Orange County Community Honors Consul General

BY RITA HINTLIAN Asbarez Correspondent

IRVINE–The Orange County chapter of the Armenian National Committee of American-Western Region hosted a luncheon on Sunday–Dec. 6–in honor of Armenia’s Consul General to Los Angeles–Armen Melkonian. His wife–Yevgenyi–and many of his consular staff were accompanying Melkonian. More than 250 community members and guests attended the event–which took place at the University Club at the University of California–Irvine. The attendees included representative from virtually all political–philanthropic–cultural–athletic and other Armenian organization in Orange County.

Mistress of Ceremonies Hasmik Mouradian made brief opening remarks and invited Rev. Moushegh Tashjian–the parish priest of St. Mary Apostolic Church of Costa Mesa to offer blessing. The prayers were followed with a moment of silence in memory of the 25,000 victims of the 1988 earthquake in Armenia.

Mouradian introduced the members of the OC ANC–and invited its chairman Dr. Garo Tertzakian to make his remarks.

Dr. Terzakian–referring to the many sectors of the OC community represented in the audience expressed his appreciation for the "display of community unity and pride of heritage." In speaking about Melkonian he said–"during your short tenure as Consul General of Armenia you have established mutual trust and respect between the consulate and the Armenian community of the state of California. You represent an administration that stands for independence–democracy–respect for human rights–freedom of expression–economic reform–a more assertive foreign policy and nation building."

Tertzakian also read welcoming messages from the Representative of the 47th District–Republican Christopher Cox; the Orange county Sheriff Elect–Mike Corona; Western Prelate–Bishop Mousegh Mardirossian; and parish priest of the Forty Martyrs Armenian Apostolic Church–Rev. Hrant Yeretsian.

Tertzakian then introduced the guests which included Armenian Revolutionary Federation Western US Central Committee chairman Hovig Saliba–Armenian National Committee Western Region Chair–Vahe Yacoubian–Executive Director Vicken Sonentz-Papazian–Armen Karo Gomideh Chair Aram Madenlian an other regional and local ANC and ARF board members. He also introduce the representatives of the numerous organizations–which operate in Orange County–which was followed by a description of the structure and mission of the ANC.

The ANC chairman pointed out the benefits of lobbying on behalf of issues that interest Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh–and lobbying against foreign aid to Turkey and Azerbaijan. He also announced that the ANC OC Committee plans to hold a symposium in early 1999.

Mouradian introduced–Consul General Armen Melkonian–who was born in Yerevan and received hid Ph.D. from the Armenian Academy of Sciences in Oriental Studies in 1990. Prior to his appointment to the Los Angeles Consulate–he worked in Yemen–Egypt and Yerevan.

In his remarks–Melkonian commented that he was surprised to find so many friends in Orange County on his first official visit to the county. He also took the opportunity–on the eve of the disastrous earthquake in Spitak–to thank the community for its support of the survivors and the reconstruction efforts.

The Consul General presented an in-depth analysis of the present political and economic conditions in Armenia–with the lingering affects of the earthquake–the continued blockade–the Karabakh conflict–as well as the challenges relating to privatization–unemployment–high level of poverty–and corruption. He also detailed the constitutional advances tat have achieved in the efforts to convert Armenia from a planned economy to a democratic society with a market economy system.

After highlighting the various sectors of the economy–which would benefit form foreign investmen’s–the consul remarked–"Armenian investment and trade policies are among the most open in the CIS countries." Stating the advantages of investing in Armenian–he noted the availability of a highly educated and trained labor force–the existence of a developed banking system and the favorable taxation policies. He was pleased to report the positive results of a recent opinion survey of current foreign investors–particularly in regards to their commitment to increasing their investmen’s in Armenia. He credited the liberalization of trade and investment policies for helping the GDP to grow at 5 percent keeping the budget deficit at 6.7 percent and stabilizing the exchange rate–despite the effects of the Asian economic crises.

Melkonian noted "peace–stability and security" are essential for prosperity–and yet they can not be achieved "without the just settlement of Karabakh conflict." Then he explained the position of the Armenian government with regards to the latest mediation by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe–and Armenia’s relations with its neighbors–particularly Armenia’s stance towards the insistence on the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the government of Turkey and the international community.

And on the subject of national unity–and the relations between Armenia and the Diaspora–Melkonian said–"I am convinced that we don’t need neither special concepts–nor institutions…We are just the indivisible part of the same whole…What we need is to know and understand each other better…With time we can overcome all difficulties and differences." He urged those present–"we need you there–in Armenia–to come and to create together with us our own common home." After a short question and answer session–the ANC OC Chapter Treasurer–Ardashes Aykanian presented a gift and a donation for consulate activities to Melkonian–hence ending an interesting and memorable event.

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