Pomp and Circumstance Greet President in Lebanon

Armenian International Magazine (AIM) March 2000, Vol. 11, No. 3, p. 23

Pomp and Circumstance Greet Kocharian

By Hratch Tchilingirian

President Robert Kocharian paid an official three-day visit to Lebanon in February. He was greeted at the Beirut airport by Lebanese President Emil Lahoud, the Chairman of the Lebanese Parliament Nabih Berrie, Prime Minister Selim Hoss and other senior officials. The 72 hours of pomp and circumstance turned heads. “Even the visit of President Jacques Chirac was not so grand,” said one observer.

Kocharian held meetings with the president, whose mother and wife are Armenian, the Parliament Speaker and the Prime Minister, as well as former Premier Rafik Hariri and a host of economic and business officials.

A number of bilateral agreements were signed between the two countries in the spheres of economic cooperation, joint international cargo transportation and foreign and cultural affairs. Kocharian made it clear that Armenia was looking to Lebanon to be the point of entry to the Arab world, while Armenia could serve as Lebanon’s and the Middle East’s gateway to the CIS.

During a state ceremony, President Lahoud awarded Kocharian with the highest Lebanese Medal for Special Services, and in turn Kocharian awarded the Lebanese president Armenia’s Mesrob Mashtots Medal. Later, Kocharian was also awarded an honorary doctorate from the Lebanese University and given the Key to Beirut.

Armenians make up about 10 percent of Lebanon’s population, where they have seven members of Parliament and one minister. President Kocharian and his delegation, which included his wife Bella and several ministers, met with civic and religious leaders. They visited the Catholicosate of Cilicia in Antelias, the Armenian Catholic Patriarchate and the Armenian Evangelical Union of the Near East. Kocharian opened an Armenian art exhibition in Antelias and was awarded the Grand Cross of the Great House of Cilicia by Catholicos Aram.

At the conclusion of the official visit, President Lahoud characterized the visit as “fruitful.” He said it “strengthened official cooperation on a number of levels.” He praised the “positive and useful role played by Armenians in Lebanon in maintaining links with Armenia, which have been reinforced through the steadfastness of their national Lebanese identity and their faithfulness to their heritage and civilization.” Since 1992, when Armenia established diplomatic relations with Lebanon, 16 bilateral agreements have been signed.

Hratch Tchilingirian
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