President Emmanuel Macron and his wife, Brigitte, visited the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial.

Trudeau, Macron Headline Francophonie Summit in Armenia


YEREVAN (Combined Sources) — The leaders of more than three dozen mostly French-speaking countries wrapped up on Friday, October 12, a two-day meeting in Yerevan which Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said has raised Armenia’s international profile.

Leaders of French-speaking nations pose for a photograph at a Francophonie summit in Yerevan, October 11.

French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and other participants of the summit adopted a joint declaration that was not immediately made public. They also appointed Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo as head of the International Organization of La Francophonie (OIF).

The summit, also attended by government delegations from more than 40 other states, was the largest international forum ever held in Yerevan. It highlighted what the current and former Armenian governments have described as Armenia’s “privileged relationship” with France.

“We can say for certain that this event has helped to boost the international standing of our country and to strengthen the International Organization of La Francophonie and its authority,” Pashinyan said in a video address to the nation. “The summit was very well-organized.”

“I want to thank all those people who were involved in organizing it,” he said, naming several senior Armenian diplomats and other government officials.

Prime Minister Trudeau Visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial.

Pashinyan also acknowledged that Armenia’s former government and former Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandyan in particular deserve credit for the Francophonie organization’s decision in 2016to hold its next summit in Yerevan. “Special thanks to Mr. Nalbandyan for those efforts,” he said.

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The Armenian leader also used the forum to solidify his seemingly warm personal rapport with Macron. Private videos captured the two men as well as Trudeau and Prince Albert of Monaco at an official dinner late on Thursday, learning how to perform Armenian dancing, as instructed by Pashinyan and his wife.

Pashinyan and Macron hugged each other before the latter left the Karen Demirchyan Sports and Concert Complex, which served as the summit venue, for Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport on Friday afternoon.

The Francophonie grouping comprises 54 member states where French is spoken or where there is an affinity toward French culture. Many of them are former French colonies.

Armenia hosted on Thursday a summit of the Paris-based Francophonie organization attended by French President Emmanuel Macron, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and the leaders of three dozen other French-speaking nations.

The two-day summit, also attended by government delegations from over 40 other states, is the largest international forum ever held in Yerevan. It highlights what the current and former Armenian governments have described as Armenia’s “privileged relationship” with France.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau at the summit

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan opened the gathering with a speech delivered in French.

“I and all Armenian people are happy to host in Yerevan the 17th summit of the heads of Francophone states and governments,” he said. “Welcome to Armenia!”

“Armenia is a young member of the Francophonie … and yet there is no need to prove its commitment to promoting cultural and linguistic diversity and fundamental values of the French language and the Francophonie,” he said. Those values include respect for democracy and human rights, added the Armenian leader.

Armenia and Moldova are the only former Soviet republics among the Francophonie’s 54 full members. The three Baltic states, Georgia and Ukraine have an observer status in the organization

Macron at the Summit

Macron also addressed the summit, describing the Francophonie nations as a global and diverse “family” that can contribute to international peace which he said is under growing threat.

“We do not have the same skin color, our gods do not bear the same names and some of us do not believe in God,” he said. “We also live in very different climate zones and our songs are not similar. Our histories do not originate from the same sources and there have been many wounds between us which are only now starting to heal.”

“Yet strangely enough, this diverse family is united around a single language … That language does not belong to anyone, it belongs to all of us,” declared Macron.

While in Yerevan, the French president held talks with Pashinyan. The two men most recently met in Paris on October 5 when the French government organized a national homage to Charles Aznavour, the legendary French singer of Armenian descent who died earlier this month.

Pashinyan paid tribute to Aznavour in his speech. At his request, the summit participants remembered the late crooner with rapturous applause.

Macron spoke about the planned meeting with Charles Aznavour that was to take place at Charles Aznavour residence but failed to happen and the struggle of Charles Aznavour for the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, noting that April 24 will be remembered in France as the Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.

From left, Nicolas Aznavour, President Emmanuel Macron, Brigitte Macron, and President Armen Sarkissian and Nouneh Sarkissian

Gala Concert

Pashinyan, accompanied by his wife Anna Hakobyan, attended the gala concert at the Republican Square of Yerevan organized in the sidelines of the 17th summit of Francophonie.

Macron, Trudeau, heads of delegations participating in the summit, and the highest political and spiritual leadership of Armenia were present at the concert.

The final part of the concert was dedicated to the memory of Aznavour.

Pashinyan presented French President Emmanuel Macron with the Armenian translation of Macron’s book, Revolution, translated into Armenian by the state prior to the summit.

The French president added that Aznavour’s struggle was first of all for the sake of Armenia, in order the Armenian nation could raise their heads and withstand the wounds of history.

In his speech Macron also recalled the Spitak earthquake of 1988, pointing out Aznavour’s role in providing support to the survivors.

At the gala concert

“Today, the Aznavour Foundation, under the auspices of [his son] Nicolas and [museum director] Kristina [Sarkisian] continues that humanitarian mission throughout the world,” Macron said.

“Together with the Diaspora we will continue Charles Aznavour’s struggle for the international recognition of the Armenian Genocide. That struggle is also the struggle of France,” the French president said, reiterating that April 24 will be remembered in France as the Day of Remembrance of the Armenian Genocide.

Macron and his wife also visited the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial, as did Trudeau.

Macron noted that 43,000 young people in Armenia speak French, and highlighted the role of the Aznavour center for further popularization of the French language in Armenia.

President of Armenia Armen Sarkissian and his wife, Nouneh Sarkissian, attended the presentation of the architectural project of the Aznavour center at the Charles Aznavour Residence on October 11 with Macron and his wife, Brigitte.

Nicolas Aznavour, the son of the late singer, who is also the founder of “Aznavour” Foundation and Director Kristina Sarkisian presented the goals and activities of “Aznavour” center.

An interactive museum will operate in the center, dedicated to Charles Aznavour’s life, as well as music, French and film making will be taught.

The two Presidents, accompanied by their wives and the leadership of the Foundation toured in the area of the center, which will open its doors after the full reconstruction of the building.

“Dear Nicolas, on behalf of the entire Armenian people, my wife and personally me I once again extent deep condolences on the occasion of this great loss. Your father, the great poet, once said in a philosophic manner that life is very simple — there is birth, there is death and there is life between them. But let me say that in case of a great poet, musician and artist such as Aznavour there is something beyond all that — a second life coming after death. His second life started a few days ago,” President Sarkissian said.

Armen Sarkissian thanked Emmanuel Macron for what he, his wife and the entire French people did to show great respect and appreciation towards Aznavour.

Nicolas Aznavour said that it’s a pity for him and the staff of the Foundation to present the project of the Aznavour center without the presence of his father.

Aris Adamian is the architect of the center, who discussed the reconstruction issue of the center with Aznavour when he was still alive.

New President of Francophonie Elected

Prime Minister Pashinyan congratulates the group’s new leader, Rwanda’s Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo.

Mushikiwabo lobbied for support and got the backing of the African Union and France

The world organisation of French-speaking nations on Friday elected Rwandan Foreign Minister Louise Mushikiwabo as its new head despite her country’s shift to English a decade ago and controversy over its rights record.

Mushikiwabo was elected in a suspense-free vote on the last day of the International Organisation of La Francophonie (OIF) summit in the Armenian capital Yerevan. She will replace Canadian politician Michaelle Jean.

The 57-year-old visited dozens of countries to campaign for support and received the backing of the African Union as well as the crucial support of France.

Ironically Rwanda, a former Belgian colony where French was the lingua franca, switched to English as the language of education in 2008 and joined the Commonwealth a year after.

Her election is a victory for both Rwandan strongman Paul Kagame and Macron, who have sought to improve relations between their two nations, long fraught due to Kigali’s accusations of French complicity in the 1994 genocide that killed at least 800,000, mostly Tutsis.

Her candidacy sparked criticism with Rwanda under fire over human rights violations and Kagame’s controversial constitutional changes that allow him to extend his stay in power.

Trudeau Visit

Pashinyan, welcoming Trudeau to Armenia said, “Mr. Prime Minister, Your visit has caused great interest and good mood in Armenia. I hope that we will manage to transform this good mood into good deeds and agreements based on the talks. We can say that a very good atmosphere and mood exists in our relations. Now there is the necessity to implement projects and initiatives corresponding this mood and to put the cooperation on more tangible grounds, recording more tangible results. Once again welcome to Armenia. We perceive you as a good friend and I hope the same can be said about you in relation to our country and Government.”

Trudeau said, “Thank you Nikol, these feelings are really reciprocal between Armenia and Canada. I want to once again congratulate you and the Armenian people for organizing Francophonie summit in a brilliant and excellent way. It’s not that easy to organize such an international event, it was really held on an excellent level. During our talks we will try to achieve simplification of interactions between our peoples and to ease air communication so as to create favorable conditions for investments, to promote enterprisers and economic development”. Justin Trudeau added that he expects productive cooperation with the Armenian Government.

Pashinyan and Trudeau discussed a broad scope of issues referring to the development of Armenian-Canadian agenda.

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau speaks with the Armenian leader and his wife.

The Armenian and Canadian PMs highlighted the facilitation of air communication for the activation of relations in the political, economic, business, culture and humanitarian spheres. For that purpose the sides reached an agreement to task the relevant bodies to start negotiations on the issue and submit a concrete package of proposals.

The Armenian premier presented to his Canadian counterpart the steps and reforms aimed at developing the economy, changing the economic structure and fighting corruption. Pashinyan suggested Trudeau to convey to Canadian businessmen the signals from Armenia – readiness of the government of Armenia for cooperation.

The prime minister of Canada saluted the reforms under implementation in Armenia and expressed readiness to actively cooperate with the Government of Armenia.

During the meeting the sides discussed a number of issues referring to the development of democracy, efficient governance, civil society, women’s involvement in social and political processes.

The sides also exchanged ideas over Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement, international threats and challenges.

The Armenian premier presented to his Canadian counterpart the nature of Nagorno Karabakh conflict, emphasizing that it’s not a territorial dispute as Azerbaijan tries to present. The issue is about the right to life of the people of Artsakh and it’s important for Armenia that international partners are informed about the negotiation process and situation. Nikol Pashinyan emphasized that the conflict can be settled only through peaceful means in the sidelines of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-chairs’ format.

The Canadian premier highlighted the continuation of dialogue and internationally authorized negotiation format for NK conflict settlement.

In addition, Trudeau and a group of his top aides paid a visit to the Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin and met Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

On October 9, Bishop Abgar Hovakimyan, Primate, accompanied by Ohan Ohanessian, Chair of the Diocesan Council, traveled to Armenia to partake in events organized on the occasion of the 17th Summit of the International Organization of La Francophonie, and the celebration of the 2800th anniversary of Yerevan, the Capital of Armenia.

Karekin II received Trudeau at Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, who was accompanied by Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan.

The catholicos recorded with satisfaction that the successful organization of the 17th summit of Francophonie in Armenia resulted in deepening of relations between different countries and establishment of new relations and partnership. According to Karekin II, it gave the member states of Francophonie and opportunity to get familiarized with the Armenian people.

Karekin II also expressed his appreciation for the warm attitude of the Canadian authorities towards the Armenian community.

Trudeau noted that he is glad for the meeting, emphasizing that it’s a great pleasure to pay another visit to Armenia after 3 decades and a great honor to be hosted at the religious center of Armenia.

Speaking about the Armenian community in Canada, Trudeau noted that Canada has to thank the Canadian-Armenians who have made a great contribution to various aspects of life of Canada. Referring to the Armenian-Canadian relations, he noted that Canada is proud to be Armenia’s partner and will continue cooperation in various spheres.

Trudeau also met with Pashinyan, who said, “I am glad to welcome you in the capital city of Armenia. You are the first Prime Minister of Canada to pay an official visit to the Republic of Armenia and this is a historical event. I think you have already felt the positive attitude in our country towards your country and personally you and I hope that the already established relations will help to raise the friendly relations between our countries to a new level.  I once again welcome you and I am glad to see you in Armenia.”

Trudeau said in his speech, “Mr. Prime Minister, I am very grateful to you for the reception. It’s a great honor to be in Armenia. I think you know that years ago I had the honor to visit Armenia with my father on summer holidays. He was no longer the prime minister of Canada at that time, which means I am the first prime minister of Canada to pay an official visit to Armenia. But even at that time I felt the friendship between Armenians and Canadians and the reception I received in Armenia today and in the previous days was great. It just an honor to be here. I am thankful.”

Pashinyan presented his Canadian counterpart with the Armenian translation of the book, Common Ground, which Trudeau had written. “This is another proof that you have a unique place in the perceptions of the citizens of Armenia and this is the Armenian translation of your book which I am glad to present to you.”

The two discussed a number of issues of bilateral interest, including the political changes in Armenia. Trudeau noted that when developments jeopardizing democracy were taking place throughout the globe, Armenia served as an example for the entire world, which was excellent not only for Armenia, but for the entire world. He noted that he had visited Armenia also for the reason to show the readiness of his country to support Armenia’s development.

“The democratic developments of Armenia are a reason of pride not only for Armenians, but the entire world,” Trudeau emphasized, adding that Canada is ready to support Armenia in the directions of economic development, attraction of investments, improvement of infrastructures and so on.

President Emmanuel Macron at the Aznavour Museum

Speaking about the economic development of Armenia, Pashinyan emphasized that the goal of the Government is to change the economic structure of the country, making Armenia a technological country, and expressed confidence that there is the potential necessary for that. The premier added that the government of Armenia has achieved serious success in the direction of fighting corruption and expressed confidence that it will foster the improvement of business environment and economic progress of the country.

Nikol Pashinyan and Justin Trudeau referred to other issues of development of Armenian-Canadian cooperation in various spheres.

(RFE/RL, Daily Mail, Armenpress contributed to this report.)



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