On his first trip to Armenia, former New York City Mayor and personal lawyer to U.S. President Donald Trump, Rudy Guiliani visited the Tsitsernakaberd Armenian Genocide Memorial and Museum-Institute in Yerevan, Armenia’s capital, on October 22, ARMENPRESS first reported.
After touring the museum, Giuliani laid flowers at the memorial and planted a symbolic tree in the park in honor of Armenian Genocide victims.
He also signed the guestbook at the memorial.
“The Armenian Genocide should not be forgotten because to do so is to make possible similar horrific acts of terror in our era and in the future,” Giuliani wrote. “The recognition of this Genocide will help prevent such inhumanities in the future. God bless the souls of all who died and may they rest in peace with God.”
Speaking to reporters about possible U.S. recognition of the Armenian Genocide, he said that the genocide is a historical fact, but “I am not here in my capacity as a private lawyer to President Trump. I am here as a private citizen. It’s up to the [Trump] administration to make their own conclusion,” Giuliani said.
In his first two years as President, Donald Trump has issued statements that echo former President Barack Obama and those before him that have sidestepped the issue in order to appease Turkey, a NATO ally.
Giuliani was also asked about the expansion of U.S.-Armenia relations. “It’s up to the two governments,” he said. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton is currently in Moscow and will travel to Yerevan later this week.
As the Mayor of New York City at the time of the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack, Rudy Giuliani, who owns a home in Palm Beach, FL, is a former Republican presidential candidate, and a public figure well known to Armenian Americans, tens of thousands of whom call New York City, and Palm Beach County, home. In fact, several Armenian Americans were among those killed on 9/11.
“I’m here as a private citizen, just to learn some facts in my first time in Armenia. I know the Armenian community in America very well,” he said.
Rudy Giuliani was invited to Armenia to participate in the Eurasian Forum by Ara Abrahamyan, the UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and President of the Union of Armenians of Russia who is close to Russian President Vladimir Putin.
During his trip, Giuliani visited Armenia’s Minister of Defense and met with Davit Tonoyan, acting Defense Minister of Armenia. Tonoyan and Giuliani discussed the current security environment in Armenia and the South Caucasus. They exchanged views on a number of regional and international issues.
Over the last two decades, U.S. engagement in the South Caucasus has been sparse, allowing Russia to strengthen it’s grip. However, the low flame of U.S.-Armenia relations has found new fuel since Armenia’s ‘Velvet Revolution’ earlier this year. The latest color revolution to hit the former Soviet space, hundreds of thousands of people descended onto the streets of the capital to demand the resignation of Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s President-turned-Prime Minister (the Armenian Constitution was amended by the President’s ruling party in 2015, thus transferring greater power to the Prime Ministerial post as Sargsyan’s Presidential term was coming to an end).
The largest citizen assembly since the country declared its independence in 1991 worked, and Sargsyan stepped aside without a single shot being fired. The peaceful revolution symbolized a clear rejection of the Putin style of authoritarian democracy that has expanded in the region (see Azerbaijan, Turkey) and across the globe.
During the Eurasia Forum, Armenia’s new Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan commented on the recent and upcoming visits of senior U.S. officials and ties between to the two countries. “Unfortunately, as for the U.S. our contacts were not so intensive until now.” On October 15, U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent visited Armenia and met with Pashinyan. U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton is expected later this week.
“We are going to intensify our relations,” Pashinyan said.
U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton announced that he will be traveling to Russia and all three Caucasus nations this month for talks with senior officials.
In a tweet on October 11, Bolton said he would depart on October 20 for Russia, Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia.
Bolton’s visit to the Caucasus comes on the heels of Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan’s meeting with U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent in Yerevan on October 15. During that meeting, Pashinyan reiterated that “Armenia is moving forward on [a] path to democracy, which is an inner belief and value for our society,” according to a tweet from the Armenian government. The “Fight against corruption, reforms in different spheres & #NKconflict” were also discussed.
While in Russia, Bolton will meet with senior Russian leaders, including Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev.
The scheduled Bolton visit to Russia comes at a time of heightened tensions between Washington and Moscow over Russian actions in Ukraine and Syria as well as alleged Kremlin interference in U.S. elections.
In August, Bolton told Patrushev that the United States “wouldn’t tolerate meddling” in the upcoming U.S. midterm elections. Bolton also said U.S. sanctions against Russia would remain in place until Moscow changes its behavior.
Therefore, it was no surprise that on October 19, the day before Bolton was scheduled to depart on his trip, the Justice Department brought its first criminal case over alleged Russian interference in the 2018 midterm elections.
According to POLITICO, “Elena Khusyaynova, 44, a St. Petersburg, Russia-based accountant, was charged in a criminal complaint with conspiracy to defraud the United States for taking part in a scheme to spend in excess of $10 million since the beginning of the year on targeted social media ads and web postings intended ‘to sow division and discord in the U.S. political system.’”
In a tweet on October 12, Georgian Foreign Minister Mamuka Bakhtadze said the upcoming visit of Bolton to Georgia would “further strengthen the deep friendship and strategic partnership between” the United States and Georgia.
It is interesting to observers that in September President Trump announced his nomination of a new U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Lynne Tracy, as current U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills wraps up his three year tour. Meanwhile, there has been no U.S. ambassador in Azerbaijan, or Turkey, since Trump took office two years ago. The fact that there is no gap in the high-level U.S. presence in Armenia, and that President Trump only last month nominated a representative to the the one of the two hostile muslim countries, indicates the strengthening U.S.-Armenia partnership, and symbolizes the decreased importance of Turkey and Azerbaijan as they continue to engage in activities that run counter to U.S. interests in the region.
By Harut Sassounian
Throughout the years, since Armenia’s independence in 1991, I have had the unique opportunity of spending hundreds of hours with the country’s three previous Presidents, discussing privately with them Armenia’s many problems. I offered them my professional assessments and frequently my criticisms of the way they were running the country. Although the Presidents were not pleased that I was pointing out their shortcomings and mistakes, they understood that my intent was not to disparage them, but to help them improve the living conditions of the population.
Ever since the earthquake of 1988, I have been doing charitable work in Armenia and Artsakh, initially as President of the United Armenian Fund (UAF), subsequently the Armenia Artsakh Fund (AAF), and as Vice Chairman of Kirk Kerkorian’s Lincy Foundation, delivering over $800 million of humanitarian aid to Armenia and Artsakh by the UAF and AAF, and managing $242 million of infrastructure projects funded by Lincy. Despite all the corruption prevailing in Armenia during those years, I fought hard to protect the humanitarian supplies and funds, persistently bringing to the attention of the Presidents the abuses by high rankling officials, and demanding that they be disciplined or fired.
During my 58 trips to Armenia and Artsakh, I saw firsthand the miserable conditions of most people in our homeland, deprived of money, food, medicines, clothing and other basic needs. Seeing the Presidents’ neglect of the people’s deprivations, I frequently and forcefully brought their dismal situation to the attention of the country’s leadership. I was particularly upset when I heard government officials speaking about Armenia needing investments, not charity. I found such remarks to be callous of the people’s suffering. After each such pronouncement, I confronted these officials explaining the negative effect of their statements.
Consequently, I was surprised when Armenia’s new Prime Minister, Nikol Pashinyan, a man of the people, during his remarks in New York on September 23, 2018, announced that in the context of Armenia-Diaspora relations, work must be encouraged, not charity: “Armenians can assist Armenia only with one option: carry out economic activity in Armenia, establish any business, and work. Today, Armenia’s understanding is the following: It is a country where it is possible to carry out economic activity, establish a business, earn profits, get rich and enrich. Our message to all of you is the following: get rich and enrich. We want Armenia to be known as such a country. Not charitable, but developmental projects must be implemented in Armenia….”
To be fair to the Prime Minister, in his speech, he also spoke about many other topics which I agree with whole-heartedly. He has tremendous support both in Armenia and around the world! He has practically eliminated corruption in Armenian society and has represented the voice of the people who had remained voiceless for more than a quarter of a century since independence. However, just as I have told the previous Presidents, I would like to provide the following explanations to the new Prime Minister:
- I fully support the Prime Minister’s initiative that Armenia needs economic investments in order to create jobs and expand exports. By creating jobs, not only the people will have the income to pay for their daily expenses, but the government will also have the tax revenues to support the country’s and population’s multiple needs.
- However, the Prime Minister’s urging that “work must be encouraged, not charity,” would deprive hundreds of thousands of poor people of their basic necessities. Investments take time to trickle down to the people and produce results. In the meantime, if charitable efforts are discouraged, many poor people will not survive.
- Not all Diaspora Armenians can invest in the Armenian Republic. There are dozens of charitable organizations which by law cannot get involved in economic activities, as they can only do charity. Since the earthquake and Armenia’s independence, Armenian and international charities have provided a large amount of aid to Armenia and Artsakh. If it were not for this humanitarian assistance, the standard of living would have been even lower, jeopardizing the survival of many Armenians. By discouraging charity, we are simply asking charitable organizations not to help the needy people of Armenia.
- Armenian governments so far have been unable to meet the many needs of their population due to lack of money. Diaspora’s charitable organizations have provided the aid that the government could not. If there were no charitable assistance in Armenia ever since independence, the people’s many needs would not have been taken care of and Armenia would have been a poorer country.
- Even if the Diaspora would start investing in Armenia today, that does not mean that the influx of new funds would take care of all the needs of the people overnight. Certainly, a large number of people would eventually be employed, but many others, such as the elderly, would still be left with hardly any income from their negligible pensions. Those who are unaware of the extent of appalling poverty in Armenia should read the Guardian newspaper’s Sept. 29, 2018 article by Nick Danziger, titled: “‘It’s better to die’: the struggle to survive poverty in Armenia.”
- There is the mistaken notion that if there were many investments in Armenia, there would be no need for charity. In almost all countries, even in the most advanced ones, there are hundreds of charitable organizations that tend to the needs of the poor. In the United States alone, billions of dollars are provided annually to needy individuals and families by charitable organizations. If the Americans require charity, Armenians would certainly need charitable assistance for a long time to come.
Paradoxically, Prime Minister Pashinyan’s wife, Anna Hakopyan, recently launched her own charitable organization “My Step Foundation” to support educational, healthcare, social and cultural projects. She is doing what’s absolutely necessary because the people of Armenia desperately need help.