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AGBU's Address at the Armenia-Diaspora Conference, 1999

    The Report of the Armenian General Benevolent Union
    To the Armenia-Diaspora Conference
    Yerevan, September 22, 1999

    Text of Address Given by Berge Setrakian
    Vice President of AGBU, Central Committee

    On behalf of Louise Manoogian Simone, President of the Armenian
    General Benevolent Union (AGBU), and its membership, I applaud the
    convening of the Armenia-Diaspora Conference in the capital city of
    Yerevan. The AGBU is participating in this august Conference with a
    representative delegation.

    Making up our delegation are AGBU Central Executive Committee Vice
    Presidents Nazar Nazarian and Berge Setrakian, as well as members
    Sinan Sinanian, from the USA; Sarkis Demirdjian, from Lebanon;
    Karnig Yacoubian, from Syria; and Levon Kebabdjian, from France. In
    addition, Honorary Member of the Central Committee from the USA,
    Barry Zorthian, and Albert Boyajian, representative from the West
    Coast, as well as chairmen of AGBU chapters and/or executive
    representatives who comprise part of the delegations from various
    countries in the Diaspora. President Robert Kocharian President
    Arkady Ghukasian National Assembly Chairman Garen Demirchian Prime
    Minister Vazgen Sarkisian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian Clergy
    and Delegates:

    The current Armenian state is faced with the necessity of solving
    complex and thorny issues, which have been inherited from the past
    and which require long-term systematic effort by all segments of
    the Armenian people.

    The Conference undoubtedly will discuss proposals pertaining to key
    national issues, such as the rebuilding of Artsakh, the stemming of
    emigration from Armenia, the return to Mesrobian orthography in the
    Homeland, and the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the
    international community.

    In the precious few minutes allotted to us, we would like to simply
    share certain thoughts with you, which, although not new, yet perhaps
    may serve as an impetus to new ways and means and through which our
    Union, with its polycommunal structure and membership, can participate
    in a positive manner in the progress of the Homeland.

    The most important factor in strengthening Armenia is the
    reestablishment of the Homeland's economy, for which it must utilize
    all internal and external means. In this connection, we applaud the
    definitive decision made by the Armenian government to rebuild the
    country's economy. We must not spare any effort toward developing
    domestic industry and foreign commerce, which are the keys to the
    elimination of unemployment, the stemming of emigration, and our
    bright future.

    We are facing a critical new period as a nation. At this stage,
    Armenia and the Diaspora, through unified efforts and by synthesizing
    its world-class resources, must accomplish well-developed vital
    projects. The realization of this initiative must be entrusted to a
    Pan-Armenian Organization, which shall select a qualified group of
    experts with international standing to develop both immediate and
    long-term plans as well as oversee their implementation.

    Since this organization shall enjoy the patronage of the Armenian
    government, it is essential for it to be endowed with complete
    powers, to synthesize Armenia-Diaspora cooperation and to have
    offices and staffs in Armenia as well as the main Diasporan centers.

    Naturally, Armenia-Diaspora relations have not been exempt from
    difficulties in the past, and today there are difficulties which
    shall certainly become smoothed out over the course of time. At this
    stage in particular, it is mandatory for the Armenian government to
    solve bureaucratic complexities so that Armenia may enjoy the
    reputation of being a lawful and stable country and so that trust of
    all segments of Armenian society as well as the international
    community with regard to Armenia be and remain unwavering.

    All of us know that, with the exception of the Middle East, the
    majority of Western Armenians no longer live in traditional
    Armenian colonies. We have third and fourth generations, which
    comprise numerous talented and successful young Armenians. This
    Armenian potential is in need of encouragement to return to the
    Armenian fold. That encouragement can only come from a prosperous
    and strong Armenia.

    From the first day of its existence, the AGBU has been on the side
    of Armenia and the Armenian people. During the period of the first
    republic, the 70 years of Soviet rule and these years of independence,
    we have remained loyal to our principles; we have done as much for
    the fatherland as conditions and our means have permitted, and we
    hold to the conviction that the Armenian Diaspora can survive only
    with the presence of a powerful fatherland.

    It gives me pleasure to state that, during the past ten years, the
    AGBU has put forth over $40 million for its projects in Armenia.
    Today, a work force of over 1200 people who live and work on its
    soil is involved in those plans. During this period, thanks to the
    generosity of its faithful donors, the AGBU has also established
    funds amounting to more than $15 million, on behalf of its projects
    in Armenia.

    The AGBU shall continue its patriotic activity and offers its
    polycommunal structure and membership for the strengthening and
    flourishing of Armenia-Diaspora links and for Armenia-Diaspora

    Under the present conditions facing the Armenian people, this
    august conference can be a turning point in our history, if it
    succeeds in finding the paths whereby the two segments of the
    Armenian people can join forces to overcome the difficulties faced
    by them.

    Many thanks to the organizers and participants of this historic

Translated to English by Aris G. Sevag.

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