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The Second Armenia-Diaspora Conference Starts on Monday 27th of May Armenian News Network / Groong May 26, 2002 By Vicken Cheterian The Diaspora Still Cares for Armenia YEREVAN, ARMENIA Before its start, the second Armenia-Diaspora conference is already a success. Over 1500 delegates from 45 countries have already arrived to the Armenian capital, and the total number of those registered has surpassed the 3,000 mark. The bet of the Armenian foreign minister, Vartan Oskanian, who is the driving force behind the event, has worked: the Diaspora is still interested in Armenia, ready to come spend time and money to discuss future models of cooperation between their communities, and Armenia. The same cannot be said about Armenia. Most inhabitants of Yerevan, with whom I talked, were either indifferent or did not know about the event. The most popular Armenian daily Aravot, which has a circulation of 5,000 copies, did not make any comment or analysis in its week-end edition about the upcoming conference. It allocated a small space for the foreign minister's press-conference on its eighth page only. Most Yerevan dailies did not print any information about the event on their first page, and it was only the official Hayastani Hanrapetutiun, which had an analytical article, about "double citizenship", which is in fact outside the scope of this second conference. In a word, the media in Armenia did not inform, nor debate about the ways Armenia and Diaspora could work together. The first Armenia-Diaspora conference took place in September 1999, eight years after Armenia became independent. It brought together more than one thousand participants, and was considered to be successful, in spite of its ceremonial nature. It was meant to rebuild the bridges between the Diaspora and the Republic, after years of HHSh rule that tried to marginalize the Diaspora within Armenia, and limit its political and economic influence. After the arrival of Robert Kocharyan to power, the official line was changed. Now, the Armenian state encourages the Diaspora to come and invest, play a more active political and social role within Armenia. The Kocharyan leadership has made a number of symbolic moves towards the Diaspora by including the ARF in the government, and by bringing the question of the Genocide into its diplomatic agenda. Yet, the first conference and the enthusiasm it generated was overshadowed by the massacre in the Armenian parliament on October 27, 1999, which killed the speaker of the parliament Garen Demirjian, and the prime minister Vazken Sarkissian. This time, the official speeches and ceremonies will occupy only one-quarter of the program, and starting from Monday afternoon and all of Tuesday, delegates will discuss political issues, media cooperation, social and economic development, and cultural matters. Yet, there has been little preparation for the subject-matters the conference will discuss. For example, up to now there is no work to define the common interests but also the differences between Armenia and the Diaspora. Moreover, nowhere did the Diasporan organizations clarify the conclusions of ten years of presence and activities in Armenia, and a clear definition of what the Diaspora wants from Armenia, and is ready to engage in. An article in Hayastani Hanrapetutiun says: "It is the time to act, and not to think!". Yet, it is better to take a moment and to think about a decade of action, and re-define how Armenia and the Dasporas could work in the future.