(ASBAREZ) LOS ANGELES, Calif.—On the margins of his visit to Los Angeles on Sunday, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan met with representatives of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), which among others included ARF Bureau member Dr. Viken Yacoubian and co-chairs of the ARF Western U.S. Central Committee Avedik Izmirlian and Dr. Carmen Ohanian.
The meeting, which took place at the Millennium Biltmore Hotel in downtown Los Angeles, focused on the role the ARF has and continues to play in the advancement of the aspirations of the Armenian people in and outside of Armenia.
“I highly appreciate the role of the ARF has played in general and specifically within the context of preserving the Armenian identity,” Pashinyan told his interlocutors.
“Today we are discussing strategic issues, but I believe there is a slight nuance that must be incorporated: in discussing Armenian identity, we must take into consideration not only its preservation, but now its development,” said Pashinyan.
“The ARF has had and continues to play quite an active role in Armenia’s domestic life. Within its activity, it’s not always that I have been in agreement with the ARF—that we’ve always agreed on issues—but within the context of our national goals, it does not change anything,” said Pashinyan. “Because those issues around which we do not agree are not that essential, if there are myriad strategic issues on which we agree.”
Dr. Yacoubian welcomed Pashinyan to Los Angeles on behalf of the party and its representatives, saying that the prime minister’s visit to the region had special significance given that during the popular movement in Armenia, the people truly raised their collective voice through which they echoed the same vision that has been a source of the ARF’s struggle for the past 128 years.
“In that regard we affirm that the movement was a demand for the establishment of just structures, economic stability, and it sparked hope that the collective voice for advancing our national aspirations will remain united,” said Yacoubian who emphasized the need for the collective pursuit of those goals without divisions in order to put forth the people’s complete potential in the name of our just cause and the security of the homeland without underestimating the laws and the constitutional order.
Yacoubian also stressed the need to evaluate the issues that concern the Diaspora based on each country and the Armenians who reside there. He emphasized that preserving the Armenian identity for the Diaspora has not been a task, but rather a means to advance the Armenian Cause and serve the homeland.
“Hence, it is important to treat the Diaspora within this context, in order to not foster cooperation, as has been voiced by some circles, but rather to achieve the creation of the true ‘Armenian World,’ within which the Diaspora, with its people and structures, is present as a participant,” explained Yacoubian.
The ARF Bureau member addressed rumors of alleged splinters within the party, explaining that it is an inaccurate description of the party, since it operates as a decentralized organization. He pointed out that the party’s ideology is one and will always be such, hence it cannot be divided.
In his statements, Izmirlian said that the time has come to seriously include and engage the Diaspora in the development of Armenia so it can be an equal partner in the homeland-Diaspora equation. He also added that since their previous meeting last year in New York, some of the reforms discussed have not fully been realized and emphasized the need for advancing those changes to ensure the separation of the executive, judicial and legislative powers and branches of the government.
Izmirlian said that as the force, which has strived to bring together the community and has worked hard to advance unity in the most diverse reality that is the Armenian community of Western United States, the recent creation of the Pan-Armenian Council should be encouraged and supported. The Council, he explained, is hoping to engage more than the current 24 organizations, and it aims to address the national challenges collectively, taking into consideration the potential of the community and its institutions.
Dr. Ohanian emphasized the diversity of the Western U.S. Armenian community, pointing out that it is home to countless Armenians from the various communities from around the world, as well as Armenia. She echoed Izmirlian’s sentiments and gave concrete examples of the work the ARF has done to unify and bring together the different segments of the community.
She also prioritized the advancement and elevation of women within the community, as well as in Armenia’s government structures—a sentiment welcomed by Pashinyan during the meeting.
Pashinyan’s meeting with ARF leaders was scheduled on the same day of his address to the local Armenian community in Grand Park in downtown Los Angeles. An estimated 18,000 people gathered to hear Pashinyan speak during his first trip to southern California since becoming prime minister in May 2018 after the Velvet Revolution that toppled the government of Serge Sarkisian.
An exuberant crowd, chanting “Nikol, Nikol, Nikol” roared as Pashinyan was called to the stage. His speech, which lasted more than one-hour, focused on his impression of what it means to be Armenian and advanced the concept of Pan-Armenianism, which included granting ever Armenian citizenship to the country.
The prime minister also spoke about his vision of what he called the “Great Repatriation”—having a home or a business in the homeland, not necessarily living there full-time.
“The Armenian people are victorious. They are heroes, talented people who created a civilization and as Sevak says in his poem they are people who possess a will to give back. And yes, we had a very difficult history. Sometimes we even were on the brink of collapse, but we survived the genocide, the migration. We survived the wars, the hunger, the geopolitical collapses. The key mission of today’s generation is to restore the greatness of our people and show it to the world, but first of all to ourselves,” said Pashinyan.
Pashinyan also declared that if it weren’t for the Diaspora’s continued efforts and support, Armenia as we know it today would not exist. He commended the Diaspora, especially the Los Angeles Armenian community, for steadfastly heeding the call of the homeland and supporting the people of Armenia and Artsakh.