Chris Van Hollen: ‘You know a good ambassador when you see one’

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by Haykaram Nahapetyan

The Armenian Mirror-Spectator

POTOMAC, M.D. – On Wednesday, July 21, 2021 Senator Chris Van Hollen (D-MD) wrapped up his working meetings early in order to go to community activist and Armenian Assembly of America’s board member Annie Simonian-Totah’s beautiful residence for a farewell party for Varuzhan Nersesyan, the ambassador of Armenia to the United States. Finishing his tenure in Washington, D.C., Nersesyan is ready to depart to London to his new assignment as the next ambassador of the Republic of Armenia to the United Kingdom.

Annie Totah opening the farewell event

Invitees apart from speakers included Washington Armenian community leaders, Armenian Embassy staff, Father Sarkis Aktavoukian, former US Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, Permanent Representative of the Artsakh Republic to the US Robert Avetisyan, Armenia’s honorary consul Oscar Tatosian and Museum of the Bible board member Matt Marc. After a prayer, guests enjoyed an Armenian delicious dinner and later were invited down to the basement theater hall to continue the farewell event.

Senator Chris Van Hollen

“You know a good ambassador when you see one,” stated Van Hollen, citing Nersesyan’s hard work in 2020 when the attack on Karabakh took place. The senator noted Turkey’s participation in that war. Earlier the same day, during the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations hearing on US policy on Turkey, Van Hollen spoke on this same topic, criticizing Turkey’s “malign actions” against Armenians.

Van Hollen expressed satisfaction that it was during Nersesyan’s tenure that both the US president and Congress finally recognized the Armenian Genocide. “The executive branch is always a little behind,” joked the senator, hinting at the chronology of the events: recognition by both chambers of Congress predates the presidential proclamation by nearly two years.

Amb. John Evans

For Ambassador John Evans, calling the events of 1915 genocide meant the end of his diplomatic service. In 2005, while working as an ambassador of the United States to Armenia, he told the truth about what had happened to Armenians in World War I, for which the Bush Administration fired the American diplomat from the Foreign Service. At the farewell event, Ambassador Evans remarked that a resolution acknowledging the Armenian Genocide has been introduced in the UK’s parliament and the tremendous task of achieving the recognition of the Armenian Genocide by the prime minister and even the Queen now falls upon Ambassador Nersesyan.

Peter Rosenblatt

Referring to Armenians as a “new but also very old nation,” the former vice-president of the American Jewish Committee (AJC) Peter Rosenblatt recalled his trips to Armenia and Artsakh, “his emotional visit to the Armenian Genocide memorial” and his trip to earthquake-hit Gyumri. On behalf of the AJC, Rosenblatt assured of this organization’s long-lasting relations with the Armenian community and “strong support with President Biden’s history-making recognition of the Genocide.”

From left, Mrs. Narine Malkhasyan (the ambassador’s wife), Amb. Varuzhan Nersesyan, Annie Simonian Totah and Bryan Ardouny

Bryan Ardouny, the Executive Director of the Armenian Assembly of America, recalled that the late and long-time chairman of the Armenian Assembly Hirair Hovnanian purchased and donated the building that serves as the Armenian Embassy, where the ambassador and his team work to strengthen US-Armenia relations. He presented also a proclamation by Congressman Frank Pallone (D-NJ) who could not be present at this event.

Armenian Democratic Liberal Party Eastern District Committee chair Kevork Marashlian’s farewell statement was read by Annie Totah, who presented to the ambassador a copy of all the letters of praise bidding the ambassador farewell published in the Ramgavar (Armenian Democratic Liberal Party) media throughout the world. Armenian National Committee of America Executive Director Aram Hamparian described the outgoing ambassador as honest, intelligent and respected, and a real diplomat.

Washington Museum of the Bible Chief Curatorial Officer Dr. Jeff Kloha described how during a meeting with the ambassador, Mr. Nersesyan in 10 minutes arranged through Father Hovsep Karapetyan of St. Mary Armenian Church of Washington for a khachkar [cross stone] weighing one ton to be donated to the Museum of the Bible. The khachkar now stands in the main exhibition location where the “The Breath of God” [Asdvadzashounch] exhibition will open in March 2022. He then donated to the ambassador a replica of the Museum of the Bible and invited him to the opening event next March.

Dr. Jeff Kloha handing the Museum of the Bible replica to the ambassador

Bulgaria’s Ambassador to the United States Tihomir Stoytchev remarked about the centuries-old friendly relations between the Armenians and Bulgarians.

Bulgarian Ambassador to the US Tihomir Stoytchev

Before the end of the farewell, Victoria Bedrossian, wife of the Armenia’s Consul Arsen Mikayelyan of Washington, DC, sang heartfeltly the Armenian songs Groung and Zim Giligia. Victoria was the main singer at St. Mary Armenian Church’s choir for the Sunday Divine Liturgy’s during the last three years.

Victoria Bedrosian

Annie Totah, the host of the day, had prepared this farewell program in such precise detail, which was an indication to the ambassador, his wife and three children of the love and respect that they have gained during the last two-and-a-half years of service and living among fellow Armenians in Washington DC. Annie at the end gave the ambassador and his wife gifts and a glass replica of the US Capitol, the building of the Congress of the United States of America.