3000 Take Part in Second Armenia Diaspora Conference in Yerevan

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–About 3,000 delegates from around 50 foreign countries arrived in Yerevan to participate in the Second Armenia-Diaspora Conference–which began on Monday–May 27.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian–Prime Minister Andranik Margarian–Nagorno Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian–parliament members from Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh–and senior Armenian clergy attended the opening ceremony of the two-day pan-Armenian gathering–which–as Armenian officials claimed–was more practical-oriented unlike the first one held in 1999–which aimed to rebuild the bridges between Diaspora and Armenia.

The opening address was made by Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian–who lead the steering commission. Oskanian emphasized the Conference in terms of bringing together Armenia’s from different corners of the world–describing it as the best means to strengthen mutual confidence–to specify the priorities and draft practical projects.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian briefed the participants on the country’s foreign policy trends–domestic–political–and economic conditions. He also referred to the international recognition of the 1915 Armenian Genocide and the Karabakh conflict regulation process. A special emphasis was also made on the prospects for furthering Diaspora-Armenia relations in virtually all areas.

"Armenia is a Council of Europe member–which means that democracy and human rights protection issues have become our international commitmen’s and are subject to constant monitoring by international organizations," he said. He also pledged to ensure fair and transparent handling of presidential and parliamentary elections–both slated for 2003.

In a reference to economy conditions–Kocharian said the volume of implemented reforms allow free market relations to operate at full length. "A favorable business friendly climate is being established in the country–a major reason for attracting new investmen’s–which is vital for moving ahead," he said. According to him–Armenia’s imminent accession to the World Trade Organization (WTO) will allow the country to enter all WTO member countries’ markets.

Kocharian also enumerated a range of achievemen’s made since the first Conference in 1999–among them being the broadcasting of Armenian Public TV programs across the globe from Australia to the US–designing and handling pan-Armenian events–such as pan-Armenian athletic games–pan-Armenian song festivals–the building of pan-Armenian youth center to be completed in several years–retraining of Armenian language and history teachers from the Diaspora and many others.

In a reference to the ongoing opposition around Nagorno Karabakh–Kocharian reiterated Armenia’s position that it could be resolved by peaceful means only. "We recognize the right to self-determination of the people of Karabakh and their right to self-defense and we believe that Karabakh must also become a participant to all negotiations," he said.

Keynote speakers also included Catholicos of All Armenia’s Karekin II–Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia Aram I–Nagorno Karabakh President Arkady Ghoukassian–representatives of Armenian benevolent organizations–and prominent Diasporan Armenia’s.

After the plenary session the participants started discussion of issues in narrow circles.

Conference participants represented a cross-section of interests and involvement. During the two-day convocation–they had the opportunity to attend 13 panels and hear panelists speak about a wide variety of topics including prospects for more structured Armenia-Diaspora relations–improving Armenia’s business and economic climate–using the Internet to benefit cultural–business and political activity–and developing more effective cultural–educational and scientific exchange.

Monday’s sessions on priority issues facing Armenia’s was chaired by Ambassador Jivan Tabibian. Speakers included members of Armenia’s parliament–and the prime minister of Karabakh. The two sessions on economic development were chaired by Deputy Minister of Trade and Economic Development Tigran Tavitian–and American-Armenian businessman James Tufenkian.

Minister of Education Levon Mkrtchian chaired the sessions on the need to develop an Armenian curriculum–and another on ways to nurture Armenian college students in Armenia and abroad.

Panelists included businessmen from Armenia and the Diaspora–teachers–members of government in Armenia–Georgia and Lebanon–academics and social scientists–including Vartan Gregorian–Kevork Bardakjian and Joyce Barsam from the US–Michel Bazoumian–Razmig Panossian and Fr. Levon Zekiyan from Europe.

Participants met on May 28 for the final session–to be concluded by special meetings where concrete projects and proposals will be considered for adoption. The final plenary session will adopt decisions–if any–and a declaration. The aim of the session was to sum up the results of the conference as well as to approve a memorandum.

During the session the moderators of each section presented detailed reports about the discussions–held in each section and programs and suggestions received from thesections’ sessions’ participants.

After the reports were made–Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian–who was presiding during the session–gave an opportunity to the leaders of Diaspora’s delegations to express their opinion on various issues concerning the conference.

The leader of delegation of Italian Armenian community attached great importance to the approval of a law concerning the Armenian Genocide. The participants expressed their concern about issue of double citizenship. Concerning this–Armenian President Robert Kocharian stressed that the points which ban the double citizenship are eliminated from edited version of Armenian Constitution. Then the Ambassador of Armenia to UN Movses Abelian read the text of Armenia-Diaspora Second conference’s memorandum.

In the end of the session Armenian president Robert Kocharian delivered a speech–in which he expressed his gratitude to all participants for their active participation in the conference. He also stated that the fact that many Armenia’s assembled to discuss national issues is a great value. According to him–all suggestions and programs presented during the conference will be closely considered and discussed. Some of them will become governmental programs and will be financed from budget and some of them will be realized with the support of various financial and charitable organizations.

The conference concluded on the evening of May 28–with a celebration at the Sardarabad Memorial–marking the 84th anniversary of the battle of Sardarabad.

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