President Sargisian Celebrates 20th Anniversary Of Independence with Gala in New York; Delivers Address at UN Seeking Justice for Karabagh

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By Florence Avakian
Special to the Mirror-Spectator

NEW YORK — Last week the 66th session of the United Nations General Assembly opened with more than 100 heads of state coming to UN headquarters here to present their 15-minute speeches. Streets and avenues near the world body and the hotels where the diplomats were staying were closed to traffic and pedestrians, creating a traffic nightmare. The UN was a virtual armed fortress.

There were police cars, ambulances, sand trucks and bulldozers surrounding the UN on the East River, police cruisers with flashing lights, and above, helicopters flying back and forth. Security was extremely tight. Heads of state with their coterie of handlers were everywhere, and hundreds of reporters from all over the world rushed about, desperately hoping for any exclusive bit of information.

In the morning session of Friday, September 23, Armenian President Serge Sargisian delivered a strong address to the UN General Assembly. He covered several important topics, including Azerbaijan’s Armenophobia, its threatening war stance and constant fabrications of truth; the necessity for the negotiating parties to reach a solution to the Karabagh conflict; the Armenian Genocide, and the refusal of Turkey to acknowledge it; and Turkey’s abandonment of the Armenia-Turkey normalization process. He concluded by pointing out the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s independence and listed its many achievements. “Much still remains to be done,” he stated. “Above all, we are convinced that we are on the right path, a path that is irreversible.”

Sargisian, on this trip to the United States, became the first president of a foreign country to receive the Ellis Island Award “for his contribution to reinforcing Armenian- American relations, and peace establishment in the South Caucasus.”

20th Anniversary Marked

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On Friday, September 23, the 20th anniversary of Armenia’s 20th independence was celebrated with a lavish reception and dinner at the elegant Cipriani downtown with 700 in attendance. In addition to Sargisian, the guests included Armenia’s Foreign Minster Eduard Nalbandian, Diasporan Minister Hranoush Hagopian, UN Ambassador Garen Nazarian, Rep. Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Dr. Vartan Gregorian. The event was underwritten by Hirair Hovnanian, Hratch Kaprielian, Nazar Nazarian, George Pagoumian, Karabagh Representative to the US Robert Avetissian and Berge Setrakian.

A video celebrating the 20th independence of Armenia in Republic Square was shown, demonstrating the strong military might of the country. With exploding fireworks, it displayed well-trained troops, missiles, tanks, as well as planes and helicopters flying overhead in formation. The various crafts and arts of the country were also shown.

Carnegie Foundation President Vartan Gregorian, in his congratulatory remarks for Armenia and Karabagh, noted that the celebration is an “opportunity to look into the past and chart our future.” Recounting the losses and tragedies of the past, he said, “it’s a miracle that Armenia exists today and is free. What is most worrying is the exodus from Armenia. We need a strong militarily, economically and unified Armenia. We must invest in Armenia, create jobs and opportunities. We can’t blame the exodus if there are no opportunities. With our excellence in science and technology, we should make Armenia the Switzerland of the Caucasus. Armenia is not a charitable case, but an investment case,” he concluded with emphasis.

Sargisian opened his keynote address by stating, “We are united not only in our genes, but also for the present and future of Armenia and Artsakh.” However, he pointed out, “there are skeptics who find a solution impossible. War and crises are temporary. What remains is our homeland.” He expressed his appreciation to the diaspora for its great support, and emphasized that “Armenia and the diaspora must work together. Our goals have to be identical. Our foreign policy must be presented to the diaspora in an understandable way. Also critical is the peaceful resolution of Artsakh, which has been free and cannot have a lesser status. Its right to self-determination cannot be compromised,” he stated noting the “atmosphere of armenophobia” by Azerbaijan.

“Any adventure by Azerbaijan outside the OSCE will result in our recognition of Artsakh’s independence,” he declared to sustained applause.

Referring to the Genocide, he stated that “while only Armenians knew of Turkey’s past, now the whole world knows. The face of Turkey has been exposed. We will pursue recognition of the Genocide,” he declared.

Concerning the Armenian-Turkish protocols, which he called “timely,” he noted that for the first time, a president of Armenia had toured Armenian communities all over the world and listened to their views. He thanked the US for supporting Armenia in their quest to normalize relations with Turkey, and for their help to Armenians in America. Concluding his address, he presented 20th Anniversary State awards “for their service to Armenia and years of fruitful work” to Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, Nazarian, Setrakian and Rita Balian.

The invocation was given by the Eastern Diocesan Primate Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, and the closing prayer by the Eastern Prelacy Prelate Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan. Entertainment was provided by singer Datevik Hovanesian and her trio, and by Anoosh Barclay and Vagharshak Ohanyan, who sang the national anthems as well as a medley of Armenian songs, accompanied on piano by Karen Hakobyan.