Lebanese President Completes Visit to Armenia

YEREVAN (combined sources)–Lebanese President Emile Lahoud completed his visit to Armenia on May 3. Armenian President Robert Kocharian–Speaker of the National Assembly Armen Khachatrian–Prime Minister Andranik Margarian–Parliament members and government officials were present at Zvartnots Airport to hold a press conference upon the Lebanese delegation’s departure.

At the news briefing–President Kocharian said the visit of the Lebanese president was a positive step toward further development of bilateral relations. Kocharian said that during his meetings with his Lebanese counterpart–the two discussed a wide range of issues – from regional problems to those of the Armenian community in Lebanon. Kocharian also pointed out that he hopes for positive results in the development of economic relations–specifically in the banking sphere.

President Lahoud held a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Margarian earlier the same day. Minister Margarian congratulated the Lebanese president on the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the south of Lebanon–and thanked President Lahoud for his friendly attitude toward the Armenian community in Lebanon.

Margarian pointed out that over 50 Armenian-Lebanese joint ventures are currently operating–and expressed regret that the annual trade turnover between Armenia and Lebanon is only $9,000,000. Margarian made high appraisals of the political cooperation between Armenia and Lebanon–and said it was an important basis for economic relations. He pointed out the activities of the Armenian-Lebanese Intergovernmental Commission–and said the Armenian half of the commission has already been formed. According to Margarian–the commission can start working as soon as its Lebanese half is formed–and concrete results may be expected by the end of the year.

President Lahoud assured the Armenian prime minister that immediately after his return to Lebanon–he intends to instruct relevant government bodies to intensify the formation of the Lebanese part of the commission. Lahoud also invited Armenian Prime Minister Margarian to pay an official visit to Lebanon.

On Wednesday–May 2–President Lahoud–accompanied by Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–visited the Tsitsernakaberd Genocide Monument honoring the victims of the Armenian Genocide. The delegation also visited the Genocide Museum-Institute located nearby where Lavrentiy Barseghian–the director of the Museum–talked to the President about Armenian history–culture and international ties. Barseghian praised the Lebanese parliament for recognition of the Armenian Genocide. Lahoud then planted a tree in a special lane near the museum.

The Lebanese president also paid a visit to Etchmiadzin–where he met with His Holiness Karekin II–Catholicos of All Armenia’s. The catholicos welcomed the distinguished guest’s visit to the Armenian spiritual center. "It is our prayer to God to enable us to contribute to the friendship between our peoples"–said His Holiness.

"The 1700th Anniversary of the Armenian Church is a significant event throughout the world–and we are sure that many Armenia’s living in Lebanon will participate in the festivities"–said President Lahoud. The great jubilee of the Armenian Church will be solemnly celebrated in Lebanon by the Holy See of Cilicia. At the end of the meeting–His Holiness presented the Lebanese president with a luxurious album of treasures of the Armenian Church–to which the President thanked His Holiness in Armenian.

Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–ambassadors of the two countries–and the Minister of Culture of Lebanon Sebouh Hovnanian accompanied the president during his visit to the Mother See. The historically established bilateral relations between the two countries were characterized by a friendly atmosphere. Some of the members of the Lebanese delegation arrived in Armenia with their wives–and President Lahoud also brought his son–who made friends with President Kocharian’s son Sedrak.

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