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President Signals Lingering Concerns Over Pan-Armenian Charity


Armenia -President Armen Sarkissian (R) and Haykak Arshamian, executive director of the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, at a meeting in Yerevan, October 18, 2018.

President Armen Sarkissian announced on Wednesday plans to call an emergency meeting of the governing board of a pan-Armenian charity two months after criticizing the use of funds raised by it for Nagorno-Karabakh during the autumn war with Azerbaijan.

The Hayastan All-Armenian Fund launched an international fundraising campaign immediately after the outbreak of the war on September 27. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians from around the world responded to its appeal for urgent aid to Karabakh, donating roughly $170 million within weeks.

The charity headquartered in Yerevan redirected more than $100 million of those proceeds to Armenia’s government. The Armenian Finance Ministry said on November 24 that the sum will finance the government’s “infrastructure, social and healthcare expenditures” necessitated by the six-week war.

Sarkissian publicly criticized the donation in early December, saying that it undermined donors’ trust in Hayastan. He said the government should consider redefining the hefty contribution as a “loan” and eventually reimbursing the fund.

Sarkissian also urged the government to release a detailed report on how it has used the economic and humanitarian aid to Karabakh.

The presidential press office reported on Wednesday that Sarkissian met with Hayastan’s executive director, Haykak Arshamian, to discuss the fund’s aid programs in Karabakh and broader activities.

In a statement on the meeting, the office said: “President Sarkissian emphasized the importance of efficient, responsible, and targeted spending of the funds raised by Armenians all over the world and donated to the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund, strictest possible adherence to project implementation procedures and deadlines, transparency and accountability of the Fund’s activities, and trust towards the organization.”

“President Sarkissian plans to convene a special meeting of the Board of Trustees in the near future to discuss issues related to the Fund’s management and activities and find solutions to them,” added the statement.

The board is headed by Sarkissian and comprises Armenia’s other top state officials as well as Diaspora philanthropists.

Arshamian has defended the $100 million donation to the government, saying that it was authorized by most board members. In a December 18 interview with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service, he also argued that Hayastan raised $26 million in fresh funds for Karabakh after a Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the war on November 10.

Hayastan has implemented $400 million worth of various infrastructure projects in Karabakh and Armenia since its establishment in 1992.

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