Armenian Assembly of America
1140 19th Street, NW, Suite 600
Washington, DC 20036
Phone: 202-393-3434
Fax: 202-638-4904
Email: [email protected]
Web: www.armenianassembly.org

PRESS RELEASE
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
August 1, 2005
CONTACT: Christine Kojoian
Email: [email protected]

ASSEMBLY'S YOUNG LEADERSHIP GROUP MISSION RETURNS FROM ARMENIA
Trip Encourages Youth toward Community Activism

Washington, DC - In a major push to encourage future generations to
increase their community activism, the Assembly led its first-ever
"Young Leadership Group Mission to Armenia," from June 29 through July
11. Some 60 Assembly intern alumni, young professionals and families
with children participated in the trip for a first-hand look at life
in their ancestral home.

"We are extremely pleased to offer this Mission as a way of bringing
young families to Armenia to rediscover their roots," said Assembly
Board of Directors Chairman Anthony Barsamian, who was in Yerevan
for an official visit. "Everyone in the group, including our youngest
travelers, enjoyed Armenia's rich culture and heritage and recognized
that they too can help shape Armenia's future."

During their 12-day excursion, Mission participants discussed the
latest economic, social and political developments during meetings
with Armenia's Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian, Karabakh's Foreign
Minister Arman Melikian and U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans.
The group also traveled to Etchmiadzin where they met with His
Holiness Karekin II and presented him with a plaque, commending him
for inspiring Armenian youth toward community service and thanking
him for his recent visit to the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church.

The 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide also made it an
especially poignant time to be in Armenia. On July 6 the group visited
the Armenian Genocide Museum and Memorial at Tsitsernakabert where
they laid flowers and discussed how the atrocities impacted their
ancestors and brought their families to the United States.

Travelers also explored the sights and sounds of Armenia through
guided tours of Lake Sevan, the Voske Ser dairy farm and cheese
factory and the Armenia Tree Project nursery in the village of Karin.
The Mission also visited the Armenian-American Wellness Center,
which was co-founded by Assembly Associate Trustee Rita Balian,
and toured the Center for Aesthetic Education in Gyumri.

"My trip to Armenia really opened my eyes to the needs of this
developing country," said Nikki Hatza, 17, of Merion, Pennsylvania.
"In many places even the most basic services such as running water,
were not available. Although Armenia is making progress, I really feel
that with the help of diasporan Armenians great strides can be made."

"It's especially important that young Armenian-Americans let our
representatives in Washington know what is happening in Armenia
and how important it is for the U.S. to continue to provide aid,"
Hatza continued. "I am planning to attend the Assembly's National
Convention in Washington, DC in March so that I can work with others
toward a strong and economically stable Armenia."

Children ages five through fifteen also met new friends in Armenia via
the Assembly's "Camp Yerevan" program. Six local Armenian children
joined the Mission group and took part in a series of activities
including a major clean-up project at the park adjacent to the Genocide
Monument. Kids cleaned the grounds - removing brush and pruning trees -
in preparation for new planting at the site. During a lighter moment,
youngsters enjoyed making their own handmade crafts with the help of
local artisans, courtesy of Made in Armenia Direct.

"During the course of the Mission, we saw our families grow closer
together and bond with their ancestral home and its people," said
Deputy Executive Director Peter Abajian, who was on the Mission.
"Most of the children and young professionals recognize that this is
a life-changing trip and have plans to return."

Assembly Leaders Meet with Government Officials

Board of Directors Chairman Anthony Barsamian and Executive Director
Bryan Ardouny, who were on a working visit in Armenia the week of
July 13, met with several government officials including President
Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister Andranik Margarian, Foreign Minister
Vartan Oskanian, Defense Minister Serge Sargsian, Parliament Chairman
Arthur Baghdasarian, Transport and Communications Minister Andranik
Manoukian and Karabakh Foreign Minister Arman Melikyan.

Prior to their visit to Armenia, Barsamian and Ardouny were in Brussels
for a series of meetings to discuss EU policy as it affects the South
Caucasus and Turkey. Barsamian and Ardouny met with the U.S. Ambassador
to Belgium Tom C. Korologos and Armenian Ambassador to Belgium Vigen
Chitechian, as well as numerous European Commission officials.

In Armenia, talks centered on the peace process, U.S.-Armenia military
cooperation and a proposed Kars-Akhalkalaki rail link which would
connect Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan but not traverse Armenia.
Yerevan officials again reiterated their concern for the ill-proposed
route which would isolate Armenia from economic and commercial
opportunities and potentially destabilize the region.

Additionally, Barsamian praised the Armenian government for its wise
decision to prevent the Kapan-Meghri strategic highway from cutting
through the Shikahogh State Preserve, a virgin forest in Armenia.
Both Board of Trustees Chairman Hirair Hovnanian and President Carolyn
Mugar, also founder of the Armenia Tree Project, personally intervened
in the campaign to preserve the ancient habitat for future generations.

"Our visit to Armenia was a continuation of the Assembly's
long-standing policy of meeting with Armenia and Karabakh leaders,"
said Ardouny. "The Assembly is committed to help foster strong
U.S.-Armenia, U.S.-Karabakh relations and to ensure that Armenia is
not isolated by Turkey's and Azerbaijan's blockades or any attempts
to marginalize and weaken our homeland."

Barsamian added that Assembly leaders will continue such trips to the
region as an integral part of strengthening bilateral relations and
also encouraged Assembly supporters to take part in future Mission
trips.

"In October, the Assembly will be back in Armenia for its tenth
annual Trustees Mission led by Board of Directors Vice Chair
Annie Totah," said Barsamian. "We hope our supporters will help us
celebrate this milestone occasion which will mark the Assembly's
first-ever international banquet celebrating the strong U.S.-Armenia
relationship."

The Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based
nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness
of Armenian issues. It is a 501 (c) (3) tax-exempt membership
organization.

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NR#2005-083

Photographs available on the Assembly's Web site at the following link:

http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005- 083-1.jpg

Caption: During their first full day in Yerevan, Assembly Mission
participants took a bus tour of Yerevan, stopping along the way to
see the Matenadaran, a famous repository and research center named
after Mesrop Mashtots who created the Armenian alphabet 1600 years ago.

http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005-083-2.jpg

Caption: On July 1, Mission participants spent the day at Lake Sevan,
where they toured the monastery, went swimming and enjoyed lunch at
the resort.

http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005-083-3.jpg

Caption: The group met with His Holiness Karekin II at Etchmiazdzin
on July 3, which marks Vartavar Day, a pagan holiday celebrating water.

http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005-083-4.jpg

Caption: On July 4, participants celebrated U.S. Independence Day
at the Cascades. The group enjoyed a special concert and fireworks
display, courtesy of the Cafesjian Museum Foundation and the Armenian
Assembly.

http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005-083-5.jpg

Caption: The group paid their respects at the Armenian Genocide
Museum and Memorial at Tsitsernakabert. After a tour of the Museum,
the oldest and youngest participants planted a memorial tree together.
http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005-083-6.jpg

Caption: Parents and children spent the day milking cows and enjoying
hay rides during a visit to the Voske Ser dairy farm and cheese
factory in Ashotsh. The farm, owned and operated by Assembly Members
Sarkis Bedevian and Aram Khachadurian, employs the majority of the
local residents.

http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005-083-7.jpg

Caption: Armenia President Robert Kocharian, right, with Assembly
Board of Directors Chairman Anthony Barsamian.

http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005-083-8.jpg

Caption: L to R: Assembly Country Director for Armenia and NKR Arpi
Vartanian, Board of Directors Chairman Anthony Barsamian, Armenia's
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and Assembly Executive Director
Bryan Ardouny, during their meeting in Yerevan.

http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005-083-9.jpg

Caption: L to R: Assembly Executive Director Bryan Ardouny,
U.S. Ambassador to Belgium Tom Korologos and Assembly Board of
Directors Chairman Anthony Barsamian.

http://www.aaainc.org/images/press/2005-083/2005-083-10.jpg

Caption: L to R: Assembly Board of Directors Chairman Anthony
Barsamian, U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Evans, Assembly Country
Director for Armenia and NKR Arpi Vartanian and Executive Director
Bryan Ardouny.

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