YEREVAN (Armenpress)–President Robert Kocharian met with Chairman of the French Senate Christian Poncelet–Parliament Speaker Raymond Forni and members of the France-Armenia parliamentary group on February 14 to discuss prospects for enlarging cooperation between the legislators of both countries.
Kocharian awarded leaders of the French Senate and parliamentary groups with the Armenian Order of Mkhitar Gosh–explaining that Armenia was grateful for French pro-Armenian activities. He expressed hope that France would help Armenia become the most democratic and free country in the Caucasus region. Kocharian also thanked all French-Armenian and other organizations for supporting the Armenian Genocide resolution.
The president also met with leading French businessmen and urged them to feel secure and make investmen’s in the Armenian economy. "Armenia–unlike its neighbors–has less destabilizing factors," he said–adding that Armenia emphasizes development of bilateral relations.
Ending his five-day state visit on February 16–Kocharian visited the French City of Lyon which boasts a 100,000-strong Armenian community.
The large French-Armenian community is very much part of French society but also wishes to keep alive the cultural traditions of its country of origin. A bishop of the Armenian Apostolic Church resides in Lyon–and a school teaches bilingually in French and Armenian to 200 students. This same community has lobbied for three decades to have the French government acknowledge the 1915 events as genocide.
Jules Mardirossian–head of the Armenian Genocide Committee–said that Kocharian’s arrival in Lyon added to the great satisfaction of finally being recognized. Describing the degree of Armenian integration into French society–Mardirossian said–"I feel both 100 percent French and 100 percent Armenian. I’m both entirely."
French President Jacques Chirac has since avoided using the term "genocide" but spoke on the "martyrdom" of the Armenian people during Kocharian’s visit on February 12.