WASHINGTON–More than 500 Armenian political party leaders, community organization representatives, religious leaders, dignitaries and government officials, among them Armenia’s Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian attended a banquet organized by the Armenian Embassy on Oct. 21 marking the 15th anniversary of Armenia’s independence the Omni Shoreham Hotel. Represented at the event were organizations that made an essential contribution to sustaining the Armenian independent statehood among them the Armenian National Committee of America, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Assembly of America, Fund for Armenian Relief, the Armenian Missionary Association of America, the Cafesjian Family Foundation, and the Armenian Relief Society, whose representatives had the opportunity to make congratulatory remarks. Also present at the event were representatives of US State Department, USAID, and the Millennium Challenge Corporation, as well as former US Ambassadors to Armenia Henry Gilmore, Michael Lemmon and John Evans, who received two standing ovations during the event. The first came when ANCA chairman Ken Hachikian praised him for his principled position on calling the Armenian massacres of 1915 a genocide. Delivering the keynote address during the celebration, Minister Oskanian drew historical parallels between the current independence and the experience of the First Republic and noted that upholding Armenia as an independent, democratic and prosperous state is a task for the Armenian nation as a whole. He stressed the importance of unity and solidarity between Armenia and Diaspora in further enhancing the independent statehood. The major theme of Oskanian’s remarks was "responsibility." He said 15 years into independence, Armenia can no longer take cover as a fledgling democracy. Rather, leading elemen’s and especially the government must rise to the occasion, actively defending principles such as fighting corruption, defending democracy–especially free, fair, and transparent elections. Oskanian clearly explained that currently Armenia is in a situation that ostensibly depends on adherence to democratic norms. In his remarks, ANCA’s Hachikian highlighted the role the Armenian-American community has played in strengthening Armenia’s statehood during the past 15 years, emphasizing the community’s activism in the pursuit of US aid to Armenia, the self-determination of Nagorno-Karabakh. He also echoed Oskanian’s commen’s that the Diaspora and Armenia must work in unison for the well-being of the Armenia’s statehood. In his opening remarks, Ambassador of Armenia to the US Tatoul Markarian noted that among the major and irreversible achievemen’s of independence were democratic development, liberal market economy, strong state institutions, and consolidation of the entire Armenian nation around the newly-independent state. Markarian stressed the essential role of the strong Armenian-American community and US-Armenian relations in sustaining the newly-independent statehood and promoting Armenia’s economic development. He noted that the above organizations and the Diaspora in general enthusiastically embraced the newly-independent Armenia and supported the efforts of the Armenian government. The Ambassador of Armenia noted that the presence of all the leading organizations at the celebration once more demonstrated the unity of the Armenian nation and the Armenian state, which is the best guarantee for success of Armenia and all Armenia’s in the twenty-first century and beyond. Excerpts from the Ambassador’s remarks are presented below. Speaking on behalf of US administration, Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Europe and Eurasia and Special Negotiator Matthew Bryza offered warm congratulations on the 15th anniversary of independence and noted the friendly relations and close cooperation between the United States and Armenia on issues of regional and global importance.