July 4, 2012 - 14:39 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - Last week, as part of the Terjenian-Thomas Internship Program, the 2012 intern class met with His Excellency, Tatoul Markarian, Armenia's Ambassador to the United States, reported the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly).
The group discussed a wide range of issues, including economic development, the recent parliamentary elections, Armenia-Turkey relations, and the Nagorno Karabakh peace process. In addition, several interns recalled past trips to Armenia and shared their impressions with the Ambassador.
Reflecting on U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's visit to the region last month, Ambassador Markarian noted that while in Yerevan, the Secretary commended Armenia on its recent parliamentary elections, citing reports from international monitors saying that the elections were generally competitive and inclusive. In addition, the Secretary discussed Armenia-Turkey relations and stated, as she has previously, that "the ball remains in Turkey's court." Further, Secretary Clinton indicated that "there is no linkage between the protocols [signed by Armenia and Turkey in October of 2009] process and the Nagorno Karabakh negotiations." The Secretary also noted her strong concerns about the recent cease-fire violations and reiterated the importance of "self-determination of peoples" with respect to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.
In response to concerns raised by members of Congress over Azerbaijan's continued bellicose actions, the State Department subsequently removed Azerbaijan from the list of eligible countries to receive U.S. military hardware. The Assembly in its letter to Secretary Clinton urged the Administration "to cease any military assistance, training, sales or transfers to Azerbaijan," given its "continued warmongering, ceasefire violations, and rapid increase of its military expenditures."
Turning to the economy, Ambassador Markarian stated that despite worldwide economic crisis and the ongoing dual blockades imposed by Turkey and Azerbaijan, Armenia's economic growth for 2012 is projected to be seven percent. Armenia ranks 39th out of 179 countries on the 2012 Index of Economic Freedom as compiled by the Heritage Foundation and the Wall Street Journal, whereas Azerbaijan and Turkey rank 91 and 73, respectively.
"I have travelled to Yerevan three times since 2001. The city has very clearly changed and continues to improve, especially with the construction of areas such as Northern Avenue. I look forward to many more trips to my homeland," said Simon Shahinian, a history and philosophy major at Cornell University.
Sharing Shahinian's optimism for Armenia's future, Ambassador Markarian encouraged the Assembly interns to take every opportunity to excel in their chosen field, use their expertise to play an active role in supporting the homeland, and continue to maintain their Armenian heritage.