Ever wonder how embassies decide who should be invited to their receptions? What’s the criteria? I did, as I watched the ‘cream of Armenian society’ gathering at the U.S. Embassy in Yerevan on July 2nd to mark America’s Independence day.
VIPs like Armenian Parliament Speaker Hovik Abrahamian and Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandian drove right through the Embassy gates. The rest of us, mortals, went through unusually lex security checkups and walked into the little square surrounded by tents with an open space for flag-honoring ceremony and official speeches.
Opposition was there at full strength, represented by personas like Levon Zurabian and David Shahnazarian.
At some point I found myself standing next to Gagik Tsarukian, Armenia’s richest man and the leader of “Bargavach Hayastan” (Prosperous Armenia) party. He turned back, noticed my stare and said hello. Looked cheerful. Surprisingly, he wasn’t much taller than me though he looks huge on TV.
The public was all dressed up, ladies dressed in elegant evening-gowns under the burning sun. Luckily, the wind from Yerevan lake and huge air-conditioners brought some air in and eased the heat.
I usually avoid such receptions, but this time had free time and decided to go check it out. Usually, I consider those a waste of time, but in practice it looked like a perfect place for networking.
Interestingly, as a head of a media NGO, I always get invites to receptions from U.S., U.K and German embassies and never from the French or Russian ones. Does that tell you anything about the diplomatic missions, or about me?
U.S. Embassy in Yerevan
The U.S. Embassy building, or the ‘compound’ as its called on their website, deserves a special mention.
It is located in a marvelous place adjacent to Lake Yerevan. The site occupies an area of 90,469 sq/m (22 American acres), one of the largest lots on which a new U.S. embassy has been built. The new embassy project in Yerevan was budgeted for 80 million USD. The U.S. government paid the prevailing market price of about 5 million USD for acquiring the new embassy site from Armenia.
The new embassy compound contains a five-story Chancery Building of 13, 470 square meters, a two story annex that houses USAID and GSO with an attached warehouse, and Main and Service Compound Access Control Structures.
While the site of the new embassy is one of the largest properties the U.S. Department of State owns overseas, the Chancery building is not among the largest diplomatic structures, nor does it have a staff with among the largest number of employees.