Remarks of Amb. Martirossian At Diocesan Center Reception in NYC

Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)
630 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10016
Contact: Karine Abalyan
Tel: (212) 686-0710; Fax: (212) 779-3558
E-mail: [email protected]

August 7, 2009



What follows is a text of the remarks delivered by Ambassador Armen
Martirossian, during a farewell reception in his honor, as he concludes his
six-year tenure of service as the Republic of Armenia’s Permanent
Representative to the United Nations. Ambassador Martirossian made the
remarks at the Eastern Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, in New
York City, on August 4, 2009. He will go on to serve Armenia as its
Ambassador to Germany.

I want to thank all the speakers for their wonderful words here tonight. I
take those comments to be, first of all, a demonstration of your attitude
toward Armenia, the people of Armenia, and the government of Armenia..

As I stand here, I recall my first day at the Diocesan Center, on June 12,
2003, when Archbishop Khajag Barsamian after greeting me in the hall called
upon me to feel at home here at St. Vartan’s. Very soon, I understood that
that was a very sincere offer, and I want to thank him for the very warm
relationship that we established from the very beginning. It was
heartwarming for me, for my family, to make a new home here, in such a
vibrant community that has succeeded to unite its members around common
national goals and preserve our values, all the while incorporating the best
from the experiences and traditions of American liberal democracy. I would
like to take this opportunity to express my sincere appreciation to each and
every one of you for the warm hospitality offered to my family and myself.

It’s assumed that a farewell address includes words of appreciation to those
who assisted the departing person. In my case, it was not some individuals
but the whole community that has been very helpful, gracious and considerate
toward the Mission of Armenia to the United Nations and to me. For that
reason I cherish with gratitude the community’s kindness, love and
affection. Believe me when I say I’ll carry those feelings with me
throughout my life.

Beyond the personal, I know that it is natural that a judgment be made on my
ambassadorship. Doubtless, in the end that is for the President of Armenia
and the government to make. However, the Armenian community of New York was
not a passive observer of my activities; instead, you were a reliable
partner. Therefore it is my duty to sum up briefly the role that the UN
plays for Armenia and Armenia’s contribution to the activities of the
organization during my tenure.

Conflict between vs. within states

It has been an honor to serve and represent my country in the United
Nations-an organization that was set up almost 65 years ago with the main
objective of maintaining international peace and security. It’s called to
regulate inter-state relations, including conflict situations between
states. Although today the UN is not the defining organization it was at the
time of its inception, it is still a fundamental part of the current
international order. During six decades of the dramatic geo-political and
socio-economic transformations that humankind has been witnessing, the
interpretation and implementation of the founding principles of
international law still causes stormy debates. And that is understandable:
from the total number of wars which have erupted on the planet after 1945,
only one-third were fought between states; the rest, fully two-thirds, were
or are going on within individual states.

The UN Charter has not been designed to address this type of problem and
therefore the way it deals with situations of internal ethnic conflict
sometimes does not meet our expectations. Cynical foreign affairs experts
claim that the notion of international law was conceived for the weak.
Although one can dispute this extreme interpretation, recent developments in
Iraq, Kosovo, and other parts of the world have demonstrated that
international law works inasmuch as it addresses the expectations and
interests of the dominant members of the international community-those who
possess enough military and political might to impose the provisions of
international law according to their own readings. Historical, moral, and
sometimes even legal arguments are not enough to justify a cause.

Armenia has had first-hand experience with this dilemma in the context of
the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. On the one hand, the UN Charter affirms the
right of peoples to self-determination; on the other hand it provides for
the principle of territorial integrity of states. Military confrontation
with Azerbaijan, when our neighboring state unleashed the war against the
people of Artsakh, had made the peaceful resolution of this dilemma
impossible in 1991. Karabakh won on the battlefields, and we now have to
secure our military victory on diplomatic fields as well. It turns out that
the former is easier than the latter. War, ceasefire, fragile peace-those
are not abstract ideas for Armenia, but real categories that the people of
Artsakh and Armenia face in their daily lives.

These realities predetermine our priorities at the UN, and define the way we
do our work in the organization. We effectively have withstood Azerbaijan in
their attempts to mislead the international community on the dispute over
Nagorno-Karabakh and the ongoing peace talks. We did our utmost to undermine
the political value and noise surrounding the non-binding resolution pushed
through the General Assembly of the United Nations by the delegation of
Azerbaijan, supported by some member states of the Organization of Islamic
Conference. The results of the General Assembly vote demonstrate that the
vast majority of member states do not support Azerbaijan’s groundless claims
and unrealistic expectations.

The lesson of Armenian history

However, by no means, can we be complacent or let down our guard. New and
dramatic developments are taking place in world affairs. We are living in a
period of tension between nations-of geo-political rivalry and competition
for scarce resources, which may cause social, political and economic
stresses and strains within nations. It seems that the ongoing
transformations are likely to endure for the foreseeable future, and might
have repercussions in our region. Not for the first time, we may even be
tempted to question some of the time-honored principles and commitments
which have been proven during the difficult times of past generations.
However, as we have managed to come out of many ordeals and trials, I’m
confident that once again together we’ll overcome the new challenges with
dignity, and face our destiny hardened by our trials.

We are given much, but the expectations are also high. We are responsible
both to the memory of our forefathers and to future generations, and we
cannot evade either of them.

During our dramatic but rewarding journey through history, we Armenians have
learned one main lesson: We ourselves are the only guarantor of a decent
future for Armenia. To this end we are building a state with a competitive
economy, a society based on democratic stability and respect for human
rights, which is actively and constructively engaged in world affairs. That
is the solution, and that is the foundation for our future.

Diaspora’s vision and dedication

Having said that Nagorno-Karabakh was a priority for our delegation does not
mean that we were busy only with this issue. The Armenian delegation made
its contribution to deliberations on various issues the UN is dealing with
today. During the last six years, the Armenian delegation was elected to
various specialized bodies of the UN, some of them for the first time since
its membership. Recently I was elected chairman of the UN’s Commission on
the Status of Women-but regrettably I will not be able to complete my
responsibilities on that interesting and exceptional body.

During these years I was blessed with the cooperation of many diaspora
organizations and individuals, who not only supported us but also initiated
interesting and valuable projects. I recall with great satisfaction an event
on Comparative Genocide studies, organized in the United Nations together
with the Mission of Rwanda and sponsored by the AGBU, with the participation
of Professor Vahakn Dadrian.

The Mission established a fruitful collaboration with the representatives of
American Armenian Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) accredited to the
UN. Our regular meetings at the Mission were very useful and instructive
both for Armenian diplomats and NGOs. All our projects were carried out
together for the benefit of Armenia and the Armenian community in the United
States. I want to express my appreciation for this cooperation, and I wish
them every success in their future activities.

Many of you have assisted me personally in every way, in large and small
undertakings, whenever I asked-and on some occasions even without my

I express my deepest appreciation to Mr. and Mrs. Kevork and Sirvart
Hovnanian, for their patronage of the Mission, and in particular for their
assistance in renovating the building of the Mission, which they so
thoughtfully and farsightedly donated to the people and the government of

We are as grateful for the large gifts as for the seemingly small ones. I’m
thankful to Mr. Araz, who since 1994 has subscribed to Foreign Affairs
magazine for the Mission of Armenia. Each such thought and action is deeply
appreciated. On behalf of Armenian diplomats serving in the U.S., I want to
express our sincere appreciation to the Armenian Missionary Association of
America, its members and sponsors for the invaluable support they offer to
our staff.

I want to express my deepest appreciation and acknowledgement to Mr. Aso
Tavitian, whose generosity and vision has made possible a superb graduate
level education for more than 100 Armenian civil servants, including myself,
in top U.S. educational institutions, such as Harvard, Tufts, and Columbia
universities. I have proudly related to many of my colleagues in the UN the
story and the accomplishments of Mr. Tavitian. In their eyes, such
philanthropy is a demonstration of the successful diaspora’s vision, wisdom,
and dedication to Armenia and its people.

Strengthened Armenian identity

My conversations with the outstanding Armenian American scholar Dr. Vartan
Gregorian, the president of Carnegie Corporation, sustained me on various
contemporary issues. I thank you Dr. Gregorian.

I want to thank the FAR board members, its executive director Garnik
Nanagulian, and his staff for fruitful cooperation. I would gladly continue
my collaboration with this organization, which demonstrates in an exemplary
way the successful institutionalization of the diaspora’s vision,
generosity, and dedication to Armenia.

I want to thank the clergy and the choir of St. Vartan Cathedral, and
Maestro Khoren Mekanejian personally, for the gorgeous badaraks which I have
enjoyed for the last six years. I want to thank Digin Jaqueline Dechkounian
for her cordial smile and delicious coffee, with which she entertained me
during my visits to Archbishop Barsamian.

A few days ago, during a farewell reception organized by the Holy Martyrs
Armenian Church (of Bayside, N.Y.), I expressed my reflection on one issue
which, I later learned, was quite surprising and unexpected for my fellow
Armenians. Today I want to reaffirm it.

It is believed that in order to preserve the national identity, it is the
diaspora that needs Armenia. Although that judgment is correct, it is not
comprehensive. From my personal experience, I claim that it was the diaspora
that enriched and strengthened my Armenian identity.

Through my interaction with the Armenian Church and most of my compatriots
here, I have started my spiritual journey from my communist past to our
centuries-old Christian roots, which for my generation were torn away due to
the realities of the once-Soviet Armenia. I’ve come nearer to the rich
cultural heritage that the diaspora has been accumulating and preserving
very carefully, far away from its historical homeland and sometimes under
very difficult circumstances. I want to thank the clergy and ministers of
Armenian churches for the enlightening and thought-provoking conversations
that I enjoyed with them on many occasions.

My special appreciation goes to the editors of all the periodicals who
always gladly agreed to cooperate with the Mission in publication of our

Last but not least, I want to thank my predecessors who paved my way in the
United Nations. I want to thank my fellow Armenian diplomats, who worked
with me and assisted me during my tenure.

It is impossible to name all those who helped me to carry out my duties.
Again, from the bottom of my heart, I want to express to you all the
gratitude I feel. I give my thanks to you and to the people of Armenia, for
the times I have succeeded, and my apologies for the times I have fallen