WASHINGTON, D.C. – The Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) thanked French President Emmanual Macron for designating an official day to observe the Armenian Genocide. The occasion was at a March 8 seated dinner for Assembly Members, hosted by French Ambassador Gerard Araud at his official Residence in Washington, D.C., with special guests U.S. Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD), Armenian Ambassador Varuzhan Nersesyan, and Artsakh Representative Robert Avetisyan.
Less than a week ago, President Macron signed an order declaring April 24 as a day of commemoration of the Armenian Genocide. According to the document, every year on this day France will organize a ceremony held in Paris paying tribute to the Armenian Genocide victims, led by the Prime Minister of France.
President Macron previously announced this decision at an event on February 5, where he stated: “France is, first and foremost, the country that knows how to look history in the face, and was among the first to denounce the killing of the Armenian people in 1915 as genocide, and in 2001 after a long struggle recognized it as law.”
Emmanuel Macron is one of many Presidents of France who have commemorated the Armenian Genocide, including François Hollande, Nicholas Sarkozy, Jacque Chirac, and François Mitterrand. In a 2001 proclamation signed by President Chirac, France publicly recognized the Armenian Genocide of 1915. Currently, there are at least 39 Armenian Genocide Memorials located across the country of France. Relations between France and Armenia are very close. France marked 2006 as the “Year of Armenia,” and more recently Armenia hosted the 2018 Francophonie Summit.
Ambassador Araud welcomed the Armenian Assembly members in attendance, spoke highly of France-Armenia relations, and expressed his appreciation and admiration of the work of Assembly Board Member Annie Simonian Totah. Totah, who was instrumental in organizing the evening, also greeted everyone, and pointed out that it was “a historic night, because we are so lucky that His Excellency Gerard Araud has opened this magnificent residence of his.”
She expressed her gratitude to Ambassador Araud on behalf of the Armenian Assembly and its Board of Trustees for hosting everyone with an elegant sit-down dinner, and recognized the Armenian Assembly members for traveling across the United States to attend. After Totah welcomed those in attendance, she introduced her longtime friend Senator Van Hollen.
“I have to thank Annie Totah, who has been a dear friend of my wife Katherine and mine for many, many years. Most importantly, and I think everyone who is here knows it, she has been a leader in so many places, both in our state of Maryland as well as around the country, especially as it relates to the Armenian American community, and trying to strengthen the relations between the United States and Armenia. Thank you Annie, for constantly advocating for everybody to do the right thing when it comes to U.S.-Armenia relations,” Senator Van Hollen added.
“Ambassador Araud, thank you for bringing us together this evening and hosting us,” Senator Van Hollen continued. “I have to salute you, your country, and your president for commemorating April 24 and the Armenian Genocide.”
“In our state of Maryland, with the help of many people in this room many years ago when I served in the State Legislature, we did pass legislation in Maryland to recognize the Armenian Genocide and make it clear to students in Maryland that we have to work hard to make sure such a tragedy never happens again,” Senator Van Hollen told the guests.
As a special treat for Ambassador Araud and the Assembly Trustees, Mrs. Narine Malkhasyan Nersesyan sang a beautiful musical medley as a tribute to the late French Armenian singer Charles Aznavour, accompanied on piano by Ms. Armine Khachatryan.
“In Armenia, France has a special spot in our heart. There is a great respect towards the great French nation,” Ambassador Nersessyan said as he described the prevalence of French culture within Armenia, as well as Armenians’ admiration of French scholars and writers. “Thank you very much to Annie Simonian Totah – for her great positive energy, for her inspiring the people, and for her leadership – and to the Armenian American community and the Armenian Assembly,” concluded Ambassador Nersesyan.
Established in 1972, the Armenian Assembly of America is the largest Washington-based nationwide organization promoting public understanding and awareness of Armenian issues. The Assembly is a non-partisan, 501(c)(3) tax-exempt membership organization.