U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Marie Yovanovitch arrived in Los Angeles for a meeting with the Armenian community. On Friday, June 26, the Western Prelacy hosted the ambassador for dinner at the Prelacy, followed by a community forum at “Avedissian” Hall of Ferrahian School.
The Ambassador arrived at the Prelacy on Friday evening where she was greeted by Western Prelate Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, Consul General of Armenia Grigor Hovhannisyan, Deputy Consul General Mesrob Shaboyan, Catholicosate Central Executive Council member Vahe Yacoubian, Armenian Revolutionary Federation Bureau member Dr. Viken Hovsepian, Religious and Executive Council members, Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, ARF Western US Central Committee Chair Mr. Avedik Izmirlian and members, representatives from Hamazkayin, Homenetmen, ANC, Board of Regents, Prelacy Ladies Auxiliary, and members of Prelacy committees.
After a private meeting with the Prelate, the Ambassador headed to the “Dikran and Zarouhie Der Ghazarian” Hall where the dinner took place.
The dinner began with the invocation and welcoming remarks by the Prelate. The Prelate welcomed Ambassador Yovanovitch to the Prelate and thanked her for taking the time to meet with the community which he hoped would offer the opportunity for both parties to become better acquainted with one another and strengthen their partnership for the good of their common interest, Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh. He prayed for the Lord to grant the Ambassador strength to shoulder her responsibilities and perseverance for all to reach our ultimate goals.
Following the invocation and welcoming remarks by the Prelate, Executive Council Chair Dr. Garo Agopian was invited to make a toast.
At the close of the dinner reception Dr. Viken Hovsepian was invited to offer his remarks. Dr. Hovsepian thanked the Prelate for hosting the dinner and welcomed the Ambassador. He continued to speak of the situation the Armenian people have found themselves in the aftermath of the Genocide, noting that alongside the lives lost, the Armenian people lost their lands and became dispersed, thus being subjected to what is commonly referred to as a white genocide.
Referring to the current struggle of the Armenian people for recognition and justice of the Genocide, Dr. Hovsepian noted the dashed hopes and disappointment of the community following the reneging of President Obama’s campaign promise, expressing hope that the administration will follow the lead of other countries and of former Ambassador John Evans to properly recognize the Genocide as such. Dr. Hovsepian also spoke of the need for a just resolution of the Armenia-Turkey border situation, urging the Ambassador to work towards this end and convey the expectations of the Armenian people to the administration in Washington.
At the conclusion of the dinner the Prelate presented the Ambassador with a memento, as did a representative from the Hamazkayin regional executive.
The Ambassador then headed to Avedissian Hall where over three hundred fifty community members had assembled to hear her address. The community forum began with Executive Council member and moderator Levon Kirakosian inviting the Prelate for the invocation and his message.
The Prelate once again welcomed Ambassador Yovanovitch to the community, noting that it is mutually enriching to have U.S. representation in Armenia for it emphasizes the unity of our two nations which are both established on the foundations of Christianity, humanity, and democracy. He conveyed to the Ambassador that the pride of the Armenian people lies in Armenia’s economic prosperity, stability, and growth, thus we have high expectations of the new Administration to address these and other issues from recognition of the Genocide, to foreign assistance, Nagorno-Karabakh, and Javakhk. In speaking of the work that lies ahead for the Ambassador, the Prelate cited former U.N. Ambassador Adlai Stevenson stating, “All progress has resulted from people who took unpopular positions”. The Prelate concluded by iterating that “we look forward to a continued partnership to bring about advancements in out cause and positive changes for Armenia, for only justice heals and only freedom sustains democracy.”
Kirakosian then presented a brief background on the Ambassador, noting that this was the first time an Ambassador to Armenia was having this kind of meeting and exchange with the community, and invited her to address the community.
The Ambassador began by thanking the community for the warm welcome and especially the Prelate for making the meeting possible. She conveyed that the last stop on her visit will be the White House where she will share the concerns of the community with the administration. The Ambassador gave a general report of the current situation in Armenia and the goals the U.S. has set with regards to the democratic development and economic advancement of Armenia to ensure that its development as a strong and secure nation. She noted that the U.S. has consistently supported Armenia as it developed into a sovereign country, and that the administration will continue to work to ensure that momentum is restored to the democratization efforts by helping to fight corruption, bolstering democratic institutions at a national level, demanding accountability and transparency from the Armenian government, and supporting independent media for a better informed citizenry.
The Ambassador’s second point focused on the economic development of Armenia, given that like many nations, Armenia is currently facing economic challenges due to the global economy. She stated that the U.S. is working on fundamental reforms for long term economic growth by assisting the private sector to become more competitive and financially viable, through credit guarantee programs offering small business loans and helping to improve the business practices of companies, infrastructure programs, and social services to help people get back on their feet.
Speaking on the current border situation, Ambassador Yovanovitch stated that the opening of borders and the normalization of relations is a priority for the U.S., noting that the opening of borders would benefit all parties involved as well as the U.S. The benefit for Armenia, said Ambassador Yovanovitch, would be that integration would allow Armenia to become part of the regional marketplace, would greatly help border communities which are also some of the poorest, and would allow for all parties to capitalize on mutual interests. She went on to say that the opening of the borders would result in a just and lasting resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, and should take place without preconditions and within a reasonable time frame, thus ensuring peace and stability in the region. She stated that there is already momentum in this movement and the U.S. looks forward to more progress.
In the last part of her address, the Ambassador spoke of recognition of the Genocide, noting that she understands the frustration and disappointment of the community with regards to President Obama’s April 24 statement, however, the President’s remarks went further than past presidents and that his personal views are known to all. She iterated that though the past will never be forgotten it is important now to look ahead to the future, to the resolution of regional disputes and the further development of Armenia’s political and economic institutions. She concluded by stating that U.S.-Armenian relations remain strong and that the U.S. remains committed to peace and security in Armenia and the Caucasus.
A question and answer session followed during which the Ambassador answered the concerns of the community with regards to Genocide recognition, the Millennium Challenge Corporation, U.S. military aid parity, and the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
The forum concluded with the benediction by the Prelate.
On Sunday, June 28, Ambassador Yovanovitch attended Divine Liturgy at St. Garabed Church in Hollywood. The Prelate presided over Divine Liturgy, delivered the sermon, and presided over Pontifical prayers on the 14th anniversary of the election and consecration of His Holiness Catholicos Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia which took place in all churches by the ordinance of the Prelate.
Through his bilingual sermon, the Prelate explained the how Pontifical prayers are offered each year around the time of the election and consecration of His Holiness, and invited the faithful to join in prayer for the health and welfare of His Holiness.
A reception followed at “Karapetian” Hall hosted by the Pastor and Board of Trustees and with the participation of Executive Council members and members of community organizations. The reception concluded with the presentation of a memento to Ambassador Yovanovitch by the Board of Trustees.
Photo Credit: Nora Yacoubian