On May 28, 2022, the Armenia headquarters of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) hosted the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo and a French delegation including: Deputy Mayor of Paris in charge of international relations and Francophonie Arnaud Ngatcha; Deputy Mayor of Paris Anouch Toranian (and Executive Director of AGBU France); Ambassador of Armenia to France H.E. Ms. Hasmik Tolmajian; NKR Permanent Representative in France Hovhannes Guevorgian; AGBU Europe President and Central Board Member Nadia Gortzounian; Co-Chair of the Coordination Council of Armenian Organizations of France (CCAF) Ara Toranian; and Francois Devedjian.
AGBU Armenia President Vasken Yacoubian briefed the delegation on the history of AGBU, emphasizing the organization’s flexibility in meeting multiple priorities for the Armenian Nation, especially in times of crisis. He also presented current initiatives and strategies for Armenia in the spheres of socio-economic development, humanitarian assistance, culture, and education.
Mr. Yacoubian expressed his gratitude for the financial assistance AGBU Armenia has received from the French government throughout the recent years and its impact on Armenian lives. He also stressed the importance of the vote by the Council of Paris of a resolution requesting the recognition of the Republic of Artsakh to the French government. Finally, he warmly thanked the Mayor, chair of the International Association of Francophone Mayors, for the 50,000 euros aid to AGBU Armenia to help Armenia face the health crisis.
To that end, the delegation had the opportunity to meet some of the beneficiaries of AGBU programs who received support from the French government, such as displaced people from Artsakh and participants of AGBU Learn to Earn in Artsakh Program (LEAP) and AGBU Women Entrepreneurs (WE).
Thanks to its partnership with the French government, AGBU France is today the key interlocutor of public donors who wish to support Armenia and its people. The recent funding of over 100,000 euros from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of France served multiple purposes in Armenia — from lifesaving equipment and supplies during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic and helping women entrepreneurs start or scale up their small business to providing humanitarian assistance to uprooted civilians during and after the 44-day Artsakh War.
"Through our cooperation with the French government and our close ties with the City of Paris, AGBU France has been able to mobilize multiple supports, more than 250,000 euros and hundreds of French volunteers through AGBU programs to support those impacted by this terrible 44-day war. We are convinced that by strengthening these ties, AGBU will participate in the reinforcement of the Franco-Armenian cooperation and will concretize by actions the unfailing support of France and the City of Paris to the people of Armenia and Artsakh," says Nadia Gortzounian, AGBU Europe President.
Given their secular ties, common values and enduring friendship, France and Armenia are historical allies and mutual supporters. The Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, first deputy mayor of Paris in 2001 then elected Mayor of Paris in 2014, has always been committed to defending the people of Artsakh and their right to self-determination. Her husband, Jean-Marc Germain, regional counselor of the Paris Region and former member of Parliament, is also a long-time supporter of the people of Artsakh. He participated in AGBU Europe's YERIA initiative in December 2020, with the first delegation of parliamentarians who had visited Artsakh since the ceasefire.
In her closing remarks, Mayor Hidalgo once again reassured the attendees that the city of Paris stands with the Armenians of Artsakh. “Despite repeated attacks on my support for the Republic of Artsakh, I have never failed. I will always support its right to self-determination, independence and recognition. We have the responsibility to help the people of Artsakh to live in peace on their land and protect their threatened cultural heritage. This is what I am committed to do because we know that the people of Artsakh are also fighting for the defense of our values. Thus, your fight is our fight and we will be by your side.”