President Kocharian, His Holiness Karekin I, His Holiness Aram I, Unite; $1 Million Raised for Humanitarian Aid to Armenia
Kirk Kerkorian, Elizabeth Dole, Gov. George Deukmejian, Jay Leno Among More than 1,800 Guests
Los Angeles-Sept. 26, 1998
Nearly $1 million was raised to further aid beleaguered Armenia at a black-tie fundraiser hosted by the United Armenian Fund (UAF) last night in Los Angeles. The evening was a celebration of the UAF’s nine-year effort and 100th humanitarian airlift to Armenia.
The sold-out event drew such notables as His Excellency Robert Kocharian, president of Armenia; His Holiness Karekin I, Catholicos of All Armenians; His Holiness Aram I, Catholicos of the Great House of Cilicia; Kirk Kerkorian; Alex Yemenidjian, MGM president and CEO, UAF Chairman; Elizabeth Dole; and former California governor, George Deukmejian. Jay Leno also entertained the crowd with a monologue specifically written for the gala.
Addressing the audience, President Kocharian expressed his appreciation of the humanitarian efforts of the UAF and the Armenian-American community. President Kocharian declared philanthropist Kirk Kerkorian honorary citizen of Armenia and presented him with the first honorary passport of his administration.
Kerkorian has been integral to the success of the United Armenian Fund since its inception in 1989. Through the Lincy Foundation, he provides cargo airplanes for airlifting relief supplies. “For Armenia and the many democratic challenges it faces, and to President Kocharian, you have my personal support through the Lincy Foundation,” said Kerkorian.
Devastated by an earthquake in 1988 that killed tens of thousands of people and left the country in ruin and, continuing to struggle from the collapse of the Soviet Union, Armenia became dependent upon help from outside the country. Armenia continues to feel the effects of a blockade by Turkey and Azerbaijan as a result of a territorial dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. According to Yemenidjian, the money raised at the gala allows the UAF to procure $20 million worth of goods at a fraction of the actual cost.
Over the past nine years, The United Armenian Fund has arranged for more than 16 million pounds of humanitarian assistance including basic, much needed pharmaceuticals, valued at $235 million which has been sent to Armenia via 100 airlifts and 400 sea containers. The United Armenian Fund was formed in November 1989 as a tax-exempt nonprofit organization and is the collective effort of the Armenian Assembly of America, the Armenian General Benevolent Union, the Armenian Missionary Association of America, the Armenian Relief Society, the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America, the Prelacy of the Armenian Apostolic Church of America and Kirk KerkorianÕs Lincy Foundation.
Kocharian Addresses United Nations General Assembly
United Nations-Armenian President Robert Kocharian addressed the 53rd United Nations General Assembly September 25 at 10 a.m. EDT, at which time he highlighted the importance of recognizing the Armenian Genocide as a means to prevent further such actions. Kocharian also called on the international community to exert efforts to overcome obstacles facing the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. He also addressed the deadlock stemming from Azerbaijan’s refusal to directly negotiate with Nagorno-Karabakh.
He stated that the United Nations plays a great role in different aspects of international life as the challenges that the international community faces are diverse and complicated. He also spoke about peace and stability in the Caucasus region. Kocharian said, “Equality and mutually beneficial cooperation among countries in the political and commercial-economic spheres, based on free-market principles, should become an important factor of political stability.” Moreover, the President voiced Armenia’s readiness to resume negotiations for the resolution of the Nagorno Karabagh conflict.
Armenia Marks Seventh Year of Independence
The seventh anniversary of Armenia’s independence was marked with marches, cultural performances, speeches and the commemoration of a Victory Arch at the entrance of the nation’s main military cemetery where most of the casualties of the Karabagh war are buried.
President Robert Kocharian spoke to the nation on the eve of his leaving for the United States and his address before the United Nations General Assembly. In Yerevan, Kocharian declared, “Armenia will enter the 21st century as an economically developed, politically free and stable country.” He added, “the nation made a historic choice to live independently in a democratic state.” Kocharian recalled the difficult sacrifices that followed ArmeniaÕs declaration of independence in 1991 noting that the people braved a severe energy crisis and established a democratic state. He acknowledged that the public was impatient for a rise in the standard of living. He said, “We inherited a ruined economy which needs the help of everyone, both you and me, to restore.” Messages of congratulations were received in Yerevan by world leaders including President Bill Clinton and Britain’s Queen Elizabeth. In his message to Armenia President Clinton said, “The Armenian people have made considerable progress, in a short time, in building a free market democracy.”
Following independence day commemorations, President Kocharian left for New York where he addressed the 53d session of the United Nations General Assembly. On Thursday, Kocharian was the main speaker at an independence day rally for the Armenian community of greater New York. Kocharian told that audience that the 20th century divided the Armenian people in half, but that the next century would be a time of unity between the Armenian homeland and its Diaspora. He appealed for all overseas Armenians to join Armenia’s efforts to restore the nation’s economy. He pledged that his government would take all steps to facilitate and protect Diasporan investments in Armenia.[Sources: RFE/RL 9-22, 23, Noyan Tapan 9-22, direct reportage of N.Y. rally]
Armenian Nuclear Plant to be Shut Down For Repairs
Yerevan, Armenia-A nuclear plant that produces 40 percent of Armenia’s power supply is being shut down Friday for maintenance and refueling, the plant director said Thursday.
The press service of the Armenian Energy Ministry said that the Medzamor nuclear power plant, 32 kilometers (20 miles) west of the capital Yerevan and 11 kilometers (7 miles) from the Turkish border, would be closed for 55 days. The ministry is spending 10 million dollars on nuclear fuel purchases from Russia, and 8 million dollars on scheduled repairs.
The London-based European Bank for Reconstruction and Development called on Armenia to close the plant by the end of 2004 as a condition for a 57.4 million dollar credit extended in 1994 for construction of a new power station, Energy Ministry official Areg Galstyan said. That plant will use natural gas and fuel oil.
But Suren Azatyan, the director of the nuclear plant, said the EBRD’s demand was unjustified, the Interfax news agency reported Thursday. He said that the Medzamor plant had operated during just 13 years of its reactors” 30-year service life. The plant was built in 1979, then closed in 1989 as a precaution after a devastating 1988 earthquake in northern Armenia that killed 25,000 people.
Armenia’s decision to restart one of its two reactors in 1996 triggered protests from neighboring Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey, which consider the plant unsafe because of its proximity to a geological fault line. But Armenian officials insist the plant is reliable and absolutely necessary to the nation. Fuel and energy supplies were critically low for a number of years, but the situation has eased in part because the Medzamor plant resumed operation.
Huntsman Pledges $10 Million Loan to Armenia
Salt Lake City, Utah business magnate Jon Huntsman plans to provide an interest-free $10 million loan to the Armenian government to build homes in part of the country that was devastated by a 1988 earthquake. Salt Lake City, Utah business magnate Jon Huntsman plans to provide an interest-free $10 million loan to the Armenian government to build homes in part of the country that was devastated by a 1988 earthquake.
At a Tuesday press conference, Huntsman said he and Kocharian also discussed plans to build a concrete tile factory that would be finished in March 1999. This would complement an existing concrete plant Huntsman built there that produces concrete slabs. That factory has been instrumental in supplying materials to build as many as 8,000 homes per year.
Kocharian, the second democratically elected president in Armenia since the republic became independent from the former USSR in 1991, was equally complimentary. He particularly praised Huntsman’s long-standing generosity to the country. During the past 10 years, the Huntsman family has given $18 million in food, clothing, eyeglasses, kerosene heaters, medical supplies and other assistance to Armenia. Family members have made 50 visits there. Among other things, Kocharian said it is significant that Huntsman’s charity didn’t end after the initial earthquake-relief efforts but has continued for the past decade.The country is rebuilding the infrastructure that the earthquake flattened, but Armenia has a “long way to go,” Kocharian said, although Huntsman quickly added that the capital city of Yerevan looks “beautiful” compared to a decade ago.