CHICAGO, Ill.—Nearly 300 people gathered at the prestigious Union League Club for a reception to welcome Armenia’s delegation to the NATO Summit. The reception was organized with the participation of the five Chicago-area churches and the local affiliates of nearly 20 Armenian organizations.
The delegation was led by Armenian Foreign Minister Eduard Nalbandyan, included Armenia’s ambassadors to the U.S. and to NATO, and was accompanied by Diasporan Affairs Minister Hranush Hakobyan. The delegation was originally to be led by President Serge Sarkisian and was to include Armenia’s defense minister. However, both Sarkisian and the defense minister withdrew their participation from the NATO Summit at the last minute.
According to remarks delivered by Nalbandyan at the reception, Sarkisian chose not to attend because negotiations broke down regarding verbiage planned for inclusion as part of the official statement delivered by the NATO Summit. This verbiage singled out the principle of territorial integrity and excluded that of self-determination, demonstrating a definite tilt towards Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabagh conflict and disregarding the position of the Minsk Group, the internationally mandated mediator for resolving the conflict over Karabagh. Although community members were saddened to hear that Sarkisian would not be attending the event, they were nonetheless supportive of the president’s decision to stand fast on Karabagh.
The reception began with a cocktail hour where community members mingled with each other and the various dignitaries, including Minister Hakobyan and Archbishops Oshagan Choloyan and Khajag Barsamian of the Eastern Prelacy and Eastern Diocese, respectively. The cocktail hour was followed by dinner and a brief program MC’ed by Samuel Der-Yeghiayan, the federal judge for the Northern District of Illinois. The program began with an invocation by Archbishop Choloyan and featured two speakers with many years of service in the Chicago community, Haig Pedian and Vasken Aivazian. Nalbandyan followed, offering his remarks in Armenian, which were translated into English by embassy staff.
He began by explaining to the community the circumstances that forced the president to cancel his trip to Chicago. He then gave a brief overview of Armenia’s various foreign policy accomplishments, from developing relations with China and Japan, to continuing good relations with Iran and Georgia. With regards to Turkey, he stated that Armenia has been complimented for its policy of no preconditions for establishing formal relations with Turkey, and pointed out that efforts to gain international recognition of the genocide have always been a priority for Armenia’s foreign policy.
Following his remarks, Nalbandyan was presented with a gift from Judge Der-Yeghiayan and a painting from Chicago artist Jackie Kazarian, which featured a view of the Chicago skyline behind the famous Cloud Gate sculpture, with an image of Mt. Ararat on its reflective surface. The program was concluded with a benediction by Archbishop Barsamian.