Taking Steps: Abrahamyan sets plans for World Congress, UAR during Yerevan convention

Last week was marked by the traditional days of two influential Diaspora organizations in Armenia and Nagorno Karabakh as a 500-member delegation of writers, scientists, businessmen and public figures of the World Armenian Congress (WAC) and the Union of Armenians of Russia (UAR) visited Yerevan and Stepanakert.

The initiator of these days held from September 28 through October 1 was the Russia-based Armenian businessman, UNESCO goodwill ambassador Ara Abrahamyan, who is the founding chairman of these two organizations.

The Union of Armenians of Russia was established five years ago and has been known for its activities far beyond Russia and Armenia, and the World Armenian Congress was set up later, in 2003, “to contribute to the unification of efforts of worldwide Armenian Diaspora in the name of defending the national interests of Armenians.”

Among the events held by representatives of the two organizations in Armenia were the presentation of the three-volume book “Genocide of Armenians . . . ”, and the magazine “Memory Against Oblivion” dedicated to the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. A 50-member delegation visited Karabakh and the Armenian provinces.

While in Armenia, Abrahamyan was received by President Robert Kocharyan and by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Vardan Oskanian.

During his visit Abrahamyan also answered the question of mechanisms of cooperation between the UAR and the government of Armenia. In a press briefing he said that no concrete means have been developed yet, but expressed a hope that such interaction would come soon.

Abrahamyan said the UAR hopes to open an affiliate office in Yerevan soon, but that it will not be engaged in politics.

“There are many politicians here as it is,” he said, at the same time adding: “We cannot but participate in the political processes of the country, since more than 400,000 citizens of Armenia live in Russia today.” According to Abrahamyan, the organization led by him will provide assistance in the holding of parliamentary and presidential elections in Armenia, “without breaking the laws of Armenia.”

The visit also offered a chance for Abrahamyan to reveal the little-known details of his involvement in the June release of Armenian commercial airline pilots and crew who were held for more than a year in Equatorial Guinea.

He said the release of the men had cost him a sizable “investment” in the economy of the African state. “I have fulfilled by 100 percent my promises to the president of Equatorial Guinea,” he told the media. “We have invested more than $2 million in building a water-supply system in that country.”

Abrahamyan is currently leading a similar initiative in Nigeria where a group of Russian sailors are in jail on smuggling charges. Abrahamyan said he will be in Nigeria when the trial of the sailors begins later this month and will work towards their release.

But he added: “Money alone cannot buy freedom of prisoners. It requires a lot of work and many people’s involvement.”

In an address to the public, party and state organizations of Armenia, the WAC chairman reiterated the efforts of the worldwide Armenian Diaspora and the people within Armenia to get the international recognition of the genocide as well as thanked the states that have contributed to the cause.

Establishing a public organization of Diaspora Armenians and getting the recognition of its status as an NGO registered in the UN and its corresponding establishments, the WAC hopes to raise the efficiency of its efforts.

“We think that the necessary grounds for raising the level of our struggle, i.e. raising the Armenian Question in international political and judicial bodies – have already been laid through the WAC’s efforts and the efforts of other public and political organizations of the Diaspora,” Abrahamyan said.

WAC proposes convening a conference of representatives of public and political organizations of the Diaspora, the Republic of Armenia and the NKR in Yerevan next May to set up goals, structure, procedure rules and charter of this organization.

The deadline for NGOs, party and state organizations to make concrete proposals on the raised issue is set on November 15, 2005.