Armenian Reporter – 10/27/2007 – front section

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October 27, 2007 — From the front section

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1. Sponsors suggest delay in Genocide resolution vote
* Measure to come up again "later this year or in 2008"

2. At a rally in Opera Square, Levon Ter-Petrossian announces his
candidacy for president

3. Serge Sargsian: "External challenges cannot bring us to our knees"
* In an interview with the Reporter, Armenia’s prime minister
discusses security threats and domestic problems (by Emil Sanamyan)

4. From Washington, in brief (by Emil Sanamyan)
* U.S. tightens sanctions against Iran, warns of "serious consequences"
* Border fighting between Turkish army, Kurds underway

5. Prime minister meets community in Los Angeles (by Paul Chaderjian)

6. In official visit to Armenia, Iran’s Ahmadinejad fails to honor
Genocide victims (by Tatul Hakobyan)
* Official Yerevan seeks to justify the Iranian president’s snub

7. Journalists assaulted, detained, and released in Yerevan (News
analysis by Tatul Hakobyan)
* Or how to make a hero out of Levon Ter-Petrossian

8. Interview: Armenia Fund builds the "Armenian Dream" one village at
a time, chairperson says
* An interview with Raffi Festekjian, chair of Armenia Fund USA (by
Sylva Boghossian)

9. First-ever yoga studio opens in Armenia (by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian)
* Diasporan-Armenian Linda Beshirians seeks to raise the standard of
yoga in Armenia

10. Commentary: The history of the Armenian Genocide Museum and
Memorial in Washington (by John J. Waters, Jr.)
* Part 1 of 4 — The initial acquisition

11. [Commentary] Living in Armenia: The freedom to navigate (by Maria Titizian)

12. Editorial: Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister

13. Editorial: In for the long haul

14. Editorial: It’s plain wrong

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1. Sponsors suggest delay in Genocide resolution vote

* Measure to come up again "later this year or in 2008"

WASHINGTON — The Democrats among the main co-sponsors of the
congressional resolution affirming the U.S. record on the Armenian
Genocide asked Speaker Nancy Pelosi to postpone its consideration
until "sometime later this year or in 2008."

Reps. Adam Schiff (Calif.), Frank Pallone (N.J.), Brad Sherman
(Calif.) and Anna Eshoo (Calif.) wrote: "We believe that a large
majority of our colleagues want to support a resolution recognizing
the genocide on the House floor and that they will do so, provided the
timing is more favorable."

The Bush administration and Turkey lobbyists jointly succeeded in
reducing the number of the resolution’s formal co-sponsors to less
than the majority of 435 members of the House of Representatives. They
cited Turkey’s importance to U.S. policies around the Middle East and
U.S. forces in Iraq, and threats to undercut both.

In a letter to all House members, Aram Hamparian, executive director
of the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA), thanked
congressional leaders and resolution co-sponsors for their efforts,
and expressed confidence that, "as the confusion over these threats
[from Turkey] lifts, an even stronger bipartisan majority will stand
up against Turkey’s intimidation and vote to adopt this human rights
resolution on its merits."

Mr. Hamparian added that the debate over the resolution revealed
that Turkey is "an increasingly unreliable ally" and that "the real
danger is compromising American moral leadership" around the world.

****************************************** *********************************

2. At a rally in Opera Square, Levon Ter-Petrossian announces his
candidacy for president

At a public rally in Opera Square on October 26, the former president
of Armenia, Levon Ter-Petrossian, announced that he would run for
president again. Elections are slated for February 2008. Some five to
seven thousand people were on hand to hear the former president and
other opposition leaders. (See related story below.)

***************************************** **********************************

3. Serge Sargsian: "External challenges cannot bring us to our knees"

* In an interview with the Reporter, Armenia’s prime minister
discusses security threats and domestic problems

by Emil Sanamyan

WASHINGTON — U.S. and Armenian officials held biannual talks on
economic cooperation as Prime Minister Serge Sargsian wrapped up a
visit to the United States with meetings with Secretary of State
Condoleezza Rice, Senate leaders Harry Reid (D.-Nev.) and Dick Durbin
(D.-Ill.), National Democratic Institute president Kenneth Wollack,
and leaders of Armenian American organizations.

On October 23, Mr. Sargsian and Undersecretary of State for Economic
Affairs Jeffrey Reuben signed an agreement on civil aviation security
and safety, a key step in the effort to open a direct air link between
the United States and Armenia. Later that day, the prime minister’s
delegation flew to France for an official visit there.

In an interview with The Associated Press the previous day, Mr.
Sargsian said that while Armenia hopes the Armenian Genocide
resolution would eventually pass the U.S. Congress, he did not lobby
U.S. officials on his visit, with their talks focusing on economic and
security issues.

Asked about cooperation in intelligence sharing, Mr. Sargsian
recalled that his first official visit to the United States was in
1996 in the capacity of Armenia’s national security minister on an
invitation from his counterparts from the Central Intelligence Agency.
He said that both security and military cooperation between the two
countries have picked up since 2000.

Also on October 22 Mr. Sargsian talked with the Armenian Reporter’s
Washington editor Emil Sanamyan about Turkey’s genocide denial, ways
to deal with Azerbaijan’s threats over Karabakh, relations with Iran,
and concerns over Armenia’s domestic developments. A translation of
that conversation follows.

* Does Turkey want Armenia to demand territory?

Reporter: In your interview with the Los Angeles Times on Friday
[October 19] you mentioned that the campaign for Armenian Genocide
affirmation has two dimensions: one has to do with historical justice
and the other with Armenia’s security today.

Could you elaborate on how you see the link between this process and
Armenia’s security challenges? Does this process also relate to the
Karabakh conflict?

Sargsian: The unresolved nature of the Karabakh conflict is indeed
the biggest challenge to Armenia’s security. And Turkey is certainly
playing a role in that conflict.

Denial of the fact of the Genocide is already a danger. The only way
to achieve reconciliation is through admission of mistakes. We are not
blaming today’s Turkey, the modern-day Turkish government for the
genocide. Therefore, the nonadmission by the Turkish government of
today of mistakes of past rulers contains an element of danger for us.

In a way, the [postwar] Turkish government was on a right track,
having condemned [the Young Turks] and having sentenced them to severe

Why would the [Turkish] government of today forget about that? Do
they have certain hidden motives? That tells me that there is a

I am also surprised by conclusions of certain second-tier Turkish
officials that [recognition of the Genocide] would lead to some other
claims. This is surprising, because it is unclear how one would lead
to the other. How can any territorial or other claims be realized

Reporter: The latest issue of the Economist [October 20] suggested
that "Over the past few months the Americans have been working on a
proposal calling for Turkey to establish formal ties with Armenia and
to end its blockade. In return, Armenia would recognize its existing
border with Turkey and publicly disavow any territorial claims,
including the claim to Mount Ararat, its national symbol. A deal of
that sort might have helped the Bush administration head off the
genocide resolution, and could possibly have squashed it for good."
Are you familiar with such a proposal?

Sargsian: No. And I would be surprised by something like this,
because for years our policy has been establishment of diplomatic
relations without any preconditions. Doesn’t that already mean that we
have no further claims? Establishment of diplomatic relations is a
form of mutual recognition. What else might anyone want?

Last April I was at NATO headquarters in Brussels, where we
discussed the progress of Armenia’s Individual Partnership Action Plan
(IPAP) with NATO. Naturally, Turkey’s ambassador was there as well,
and he hinted at this issue. In my response I said that I am getting
an impression that Turkey wants us to have claims against it.

In reality, we have no claims and [Turkey] is saying, "No, they have them."

This is hard to understand.

* Keeping peace through economic development and reliable defense

Reporter: Both Azerbaijan’s threats of war and Armenia’s defense
capabilities are well known by now. At the same time, aggressive steps
>From the other side cannot be ruled out. What should Armenia do to
further raise the cost of any potential aggression for Azerbaijan and
decrease its likelihood?

Sargsian: The only way is to further develop Armenia’s economy and
continue to care for the battle-readiness of the Armenian armed
forces. It is no secret that should Azerbaijan launch provocations
over Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia would not remain indifferent.

It is in fact the case that today Azerbaijan has more funds than we
do. But money alone cannot produce a battle-ready army, especially in
a relatively short period of time. And we too are now forced and are
able to spend considerable sums on defense. I do not believe that a
difference of half a billion dollars can result in Azerbaijan’s
superiority over Armenia.

The experience of the early 1990s shows that Azerbaijan’s
considerable superiority over us, in terms of funds, manpower, and
weapons, could not be translated into superiority on the battlefield.

Reporter: Are you worried by recent acquisition of more advanced
weapons systems by Azerbaijan, be that aircraft or long-range
artillery? Could that tip the scales in a potential war?

Sargsian: I don’t believe so. We have serious air defense systems
that are capable of preventing Azerbaijani air forces, including the
newly-acquired MiG-29s, from reaching the territory of

Our objective is to use fewer resources to maintain parity with
Azerbaijan and everyone knows that a jet costs much more than an air
defense system.

Reporter: But doesn’t that provide the other side with tactical
opportunities that Armenian armed forces, with their reliance on
defense systems, do not have? Doesn’t that leave the initiative in
their hands?

Sargsian: That is not so much about initiative as it is about an
arms race, and we would prefer not to engage in such a race and really
cannot afford one.

Indeed, we do not have aggressive intentions, but if we are forced
to defend ourselves this would not be a static, but dynamic and active

Reporter: Following your visit to Moscow in late September,
Azerbaijani media claimed that the Russian military presence in
Armenia would be expanded to include a new base near Armenia’s border
with Azerbaijan and Georgia. Is there any truth to this?

Sargsian: None at all. We already have a defense agreement with
Russia [concluded in 1995], which is very well respected there. That
agreement governs the location and size of Russian forces in Armenia.

More importantly, we rely on our own armed forces.

Reporter: You mentioned to the Los Angeles Times that estimates show
that Armenians around the world hold somewhere between $100 and $300
billion in assets and cash. How much of that can support Armenia’s
security needs in order to counter Azerbaijan’s military spending with
its government-estimated oil revenue of more than $120 billion over
the next decade?

Sargsian: When we talk about such large funds, we talk about "clean
money," and it is understandably difficult for diaspora-Armenians to
contribute for the benefit of the armed forces of a foreign country,
even if it is their homeland. So, I have never allowed myself to
discuss this subject with our major [Diaspora] businesspeople.

Nevertheless, they are participating indirectly. For example,
earlier today I met a businessperson who has launched a high-tech
company in Armenia. If this company operates successfully, employing
local specialists, this will mean that the well being of their
families in Armenia would be secured, that they would be paying their
income taxes, and in the end some of this revenue would be used for
our defense.

But certainly I do not rule out a possibility that should we ever
reach a critical point we would turn to our compatriots for their help
to ensure that we are successful.

Reporter: With the return of Armenia’s former President Levon
Ter-Petrossian to active politics, the debate on whether Armenia is
capable of developing without serious compromises to Turkey and
Azerbaijan is likely to be rekindled. What is your argument today
vis-à-vis this thesis voiced by the ex-president in 1997–98 and one
that he appears to continue to endorse today?

Sargsian: I don’t want to build my case on disputing views of
others. And I view presidential elections as an opportunity to present
to the electorate my vision and my plans.

But how can this thesis hold true if to this day Armenia has not
fallen behind either Azerbaijan or Georgia in economic terms? This
means that we do have development opportunities.

I am not one of those to argue that it doesn’t matter if relations
with Turkey and Azerbaijan remain unresolved and borders closed and
that the [status quo] does not interfere with our development. Of
course it does and this has been my view for 15 years.

At the same time, I believe that these challenges cannot bring us to
our knees. I don’t want to sound pretentious but this is the heart of
the matter.

Certainly we should continue to seek a peaceful resolution to the
conflict with Azerbaijan. We should seek to establish normal relations
with Turkey and resolve our outstanding issues directly rather than
through statements for mass media.

But such efforts cannot mean that we just give up on our core
interests. Our opponents’ impressive economic figures cannot result in
our capitulation. Any such capitulation would be truly devastating for
Armenians and may even seal the fate of our nation.

* Armenia must maintain Iran relations

Reporter: The issues related to Iran continue to dominate
international headlines. I would imagine the issue came up during your
meetings in Washington, which overlapped with the Iranian president’s
visit to Yerevan. How can Armenia strike the right balance between
concerns raised by the United States and others and the fact that Iran
is a very important neighbor?

Sargsian: I think that Americans understand our situation. For
Armenia, Iran is a very important country. For us, it is one of just
two countries that serve as conduits to the rest of the world. Iran is
an energy-rich country and that helps us address our economic security

For these reasons, we are not ready for any other approaches. And I
believe we will continue our relations with Iran.

* No one in Armenia is above the law

Reporter: Earlier this year, the Financial Times reported that your
government "will put economic development ahead of human rights
improvements." Is this accurate and do you think greater democracy
might somehow hinder economic development?

Sargsian: This is not what I told the Financial Times. What I told
them is that when [a government] is unable to provide its citizens
with normal economic opportunities, it is hard to talk about other
rights. This certainly does not mean that economics trump democracy,
not at all.

I don’t think the World Bank or the International Monetary Fund,
with whom we are implementing Poverty Reduction programs, are
disinterested in democracy. But it is simply the case that the right
to a decent life is the most inalienable right for any individual.

Reporter: The president just fired Judge Pargev Ohanian. That came
after he ruled unfavorably in a case brought by the government. Do you
not see a contradiction between this decision and the government’s
stated goal of strengthening judicial independence?

Sargsian: How can a firing of a single judge lead you to such
conclusions? God forbid. We are advised to be strict with our judges
[when they violate the law]. So, why is the official motivation behind
this decision being questioned? I absolutely disagree with such an

Reporter: Also, it appears that last year and earlier this year
there was a spike in criminal activity in Armenia. Do you share the
perception that the situation with crime in Armenia is getting worse?

Sargsian: I completely disagree that there has been an increase in
crime in Armenia. There are official statistics readily available that
contradict such views. Anything else is just political spin.

My good acquaintance in California asked me why the Armenian Public
TV satellite transmissions into the United States include [the
Armenian version of the Most Wanted] program. It leaves people with an
impression that there is a major crime problem in Armenia, which is
not at all the case.

Sure, we are not capable of resolving every single crime. But show
me a country which is. In fact there has been an overall decline in
crime, and there are no forces in Armenia that can act with impunity.

Reporter: But there is widespread perception that certain figures in
government and in business can do exactly that.

Sargsian: There is a difference between perception and reality. I
state with all responsibility that today in Armenia there are no
individuals or groups that are above the law.

The tax collection targets that our government has set for 2008 will
also help dispel such perceptions. If we are able to meet our targets
it will become clear to everyone that no so-called oligarch is above
the law.

We have a complex approach to corruption that includes introduction
of stricter legal punishments for economic crimes, such as tax
evasion; higher salaries for state officials; more transparent
administrative mechanisms. Perhaps in this issue we are lacking a
public relations campaign that would showcase punishments for corrupt

That is not to say that we do not have shortcomings, we have plenty
of them. And I appreciate all criticism of such shortcomings. It is
criticism for the sake of criticism that I reject.

***************************************** **********************************

4. From Washington, in brief

by Emil Sanamyan

* U.S. tightens sanctions against Iran, warns of "serious consequences"

"The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present
course, the international community is prepared to impose serious
consequences," Vice President Dick Cheney told the pro-Israeli
Washington Institute for Near East Policy on October 21. "We will not
allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon," he added.

On October 22, an Iranian delegation was in Rome for talks over the
issue with the European Union’s foreign affairs commissioner Javier
Solana, with no significant breakthrough reported on the main sticking
point: Iran’s enrichment of uranium, a process than can be used for
both civilian and military purposes. Iran has rejected offers to
abandon the technology in exchange for acquiring nuclear fuel abroad,
while the U.S. has refused direct talks with Iran unless it stops

The vice president’s remarks came just days before the United States
issued additional sanctions against the Iranian Revolutionary Guards
Corps (IRGC), the elite branch of the country’s military, and several
major Iranian banks, including Bank Mellat, which has branches around
the world, including one in Armenia.

The United States first introduced unilateral sanctions against Iran
shortly after the Islamic revolution there in 1979. Last summer, the
U.S. government pledged to provide its Middle East allies with
billions of dollars worth of new weapons to check Iran’s influence.

The tough rhetoric and new sanctions have again led to speculation
about a military confrontation with Iran. But with the U.S. at this
time having just one aircraft carrier group in the Persian Gulf, a
large-scale assault on Iranian facilities appeared unlikely in the
near term.

Israel has also hinted that it might launch preventive strikes
against Iranian nuclear facilities, unless the United States and the
European Union succeed in stopping Iran’s program.

* Border fighting between Turkish army, Kurds underway

Turkey bombed suspected Kurdish rebel sites and amassed up to
100,000 troops in the vicinity of Iraqi Kurdistan, international news
agencies reported; but talks continued in an effort to forestall a
large-scale invasion.

While U.S. officials continued to oppose a major Turkish incursion
in Iraq, concerned that it may lead to a larger war, Turkish leaders
dismissed such concerns as "misplaced" and demanded concrete actions.

On October 21, forces affiliated with the Kurdistan Workers’ Party
(PKK) upped the ante in their decades-long confrontation with Turkey
as they attacked, killing about 12, wounding 16, and capturing eight
Turkish soldiers. The Kurdish operation was on a larger scale than at
any point since the mid-1990s, and resulted in widespread public anger
in Turkey and demands for retaliation.

Turkey responded with aerial bombing, artillery barrages and, so
far, small-scale ground operations inside Iraqi Kurdistan, where some
of the PKK forces are based. It claimed to have killed dozens of PKK

Turkish officials said they would invade on a larger scale unless
the U.S. and Iraqi Kurds captured PKK leaders and shut down their
camps. Ankara also threatened to close its border with Iraqi Kurdistan
and reroute its trade with Iraq through Syria.

Iraqi leaders went to Ankara on October 25 and 26 in an effort to
agree on actions that would "pacify, isolate and disrupt" Kurdish
forces without taking direct military action against them, the New
York Times reported. Earlier, the Iraqi government ordered the closure
of all PKK offices in Iraq, although other officials denied there were
such offices to begin with.

At the same time, Iraqi Kurdish leaders deployed their lightly armed
forces closer to the border with Turkey and pledged to fight a
possible Turkish invasion.

Commentators in and out of Turkey have argued that Ankara would
prefer not to invade, apprehensive of a larger war with the Kurds.

****************************************** *********************************

5. Prime minister meets community in Los Angeles

by Paul Chaderjian

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. — The luxurious Beverly Wilshire Hotel off
Rodeo Drive was the setting for Serge Sargsian’s first official
meeting with members of the Southern California Armenian community as
prime minister of the Republic of Armenia.

A banquet organized by the University of Southern California’s
Institute of Armenian Studies on Friday, October 19, hosted
representatives from all local Armenian religious, political,
cultural, community, and charitable organizations.

"What a wonderful and moving sight," said Harut Sassounian,
president of the United Armenian Fund, during his introductory
remarks. "All factions and denominations of the Armenian community are
gathered here in this beautiful hall, under the same roof, breaking
bread together, and welcoming the prime minister of Armenia."

The purpose of the prime minister’s visit to the West Coast during
his visit to the United States was twofold; Mr. Sargsian met with
Lincy Foundation officials, including philathropist Kirk Kerkorian,
who according to the prime minister’s media liaison, said he was going
to visit Armenia in the near future.

The second reason for the prime minister’s visit was to meet with
local community leaders and call on them to take a more active role in
the Republic of Armenia.

"I want you to follow the day-to-day realities of the homeland in
minute detail," said the prime minister in his speech. "You need to
find ways to connect with the homeland. We wish you to know the
positive and negative, because both the good and the bad are ours."

The prime minister’s address began with an acknowledgment of the
importance of the local community, included his sincere gratitude, and
ended with a call to action.

"I don’t want you to see Armenia through the eyes of a tourist," he
said. "I want you to discover Armenia and know it inch-by-inch,
bush-by-bush, to thrill, to worry, to encourage and complain. I want
you to know the negative and the positive."

* Pageantry and prayer

The national anthems of the United States and the Republic of Armenia,
performed by vocalist Alenoush Yeghnazar and pianist Vatche Mankerian
opened the evening’s program at Le Grand Trianon room of the Beverly

The U.S. Air Force ROTC Color Guard was also on hand for the formal
presentation of the two nations’ flags.

Charley Ghailian, chair of the Leadership Council of the USC
Institute of Armenian Studies welcomed the prime minister to the state
of "Saroyan, Tarkanian, Cher, and Agassi."

Thirty-seven local organizations were represented at the banquet,
and in attendance were Western Diocese Primate Archbishop Hovnan
Derderian and Eastern Prelacy Prelate Archbishop Yeprem Tabakian, USC
Executive Vice Dean, Dr. Michael Quick, Ambassador of Armenia Tatoul
Markarian, and Consul General of Armenia Armen Liloyan.

Many attending were surprised to see a who’s who from the diaspora,
including Lincy Foundation and United Armenian Fund board member Alex
Yemenidjian and "Hayastan" All-Armenian Fund Board of Trustees member
British-Armenian philanthropist Vatche Manoukian.

"We may not all live in Armenia," said Mr. Ghailian, "but Armenia
lives in us." The crowd agreed and responded with great applause.

"Your Excellency," said Mr. Ghailian, "we are all here tonight to
wish you wisdom, patience, good health, as you guys elevate our nation
in the greater community of nations. God bless you, sir and we thank
you for coming."

* Long day in L.A.

"The main reason for the prime minister’s visit to Los Angeles was to
meet with the Armenian community here," said Sevak Lalayan, Mr.
Sargsian’s liaison. "The prime minister said this was not his first
trip to the U.S., but his first visit as prime minister."

Mr. Lalayan said that as defense minister, Mr. Sargsian had no
official reason to visit the local community; however, said Mr.
Lalayan, as prime minister, Mr. Sargsian had no right not to meet the

The prime minister had arrived in Southern California late Thursday,
according to Mr. Lalayan.

Mr. Sargsian had spent more than 90 minutes at the Los Angeles
Times, meeting with the newspaper’s Editorial Board. (A full
transcript of the prime minister’s dialogue with Times staffers is
available online at the website.)

Mr. Lalayan said Times editors had asked the prime minister more
than a dozen questions ranging from why he was in Los Angeles to his
thoughts on Armenia-Turkey relations, Genocide recognition, and
Armenia’s upcoming presidential elections.

"Times editors were familiar with Armenian geopolitical and economic
issues and didn’t just focus on Genocide recognition," said Mr.
Lalayan to the Reporter. Some of the questions posed to the prime
minister had also been submitted by Times readers.

Mr. Lalayan said the prime minister met with Lincy Foundation
officials Friday; during the meeting, Mr. Kerkorian had informed the
prime minister that he is planning to visit Armenia in the near
future. Mr. Lalayan wouldn’t, however, provide details about the
nature of Mr. Kerkorian’s upcoming visit or the anticipated date of
the visit.

* Call for unity

"Armenia is one nation without its diaspora," said the prime minister
to questions posed by the Reporter during the dinner, "and it’s a
different nation with its diaspora."

Mr. Sargsian said that he had come to the community to say that,
"we, together, have to build the Armenia that we dream of having.

"My pitch to the diaspora, especially the Armenian-American
community," said Mr. Sargsian, "is that they should have a concrete
participation with Armenia, so that they think about all of Armenia,
to be happy with Armenia, to get upset and angry at Armenia, to think,
to watch, to participate in the process."

The prime minister said he is confident that the growing
relationship between the community in Southern California and the
homeland will benefit Armenia greatly.

To the Reporter’s question about the House committee’s approval of
the Genocide resolution, the prime minister said that he does not see
any reason that the resolution would have any negative impact on
Armenia or Armenia’s relationships.

The prime minister said that he cannot imagine one Armenian anywhere
that would be opposed to the resolution.

He said he believes the resolution is greatly important; and that
the great number of nations recognizing the Genocide, the greater
pressure Turkey will feel to find a more constructive approach to the

* Celebrating the Armenian institute

Dr. Richard Hrair Dekmejian, director of the USC Institute of Armenian
Studies began the after-dinner program by saying, "This is truly an
auspicious occasion for the Southern California Armenian community and
for the USC Institute of Armenian Studies."

Dr. Dekmejian listed all of the institute’s accomplishments since
its inception in February 2005.

"As a multidisciplinary center for Armenian studies, we have become
a venue, a bridge between USC and the Armenian community," he said.

The political science professor said the institute has sponsored
three major funding banquets, five major symposia on law, religion,
genocide, and philanthropy, two concerts, more than 25 speakers and a
two-semester 8-credit research seminar on the Armenian-American

"In the space of two and a half years, the Armenian institute has
done more than 25 events with a total attendance of just under 5,000
people," said Dr. Dekmejian. "Yet despite all these achievements,
today is unprecedented in the short history of the USC Institute of
Armenian Studies. The presence of Prime Minister Serge Sarsgian of
Armenia is indeed unprecedented. His presence brings us joy. We are
truly grateful for honoring us with your presence today."

* A community comes together

Mr. Sassounian, who is also the vice chair of the Lincy Foundation and
publisher of the California Courier newspaper, introduced the prime
minister, thanking everyone for attending the banquet.

"Despite our tragic history, which has dispersed us to four corners
of this planet, when the sons and daughters of the Armenian nation are
united, around common goals and same aspirations, we become a
formidable forced to be reckoned with," said Mr. Sassounian.

"Beyond having a common vision, we desperately need to be better
organized, both in Armenia and the diaspora," he said, calling on the
community to coordinate its national efforts within each community,
across all Armenian communities throughout the diaspora, and with the
governments of Armenia and Artsakh (the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic).

"Each one of us has God-given talents, valuable education,
professional experience, and most importantly, a large network of
friends, neighbors, and colleagues," said Mr. Sassounian. "These are
valuable assets that can be utilized to improve the economic
conditions of our dear people in Armenia. Only through better
organization, coordination, and cooperation, we can and we will
overcome the many challenges facing the Armenia nation."

* An introduction

Mr. Sassounain provided those attending a brief biography of Mr.
Sargsian, saying that he was born on June 30, 1954, in the Nagorno
Karabakh Republic. He served in the Soviet Army and graduated from
Yereven State University in 1979.

Mr. Sargsian worked in an electro-technical factory in Yerevan
during college and held various posts from 1979 to 1988 including
assistant to the first secretary of Artaskh Marz (regional) Committee.

Mr. Sassounian said that from 1989 to 1993, Mr. Sargsian was the
chair of the Self-Defense Committee of the Republic of Artsakh. In
1990, Mr. Sargsian was elected into the Armenian Parliament and he
served as defense minister from 1993 to 1995.

From 1995 to 1996, Mr. Sargsian headed the National Security
Department of Armenia and became minister of national security. From
1996 to 1999, Mr. Sargsian served as the minister of interior, as well
as minister of national security.

Mr. Sassounian concluded his presentation of the prime minister’s
biography by saying that Mr. Sargsian served as the secretary of the
National Security Council from 1999 to 2007 and as defense minister
>From 2000 to 2007.

"In April of this year," said Mr. Sassounian, "he was appointed
prime minister of the Republic of Armenia. He and his wife Rita have
two daughters and one grandchild."

* The prime minister’s speech

A standing ovation welcomed the prime minister to the podium, from
where Mr. Sargsian spoke in Armenian and had his words translated
through an interpreter on stage.

"Whatever country of the world I visit," he said, "regardless of the
aim of my visit, regardless of my status, regardless of the
negotiations I ponder, my eyes look for an Armenian, and my ears seek
out an Armenian word."

Referring to Genocide recognition, the prime minister said that as
long as the pain of Genocide is not relieved, Armenians will
experience uneasiness and tensions, and that this will hinder
Armenia’s integration into the family of nations.

"That’s why we are all eagerly waiting the international recognition
of the Armenian Genocide," he said, expressing his gratitude to the
House Foreign Affairs Committee and all those who made the passing of
the resolution possible.

"At the end of the 20th century," continued Mr. Sargsian, "armed
with our ancestors aspirations and wisdom, we managed to escape from
an endless nightmare. The price of the victory of huge, and its
outcome of independence was immense as well."

The prime minister received applause when he said that he believed
that together, Armenians everywhere created Armenian statehood.

"This victory was cherished by Mesrob Mashdotz, Yeghishe," he said,
"this war was led by Vartan Mamigonian and Zoravar Antranig, and in
the liberation war Nigol Duman and Kevork Chavoosh stood by Monte

Mr. Sargsian said that the joy of creating an independent Armenia is
equally enjoyed by Armenian businesspeople, teachers physicians,
residing in different parts of the world.

"This victory is just the beginning," he said, "and it is our
collective responsibility to achieve bigger victories. We have
something to say to the world, and we have something to give to the

The prime minister said that the question to Armenians everywhere is
whether they are all capable of protecting, developing, and using the
opportunity presented to them — the opportunity to create a homeland
that all Armenians have dreamed about.

****************************************** *********************************

6. In official visit to Armenia, Iran’s Ahmadinejad fails to honor
Genocide victims

* Official Yerevan seeks to justify the Iranian president’s snub

by Tatul Hakobian

YEREVAN — On October 23 at Tehran’s Mehrabad International Airport,
President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad of Iran indirectly denied official
Yerevan’s announcement that he had ended his two-day official visit to
Armenia without making a planned visit to the Armenian Genocide
Memorial at Tzitzernakaberd because he had to return home early.
According to Iran’s official news agency IRNA, Mr. Ahmadinejad
insisted that instead of staying 22 hours in Armenia, as planned, he
had indeed stayed an hour and a half longer.

On the morning of October 23, journalists were waiting for the
president of Iran at the Genocide Memorial. According to the official
agenda, at 9 a.m. Mr. Ahmadinejad was supposed to lay a wreath at the
memorial complex honoring the memory of 1.5 million victims of the
Armenian Genocide, plant a tree, and tour the Genocide museum. Shortly
after 9, journalists were informed that the visit to the memorial, as
well as a planned visit to the Blue Mosque in downtown Yerevan, had
been taken off Mr. Ahmadinejad’s official agenda.

President Robert Kocharian’s press secretary, Victor Soghomonian,
stated that the Iranian president’s visit had been cut short due to
"unforeseen circumstances." Mr. Soghomonian told the Armenian Reporter
that Mr. Ahmadinejad, during his official meeting with Mr. Kocharian
on October 22, had informed Mr. Kocharian that he would be leaving
Armenia sooner than expected for pressing reasons. Mr. Soghomonian
stressed that the Iranian president’s change of plans had nothing to
do with the discussions between the two presidents. The formal
discussions on bilateral relations had been completed.

Gegham Gharibjanian, a deputy minister of foreign affairs and former
Armenian ambassador to Iran, told journalists that on the morning of
October 23 amendments had been made to the official agenda at the
request of the Iranian administration. Mr. Gharibjanian said that the
official visit had not been terminated, but that amendments had merely
been made to the agenda of the visit, related to domestic issues that
had arisen in Iran.

The Iranian Embassy was not available for comment. "Since the
employees of the embassy worked on Saturday and Sunday, in connection
with the visit of the Iranian president, today the embassy is closed
and those responsible are not here," they explained to the Reporter on
Oct. 23.

According to his agenda, on October 23, apart from visiting the
Genocide Memorial and the Blue Mosque, Mr. Ahmadinejad was also
scheduled to meet with National Assembly speaker Tigran Torossian,
address the National Assembly, and also meet with Iranians residing in
Armenia. The last meeting did take place, during which Mr. Ahmadinejad
specifically spoke about Iran’s nuclear program.

Visits to the Armenian Genocide memorial are part of the state
protocol for all visiting heads of state and high officials. According
to our information, during Armenia’s 16 years of independence, not a
single head of state or high official has refused to visit the
memorial before.

At the scheduled time for the visit to the Genocide memorial, Mr.
Ahmadinejad was having a breakfast meeting with Speaker Torossian at
the government reception house. Also present at the meeting were
foreign ministers Vartan Oskanian and Manuchehr Mottaki and the
ambassadors of the two countries.

After this meeting Mr. Ahmadinejad had an hour-long meeting with
Iranians residing in Armenia. He departed Armenia at 1:15 p.m. on
October 23, as planned in the official agenda.

On October 22, during a meeting with the faculty of Yerevan State
University, Mr. Ahmadinejad was asked why Iran does not condemn the
Armenian Genocide. Mr. Ahmadinejad said, ”We condemn any act of
exploitation in the history of humanity, wherever and by whomever it
is implemented by. Our stance toward historical events is clear." Mr.
Ahmadinejad also emphasized that Armenians living in Iran annually
organize large rallies and express opinions ”about the mentioned

This is the second official visit of an Iranian President since
Armenia gained its independence in 1991. Mohammad Khatami visited
Armenia in September 2004, when he was president. He did visit the
Genocide memorial and placed a wreath.

* Bilateral relations develop

Mr. Kocharian and Mr. Ahmadinejad met for the third time on October
22. Last autumn the Armenian president visited Tehran, and on March 19
of this year, the presidents of the two countries met on the left bank
of the River Araks, after the inauguration of the Iran-Armenia gas

During this visit, four memoranda of mutual understanding were signed.

"Iran is a very important partner for us and we have rich
relations," President Kocharian said. "We reinforced our positive
approach toward those major programs that are being implemented
jointly. I would like to specifically mention projects in the energy
sphere. The construction of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline continues,"
he added, referring to the Kajaran-Ararat section of the pipeline in

"We discussed and reconfirmed the possibility of constructing an oil
refinery and a possible railway," Mr. Kocharian continued. "I updated
Mr. Ahmadinejad on the current pace of negotiations on the Karabakh
conflict and we discussed various regional issues. We had very honest
and open discussions."

"After Armenia’s independence our relations have continually
developed and they are strong and stable," Mr. Ahmadinejad said. "The
development of bilateral relations benefits both nations and the
region. We believe that an independent and developed Armenia benefits
the security of the region. We are against any kind of tension in our
sensitive region and we believe that the most complex issues can be
solved through negotiation, on honest bases. I beseech the Lord
Almighty for the health, success, development, and well-being of the
Armenian nation," added Mr. Ahmadinejad.

************************************ ***************************************

7. Journalists assaulted, detained, and released in Yerevan

* Or how to make a hero out of Levon Ter-Petrossian

News analysis by Tatul Hakobyan

YEREVAN — On October 23, near midnight, a group of Levon
Ter-Petrossian’s close associates and colleagues cheered and applauded
as he arrived at Yerevan’s police headquarters, where hundreds of
citizens had gathered.

Surrounded by bodyguards, Armenia’s first president — who on
October 26 would go on to announce his candidacy in the presidential
elections slated for early 2008 — broke through police lines without
incident and entered the police station. He was accompanied by
Khachatur Sukiasian, a member of parliament and businessperson who
made his fortune during the Ter-Petrossian presidency.

Inside, two newspaper editors and dozens of Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s
supporters were being held after being beaten and taken into custody.

After a while, the former president came out of the police station
and appealed to the crowd to maintain calm. Almost four hours later,
all those who were being held by the police were released. Mr.
Ter-Petrossian departed calmly — and victoriously.

Among those in custody for almost seven hours at the police station
were the editors of the largest opposition newspapers in Armenia,
Haykakan Zhamanak’s Nikol Pashinian and Chorrord Ishkhanutyun’s
Shogher Matevosian, leaders of the Democratic Homeland and
Conservative parties, and other opposition leaders. Four of them were
charged with interfering with the police and battery and assault.

Mr. Ter-Petrossian’s likely candidacy represents a challenge to the
governing authorities.

On the night of October 24, Mr. Ter-Petrossian took advantage of the
first opportunity to become a hero. That day in the center of Yerevan,
a scuffle took place between his supporters and the police. The police
had tried to disband a peaceful march, during which demonstrators with
megaphones were appealing to people to participate in a public rally
on October 26. A violent confrontation emerged, in which four police
officers were injured and force was used against the demonstrators.

Deputy Police Chief Ararat Mahdessian and the head of Yerevan’s
police commission, Nerses Nazaryan, said that those participating in
the rally had disrupted traffic, disturbed the peace, instigated
unrest, and verbally abused police officers. Opposition leaders and
the editors, on the other hand, insist that it was the police who
tried to stop their march which they claim was not prohibited by law.

******************************************** *******************************

8. Interview: Armenia Fund builds the "Armenian Dream" one village at
a time, chairperson says

* An interview with Raffi Festekjian, chair of Armenia Fund USA

by Sylva Boghossian

NEW YORK — Armenia Fund USA’s 15th anniversary gala at the United
Nations earlier this month was a fitting acknowledgment of the fund’s
decade and a half of crucial and creative development work in Armenia
and Karabakh. (An article on the event appeared in the Reporter’s
October 13 edition.) The evening’s keynote speaker was Armenia’s
foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian. Also speaking were Hirair
Hovnanian, an Armenian Fund founder 15 years ago; AGBU president Berge
Setrakian; and the present and former heads of Armenia Fund USA:
current chairman Raffi Festekjian, his predecessor Kevork Toroyan, and
chairman emeritus Hagop Kouyoumdjian.

At the October 6 gala, the Reporter’s publisher Sylva Boghossian
conducted the following interview with Mr. Festekjian, who took over
as the chairman of Armenia Fund USA’s Board of Directors last January.

Sylva Boghossian: What do you feel is the greatest or most important
achievement AFUSA has accomplished in the past 15 years?

Raffi Festekjian: Over the last 15 years we have been able to, I
think, bring the entire Armenian diaspora together to invest over a
$170 million dollars in Armenia. That’s no small task, considering we
have about 18 affiliates on five continents — and if you think about
Armenians, if you put three Armenian diasporans in one room, you’ll
have about five different opinions. So for us to get together and to
accomplish this task over the last 15 years is in itself an

And the $170 million dollars that we raised, I would say, is the
Western equivalent to about $5 billion in infrastructure investments.
So it’s a huge amount of improvement, which has affected hundreds of
thousands of lives in Armenia.

SB: What attracted you to Armenia Fund, and what made you accept the
position of chairman?

RF: What attracted me to the fund was that I was a board member
there. One of the key ingredients for me is that each affiliate
operates as an independent affiliate, and that we are able to make
sure that the funds we raise actually go where they need to go. We are
not just a channel for fundraising, that would take the money and give
it to someone else. We actually monitor the project; we have the
ability to control the projects we want to endeavor; so it’s very
important to me that we do have control over what we do….

Actually, I think the diaspora is in a transition. We’re moving into
a different diaspora, a new diaspora. Not necessarily a better one or
a worse one, just different. And we need to recognize it, and we need
to evolve with it. And that’s why I think the new generation needs to
be involved with all these new organizations and new directions, and
bring a new sense of responsibility to these organizations.

SB: What was the greatest challenge Armenia Fund has addressed so
far, and what will be the greatest challenges or obstacles ahead? What
concerns you?

RF: What concerns me most is the core constituency. Armenia Fund in
the past 15 years has relied a lot, more than I would have liked, on
the largest donors. One of the things I’d like to change is the core
constituency, the core supporters of the fund: to enlarge it [the base
of supporters], without relying so much on the "mega donors."

So the biggest challenge and worry I have is that can we communicate
what we have accomplished. Our accomplishments are extraordinary, if
you think about it. Many people do not know this. We build a school
every two months. Every six months we build a health-care facility.
Every 15 days we build a housing project. It’s a significant
accomplishment that many people are unaware of, because we don’t
advertise as such. But it’s an important aspect to relate to the

So those are really the challenges in the future: to help create
better communication and to attract the younger generation into the

* Can-do organization for a can-do nation

SB: Is there one aspect of the fund that you look forward to, or makes
you excited to be working with AFUSA at this time? Is there one
particular project that’s near and dear to your heart?

RF: There is one project that I’m really excited about: the ability
to revitalize rural Armenia — the border villages. I think we have
been neglecting those villages, concentrating a lot more on villages
[that are closer to Armenia’s cities], but we really need to
concentrate on those [border] villages and really create the "Armenian
Dream" — similar to the American Dream. To be able to empower the
Armenians to believe in their future — that hard work and sacrifice
will pay off. If you can instill that capability in them, we can
accomplish wonders. My excitement is that we are in a good position
and we can do this.

Armenia Fund is a "can-do organization" to build a "can-do nation."
And for us, we need to create that feeling among our younger
generation. A lot of people complain that this generation is less than
accepting of [the idea that Armenia’s] future should work according to
Western standards. But I believe that the new generation is ready to
embrace that, and that’s what I feel most passionate about.

SB: I can sense your passion about all this. It’s important when
leaders believe in what they’re doing. That’s what people respond to.

RF: I am very passionate about what I’m doing.

* One capital does not make a country

SB: What do you think is the greatest opportunity for the future, now
that Armenia Fund USA has 15 years of experience under its belt?

RF: We are uniquely qualified to be able to accomplish what we set
out to the accomplish — which [right now] is to revitalize rural
Armenia. Because just one strong city in a nation — like Yerevan,
which is a great capital city and is exploding in it’s capabilities —
this doesn’t make for a strong nation.

We need to make rural Armenia better. We need to create a more
diversified country — and more balanced. That’s how we can make this
country great; we can make it safe; we can make it secure. We can’t
just have one capital that’s seeing this explosion [and therefore say
that Armenia is] morphing into a significant Western country. Because
one capital alone doesn’t make a whole country.

That’s what I want to do: to take all that we have done in the last
15 years and to approach this more in a "clustered" environment — not
to only focus, as we used to do in the past, on building the latest
needs: building a road in this village, a school in another village, a
health-care facility in another. What we need to do is concentrate on
one cluster of villages at a time. So we need to finish up the cluster
and build everything we need for their school [for example], work with
other philanthropic organizations and operate together to complete the
job, and then move to the next cluster. That’s what I think our job is

SB: When you came on board, it was clear that the leadership of
Armenia Fund USA was being taken on by a new generation. But when it
comes time to pass the torch to your children’s generation, what
accomplishments would you like to pass on?

RF: I’m humbled to see what they’ve accomplished over the past 15
years. The next generation is not only about Armenia, it’s also about
the diaspora, it’s about making sure the younger generation has
linkages to the generation in Armenia.

We need to create that linkage in order to be able to survive as a
diaspora, as a nation. I feel like one of my responsibilities is not
only to be able to build Armenia, but to build an Armenian nation: to
create this bridge between the diaspora and Armenia. I feel that
[Armenia Fund], as an institution, as an organization worldwide, is
uniquely positioned to accomplish that.

It’s a very challenging thing, because there’s a new generation here
looking at things in different ways. As we were saying before, as
[AGBU president] Berj Setrakian said, people are taking for granted
that we are in Armenia, doing all these things, and a lot of people
are becoming less involved than they would be in the past. So we need
to be able to empower them: to let these people know that there have
to be these linkages between our work in Armenia and the future health
of the diaspora.

And if we accomplish that, then that’s one more mission for Armenia
Fund. It’s not only about looking outwards; it’s also looking inwards.

SB: Thank you very much.

******************************************* ********************************

9. First-ever yoga studio opens in Armenia

* Diasporan-Armenian Linda Beshirians seeks to raise the standard of
yoga in Armenia

by Betty Panossian-Ter Sargssian

YEREVAN — As of this September, a new yoga and pilates studio and spa
is functioning in Yerevan.

Shoonch ("breath") is the first in its kind in Yerevan. Located on
Amirian Street, in the heart of the capital, Shoonch invites residents
and tourists alike into its serene and elegant studio, where clients
of all fitness levels are welcome to experience a wide range of yoga
styles and pilates.

Shoonch was conceived by Linda Beshirians, a resident of Rochester,
New York, with the aim of introducing a variety of yoga styles to

Ms. Beshirians, who serves as managing director of Shoonch, was
introduced to yoga four years ago, when she moved from London to

"Before I started practicing yoga I was somehow prejudiced against
it," says Ms. Beshirians. She started out with meditation. However,
she did not care much for it. "I soon realized that meditation was not
for me. I was too dynamic for that."

A few months later a friend guided Ms. Beshirians into vinyasa yoga
and, to her surprise, she found it "very interesting and exciting. I
soon started enjoying the benefits and satisfactions of yoga. It was
very enlightening for my body and soul. Yoga has become a way of life
to me, guiding me into a healthier lifestyle."

On her frequent visits to Armenia, Ms. Beshirians realized that
Yerevan did not have what she was looking for in yoga. There were some
sports clubs that had yoga classes and yoga centers. But they lacked
the mood and the professionalism of western yoga studios. "They were
more like gyms," she says. "I wanted to offer others in Yerevan what I
knew and what I had experienced in yoga."

Ms. Beshirians says that she thought she could take on the challenge
herself and open her own yoga studio in Yerevan. She and her husband
always had the desire to reside in Armenia. Opening the studio could
bring that wish closer to reality.

That was in August 2006.

In the following months, while the first-ever yoga/pilates
studio/spa in Yerevan was coming to life as Shoonch, a professional
staff of trainers was being assembled. Months before opening up its
doors, Shoonch sent young and dynamic individuals residing in Armenia
to be trained as certified instructors in a number of yoga styles in
the United States and India. The studio also gathered a group of
experts in fitness, and body and skin care. In the coming months
Shoonch will host guest yoga teachers from abroad.

"I wanted to launch in Yerevan the modern yoga, as it is practiced
in the West," says Ms. Beshirians. She adds that she had decided to
include every popular style of yoga, ranging from hatha yoga, to
vinyasa, prenatal/postnatal yoga, and yoga for kids.

While setting up her studio in Yerevan, Ms. Beshirians hasn’t
encountered any unsolvable difficulties. "However, we are still at the
beginning of the road," she says and adds that due to her friends in
Armenia and the staff gathered around her, she has managed to
accomplish all that she has. "I could however mention a general lack
of professionalism and inadequate time management as problems one
definitely faces while trying to open a business in Yerevan. Besides,
one has to take into account that in the real Armenian market
everything ends up costing more," she says.

With its welcoming air, comfort, high-quality service, and
professional approach, Shoonch is aiming to attract residents and
tourists alike with its monthly registrations, as well as drop-in
classes. "Many in Armenia are familiar with yoga. The youth are
especially interested in it," says Bella Machkalyan, one of the
certified yoga instructors at Shoonch.

Ms. Machkalyan started practicing yoga five years ago when she was
studying in London. In 2007, after becoming a member of the Shoonch
team, she attended a World Conscious Yoga Family yoga teacher training
course in India and obtained her Yoga Alliance registered 200-hour

Ms. Machkalyan says that as Shoonch is the first-ever yoga center in
the country, it will no doubt have a lot of introductory work to do,
focusing more on the physical and health benefits of yoga. "We will
try to provide as much information as we can and clarify what yoga
really is," says Ms. Machkalyan.

"Our activities will aim at exploring yoga and informing people
about it. We want people in Armenia to understand and love yoga. We
want them to appreciate how yoga allows someone to have control over
the mind, body, and the spirit," says Ms. Machkalyan.


*********** ************************************************** **************

10. Commentary: The history of the Armenian Genocide Museum and
Memorial in Washington

* Part 1 of 4 — The initial acquisition

by John J. Waters, Jr.

The purchase of a site in Washington for the proposed development of
an Armenian Genocide museum and memorial was announced with much
fanfare in March 2000. In the seven years that have passed since that
announcement, the project has failed to move forward, and the
Armenian-American community wonders why.

Over the next few weeks, I will tell the story of this project: the
history, the hopes, the visions, and the frustrations that have
impacted this noble dream, now mired in controversy.

* The seeds

The desire to build a major museum in the United States to honor the
memory of the victims of the Armenian Genocide has been discussed in
the Armenian-American community for many, many years. The seeds of the
proposed project in Washington came in 1996 from the minds of two
individuals, Ms. Anoush Mathevosian and Mr. Gerard Cafesjian.

Inspired by the proposal for the creation of the Armenia National
Institute (ANI), and in honor of her parents, Ms. Mathevosian proposed
the development of an Armenian Genocide museum in Washington, and
pledged to contribute $3.5 million dollars in support of a museum.

Ms. Mathevosian is an active philanthropist who has funded a variety
of projects in support of the Armenian community. She has made
significant contributions in support of the Armenian American Wellness
Center in Yerevan, and through donations to the Armenian Church
Endowment Fund and the Fund for Armenian Relief, she has funded
scholarships and several other educational programs in Armenia and

The ANI concept was introduced by the Armenian Assembly of America
in March 1996. Established with a $1 million donation from Mr. Hirair
Hovnanian, ANI was launched in January 1997 as an affiliate of the

Mr. Cafesjian — entrepreneur, philanthropist and former West
Publishing executive –established the Cafesjian Family Foundation
(CFF) shortly after the sale of West Publishing in 1996. In 1997, Mr.
Cafesjian read a story announcing the formation of ANI in the Armenian
Reporter. Subsequently he met with ANI executive director Rouben
Adalian in New York. During that initial visit, Mr. Cafesjian outlined
several ideas for advancing the effort toward universal affirmation of
the Genocide, and his idea for the development of a significant
memorial commemorating the victims of the Genocide.

As a result of that meeting, in the summer of 1998, Mr. Hirair
Hovnanian and Mr. Robert Kaloosdian traveled to Minnesota to meet Mr.
Cafesjian. During that initial meeting, they discussed the Assembly
and its mission, recruiting him to join. They also discussed ANI and
the ongoing effort those organizations had undertaken to identify a
suitable site in Washington to house both a genocide museum and ANI.
Mr. Cafesjian introduced CFF and its mission, and spoke of his vision
for a Genocide memorial that he hoped to install in a prominent
location somewhere in the United States.

At the conclusion of that initial meeting, the parties agreed to
explore the possibility of a museum and memorial in Washington.

From the inception of their site search, a period approaching two
years, the Assembly and ANI had been looking at properties with 5,000
to 7,000 square feet of space, focusing mostly on existing town homes
and row houses. For the balance of 1998 and through 1999, the
Assembly, ANI, and CFF jointly considered several different sites in
Washington for a collocated museum and memorial installation. Finding
a suitable site proved challenging, as the anticipated space
requirements for the museum, memorial, and ANI were greater than the
planned-for budget would support.

In 1998 Mr. Cafesjian joined the Assembly. In March of 1999, in
response to the Assembly’s capital campaign, Mr. Cafesjian became a
Life Trustee and contributed over $1 million to the Assembly

* The breakthrough

In early 2000 a new site came on the market. It was the former
National Bank of Washington site, strategically located in the heart
of our nation’s capital on the southeast corner of the intersection of
14th and G Streets, just two blocks east of the White House.

In mid-January, just a few days before the three-day Martin Luther
King, Jr., holiday weekend, the Assembly contacted CFF to see if there
was any interest in taking a look at the site. Although it was
significantly larger and substantially more expensive than any site
that had been considered up to that point, it appeared to be an
opportunity worth investigating. And, if things weren’t complicated
enough, we would need to move quickly if we were interested, as the
properties owner was already in negotiations with another party.

Two days later, on Friday, January 14, 2000, with Mr. Cafesjian’s
blessing, I flew to Washington. After touring the site for several
hours, I phoned Mr. Cafesjian and told him, "I think this is the one."

* The challenge

The property owner was already in negotiations with another potential
purchaser. The other purchaser had already conducted his investigation
of the property, and was known to have the financial resources
necessary to purchase the property.

The property owner lived in France. It was already late on Friday.
We phoned, we pleaded, we got five days. Five days to conduct due
diligence that would normally take a month or two. Five days, three of
which were a holiday weekend. When I phoned Mr. Cafesjian to give him
the news, he said, "Waters, stay until you get it done."

I convinced the seller’s local representative to stay in town for
the weekend. I then talked them into keeping their office open, so
that I would have access to all of the files and documents. We needed
to review everything we could in three days — engineering reports,
architectural studies, environmental studies, surveys, title reports,
legal opinions, etc. — so that when business reopened on Tuesday, we
could use our two remaining days to consult with the engineers and
lawyers and title companies to make certain that the property and
title were clean and suitable for the intended purpose.

On Wednesday, January 19, I spoke directly with the seller. He
wanted to emphasize that a letter of intent to purchase was expected
the next day. It was an offer with no contingencies, with a closing in
less than two weeks, and it was for over $7 million.

On Thursday, January 20, we submitted a letter of intent to
purchase. $7.25 million. All cash. No contingencies but a clean title
policy. To close within 25 days.

On Friday, January 21, the property owner called. He accepted our
offer. Why? As it turned out, the two offers were nearly identical. So
why did he accept ours? It turned out that the owner was Jewish. His
family was impacted by the Holocaust. As a child, he had lived in
Israel and attended an Armenian school. He knew about the Genocide,
and the proposal to use the property as a memorial to the Genocide
resonated with him.

* To closing

The last remaining challenge? To raise $7.5 million in three weeks or
less to get to closing.

Mr. Cafesjian agreed to match Ms. Mathevosian’s pledge of $3.5
million. He then pledged an additional $1.5 million to cover the cost
of the installation of a memorial. Ms. Mathevosian had her pledge for
$3.5 million, but her funds would not be available until shortly after
the closing was scheduled to take place.

When closing day arrived, Mr. Cafesjian donated $3.5 million. And to
insure that the purchase would close as scheduled, he made a
short-term advance of an additional $4 million. Ms. Mathevosian funded
her pledge shortly after closing, and $3.5 million was then returned
to Mr. Cafesjian. To date, the remaining $500,000 advanced to the
Assembly, interest free, has not been repaid.

Less than 35 days passed by from my first site visit to closing.
Neither Ms. Mathevosian nor Mr. Cafesjian had the opportunity to visit
the site before closing. It was an amazing show of confidence by two
important visionaries.

As I reflected on the accomplishment and contemplated the
opportunity that was ahead, I found myself recalling what Mr. Hirair
Hovnanian had said to Mr. Kaloosdian as I drove them back to the
airport after their first meeting with Mr. Cafesjian. He said, "I
don’t know why I had to fly halfway across the country to meet this
guy. We will never see anything from him." I wonder what they said
about Ms. Mathevosian after their first visit.

* * *

Contributions of Current and Former AGM&M Trustees toward the Purchase
of the National Bank of Washington

GLC/CFF $3,500,000

Anoush Mathevosian $3,500,000

CFF Loan $ 500,000

Hirair Hovnanian $ 0

John Waters $ 0

Robert Kaloosdian $ 0

Van Krikorian $ 0

Total $7,500,000

* * *

As of September 2006, the contributions funded by current and former
Board of Trustee members for the benefit of the AGMM were as follows:

Gerard Cafesjian and CFF $14,400,000

Anoush Mathevosian $ 3,500,000

Hirair Hovnanian $ 1,500,000

John Waters $ 25,000

Robert Kaloosdian $ 100

Van Krikorian $ 0

Total Board of Trustee Contributions$19,425,100

* * *

Mr. Waters is the vice president of the Cafesjian Family Foundation
(which owns this newspaper) and trustee of the Armenian Genocide
Museum and Memorial, Inc.

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11. [Commentary] Living in Armenia: The freedom to navigate

by Maria Titizian

I often wonder what would happen if we had access to the sea. Let me
state for the record that I ask this not from an economic, political,
or strategic point of view. However, like many others I obviously do
wonder how it would positively impact exports and imports; how it
would no longer make us rely on the good grace and behavior of our
neighbors; how business and tourism would flourish; how we could have
access to larger markets and integrate into the global economy; how it
would impact transportation costs; how we could import goods for much
lower prices. We are not only cut off from access to seaborne trade,
but are also cut off from the resources of the sea — alas, sushi
restaurants are not in my top 10 picks of places to eat in Yerevan.

Facts show that coastal regions tend to be wealthier and more
heavily populated. According to the World Bank, landlocked developing
countries pay on average about 50 percent more in transport costs than
coastal counties and have up to 60 percent lower volumes of trade. In
terms of transportation costs, typically 1,000 km on land translates
to 10,000 km of sea freight — but delays and unpredictability is more
of a problem sometimes than costs. Add into the equation that two of
Armenia’s four borders are closed and you wonder how it is that this
country has registered double-digit economic growth for the last
several years running.

And then imagine the possibilities of sea access…

What I wonder about, however, is how being landlocked impacts our
state of mind, our flight of mind, our ability to breathe and think
and move. One of the first things friends who had moved here from the
diaspora told us was that in order to live in Armenia and retain your
sanity, it would be necessary to exit its borders at least once every
year, for at least a week. I thought it was a rather silly suggestion,
taking into consideration the long list of things in Armenia that
could drive any normal person over the edge. The argument was that the
size of the country ultimately would begin to take its toll, and we
would feel stifled.

I lived in Toronto, a sprawling metropolis by Canadian standards
(actually it’s the fifth most populous municipality in North America),
covering an area of approximately 7,125 square kilometers. With all
its highways and byways, its recreational facilities, theaters,
restaurants, shopping malls, parks, and sporting events, I lived,
worked and existed in approximately 20 square kilometers. So for all
that it offered me, Toronto and Canada, yes were big, yet I existed in
a very tiny part of that great vastness. So what did it matter to me
how big or small Armenia was at the end of the day? I wouldn’t
physically feel it. I wouldn’t be bumping up against barriers, walls,
and boundaries. And besides, I loved the mountains that surround this

The Armenian highland (or Armenian Plateau), is part of the
Transcaucasian Highland and constitutes the continuation of the
Caucasus mountains. Mountain ranges rising up from the valleys, appear
to be leaning against one another as mists and clouds surround their
snow-capped peaks. Stunning, breathtaking. And ultimately so
overpowering that you feel as though they are cutting you off from the
rest of the planet. In every direction there are layers upon layers of
mountains…stretching up toward the sky. But there is no view. There
is no unending horizon against the crystal blue of an ocean. How I
yearn for it. The ocean. The waves rushing up to the shore and then
receding in a clash of white froth. The total, absolute sense of
freedom and space that you feel when you stand on the edge of the
earth and there before you lies limitless skies and possibilities.

I never saw the ocean in Canada, but I knew that we were buttressed
by the Pacific, Atlantic and Arctic oceans. As a result I never felt
closed in, blocked, or stifled — even though I continued to exist in
a 20 sq km radius.

So it’s not only the area that the country occupies on the planet
that can cause discomfort, as my friends so many years ago warned me.
It’s the fact that we are landlocked. It’s the feeling of being closed
in and shut out from the rest of humanity with no access to the seas.

There are of course countries that are just as small or smaller than
Armenia, such as Lebanon and Israel. These two countries have had and
continue to have their share of troubles. Peace eludes them. I would
even argue that life is far more difficult there than it is here. Yet,
when I was in Lebanon a few years ago, even among the intermittent
bombings, the security checks at shopping malls, and the political
tension, people seemed heartier, happier, more buoyant than here in

Back in the mid-1990s, when I first came to Armenia, there was
exhaustion and an impatience, a tension, an unyielding frustration
that was written all over the expressions that people wore. It was
overwhelming and inescapable. Today, a decade later, things have
improved but there continues to be this peculiar weight that people
seem to be carrying.

So it really does make you wonder.

All someone living in Lebanon has to do is to look out toward the
sea and intuitively sense that there is the great vastness of the
planet beyond the horizon. Limitless possibilities, freedom, the
ability to breathe and think and have flight of mind.

I once asked a friend of mine, who had gone to Cuba for a holiday,
what her impressions of the country were. She said that Havana
reminded her of Yerevan, except that the people were happier.

The sea, of course is not a panacea, but it is a gateway to the rest
of the world, both physically and psychologically. Our geography
presently doesn’t grant us the privilege or the pleasure. We must
mentally dismantle the mountains that surround and engulf us and go in
search of the sea.

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12. Editorial: Welcome, Mr. Prime Minister

Serge Sargsian came to the United States for the first time as
Armenia’s prime minister last week. He met with Vice President Richard
Cheney, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, Secretary of Defense
Robert Gates, and congressional leaders. He also held meetings at the
World Bank and International Monetary Fund. He met in Washington with
leaders of Armenian-American organizations, and traveled to Los
Angeles, to meet with a larger number of Armenian-Americans. He also
met with the Editorial Board of the Los Angeles Times and granted
interviews to The Associated Press and the Armenian Reporter.

The United States–Armenia relationship is an essential one for
Armenia. It needs constant cultivation and tending. The relationship
is also significant for the United States: Armenia is a friendly,
democratic nation in a difficult region, and there are vibrant
connections between the peoples of the two countries through the
Armenian-American community and through U.S. outreach efforts.

We are happy to see the prime minister in the United States. As we
have said before, we hope that he and other high-level officials will
become more frequent visitors to the nation’s capital and to the
Armenian communities across the land. With such visits, policy makers
in the United States are reminded of Armenia’s bilateral value, as
well as Armenia’s constructive role in the region.

***************************************** **********************************

13. Editorial: In for the long haul

The Armenian Genocide has been a prominent story in U.S. and
international news over the last few weeks as Turkey and the Bush
administration have sought to defeat the resolution reaffirming the
U.S. record on the Armenian Genocide.

President Bush and his national security team have argued that
passage of the resolution at this time may lead Turkey to retaliate in
ways that would harm U.S. interests in Iraq and beyond. Instead of
telling Turkey in no uncertain terms that its threats are not
appreciated, the administration has chosen to show weakness.

Most members of Congress are ready to vote in favor of the Armenian
Genocide resolution. But many are concerned that in doing so they may
be blamed by the Bush administration, its mainstream media friends,
and ultimately their constituents for Turkey’s actions, ironically
taken in defiance of the same Bush administration’s appeals.

It is our job as Armenian-Americans to show these members of
Congress and their constituents that passage of the Genocide
resolution in fact strengthens the United States. In affirming its
moral authority and in standing up to Turkish blackmail, the United
States will regain credibility internationally and preclude Turkey’s
incessant threats against U.S. interests and military personnel.

We must also fight the perception that Turkey’s defiance of U.S.
interests and the Genocide resolution are somehow linked. Quite
clearly, they are not. Members of Congress and their constituents were
warned: if the resolution passed, Turkey would bring war to the one
relatively peaceful part of Iraq; it would attack Kurds and go after
oil fields in northern Iraq. The resolution has not yet passed, and
Turkey is proceeding anyway. It is attacking northern Iraq; it
continues to threaten even deeper military incursions; and it remains
willing to shut down air rights and a vital air base to U.S.-led

When we succeed in all these tasks, it will be time for the
resolution to come to a vote. We can do it, and we will.

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14. Editorial: It’s plain wrong

Yerevan State University on October 22 bestowed an honorary doctorate
and a gold medal on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the president of Iran. In
doing so, it disgraced itself.

It is right and proper for Armenia to maintain good relations and
develop bilateral relations with all its neighbors, including Iran,
which is home to a significant Armenian community.

That does not, however, require an Armenian university to honor
Iran’s president. In conferring an honorary degree, a university looks
at the honoree’s merits. Mr. Ahmadinejad denies the Holocaust, and has
refused to affirm the Armenian Genocide. The very day after receiving
the honor, he snubbed the Armenian people by skipping his previously
agreed-upon visit to the Armenian Genocide memorial at Tzitzernakaberd
where his predecessor, Mohammad Khatami laid a wreath just over three
years ago.

The leadership of the university showed an utter lack of judgment in
choosing to honor Mr. Ahmadinejad.

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