By Karine Kalantarian
A millionaire businessman who leads the largest Armenian pressure group in Russia renewed on Tuesday his public criticism of Armenia’s leadership, complaining that it has failed to assist in his ambitious efforts to “consolidate” Diaspora communities scattered around the world.
Abrahamian also denounced the controversial expulsion from the governing coalition of the Orinats Yerkir Party of Artur Baghdasarian, the outgoing speaker of the Armenian parliament with whom he has reportedly maintained close ties.
“The truth requires me to say that the authorities in the Republic of Armenia are still displaying a passive attitude towards the activities of the World Armenian Congress,” he declared, opening a meeting in Yerevan of the governing body of the Moscow-based organization.
The World Armenian Congress (WAC) was set up by Abrahamian in December 2003 with the unofficial blessing of the Russian government. President Vladimir Putin personally attended its founding congress in Moscow to indicate his support for the Kremlin-linked tycoon’s attempt to create a global pan-Armenian structure.
The Armenian government’s reaction to the initiative was less than enthusiastic, with President Robert Kocharian openly expressing misgivings about the idea of putting all major Diaspora communities under a single umbrella structure. Leading Armenian organizations in the United States and Western Europe have also viewed the group with suspicion.
Incidentally, Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian was the only senior government who attended the WAC gathering. He held a separate meeting with Abrahamian on Monday.
Addressing a group of young people in Yerevan on Monday, Abrahamian admitted that the WAC has failed to fulfill its mission. “The World Armenian Congress has not developed in a way that we desired,” he said. “We have failed to consolidate the Diaspora. As was the case in the past, everyone operates on their own.”
Abrahamian has previously criticized Diaspora leaders in the Middle East and the West for failing to rally around his ambitious but moribund organization.
The Armenian-born tycoon also highlighted his unhappiness with the authorities in Yerevan when he expressed sympathy for Baghdasarian and Orinats Yerkir that were effectively squeezed out of President Robert Kocharian’s governing coalition last week. “I think what happened is bad,” he told reporters. “There is nothing good in the fact that a party can collapse in a single day. But it was their decision.”
In a newspaper interview last year, Abrahamian revealed that he had “helped” Baghdasarian in the run-up to the 2003 parliamentary elections in which the latter’s party did well. In particular, he admitted donating 400 computers that were distributed by Orinats Yerkir to public schools across Armenia.
Abrahamian also told the “168 Zham” newspaper that he will be “very actively” involved in the next Armenian presidential election due in 2008. He confirmed that on Tuesday. “There are more than half a million citizens of Armenia living in Russia and we have the Union of Armenians of Russia,” he said. “Can we fail to get involved or support [election candidates?] Of course we will participate and support.”
Armenian law bans foreign nationals from financing local parties or trying to affect election results otherwise.
(Photolur photo: Abrahamian, left, and Oskanian attending the WAC meeting.)