By Atom Markarian
The governing board of the Diaspora-led All-Armenian Hayastan Fund held an annual meeting in Yerevan on Friday chaired by President Robert Kocharian.
The board of trustees reviewed its activities over the past year and was due to elect a new executive director. The job was widely expected to be given to Naira Melkumian, the former foreign minister of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.
Hayastan’s outgoing director Vahan Ter-Ghevondian, who is likely to be appointed as Armenia’s ambassador to Italy, told 24 of the 29 trustees attending the meeting that the fund’s revenues totaled nearly $5.2 million last year. He said the construction of a 170-kilometer highway linking the northern and southern parts of Nagorno-Karabakh will remain its top priority in the coming years.
Work on the road, described by Armenian officials as Karabakh’s future transport “backbone,” began in 2000. Several of its sections with the total length of 60 kilometers have already been built and are now open for traffic.
The bulk of the funds used for its construction have been raised at annual “telethons” broadcast from Los Angeles to major Armenian communities around the world as well as to Armenia and Karabakh. Officials said the next telethon will be held this November.
Hayastan has implemented $75 million worth of mainly infrastructure projects in Armenia and Karabakh since its creation in 1992. Those have involved the construction of roads, water mains, houses, schools and hospitals.
Most of the contributions to the fund have from the affluent Diaspora communities in the United States and France. There is also a growing amount of donations from Armenia. They totaled $375,000 in 2002.
Hayastan figures also show a virtual absence of donations from the traditionally strong and numerous Armenian communities in Russia, Iran and Lebanon.