Raffi Hovannisian Explains Absence from “Hayastan” Fund Event

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–The Armenian Center for National & International Studies–led by former Foreign Minister of Armenia Raffi Hovannisian–issued a statement on Jan. 8 in connection with the editorial column published in the Jan. 3 issue of the Armenian Reporter.

The statement includes the following text: The Armenian Reporter seems to criticize the former Foreign Minister of Armenia–Mr. Raffi K. Hovannisian for not issuing a statement explaining why he was unable to appear as the scheduled keynote speaker at a "Hayastan" Fund event in New York City on September 13–1997. It should be known to the Armenian Reporter and all who have followed Mr. Hovannisian’s career that for the sake of internal Armenian harmony he is not in the practice of issuing statemen’s critical of others–even when it might be regarded only right and proper that he do so.

As the Armenian Reporter has raised this issue through its editorial comment and as there has been much misinformation on the subject–let the following facts be known: 1. Former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia–Raffi K. Hovannisian–was invited to serve as the keynote speaker for a "gala" event sponsored by the Eastern United States office of the "Hayastan" Fund. He accepted the invitation out of a spirit of dedication to Armenia and its progress. It was that dedication that kept him in Armenia after his departure from public office and that led him to create the first center for strategic studies in our country. 2. As the date for Mr. Hovannisian’s departure from Yerevan approached–he was surprised to receive a request from the New York office of the "Hayastan" Fund to forward the text of his speech to that office in advance of his arrival. Despite this unusual request–Mr. Hovannisian proceeded to New York–enduring the rigors of a lengthy trip via Sofia. 3. Upon his arrival at Kennedy Airport in New York in the early evening of September 9–he was not met–as protocol might have dictated–by any official of the "Hayastan" Fund. Rather–a driver from a limousine service had been sent to receive Mr. Hovannisian. Neither the driver nor Mr. Hovannisian–however–knew where he was to be taken. The "Hayastan" Fund had failed to give this information to the driver. Calls placed to the New York office of the "Hayastan" Fund and its employees went unanswered. After five hours of trying without success to learn the name and location of the hotel at which he had been booked–Mr. Hovannisian allowed the exasperated driver to drop him at the Grand Hyatt Hotel on 42nd Street at midnight and to return home. 4. Mr. Hovannisian found no room at the Grand Hyatt nor at any other hotel within a several block radius. He was forced to search in vain for a room until the early morning hours. It was at that time–in the vicinity of the Armenian Church Diocese–that he was attacked from the rear by unseen assailants–who threw him to the pavement–grabbed his briefcase–wallet–and valuables–and disappeared into a dark side street. 5. Mr. Hovannisian suffered a broken nose and severe bodily injury. Even then–he tried to contact responsible individuals associated with the "Hayastan" Fund but reached only an answering machine. It was at that time that he returned to Kennedy Airport and flew to Los Angeles for medical treatment. His Yerevan office sent a message to the "Hayastan" Fund that because of a serious mishap in New York City he could not participate in the fund raiser scheduled for September 13. 6. Mr. Hovannisian’s brother also informed the committee in charge of the event of the situation and asked that the reason for Raffi Hovannisian’s absence be explained to those who had come to hear him. At the gathering–however–the organizing committee decided not to give any explanation for Hovannisian’s absence except that it was "for reasons beyond his or our control". Mr. Hovannisian nonetheless refuses to subscribe to a widely-held view that he was "set up." 7. Raffi Hovannisian arrived back in Yerevan at the end of September 1997–after being advised that he would have to return to Los Angeles for corrective surgery. That surgery took place on January 7 1998–a day after Mr. Hovannisian attended traditional Christmas services. He is now convalescing. 8. Neither the "Hayastan" Fund of the Eastern United States nor its officials have inquired into the physical condition of the former Foreign Minister of the Republic of Armenia–the emotional trauma associated with the incident–or the resultant material losses and expenses. 9. Sometimes–it seems preferable to endure indignities silently rather than to stir dissension within our already fragile infrastructure. On the other hand–silence can also be taken as a tacit confirmation of the self-serving justifications and rationalizations that tend to abound–in place of the sincere private and public apologies that are due. Hopefully–all parties concerned have learned something useful from this unfortunate "happening."

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