BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN
STUDIO CITY–Thousands of Southland community members took part in a celebration of the 7th anniversary of the independence of the Republic of Armenia at the Universal Amphitheater Sunday–during which Armenian President Robert Kocharian called on the Diaspora to prioritize the strengthening of Armenia.
The event was sponsored by the Armenian Revolutionary Federation–the Armenian Democratic League and the Social-Democratic Hunchakian party–and was organized through efforts of some 60 community organizations.
Kocharian arrived in Los Angeles Saturday afternoon–landing at Van Nuys airport at approximately 2 p.m. from New York–where a day earlier he had addressed the United Nations General Assembly .
Joining the president were the first lady Bella Kocharian–His Holiness Karekin I–Catholicos of All Armenia’s–Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–presidential assistant Armen Gevorkian–presidential press secretary Gassia Abkarian–Armenia’s Ambassador to the US Rouben Shugarian and Armenia’s representative to the United Nations Movses Apelyan. His Holiness Aram I–Catholicos of the Holy See of Cilicia had arrived in the Southland last Thursday. All leaders were in town to attend a banquet Saturday marking the 100th humanitarian airlift of the United Armenian Fund. The banquet was also attended by benefactor Kirk Kerkorian–the president of the American Red Cross Elizabeth Dole and comedian Jay Leno.
In his remarks–Kocharian stressed the importance of prioritizing activities–among them the Diaspora’s need to assist Armenia in strengthening the Armenian state.
"For Armenia today–the creation of some 200,000 jobs would resolve the immediate problems of the country. This means some 5,000 new businesses would employ almost 40 people each. We do not have the 5,000 people–however–we can create the climate and the means to conduct business in Armenia," pledged Kocharian.
The president stated that current Armenian laws and practices were in line with those being used in Europe–thus providing an impetus for outside investment in the country.
He also declared that Armenia’should become "the most stable–strong and organized country in the region." Kocharian emphasized that Armenia was the only country in the region which does not have a problem of minorities vying for power–adding that Armenia is the only country which enjoys thousands of years of history and culture in the region and has a strong Diaspora.
"The recognition of the Armenian Genocide is an issue being pursued by the Armenian government–and we foresee your [the Diaspora’s] political assistance in realizing this issue," commented Kocharian–who–once again–emphasized the powerful force the Diaspora represented in addressing national issues.
He concluded his remarks by discussing the Karabakh question–stressing that the Armenian government categorically and unequivocally rejected any notion of Karabakh being ruled by Azerbaijan. He prioritized the guarantees for safety and security of the people of Karabakh and stressed that his administration was working toward a resolution which would coincide with the aspirations of the Armenian people.
Also speaking at the celebration was Consul General Armen Melkonian–who welcomed the community and elected officials present at the event. Parsegh Kartalian was the Master of Ceremonies who led the program through a flag ceremony by the Homenetemen–Homenmen and AGBU scouts. The Sipan choir–under the direction of Henrik Anassian.
Kartalian then invited Professor Richard Hovannisian who presented a historic perspective of the Republic of Armenia–and through a comparison between the 1918 Armenian Independence and the 1991 independence of the Republic of Armenia–he emphasized the importance of strengthening the Armenian state.
He began his remarks by reflecting on a speech presented by the 1918 prime minister of Armenia Hovaness Katchaznouni on his first visit to the United States.
By the same token "We are gathered here today with the conviction that you–too–stand in front of us as a witness and a bearer of good news," Hovannisian stated.
He also praised the president on his efforts to bring about national unity and challenged him to fulfill his campaign responsibilities–pledging–of course–the support of the Diaspora in that task.
Hovannisian said that while not without its deficiencies–the Diaspora possessed the ability and resources to assist Armenia. Means should be found for the Diaspora to become a part and a base for Armenia.
Foreign Minister Oskanian discussed some of the diplomatic activities of the Armenian delegation at the United Nations and stressed that statemen’s by current opposition forces characterizing Armenia as isolated were untrue and far from reality.
"Through the leadership of the President–today–we have a very active foreign policy in the region–which has already begun to bear its fruits. Today–Armenia has all it takes to elevate its stature in the region," commented Oskanian.
Also present at the gathering were Representative Brad Sherman (D-Calif.)–State Senator Adam Schif–State Assemblyman Scott Wildman and Glendale Mayor Eileen Givens.
In conclusion it must be said that the event–while–in and of itself–was extremely successful–but–unfortunately was unorganized. Many in the community were unable to have access to entrance tickets being distributed by the various organizations.
Instances were observed where representatives of certain organizations were carrying stacks of tickets–while other organizations were scrambling for tickets. Furthermore–the organizing committee was not present at 3 p.m. to distribute the tickets–thus discouraging many from attending the function and duly greet the Armenian president.