenia’s’ commitment to national identity and he was able to witness that national spirit first-hand.
In discussing Armenia’s current economic condition–Kocharian highlighted the responsibilities of the Diaspora–saying that Armenia and the Diaspora are inter-related components of the Armenian reality.
On the Karabakh conflict issues–Kocharian stated that Azerbaijan had finally understood that the conflict resolution process should be carried in a peaceful manner.
He added that the Middle East peace process was in progress and the Caucasus should follow international norms in resolving outstanding conflicts.
Kocharian also pledged that the Armenian government would do its utmost to ensure the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide through governmental means and the United Nations.
Following the public gathering–Kocharian met with Lebanese prime minister Salim Hass–after which he headed for the airport where he was sent off by Lebanese president Emile Lahoud–parliament speaker Nabih Berri–prime minister Hass and other high-level Lebanese dignitaries.
Kocharian’s plane landed at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport late Thursday night. He hailed his Lebanon trip a success saying–"Lebanon is an interesting threshold to the Arab world and we also present an interesting opportunity for them for advancing economic opportunities in the South Caucasus and the CIS."
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian who accompanied the president on the trip also dubbed the trip a success–adding that the agreemen’s which were signed in Lebanon would expand Armenia-Lebanese relations.
Oskanian added that the Lebanon visit was also instrumental in advancing Diaspora-Armenia relations–since the Lebanese-Armenian community is one of the most important entities in Lebanon–adding that the community’s "input in this process was extremely important."