On the evening of Friday, October 10, the AGBU Asbeds Committee hosted a special event at the AGBU Vatche and Tamar Manoukian Center in Pasadena, featuring a lecture on “Armenian’s hopes and challenges” by the Honorable Vartan Oskanian, former Foreign Affairs Minister of the Republic of Armenia and present member of the Armenian National Assembly.
Nearly two hundred guests, among them representatives of national, civic, and community organizations, and a large number of AGBU members, gathered around the dinner table to hear and participate in a dialogue on Armenia’s foreign and domestic issues.
Prior to the blessing of tables, H.E. Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western United States, delivered remarks acclaiming Vartan Oskanian, the Diasporan and Armenian citizen, diplomat and national servant. He stated that Mr. Oskanian brings pride through his leadership positions and efforts to make Armenia our life’s dream, hope, and promise, and that his life serves as a good example to the younger generations both in Armenia and abroad.
The organizing Committee provided the guests with copies of the speaker’s book, “On the Path to Independence”, which the Master of Ceremonies Dr. Guiragos Minassian touched upon. Dr. Minassian thoroughly introduced the guest speaker and the various stages of his life, and also presented an overview of the aforementioned book, a compilation of entries from his journal titled “the great challenges of a small nation”. Here’s what the author says about himself; “Diplomacy is not only my education and my life, it is my drive and calling”.
Vartan Oskanian was born in 1955 in Aleppo. He is an alumnus of AGBU Lazar Najarian – Kaloust Gulbenkian School, Yerevan Polytechnic Institute, Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, and Harvard University. Through his former position as Foreign Affairs Minister and current duties as Parliamentarian, he has and continues to bring active participation to Karabakh negotiations and in general external and interior government matters.
Dr. Minassian reflected on Mr. Oskanian’s vast experience, from his initial recognition in Armenia and the Diaspora through his AIM magazine, to his present work through his Civilitas Foundation. Dr. Minassian assessed Mr. Oskanian’s tenure at the Foreign Ministry in six points: First, in those ten years, Mr. Oskanian employed complementary diplomacy, maintaining neutrality and balance among competing powers. Second, he practiced multilateralism, working together with various countries for a common cause. Third, through his efforts, Armenia became a full member of the Council of Europe in 2001. Fourth, he advanced the protocols between Armenia and Turkey. Fifth, he succeeded in securing the de facto independence of Karabakh and its de jure status outside of Azerbaijan’s territorial reign. Finally, he highlighted Mr. Oskanian’s efforts in fostering Armenia-Diaspora relations and collaboration.
Excerpts from Vartan Oskanian’s Talk
– Presently there are transformational goings-on in Armenia and Artsakh.
– On the same day of the event, President Serzh Sargysan had signed Armenia’s membership into the Eurasian Customs Union, thus opening a new page in Armenia’s economic and foreign affairs.
– Also on that very day, members of non-ruling parties staged gatherings to express their concerns and discontent of internal situations in Armenia.
– Armenia finds itself in a new situation with regards to its place and role in the region as divisiveness over the Caucuses deepens between the West and Russia.
– The need for collective efforts in overcoming serious challenges for the sake of a democratic and prosperous Armenia.
– 23 years have passed since independence and we know our failings. We must be able to give an accurate and truthful valuation and have civic responsibility.
– We are in a period of research. Armenia is strong enough. However, what are the fundamental pillars on which the strength of our nation rests? Have those pillars weakened or lost meaning?
Mr. Oskanian then turned his attention to the five pillars which formed the foundation of the Republic of Armenia and the collective thought and spirit of the people.
(1) Armenian Apostolic Church
The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of our sturdiest institutions. Although it is the house of God, often we regard the Church as a national institution. It is necessary for there to be distinct separation between Church and state. The Church has a right to express its voice when necessary, for it has the trust of the people, who expect it to be their protector.
It is necessary to distinguish the meaning of government and rule. The nation is the country with its structures; the Presidency, National Assembly, and government. It remains unchanged. Those who rule are the people, chosen to serve temporarily. It is not possible to conjoin the two, something which is done today by some factions.
Second is democracy. Laws must be transparent. Lack of order shakes the foundation of our nation. Reform of the electoral system is needed. Armenia is a democracy and must become a true democracy. Our nation is not an autocratic dictatorial nation.
Third is power. The foundation of a strong nation comes from the lawfulness of the leaders, not from the strength of its institutions. The source of power, the groundwork, is lawfulness. Government monopoly must be lifted and a control of powers instituted. Mr. Oskanian stated that his ten-year long experience confirmed that Armenia’s issues lie within, and not outside its borders.
We expect the Diaspora’s involvement within Armenia. From the early days, Diasporans came to Armenia with great dedication. The role of the Diaspora is great. Unity must also be put into practice. One must not condemn the current state of affairs in Armenia. Things change. The Diaspora must accurately assess the homeland rather than focus solely on the Genocide. The establishment of democracy, and human rights and freedoms, must also concern the Diaspora.
As we approach the 100th anniversary of the Genocide, our expectations are greater than ever. It is necessary to accurately portray the issue of the Genocide to broaden the efforts of the Diaspora and Armenia. Clarify our purpose in the coming years, move from recognition to the demand of our rights and lands. Today the birth of Kurdistan is being outlined in the region. It is our duty to turn our attention to our demands with a new viewpoint.
Finally, the most important of the pillars is the triumphs of Karabakh and its independence. Negotiations continue, ups and downs occur, however, even if our government takes a wrong step, the people will not allow it. Karabakh is an independent nation, and the victories secured set the foundation for our politics in the years that followed. Unfortunately, those victories and Karabakh’s existence are sometimes exploited to cover up government inaction. By making Armenia more democratic, we would be assisting in the resolution of the Karabakh conflict. The threat of war is near. However, democratic Artsakh will continue to stand up to dictatorial Azerbaijan and continue its victories.
Summarizing his presentation, Mr. Oskanian stated that with secure and fair elections, democracy will triumph, the basis of which is unity. A clear and broad vision is crucial, so that we can transform this small nation into the nation that we all want to see, concluded the speaker.
Guests applauded the balanced, confident, and objective lecture. A true example of a healthy democracy.
A question and answer session followed covering the following topics:
– A discussion on Armenia’s entry into the Eurasian Customs Union, during which Mr. Oskanian, looking ahead to the future, stated the importance of continuing with Georgia on the same path as much as possible to avoid difficulties and surprises in the future.
– A call for more active participation from the Diaspora.
– Outcomes that would result from signing the protocols; recognizing Turkey’s current border.
– The involvement of Armenia’s youth in politics and their emigration from the country.
– Azerbaijan’s massive resources and its utilization for propaganda purposes.
– The invitation to the Genocide commemoration extended to Erdogan during his election victory was considered a diplomatic misstep.
– How to appease discontent and protests. In his reply to this issue, Mr. Oskanian referenced the 12 points put forth by the opposition, stating that the implementation of some of the points would have made Armenia stronger internally today.
– To the question of when Armenia will recognize Artsakh’s independence, Mr. Oskanian answered that it must occur at a precise moment.
At the conclusion of the question and answer, AGBU Western District Committee Chair Mr. Krekor Karaguezian amd Asbeds Committee Treasurer Mr. Vahan Vosgian presented the honored guest with a memento portraying the resting of Noah’s Ark on Mount Ararat.
Mr. Karaguezian thanked the honorable Vartan Oskanian, the Asbeds Committee, Master of Ceremonies Dr. Guiragos Minassian, District Committee Treasurer Mr. Avedis Markarian, and all the guests for their attendance. He also noted the absence of and expressed condolences to Asbeds Committee Chairman Dr. Haroutiun Yaghsezian and his wife Maida, who were mourning the loss of their father, Garabed Yaghsezian.
Guests departed for their homes overcome with faith, hope, and love toward our 23-years young nations of Armenia and Artsakh, and inspired by Vartan Oskanian’s talk to actively contribute to the prosperity of our and only fatherland.