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Armenian President Visits Russia On Diaspora Tour

Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian
Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian
YEREVAN -- Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian was given a friendly reception in southern Russia on October 7, the last stop on his weeklong tour of major Armenian diaspora communities, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reported.

The meeting in Rostov-na-Donu brought together some 250 intellectuals, entrepreneurs, and leaders of Armenian organizations in Russia.

Unlike at other locations during the recent tour, no protests were reported in Russia.

Armenia's ambassador to Russia, Armen Smbatian, told RFE/RL that in contrast to Armenian communities in the United States, France, and other countries, "[Armenians in Russia] lived under the Soviet system and are closely tied to Armenia. They have everyday contact with people in Armenia and they want life to get better [there]."

However, a number of Armenian organizations -- including Russian-Armenian Cooperation, the Ararat Union, and the editorial staff of the "Yerkramas" newspaper -- had issued a call ahead of Sarkisian's visit urging him not to sign the protocols.

Sarkisian was met in France, the United States, and Lebanon with protests staged by some members of the local Armenian communities who oppose the current protocols.

The latest protests were held in Beirut on October 6 when he arrived for a meeting with representatives of the large diaspora communities of the Middle East and the broader region.

Before the meeting, Sarkisian met with Beirut-based Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, the number two figure in the Armenian Orthodox Church hierarchy, who added his voice to those with concerns about the protocols in a letter to Sarkisian two weeks ago.

During meetings in five countries, Sarkisian attempted to persuade diaspora Armenians that the protocols do not harm Armenian state and national interests but rather open new opportunities for resolving the centuries-old feud between the two countries.

During his visit to Beirut, Sarkisian said that "the current unnatural situation" between the two states suits neither of them.

He added that the establishment of diplomatic relations and the opening of the border will "create a platform, a more or less bearable environment, for continued dialogue and negotiations."

Armenian and Turkish officials are expected to sign the protocols on October 10 in Switzerland.

The agreement will then go to the respective parliaments for ratification.