It's not every day that a foreign president comes to the State House, but Gov. Charlie Baker rolled out the red carpet Wednesday for Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan with all the pomp and ceremony that comes with a head-of-state's visit.

So what's the president of Armenia have to talk about with Baker? It's not like he took the Red Line to the State House and wanted to press Baker on how to deal with the ancient backlog of MBTA repairs?

"It's a big chance for [Sargsyan] to celebrate the fact that so many of his countrymen and women have chosen to settle and make their life and build their life here in the commonwealth," Baker told reporters after lunching with the Armenian cheif executive.

Mostly, the visit was to recognize the strong Armenian-American community in the Bay State centered in Watertown and surrounding suburbs, Baker said. Boston is home to the third largest piece of the the Armenian diaspora in the US.

Make no mistake, Sargsyan has his own problems, like dealing with his neighbors Turkey and Azerbaijan. And now he's on his way to nuclear security summit in Washington. So the stop in Boston and a visit to Watertown may have been one of the more pleasant stops on Sargsyan's tour of the U.S.

Easily the best part of his State House stop, aside from the adoration of a crowd of Armenian-Americans and a nice luncheon, must have been the presentation of Baker's favorite gift: a classic "Gurgling Cod" water pitcher from Shreeve Crump and Lowe. 

Seriously, Baker has given one of these elaborate jugs to virtually every VIP that's walked through his doors since taking office. The codfish, which you might describe as "sacred" in these parts is revered for it's role in establishing the local maratime ecomony. The jug is a New England classic adorning countless shelves in Bay State grandmother's houses and, as the name suggests, gurgles when you pour water from it.

Middlesex Sheriff Peter Koutoujian, the grandchild of Armenian immigrants, doesn't think there are particular issues at home or abroad that Armenian-Americans expect Baker or Sargsyan to address, but that the visit is a celebration of their new and old homes.

Koutoujian stopped into WGBH News's Beacon Hill studio to provide some context for Sargsyan's visit. After initially settling in Worcester to escape violence at home, many Armenian immigrants made their way to Watertown when a major rubber plant opened and began hiring. Eastern Watertown still largely has an Armenian identity, Koutoujian said, though the community has grown into the more afluent suburbs as subsequent generations have reached the middle and upper class.

"They were a very highly regarded workforce, they worked hard. The manufacturers got a lot of value out of the labor of the Armenians. They were a very an intelligent and well educated workforce," Koutoujian said.
Koutoujian said that since most initial immigrants left their homes to escape bloodshed, there isn't necessarily the connection to the homeland that other immigrant communities possess.

"Whenever I go to Armenia people say 'are you going to see family?' Well, we don't really have family in Armenia. Most of the Greater Boston Armenians are here, we're diasporan Armenians. Our grandparents and our parents fled the Armenian Genocide. They left with nothing but the clothes on their backs," Koutoujian said.

Which brings us to the G-word. Whether or not officials refer to the violence against Armenians by Ottoman Turks in 1915 specifically as "genocide" has been a hot political potato for years. U.S. administrations, including the current one, have steered away from using the word because close NATO ally Turkey refuses to define the events of 101 years ago as a genocide.

Baker told reporters that he considers the slaughter of Armenians in 1915 a genocide. Baker participated in a recognition of the 100th anniversary of the events last year and said he's disappointed that the U.S. government hasn't taken the step to recognize the atrocities.

"It seems to me that the information on this one is pretty clear at this point," Baker told reporters after the luncheon with Sargsyan.

"The genocide happened. It's been recognized by countless numbers of countries, international scholars, historians. It happened,. It can't be denied. And so, let's just say it happened and move on," Koutoujian said. 

"Because if we do that as a people here in the United States, perhaps Turkey will do the same thing and then we can all move on from this thing that holds us back for reasons that I don't understand," Koutoujian said.