WASHINGTON–DC–The Armenian Ambassador to the US–Dr. Arman Kirakossian and Consul General Valeri Mkrtoumian visited Fresno–California on February 9 to celebrate 25th anniversary of the Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State.
Prior to attending the Fresno State event–Ambassador Kirakossian and Mr. Mkrtoumian toured Armenian sites in Fresno–including the old Armenian district’s ‘David of Sassoun’ monument–William Saroyan Theater–and memorials to Soghomon Tehlirian and Monte Melkonian–and William Saroyan’s tomb in Fresno’s Ararat Cemetery.
Established in 1977–the Armenian Studies Program at California State University–Fresno–is one of the prominent academic centers of Armenian Studies in the United States. The 25th Anniversary celebrations included welcome remarks by California State Senator Chuck Poochigian–President of Fresno State Dr. John Welty–Chair of Armenian Studies Program Dr. Dickran Kouymjian–and the presentation of Armenian Studies scholarship recipients by Dr. Barlow Der Mugrdechian.
Ambassador Kirakossian delivered his keynote presentation on recent developmen’s in Armenia–Armenia’s foreign policy and regional security issues. He began by acknowledging the prominent status of Fresno’s Armenian American community as one of the oldest and well-established Armenian communities in the United States. Noting that Fresno was also an important Armenian cultural and educational center–he recalled a personal connection to Fresno and the Armenian Studies Program at Fresno State: twenty-five years ago–then-Soviet Armenia’s Foreign Minister John Kirakossian–Ambassador Kirakossian’s father–visited Fresno and brought home memories of a vibrant community and cultural center.
Ambassador Kirakossian noted Armenia’s economic and political progress–increased exports–economic growth–and domestic stability. He expressed hope that the upcoming presidential and parliamentary elections would further contribute to the democratic process and stability in Armenia. Despite many challenges in the social sector–a stable economic and political environment has allowed Armenia to conduct responsible foreign policy–emphasized the Ambassador.
While assuring that international recognition of the Armenian Genocide remained on the agenda of the Armenian Government–the Ambassador said Armenia was ready to establish interstate relations with Turkey. Armenia’s position on the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement had not changed– emphasizing a peaceful and just settlement; the negotiation process–he stressed–would resume after the electoral season was over in Armenia and Azerbaijan. Ambassador Kirakossian noted increased US-Armenian relations–especially in new realms of military and security cooperation–that only complement the previously dominant political and economic bilateral agenda.
Congratulating the Fresno State Armenian Studies Program on its anniversary–Ambassador Kirakossian stressed the importance of cooperation and scientific collaboration between Armenian Studies scholars in Armenia and Diaspora. Noting his background as an Armenian Studies historian–Dr. Kirakossian promised assistance to strengthen such cooperation and help establish a tradition for healthy and scholarly debate in Armenian Studies.