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By Emil Danielyan
The government moved on Thursday to set up a new ministry that will be in charge of Armenia’s relations with its worldwide Diaspora.

Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian and his cabinet members made the decision during a meeting in the country’s second city of Gyumri, the first-ever government session held outside Yerevan. It took the form of a draft law on the structure of Armenia’s government that will be submitted to parliament this month.

The bill stipulates that the government will consist of 18 ministries, including the Ministry of Diaspora Affairs. A statement issued by Sarkisian’s office gave no details of the new agency’s mission, saying only that the government plans to form it by next October.

According to government estimates, there are some 5.7 million ethnic Armenians, or almost twice the South Caucasus country’s population, living all over the world. The largest Armenian communities are in Russia (2 million), the United States (1.4 million), Georgia (460,000) and France (450,000). Many of the Diaspora Armenians members are descendants of the survivors of the 1915 Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey.

Armenia’s relations with the Diaspora have until now been coordinated by a special department existing within the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan. Talk of its transformation into a larger and more powerful government ministry emerged after Serzh Sarkisian’s victory in last February’s disputed presidential election.

Some observers expected Sarkisian to set up the new ministry immediately after his April 9 inauguration. Among the individuals linked with the post of Diaspora minister is Arkady Ghukasian, the former president of Nagorno-Karabakh.

In another measure aimed at strengthening ties with the Diaspora, the administration of Sarkisian’s predecessor, Robert Kocharian, abolished in late 2005 a constitutional ban on dual citizenship. According to police data, hundreds of foreign nationals of Armenian descent have obtained Armenian passports since then.

(Photolur photo: The opening ceremony of the Fourth Pan-Armenian Games held in Yerevan in September 2007.)
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