By Emil Danielyan
Ara Abrahamian, the prominent Russian-Armenian tycoon, admitted on Wednesday that his ambitious bid to rally ethnic Armenians around the world in a single Moscow-based organization is not necessarily in tune with President Robert Kocharian’s vision of Diaspora unity.
In carefully-worded remarks, Abrahamian implied that his newly formed World Armenian Organization (WAO), which enjoys the Russian government’s overt support, will strive to attain its declared aims despite Kocharian’s thinly veiled skepticism.
Addressing the WAO’s founding congress in Moscow on Monday, Kocharian noted that the idea of putting millions of Diaspora Armenians under one umbrella structure is “tempting, but conflict-prone.” He stressed that the worldwide Diaspora must remain “diverse” and that only the Armenian state can be the driving force for its consolidation.
“We have our own considerations and approaches,” Abrahamian told a news conference in Yerevan, reacting to Kocharian’s speech. “The WAO is an independent public organization that is not subordinated to anyone. What President Kocharian said is his opinion. I have no problem with that.”
“If we get help from the governments of Armenia and those countries that have Armenian communities we will succeed,” he added, implying that Yerevan should back his effort.
Asked by RFE/RL whether that means his views do not fully coincide with Kocharian’s, he replied evasively: “I am 100 percent sure that the WAO will succeed.”
But one of Abrahamian’s top aides, Moscow-based political pundit Andranik Migrarian, was more blunt in his comments, comparing Kocharian to skeptics who did not believe that the tycoon will manage to set up Russia’s largest Armenian organization three years ago. “Three years on, it turned out that that organization has been a success in Russia,” Migranian said. “So let us hope that Mr. Kocharian will answer your question in another three years.”
Abrahamian claimed that the WAO congress “proceeded very well,” pointing among other things to the presence of Russian Vladimir Putin at its opening session held in one of Moscow’s most prestigious conference halls. Putin welcomed its more than 900 participants from Russia and 51 other states, underlining the Kremlin’s support for the initiative.
Abrahamian said he met with Putin on the eve of the gathering to brief him on preparations for the event. He dismissed speculation that Moscow would like to have influence on the Armenian communities in the Middle East and the West through the WAO. He argued that the organization is supported by a number of other governments as well, singling out his recent meeting with French President Jacques Chirac.
The millionaire businessman, who runs one of Russia’s largest diamond companies, also met with senior White House and State Department during a visit to Washington last summer. He plans another trip to the U.S. in December and does not rule out a meeting with President George W. Bush.
Still, one of the main Diaspora groups in the U.S., the Armenian Assembly of America, did not send any of its leaders to Moscow for the WAO congress. Abrahamian sounded very upset with that. “They lost a lot by not being there,” he said. “They did not experience what we experienced. They did not feel the greatness of our nation.”
The Armenian-born tycoon spoke to reporters immediately after his arrival in Yerevan at the head of a delegation of more than 350 prominent Russian businesspeople, public figures and academics. He and some members of the delegation are scheduled to meet with Kocharian and visit Nagorno-Karabakh.
Similar trips, aimed at promoting closer ties between Armenia and Russia, have already been organized and funded by Abrahamian in the past.