09, 2008

Speech delivered by President Serzh Sargsyan in the United States at the official reception hosted by the Embassy of Armenia to the US, Permanent Mission of Armenia to the United Nations and leading Armenian-American organizations

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Dear Compatriots:

Ladies and Gentlemen,

Distinguished guests,

My last visit to the United States took place one year ago and my meeting with the representatives of the Armenian-American organizations was in Los Angeles. One year ago, on the American soil, addressing our Armenian compatriots I said that the time had come for the Armenian people to celebrate new victories. I said that each and every one of us is an owner of the Armenian statehood, and all together we take part in its creation. It is a source of great pride for every Armenian soul. I want to repeat it again today and to reiterate that the regained independence does not mean that our struggle is over. On the contrary – in our struggle for achieving national goals we have entered a new stage, and thank God, our problems today are those of development, and aspirations are for advancement. Just days ago we celebrated our historic victory of the 20th century - the 17th anniversary of the Armenian independence. The celebration was nationwide - both in Armenia and beyond.

I want to thank the entire Armenian-American community, all organizations functioning here and individuals, who through their pro-Armenian undertakings consistently bring their input to the resolution of the problems facing Armenia and Artshakh, condemnation of the Armenian Genocide and reinstatement of historical justice, and the resolution of the NK conflict. I assure you that these days nothing passes unnoticed. It is for the whole world to see that this ancient nation, which has passed crossroads of history, is unified in its resolve and is united in its deeds. I note it with joy, as an Armenian who is aware of the lessons of our history and is proud of it. It is that very unity provides strong foundation for success. Today, we need unity more than ever. Just take a look on what‘s going on around our country, in the region and in the constantly shrinking world. Armenia, like a small boat has again found itself in the very midpoint of turbulence. A war right next door, closed borders, problems with external communications, convoluted regional relations, clashing interests of great powers – this is the world Armenia faces today. And under such circumstances we must solve not survival related issues, but development related issues. And we must solve them together.

Dear Friends,

Just about two weeks ago I had a meeting with the President of Turkey in Yerevan. During our conversation we reached a distinct understanding that this problem should not be left to the generations. I truly believe that the time has come to solve problems in the Armenian-Turkish relations and I saw that readiness in the attitude of my Turkish colleague and appreciated his courage to make tough decisions. All this allows me to hope that from now on we will not be drifting toward leaving current problems for the future and will not be thinking up excuses or mechanisms to play for time. Days after the Yerevan meeting, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Turkey declared that Turkey was ready to face its past and was ready to face the conclusions of the probable commission. These are words of the representative of an intrepid government. Now we need to think how to assist the Turkish public opinion in reading the pages of their own history without bias – thousands of that very public appeared on the streets, carrying slogans “We are all Hrant Dinks, we are all Armenians”.

For me one thing is absolutely clear – we need to talk, talk about everything. Only those, who have nothing to say or suffer from inferiority complex, avoid contacts and discussions. We are not bound by such complexes and our message is clear. And I hope that soon the day will come when the two neighboring states will be solving present problems through interstate bilateral contacts like states that have normal relations.

During our meeting, the Turkish President expressed readiness, if necessary, to support, and I repeat, to support the NK peace process. We welcome any assistance directed at the creation of an environment which is conducive to the mediation efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group, and the initiative of the Turkish President can be just that. In the entire NK conflict resolution process our main objective is to convince the Azerbaijani side - through negotiations, through the peace process - that the recognition of the right of the people of Nagorno Karabakh for self-determination is inevitable. And I am confident that once that right has been recognized we will be moving forward together in big steps.

Dear Compatriots,

In one year Armenia went through two general elections. It was a challenge for our society which has just started to build-up democratic traditions. We emerged from that process with very explicit lessons learned. Today, our people anticipate change, they anticipate rapid development and our actions are aimed at meeting the expectations, aspirations and needs of the millions of our countrymen, at creating the foundations for sustainable change, which are immediate prerequisites for the development of our country.

We anticipate active participation of our compatriots from around the world to these processes. And I am asking all our compatriots to get rid of a stereotype that one cannot make money in the Motherland. In reality, making money in Armenia means boosting Armenia’s development. We have said on many occasions that today Armenia needs not humanitarian assistance but development programs. I believe, many will agree that today Armenia’s economy provides real opportunities for making rewarding investments and first of all it is our compatriots from all over the world that should benefit from those opportunities. It becomes especially important in the context of the ongoing global financial crisis.

In general, our development programs are bold and ambitious. As you know, we are concluding the construction of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline – an ambitious and promising enterprise. We have similar and even larger programs. We are commencing the construction of a modern nuclear power plant. I believe it will be done with the direct participation of the United States, Europe and Russia. We are also planning the construction of the Armenia-Iran railroad. In the next 3-4 years we will solve housing problems of the 7000 families who suffered in the earthquake and who are still homeless on the eve of the 20th anniversary of that disaster. We have also initiated the establishment of the Pan-Armenian Bank and the Investment Fund which will be financing major business programs. It means that any Armenian in any part of the world will be able through a specialized institution to put his or her savings to work for Armenia’s prosperity and gain some profit too.

We have also created a structure to engage Armenian entrepreneurial and creative potential in the economic growth of the country – the National Competitiveness Council. Many successful and established entrepreneurs and individuals from different countries eagerly participate at its works. By the way, I’ve spotted at least two of them in this hall. These people find time in their tight schedules to meet regularly and discuss prospects of Armenia’s economic development, to design projects called upon turning the potential of our country into actual advantage on the regional level. In close cooperation with the Government, the Council has made significant progress in developing Armenia’s potential in education, banking, finance, and tourism areas, in transforming the existing capacity into practical projects and implementing them. I appeal to all our compatriots, to those who have accumulated rich experience in the most successful business circles across the world to become part of that process. Above everything else today our Motherland needs knowledge and experience of her sons and daughters.

Dear Compatriots,

The Armenian Diaspora is diverse, multi-confessional and multi-lingual. But first of all and most of all the Armenian Diaspora is multi-potent. And as controversial as it may sound, the Armenia Diaspora, while more powerful than ever, is living today through the most difficult times in its history and needs care and attention. Without care and attention, in fifteen or twenty years that powerful Diaspora, the envy of the world, may undergo assimilation. And who, if not the reborn Armenian state – the Republic of Armenia, can and must bring care and attention to the Armenians spread all over the world.

It is true that the state is built by its citizens. Yet, at all times, and especially in calamitous times, the unwearied Diaspora stood by the hayastantsis and the artsakhis, whose sufferings, lives and blood drew the borders of the Armenian state. The time has come when the victorious citizens of Armenia must become unwavering support for their compatriots and fellows Armenians all around the world. For years, the Armenian Diaspora has been providing invaluable support to the development of the Armenian statehood in the face of contemporary challenges. And it will remain as such if in return for everything it has given it receives what it needs. The citizens of Armenia, the Armenian state must have something to offer the Armenians worldwide. And it has nothing to do with the principle of reciprocity at all. The capacity of the Armenian nation is the amalgamated capacity of all Armenians. It should not be taken from one place, to grow in the other. It must grow everywhere. One part should not become stronger at the expense of the other. Armenian wealth does not belong to the Armenians only. The interaction between the various groups of Armenians should not result in the division and redistribution of the Armenian wealth but in its augmentation and consolidation. The Armenian “balance sheet” must bourgeon.

Dear Compatriots,

It is true that the Armenian Diaspora is diverse and diversified in its opinions and needs. But do we truly realize that that diversity of our Diaspora is an asset and not a failing? Do we realize that cultural, linguistic and confessional diversity is not a deficiency, which has to be conquered, but an advantage which gives us unique opportunities?

We must overcome the existing stereotypes regarding the Diaspora. We have to open our eyes to see the reality, as bitter as it sometimes may be. Next to the successful, triumphant Armenian, who firmly stands on his feet, we have a brother, who needs help. We should have a realistic picture of the Armenian, wherever and whatever he or she may be, and we must tell the truth and change our perception of the Diaspora. Armenia must have a structure which would support our citizens and fellow Armenians living abroad, to the best of its power and stand by those who need it.
As the saying goes, we love the Motherland not because it’s nice, but because it’s ours. The time has come to say we love Armenians not because they are nice or successful but because they are ours.

First, we should formulate and define the new Armenian identity. Identity which should become our beacon in the new century. The new Armenian identity should be person-centered, freedom-centered, and rights-centered. An identity based on freedom and rights is most appealing and empowering. It can support Armenians’ integration in the societies of their respective countries and to help in succeeding with the mentality free of internal complexes and contradictions. It may help integrate as an Armenian, as a free person, as a citizen committed to the success of his or her country of residence. An Armenian with such mentality is the best citizen of his or her country, its pillar. Hence, a good Armenian is a good citizen of the United States, Russia, or Georgia. Hence, a good Armenian is competitive always and everywhere, a bearer of the competitiveness of a competitive nation – with the values he creates, with the goods he produces, and with the services he provides. Pride is the backbone of the Armenian identity. The Armenian pride is anchored on competitiveness. Are Armenian citizen and the Armenian in general competitive? They must be!

For centuries Armenia has been the harbor of dreams of the entire nation. And it has to be, since the key to the Armenian identity is the Armenian state. There is no alternative. Unity and accord to withstand tragedies and their consequences wither with time. The time has come to turn a tragedy-centered Diaspora into the Armenia-centered one. The world is our habitat, Armenia is our home. Armenia - the land of wonders.

The Armenian identity should not be intricate and mysterious. It has to reject linguistic, religious, cultural, partisan, or ideological divides. The English-speaking, Turkish-speaking, Russian-speaking, or Armenian-speaking Armenian; the Apostolic, Catholic, Protestant, or Muslim Armenian; the Socialist or Democrat Armenian; the Nationalist or Liberal Armenian – they are just Armenians. The Armenian identity should not be limited by the boundaries of its own “true” fraction, trying to preserve its secluded purity. Diversity is the key to continuity, while secluded species come to extinction. The Armenian identity is an umbrella for diversity. Tolerance fortifies Armenian diversity. Are we tolerant? We should be! We have to be!

Nature leaves no alternative to development, or rather the alternative is decline, downfall, and oblivion. Nothing stays unchanged. Preserving Armenian identity is not enough, to withstand assimilation it is necessary to evolve. Hence, we should consolidate our efforts for development and aim at creating a modern “Armenian world”. We should be able to achieve self-organization of the different segments of our Diaspora around the Armenian identity.

These and some others are the issues we have to solve together. And, above all, it is the Armenian state that has to solve them. The tools of the state are its institutions. We have already established the Ministry for Diaspora Affairs which will start functioning shortly. We have a lot to do and we must start acting now.

Dear Compatriots,

A circle has neither a beginning nor an end. Its every point is a starting point and also its last point. But any circle has to have a center which is equally close to and remote from all its points – it is the center of gravity. The center of gravity for any Armenian anywhere in the world is Armenia – the Motherland and her daughters and sons are equally close and equally remote from her. It will continue to be that way. Long live the Republic of Armenia! Long live the Armenian nation! I am very grateful for this warm reception, and I am proud of you and very much grateful for your support. Be assured that Armenia with the Diaspora is one country and quite another - without it. Our brothers and sisters are doing their best to make Armenia a modern state, and I thank you for it.

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