Monday, July 31, 2006

Kars battles for access to Armenia and beyond

Sunday, July 30, 2006
ANKARA - Turkish Daily news

Reopening of the border with Armenia will be a move that will not only boost the local economy but will also be a major breakthrough for Turkish exporters

Barış Altıntaş

Kars Mayor Naif Alibeyoğlu is waging an uphill battle to overcome nationalist sentiments against Armenia that are boosted by the continued occupation of the Nagorno-Karabakh district of Azerbaijan and to once again get the Turkish-Armenian border reopened to civilian traffic and trade since being shut down in 1993.

Alibeyoğlu says that reopening the border crossing with Armenia will not be simply a move that will boost the local economy of the region but will also constitute a major breakthrough for Turkish exporters who have been dreaming of acquiring cheap and secure land and rail access to markets in Central Asia and beyond.

Once a wealthy and diverse city full of Turks, Kurds, Armenians, Russians and Georgians; Kars today is among the country's poorest and most neglected provinces. The unique character of the city is a stunning reminder of ethnic influences in times past. Conquered by Russia in the Crimean War, then again in the Russo-Turkish War of 1877, Kars was taken back by Turkey during the War of Independence and remained behind the Iron Curtain for the next 70 years, gradually losing vigor and experiencing the start of migration.

Exodus of the 1970s and 1980s

The first wave of migrants in recent times left the city in the 70s at a time of intense armed conflict of right and left ideologies. The progressive culture of Kars made it a stronghold for a wide range of leftist groups which worked against the city's urban manners, according to Gürbüz Çapan, former mayor of Istanbul's Esenyurt district, inhabited by a large number of migrants of Kars origin.

“Kars then had a city culture,” recalls Çapan.

“Locals here would attend the theater and ballet. You can't find another town like Kars in Anatolia. People had an urban culture where the social hierarchy mattered. Dreams of a classless society by leftist youth worked to destroy that culture,” admits Çapan in retrospect.

The first wave of migrants was followed by a second wave in the 1980s as the city languished in growing poverty and fell into the hands of gangs and mobsters.

With the fall of the Soviets and the emergence of an independent Armenia, the border reopened and Kars finally started to awaken as a trade center once again until 1993, when the Armenia-Azerbaijan war broke out. Upset with the text of the Armenian declaration of independence, which included a territorial claim on parts of Turkey, and acting in solidarity with Azerbaijan, Turkey closed the border.

Kars Mayor Alibeyoğlu is a devout believer that the city can regain at least some of its past splendor. Alibeyoğlu pictures Kars as the “Davos of the Caucasus.”

“If that was its status 80 years ago, then why shouldn't it be so now?” he asks.

Kars will be home to the 3rd Festival of Caucasus Cultures between Sept. 15-17, hosting groups from 30 countries including Armenia, Ukraine, Sudan and even Cuba. The festival is just one attempt to earn Kars the recognition it deserves. Apart from that, the municipality has a number of projects to preserve the unique Tsarist-era architecture of the city, responsible for the city's decrepit charm. In addition, a large citadel, currently surrounded by shanty-houses awaiting to be demolished by the municipality -- which has built new homes in another part of town for the current occupants -- and a crumbling Armenian church-turned-mosque are some of the sights accounting for Kars' specialization in ruins.

The current local government, however, is focusing not only on restoration projects and international festivals to expand Kars' recognition but also on arts and culture in hopes to revive some of the city's grandeur. The municipality has photography, painting, sculpture and chess workshops. It also offers ballet classes to 250 children. The recently restored Fine Arts School has one of the most elegant buildings in town.

The Armenian border:

Kars, with 70 percent of its population having left for bigger cities in the past two decades and its only source of income being livestock breeding, has little chance of attracting any investment from national or local businessmen. “The period of state investments is long gone,” says Alibeyoğlu. The eventual reopening of the Armenian border would reawaken the city, the mayor and almost all of Kars' residents believe and pray.

“Turkey's future is in Central Asia and the Caucasus. Turkey lost this market to Russia and America,” Alibeyoğlu says.

Until the bid to preserve the city's buildings is shared at a national level and its Armenian border reopens, Kars will continue to suffer the gloomy feeling that pervades it.

‘This is not who we are'

Kars is mentioned in renowned Turkish author Orhan Pamuk's book “Snow.” Although the locals were initially proud of their city being mentioned in a Pamuk book, most were exasperated when they were introduced to its content, which tells the story of a Turkish poet who spent 12 years in political exile in Germany and then moved to Kars, portrayed as a tangle of poverty-stricken families, Kurdish separatists and political Islamists. The people of Kars, who take pride in their city's progressive character and frequently underline the heavy influence of left groups in the city's past, are angry with Pamuk's book, which they feel has been grossly unfair to their town.

“Yes, what he describes in the book could have happened anywhere in Turkey,” a local driver admits. “But out of all the towns in Turkey to place Islamists, why chose Kars as the backdrop to your novel? This is not who we are.”

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Russia Trails 167 Nations as Happiness Linked to Wealth

Monday, July 31, 2006.
Moscow Times
By Katya Andrusz

WARSAW -- Danes are the world's happiest people because they are healthy, rich and educated, while Russians are less happy than Rwandans, a survey of 178 countries by Britain's Leicester University found.

Switzerland is second, ahead of Austria and Iceland, according to the survey on the university's web site. The United States ranks 23 and Britain 41. Russia ranks 168.

Burundians are the least happy.

"There is increasing political interest in using measures of happiness as a national indicator in conjunction with measures of wealth,'' said Adrian White, an analytical social psychologist at Leicester University and the author of the report, in a note accompanying the survey.

The research showed that happiness was most closely correlated to health, wealth and education. As a result, the four least-happy countries are Burundi, Zimbabwe, the Democratic Republic of Congo and Moldova, which has struggled to develop its economy since the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

Some Central Asian countries fared better than Russia, with Uzbekistan ranking 80, Kazakhstan 101. Other former Soviet republics were closer to Russia: Azerbaijan (144), ahead of Georgia (169), Belarus (170) and Armenia (172).

"The frustrations of modern life and the anxieties of the age seem to be much less significant compared to the health, financial and educational needs in other parts of the world,'' White said.

The research will be published in a psychology journal in September and presented at a conference later in the year, the university said. The survey used data from the UN, the CIA and the World Health Organization.

"It's true that we're very happy," Saturday's Polish daily Dziennik quoted Mad Lauritzen from Copenhagen as saying. "Most of all, we have a sense of social security, that if we fall ill, the system will ensure that we are cared for -- that's why we can relax.''

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Azerbaijan: Caucasus powder keg

Monday July 31, 2006
The Chronicle Herald
By SCOTT TAYLOR Special to The NovaScotian

Strategic country on the East-West fault line sets its sights on better ties with the West as it prepares for new oil wealth and fresh conflicts with neighbours

‘WE WERE engaged in heavy fighting with Armenian troops near my home village of Lachin when a mortar shell hit my friend’s trench. When I got to him I saw that his belly had been ripped open by the shrapnel and he was screaming in mortal pain. He died in my arms as I tried to stuff his intestines back inside him."

At this point the storyteller suddenly goes silent as he relives the horror of that experience, which occurred nearly 14 years ago. Now 37, Gurhan Iliyev was just a 23-year-old sergeant in the Azerbaijan civil defence force when war erupted with Armenia in 1992. With the international media focused at that time on the break-up of the former Yugoslavia and the genocide in Rwanda, this border dispute in the Caucasus region got very little news coverage in North America.
It's disappointing and disconcerting to see a respected military analyst and journalist such as Scott Taylor tell a non accurate one sided story.

Historically and legally Nagorno Karabagh was never part of the Azerbaijani republic. Nagorno Karabagh was an integral part of the Armenian homeland for over two millennia.

In 1921, Joseph Stalin arbitrarily carved out the region from Armenia and placed it under Azerbaijani administration as part of the Soviet divide-and-conquer strategy in the Caucasus. Under Azeri rule, the Armenians faced 70 years of religious persecution, economic deprivation, Turkification and ethnic cleansing.

Glasnost and Perestroika principles gave the Armenians of Nagorno Karabagh fresh hope to try to undo the injustices of the dictatorial Azeri authority.

In response to the peaceful demonstrations by Armenians for basic human rights, the Azeri authorities organized wholesale slaughter of Armenians in three major Azeri cities - Sumgait, Baku and Kirovabed.

These massacres forced the Kremlin to send the Soviet Army to stop the butchering of Armenian children, women, and the elderly.

As a result of the Azeri government organized pogroms, 350,000 Armenians fled from Azerbaijan to Armenia and to other republics of the former Soviet Union.

These massacres and attacks by the Azerbaijan army on Armenian civilians forced the people of Nagorno Karabagh to organize self-defense units to protect the Armenian population. With the tiny "army" comprised of civilians, Armenians of Nagorno Karapagh secured their borders, eventually succeeding in driving Azerbaijani occupying forces out of their territory and to create a buffer zone between Azerbaijan and Nagorno Karapagh.

Since 1992, Nagorno Karabagh has repeatedly sought to engage in direct bilateral negotiations with Azerbaijan to establish a durable cease-fire and to negotiate a lasting and equitable peace.

Successive Azerbaijani governments have responded with escalating violence, the introduction of foreign mercenaries (Chechen, Al Qaida, Moujahedin,and Taliban), and the not-so-tacit involvement of the Turkish military in their war against the people of Nagorno Karabagh.

Furthermore, Azerbaijan and Turkey have imposed an illegal blockade of the Republic of Armenian.

After the Azeri attack on Nagorno Karapagh residents, Baroness Caroline Cox, deputy speaker of the House of Lords in Britain, formed an international humanitarian organization to provide essential medical and other essential assistance to destitute Armenians.

Nobel Peace Prize-winner Andrei Sakharov summed up the conflict as follows: " For Azerbaijan the issue of Karabagh is a matter of ambition, for Armenians of Karabagh it is a matter of life and death."

Aris Babikian, Executive Director
Armenian National Committee of Canada
130 Albert Street, Suite 1007
Ottawa, Ontario
Yet it was a brutal clash spanning 24 months that left 30,000 dead (mostly civilians), 100,000 wounded and nearly one million people forced from their homes. Armenia and Azerbaijan were both former republics of the Soviet Union and were formally granted (along with Georgia) their independence in May 1992. All three republics were allocated the same amount of Soviet military material to form their own independent armies.

Within the recognized borders of Azerbaijan there is a mountainous region known as Nagorno-Karabakh where a sizeable Armenian minority resided. Taking advantage of Azerbaijan’s post-independence political disorder, the Armenian army entered the territory in 1992.

"We fought back, but our local defence battalion was short of heavy weaponry — we had only two trucks and 650 men," said Iliyev. "The Armenians were well equipped and they were assisted by the Russian 366 Motorized Rifle Regiment. As a result, we took enormous casualties."

After completely securing the region, the Armenians continued to push into Azerbaijan. Ethnic Azeris were forcibly removed from the newly occupied territories.

Having successfully ousted his political rivals, then-president Heydar Aliyev was able to solidify his leadership of Azerbaijan in 1993 and ordered creation of a formal army to deal with the crisis situation in Nagorno-Karabakh. Within 12 months the Azeris had managed to train and field six full infantry brigades, and their deployment to the front reversed the Armenian advances.

"In one offensive in the south we were able to recapture 12 villages occupied by the Armenians," said Maj.-Gen. Ramiz Najafov, one of the key architects of the fledgling Azerbaijani army. "While in the north we were able to destroy an entire Armenian regiment in just three days of heavy fighting."

The campaign became a stalemate, and a ceasefire was signed in 1994.

After the ceasefire, Armenian forces fortified their positions in the occupied Azerbaijani territories; the Azeris built trenches around the disputed region and the root causes for the conflict remained unresolved. What had been a little-regarded war would soon become an almost completely forgotten, but still simmering, flashpoint.

My discussion with Gurhan Iliyev took place at a pleasant outdoor restaurant close to the train station in Saatly, southern Azerbaijan. In the company of two other Canadian journalists and escorted by officials from the foreign ministry, we had been brought to the city to observe firsthand the ongoing plight of the nearly 800,000 Azeris who were forcibly displaced during the 1992-94 war.

Across the tracks from this restaurant is a four-kilometre stretch of railway boxcars, which serve as temporary homes for some 2,000 Azeri internally displaced persons.

There is minimal privacy because on average, two families share a single boxcar. Even after 14 years of continuous residence, there are few comforts.

"Every (displaced person) is entitled to a monthly ration, which includes flour, rice, sugar and oil," said Senan Huseynov, the Azerbaijani director for refugees. "On top of that they receive an allowance of 30,000 manats ($8 Cdn) per month to purchase meat and other foodstuffs."
There were 350,000 Armenian refugees who fled from Azerbaijan to Armenia and to other republics. Armenians did not keep them apart but took care of them. Azerbaijan on the other hand is willing to squander all their new found wealth on the army and leave these refugees in a squalid condition.
As well the Saatly boxcar compound we visited a camp of crudely constructed mud brick houses, home to about 10,000. The standard layout for these shelters is three tiny rooms totalling 240 square feet of space and housing up to seven people. The luckiest of the refugees are now being relocated into custom-built compounds complete with community centres and medical clinics.

These new housing developments are still intended to be temporary. The displaced Azeris remain in virtual limbo — pawns in a political process that has been bogged down for 12 years.

When the 1994 ceasefire was first brokered, the Organization of Security and Co-operation in Europe established the Minsk Group to oversee and monitor the agreements. To date the United Nations has passed a total of four resolutions calling upon the Armenians to withdraw their military from the occupied territories as a first step to resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh situation.

That was supposed to be followed by the resettlement of the displaced people into their former homes.

With no threat of any international military force being deployed to enforce these resolutions, the Armenians have refused to pull back their forces.

Fact-finding missions and the security organization continually report that the Armenians continue to destroy Azeri infrastructure while building their own facilities inside the occupied territories in flagrant violation of the ceasefire.

One of the main roadblocks to settling this crisis is that both Azerbaijan and Armenia refuse to budge on a referendum on the future state of Nagorno-Karabakh. The Armenians want any decision on self-determination to be limited to people who live in the region. If Azeris are returned to the area before such a vote, the Armenians would still represent about a 3:1 majority in Nagorno-Karabakh. The Azerbaijani position is that any such referendum must be decided by all 8.5 million residents of the country, which would certainly reject any separation of the territory.

Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov recently conceded that Azerbaijan would grant Karabakh the "highest level of autonomy in exchange for an immediate withdrawal." But the Minsk Group has grown frustrated with the lack of any real progress. In a statement released earlier this month, U.S. co-chairman Matthew Bryza chided both the Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents for their failure to make any concessions. In response to the OSCE report, the Azerbaijani president said he remains "committed to peace, but he cannot accept the current situation."

To up the political ante, Azerbaijan has embarked on a massive military build-up.

"By next year we will have doubled our defence budget up to a total of $1.2 billion (U.S.)," said Maj.-Gen. Najafov. "We will be spending the equivalent of the entire Armenian federal budget just on defence."

While such a build-up would certainly change the regional strategic balance, international observers say this posturing is a long way from resulting in war. "Most of the money being spent is to increase their own salaries, not to add to their tactical capability," said one Baku diplomat.

"They are not out purchasing attack helicopters right now, but if they start to do that we’ll know they’re serious about settling this by forceful means."

That is not to say that the international community takes the Nagorno-Karabakh situation lightly. The same diplomat summarized the crisis as being mistakenly identified as a frozen conflict. "There are tens of thousands of soldiers equipped with tanks manning trenches and occasionally shooting at each other," he said.

"When people are being killed, it is difficult to say the conflict is frozen."

Next week: A new oil pipeline has raised the stakes, and Azerbaijan struggles to westernize. Scott Taylor is a columnist for The Chronicle Herald and editor in chief of the military affairs magazine Esprit de Corps. First of a two-part series by The Chronicle Herald’s military affairs columnist.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Armenian foreign trade deficit grows 21% in H1

Jul 31 2006 6:19PM

YEREVAN. July 31 (Interfax) - Armenia's foreign trade deficit increased 21.2% year-on-year to $513.5 million in the first half of 2006, a source in the National Statistics Service told Interfax.

Foreign trade increased 12.6% year-on-year to $1.389 billion in January-June. Exports dropped 0.6% to $437.7 million, while imports grew 19.9% to $951.2 million.

Foreign trade turnover amounted to $2.79 billion in 2005, up 35.1% from 2004. The trade deficit was $850 million. tj

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Armenia Sent Humanitarian Assistance to Lebanon


he humanitarian assistance rendered by the Armenian government has been delivered to Lebanon via Syria. The 7.5-ton humanitarian cargo includes 52 types of medical products and first-aid means that can alleviate the pains of the Lebanese who suffered from the Israeli bombings. The move by the Armenian government was broadly covered by Lebanese media, reported the RA MFA press office.

! Reproduction in full or in part is prohibited without reference to «PanARMENIAN.Net».

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Saturday, July 29, 2006

World countries' intellectual development rating

28.07.2006 14:00:22

The World Bank traditionally prepares intellectual development rating of world countries ("KAM Knowledge Index") and the rating of the use of scientific achievements in the real economy of separate states ("Knowledge Economy Index").

While drawing up ratings such factors, as a level of erudition of the population of this or that country of the world, the number of Internet users and telephone communications, legislative base, the number of scientists, the quantity and circulation of scientific magazines and so forth are taken into account. Assessments are made on a ten-point scale, where 10 - maximally possible estimation, and 0 - minimum.

The first 10 countries that have obtained the highest assessments in a rating of "KAM Knowledge Index" in 2005, showing general scientific and technical potential of state, were as follows: Sweden (9.25 points), Finland (9.11), Denmark (9.08), Switzerland (8.84), Great Britain (8.8), Iceland (8.76), the Netherlands (8.71), Australia (8.7), Norway (8.65) and the USA (8.58).

From the post-Soviet states of the CIS, Russia was on 41st place (5.97), the Ukraine - on 49th (5.37), Armenia - on 52nd (5.18), Belarus - on 60th (4.93), Georgia - on 66th (4.47), Moldova - on 67th (4.36), Kazakhstan - on 74th (4.01), Kyrgyzstan - on 79th (3.67), Uzbekistan - on 84th (3.31) and Tajikistan - on 101st (2.24).

Totally, the data of 128 states were taken into account in the rating - the state of Sierra Leone with the result of 0.47 points occupied the last place .

The rating of "Knowledge Economy Index" which shows how those or other countries have succeeded in the use of inventions of scientists and engineers in practice, looks a little differently: Sweden (9.54), Denmark (9.23), Finland (9.22), Australia (8.99), Great Britain (8.94), Switzerland and Iceland (8.92 each), the USA (8.80), the Netherlands (8.77) and Norway (8.73).

Among the CIS countries Russia – 7.07 has shown the best results in this rating. Belarus (6.22) has outdistanced the Ukraine (6.04), and Georgia (5.27) was much better than Armenia (5.16.). Kazakhstan has collected 4.74 points, Moldova – 4.60, Uzbekistan – 3.88, Kyrgyzstan – 3.68, Tajikistan – 2.34.

Average indices of the world on these two categories are equal – 5.62 and 5.91.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Friday, July 28, 2006

A tale of love and struggle

July 28, 2006
By Kat Dibbits
The Last Tango, August 17-18 at The Library Theatre in Manchester.

The Last Tango is a rare chance to experience a musical in creation.

This production, by Manchester Library Theatre, is created as work-in-progress by people from Young Music Theatre UK.

The stars of the production have been selected from national auditions and are among the country's most promising young performers, both as actors and musicians.

The tale is one of love and struggle, told at a time and in a culture that is different from that in Manchester today, making it a very interesting and enlightening piece of theatre.

The story follows Ali, a Muslim boy living in Baku, the capital of Azerbaijan, in 1919.

He meets and falls in love with a Christian girl, Nino, the daughter of a rich trader from Armenia.

As the Bolsheviks approach and the Turkish Ottoman Empire retreats, so Ali and Nino are forced to flee their homelands and seek refuge from war-torn Europe.

For a short time they find happiness in the desert, but finally return to the devastated Baku where tragedy overcomes them.

The Last Tango is a fantastically performed musical that shoves youthful talent into the limelight.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Yerevan Accepts ‘Human Factor’ Behind Armenian Plane Crash

Friday 28, July 2006
Armenia Liberty
By Ruzanna Khachatrian

The Armenian government indicated on Friday that it has essentially accepted Russian investigators’ conclusion that an Armenian airliner crashed in southern Russia and killed all 113 people aboard on May 3 due to pilot error.

Artyom Movsisian, head of the government’s Civil Aviation Department, said although the “human factor” apparently played a role in the disaster, Yerevan believes that there are still some key unanswered questions about its causes.

Russia’s Transport Minister Igor Levitin said on Wednesday that the crew of the Armenian Airbus A-320 lost control of the plane as they made a second attempt to land at the Black Sea city of Sochi. This conclusion was endorsed by Tatyana Anodina the Russian head of the Interstate Aviation Committee (ICA) of the Commonwealth of Independent States which also investigated the crash.

According to Movsisian, a 74-page report issued by the ICA does not explain what exactly caused the passenger jet to plunge into the Black Sea in stormy weather. He said the deciphering of its black box flight recorders revealed that the plane belonging to Armenia’s Armavia airline flew in a normal regime until suddenly disappearing from Russian radar screens.

“Whether the pilot had health problems, a traffic controller made him nervous or he lost orientation is not clear,” the official told a news conference. “We are talking about 17-20 seconds before the accident when the pilot’s actions left the plane in an unstable state.”

Armavia and most Armenian aviation specialists have rejected the findings of the Russian-led inquiry, saying that other factors such as conflicting instructions reportedly given to the A-320 crew by Russian traffic controllers and bad weather were instrumental in the disaster. Movsisian confirmed in this regard that the doomed plane’s chief pilot cursed one of the controllers who was subsequently placed under investigation.

Armavia’s owner Mikhail Baghdasarian, a Russian citizen of Armenian descent, believes that the A-320 would have safely landed at Sochi airport had it not received a last-minute order to veer away from the runway and make a second approach. Baghdasarov said on Thursday that he will demand an “independent inquiry” into the crash.

In an apparent response to the outcry, the ICA issued a statement saying that the Russian-led probe took “in strict compliance with international civil aviation standards” and involved aviation experts from Armenia and France. “There were no restrictions on the participation of members of the [ICA’s investigating] commission and their experts, including specialists from Armenia, in the course of the investigation,” the statement said. “Political pressure on the work of the commission was not and could not have been exerted by both Russia and Armenia and France.”

Movsisian similarly dismissed as “inappropriate” allegations that the Russian government pressured the investigators into shifting responsibility for the massive loss of life from Sochi traffic controllers to the dead pilots. “Political decisions are made only in the political field,” he said.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

WFP director warns funds running out for displaced in Azerbaijan

28 Jul 2006 14:53:00 GMT
Source: WFP
Location: Baku

WFP Executive Director, James Morris, today stressed the need to draw attention to the devastating problems faced by the world’s displaced people, including those in Azerbaijan and now in Lebanon.

Noting that while international media attention and relief efforts were now focused on the hundreds of thousands of people displaced in Lebanon, people in Azerbaijan who fled their homes years ago for similar reasons are now largely forgotten.

“These are people who had normal lives one day and nothing the next. Their whole world has suddenly been turned upside down and often they have to start all over again,” said Morris.


Since 1994, WFP has been pivotal in assisting hundreds of thousands of Azerbaijanis displaced by the armed conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

More than 600,000 Azerbaijanis fled the region to other parts of the country. Most of the displaced live in makeshift housing in remote areas of western Azerbaijan, such as Agjabedi and Imishli regions, where employment possibilities are extremely limited.


“Displacement is a terrifying experience for anyone. When it happens, we have to act quickly and give them our full support until they return home or start a new life somewhere else,” added Morris.

But in Azerbaijan, severe funding shortfalls are limiting what WFP can do. Last September, WFP’s assistance to over 130,000 Azerbaijanis displaced by the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict – 70 percent of whom are women and children – was brought to a complete halt.


Shortfalls in January and May forced the humanitarian agency to cut its rations. If there is no more funding for the current two-year operation to provide about 27,000 metric tons of food, WFP will have nothing to distribute after August.

“This is likely to be the last phase of WFP’s operation in Azerbaijan but we need to leave with the assurance that these people are taken care of,” said Morris.


He appealed to the international donor community to continue its support in this critical period of transition.

Under the new operation, valued at US$15.6 million, WFP will provide food aid to the most vulnerable of the displaced population, particularly women and children, in order to maintain their nutritional well being.
It is unbelievable that the Azerbaijani Government with all of its oil wealth is able to spend US$700 million on the military and cannot spare US$15.6 to feed its most vulnerable of the displaced population.":Azerbaijan increased its budget to $300 million dollars on its armed forces in 2005. That is 110% increase from the previous year. In 2006 the military budget of Azerbaijan was raised to $638 million dollars and approximately $224 million is slated to be spent on new weapons and equipment. In May 2006 the military budget was again raised to $660 million dollars [3]. A few months later the budget was again raised to 700 million [4].
A food-for-education component will address declining enrolment rates of primary school children and help stabilize attendance. A food-for-work project will increase employment opportunities for rural households, many of whom are displaced people.

Foreseeable future

A WFP Food Security and Nutrition Assessment – the first of its kind in Azerbaijan – was released last year and warned that nearly 300,000 of the one million Azerbaijanis displaced by the conflict with Armenia would continue to rely on food aid for the foreseeable future.

Only 40 percent of the households covered by the survey have access to agricultural land and in all instances most of the produce grown is for family subsistence.

“Most of WFP’s beneficiaries are women and children and they are extremely food insecure. Any discontinuation of food assistance at this time will seriously affect their ability to rebuild their lives,” said Rahman Chowdhury, WFP’s Representative for Azerbaijan.

Contact us
Rahman Chowdhury
Tel: +99412-4938096
Mob: +99450-2019992

Mia Turner
Tel. +20-2-5281730
Mob. +20-122455769

Brenda Barton
Deputy Director Communications
Tel. +39-06-65132602

Christiane Berthiaume
Tel. +41-22-9178564
Mob. +41-79-2857304

Trevor Rowe
Tel. +1-212-9635196
Mob. +1-646-8241112

Jennifer Parmelee
Tel. +1-202-6530010 ext. 1149
Mob. +1-202-4223383

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Armenia growing by 10% per year


Assigned a Ba2 rating

Armenia has been experiencing real GDP growth rates of around 10% per annum or above since 2001, while inflationary pressure have remained subdued due to the appreciation of the dram (the local currency) and to a cautious monetary and fiscal policy stance.

This led Moody’s Investors Service to assign on Monday a Ba2 foreign and domestic currency ratings to the government of Armenia.

The rating was given in light of the progress made by the country since 1995, the year that marked the end of the seven-year contraction that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union.

"We believe that, over the medium term, there is sufficient scope for further GDP growth such that it will help alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment, both of which remain high in Armenia," said Moody's Vice President Sara Bertin.

"Moreover, the rating is supported by the limited level and favorable maturity structure of Armenia's foreign-currency denominated debt."

She said that with a 23% debt-to GDP ratio at the end of 2005, the country compares well to its peers. Ninety percent of the debt is owed to multilateral lenders on concessional terms representing a long maturity and associated minimal debt-servicing cost.

"We have also taken note of the high level of dollarzation and the

country's lack of financial depth," said Bertin.

Capped by geopolitical factors

Moody's rating is capped by geopolical factors, said the analyst. Though the worst fighting over the territory of Nagorno Karabakh ended in 1993, the conflict remains stalemated, with the leaders of the Armenian-inhabited enclave claiming an independent status that no other state has recognized.

"Moody's assigns a very low probability that the conflict between Azeris and Armenians might resume over the short to medium term," said Bertin. "As long as a credible and sustainable solution has yet to be found, uncertainties remain over the countries of the South Caucasus. Due to their borders with Iran, countries such as Armenia and Azerbidjan are potential strategic partners for the United States, Russia and Iran."

The foreign currency country ceiling for bonds and notes is Baa3, which takes into account Moody's recent change in rating methodology, that incorporates reduced moratorium risk and sometimes distinguishes significantly between the foreign currency country ceilings and government foreign currency issuer rating. The country ceiling for foreign currency bank deposits is Ba3. The local currency guideline, the highest possible rating that could be assigned to obligors and obligations denominated in local currency within the country, and the local currency bank deposit ceiling are at A3 and Baa1 respectively. All ratings carry a stable outlook.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Armenia Gets Another Western Credit Rating

Tuesday 25, July 2006
By Atom Markarian

Moody’s Investors Service, a leading Western risk assessment company, has assigned its first-ever credit rating to Armenia in what senior officials in Yerevan described on Tuesday as another milestone in the country’s transition to the free market.

Moody’s ratings are widely used by investors around the world for analyzing risks associated with lending to foreign countries and companies. The BA2 grade given to Armenia signifies a medium level of creditworthiness.

The chairman of the Armenian Central, Tigran Sarkisian, and Finance Minister Vartan Khachatrian stressed the fact that Moody’s rated Armenia more highly than neighboring Georgia and Turkey and put it on a par with neighboring Azerbaijan. They said the rating will allow the Armenian government to sell bonds in international financial markets and will make it easier for local private firms to attract foreign investments and loans.

Khachatrian made it clear, however, that Yerevan has no intention to issue so-called Euro-bonds in the near future. “The government does not plan to issue Euro-bonds and get into greater debt in the coming years because we think we can achieve our current objectives with internal resources and loans received from international organizations,” he told a joint news conference with Sarkisian.

Much of Armenia’s budget deficits have for years been covered by low-interest loans disbursed by the World Bank and financial grants provided by Western governments. Proceeds from domestic sales of government bonds and treasury bills still pale in comparison with donor funding.

Moody’s rating is slightly higher than the one assigned to Armenia by another famous rating agency, Fitch, in early June. The latter’s “sovereign credit rating” of BB- indicated a relatively high risk of doing business. While praising the country’s “impressive economic performance,” Fitch said Armenian economy remains “vulnerable to shocks” due to its high degree of dollarization, underdeveloped financial services and the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

A statement by the Armenian Central Bank quoted the Moody’s vice-chairman, Sarah Bertin, as citing the same problems hampering Armenia’s economic development. She said at the same time that Moody’s analysts believe that a renewed war in Karabakh is unlikely in the coming years.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

U.S. State Department Communicating Evans’ Recall with Turkey

26.07.2006 15:00 GMT+04:00

/PanARMENIAN.Net/ In yet another troubling development concerning the controversial nomination of Richard Hoagland to serve as U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, Department of Justice records have revealed that the State Department has misled the U.S. Senate regarding its communications with the Turkish government concerning the February 2005 public affirmation of the Armenian Genocide by U.S. Ambassador to Armenia John Marshall Evans, reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

In a letter, dated June 28, 2005 written on behalf of Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to Senator Joseph Biden (D-DE), the Ranking Democrat of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, the State Department denied that the Turkish government had even approached the Administration on this issue. However, official Foreign Agent Registration filings by the Turkish government's registered foreign agent, the Livingston Group, document that, in the days following Ambassador Evans' February 19, 2005 remarks, one of Turkey’s agents communicated on at least four different occasions with State Department officials concerning the envoy's statement and his subsequent retraction.

"With each new revelation, we see more clearly the corrosive impact that the Administration's complicity in Turkey's denial is having on our own core values as Americans," said ANCA Chairman Ken Hachikian. "This latest failed attempt by the State Department to mislead the Senate adds to the many compelling reasons to block the confirmation of a new Ambassador to Armenia."

Consistent with the pattern of unresponsiveness that has come to characterize the Administration's actions on the Hoagland nomination, the only answer the State Department chose to provide in response to Senator Biden's four questions was a misleading one. His other inquiries - including an official request for an explanation of why Ambassador Evans was being replaced prematurely - remain unanswered.

On June 23rd, as part of Ambassador Richard Hoagland's confirmation process to replace Amb. Evans in Yerevan, Senator Biden wrote a letter asking Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice a series of questions including the following: "Has the State Department received any communication - written, electronic, or spoken - from the Turkish Government concerning Ambassador Evans?"

Assistant Secretary of State for Legislative Affairs Jeffrey T. Bergner responded on behalf of Secretary Rice with the following assertion: "Please be assured that allegations that the U.S. is removing Ambassador Evans under pressure from the Government of Turkey are simply untrue. The Government of Turkey has not approached the Administration on this issue, and the United States and Turkey engaged in no diplomatic exchanges related to this matter."

However, Justice Department filings by the Livingston Group reveal that a day after Amb. Evans’ statements on the Armenian Genocide were publicized in an ANCA-San Francisco press release dated February 24, 2005, a Turkish agent communicated with the State Department concerning his statements. On February 28, 2005, one business day after the agent’s first phone call, Ambassador Evans issued his first public retraction - noting that his mention of the Armenian Genocide was made in a private capacity. Later that same day, the Livingston Group reported three additional calls between one of Turkey’s agents and State Department officials including the Deputy Chief of Mission-designate at the U.S. Embassy in Ankara to discuss Ambassador Evans’ retraction. The very next day on March 1, 2005, Ambassador Evans issued a public correction of his retraction - removing entirely any mention of the Armenian Genocide.

! Reproduction in full or in part is prohibited without reference to «PanARMENIAN.Net».

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Armenia air crash blamed on crew

Investigators examining what caused an Armenian airliner to crash with the loss of all 113 people on board have blamed pilot error.

The Armavia A320 Airbus plunged into the Black Sea on 3 May as it tried to land near the Russian city of Sochi.

"The human factor in bad weather played a role," Russian Transport Minister Igor Levitin said.

Investigators said the crew lost control of the plane during the descent and were unable to regain altitude.

Most of the victims were Armenian, but there were also 26 Russian citizens. Among those on board were six children.

'Lost control'

Mr Levitin was speaking in Moscow to announce the results of an enquiry into the crash held by the Russian government and investigators from Armenia and France.

Tatyana Anodina, head of the inter-governmental committee that took part in the enquiry, said that during the descent the captain "did not ensure control of the plane as far as angle and altitude were concerned," according to Russia's Itar-Tass news agency.

Ms Anodina said that the co-pilot also failed to "ensure necessary control".

She added that an alarm system had gone off as the plane was plunging but it was too late to regain altitude.

The investigators said that there had been no engine failure or fuel shortage.

The A320 crashed at about 0215 (2215 GMT) as it made a second attempt to land at Adler airport, just outside Sochi.

It was initially refused permission to land because of poor weather.

The plane reportedly hit the sea at an angle of 60 degrees, six kilometres (four miles) from the coast.

Armavia said the plane was in good condition and that the crew were experienced. The Airbus was manufactured in 1995.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Thursday, July 20, 2006

Armenia Reports Foot-And-Mouth Disease Outbreak


MOSCOW (Dow Jones)--Armenia's agriculture ministry reported Thursday an outbreak of foot-and-mouth disease in two villages in the Shirak region of the country.

The ministry said 17 cattle had died in the village of Panik and three cattle died in the village of Maly Mantash. Local veterinary services have imposed quarantine restrictions on the locations and are disinfecting the animals there.

Foot-and-mouth disease is a highly communicable viral disease of cattle and swine. It also affects sheep, goats, deer, and other cloven-hoofed ruminants.

Many affected animals recover, but the disease leaves them debilitated and it can cause severe reductions in meat and milk production. Because it spreads widely and rapidly and has grave economic and clinical consequences, foot-and-mouth is one of the animal diseases that livestock owners dread most.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

New US envoy to Armenia may fail to win confirmation

Wednesday, July 19, 2006
Turkish Daily News

Under Armenian influence, Los Angeles Times calls for Senate's rejection of ambassador-appointee

A controversy over the firing of the U.S. ambassador to Yerevan, who has classified the Armenian killings of World War I as genocide, may lead to a blockade of the new envoy's appointment in the Senate, analysts said.

U.S. President George W. Bush dismissed John Evans as ambassador to Armenia in May after the latter, in violation of an official American policy on the Armenian killings, accused Ottoman Turks of conducting genocide.

But since then powerful Armenian American groups have been protesting against Evans' firing, urging the Senate to delay the confirmation of Richard Hoagland, who has been nominated by Bush to replace the outgoing ambassador.

In the latest development, under apparent influence of the Armenian groups, the Los Angeles Times called on the Senate to block Hoagland's confirmation.

"They [members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee] should block the nomination altogether until the ambassador-to-be dares to utter the g-word," the newspaper said in an editorial on Sunday. During his confirmation hearing at the committee, Hoagland declined to use the word "genocide" despite pressure by pro-Armenian senators.

Hoagland tried to eschew insistent questions over how he would qualify the Armenian killings during his planned tenure in Yerevan. Recalling that in his latest April 24 statement Bush referred to the Armenian killings as "a tragedy the world must not forget," Hoagland said, "I represent the president."

"Instead of getting stuck in the past, and vocabulary, I would like to move forward," he said.

Under the U.S. constitution, all senior U.S. government officials, including ambassadors, need to be confirmed by the Senate.

But nearly half of the committee's 18 members back the Armenian cause against Turkey, and have sent written questions to the State Department, seeking an official statement on why Evans has been dismissed.

"Hoagland's appointment could hang in the balance," said the Los Angeles Times, and some analysts said he may fail to win the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's final approval.

The fact that this is an election year for Congress has been boosting the influence of ethnic and other lobbies in congressional decisions, the analysts said. One third of the Senate and the whole of the House of Representatives will be renewed in the November elections.

Presently Bush's Republican Party is in control of both houses, but the polls could provide the opposition Democrats with a majority in at least one of the chambers. So even one single seat carries an enormous importance for both parties.

"The Bush administration should have the courage and explain forthrightly -- not just to Armenian Americans but to all Americans who believe in calling evil by its proper name -- why U.S. policy is being dictated by Ankara nationalists," the Los Angeles Times editorial said.

Los Angeles is in California, the United States' largest state and home to up to one million Armenian Americans.

Addressing an Armenian audience in the United States in February 2005, Evans said that the World War I killing of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire amounted to genocide. Warned by his superiors at the State Department, he then issued a "clarification" where he said his remarks reflected his own views. Still pressed by the State Department, Evans later issued a further "correction," admitting that his statement misrepresented the U.S. policy. But Bush fired Evans in May after the latter continued to deviate from the official U.S. policy, according to administration sources.

"Ambassadors serve the president and they are obliged to follow his policy. President Bush's policy as it regards the mass killings of Armenians is precise and he mentions it in his annual statement," said recently Matt Bryza, U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian affairs.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Armenian Genocide: Speak No Evil?

July 16, 2006
LA times

The White House’s cowardly and secretive refusal to call Turkey’s genocide of Armenians by its proper name.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU refer to Turkey's 1915-1923 genocide of Armenians, accurately, as "genocide"? In Turkey, you face a possible three-year jail term, even if it wasn't you using the term but a character in your novel. In the United States, you just lose your job as ambassador to Armenia.

The novelist is Elif Shafak, who learned last week she will go on trial for defamation of the Turkish Republic. The former ambassador is John M. Evans, who was recalled from Yerevan in May after referring to the "Armenian genocide" in a speech before a group of Armenian Americans in February 2005. As one State Department bigwig told an Armenian newspaper: "Ambassadors serve the president, and they are obliged to follow his policy. President Bush's policy as regards the mass killings of Armenians is precise."

Precisely what purpose this policy serves is clear: avoid using the most truthful word in the English language to describe an eight-decade-old atrocity for fear of offending a crucial NATO ally. As Bush's proposed replacement for Evans, Richard Hoagland, put it last month during his confirmation hearing, "Instead of getting stuck in the past and vocabulary, I would like to see what we can do to bring different sides together."

Vocabulary may not be the president's best subject — Bush himself has poked fun at his frequent malapropisms — but he's shown he knows the meaning of the word "genocide." Campaigning for the White House in 2000, Bush told Armenian American groups that "the 20th century was marred by wars of unimaginable brutality, mass murder and genocide" and that "history records that the Armenians were the first people of the last century to have endured these cruelties … If elected president, I would ensure that our nation properly recognizes the tragic suffering of the Armenian people."

It's one of the more blatant of Bush's broken campaign promises. Luckily, the Senate is showing signs of giving this rhetorical appeasement the rebuke it deserves. Half of the senators on the Foreign Relations Committee have demanded that the State Department give an official explanation for Evans' premature recall, and some have hinted that Hoagland's appointment could hang in the balance. They should block the nomination altogether until the ambassador-to-be dares to utter the g-word.

And the Bush administration should have the courage of its lack of conviction and explain forthrightly — not just to Armenian Americans but to all Americans who believe in calling evil by its proper name — why U.S. policy is being dictated by Ankara nationalists.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

EU to downgrade neighbourly relations

17 Jul 2006
Author: Daisy Ayliffe

Ten North African and Middle Eastern countries will see their EU relations downgraded in a shake up of Brussels’ neighbourhood policy.

Algeria, Morocco, Lebanon and Israel will be among those separated from the EU’s European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) because they will never join the EU, according to the Guardian Europe newspaper.

The controversial move will be spearheaded by the German government when Berlin takes over the rotating EU presidency next January.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is set to say Brussels is sending out the wrong signal by grouping continental and non-European countries together.

Under the plans, European countries would become part of a new club to encourage membership hopes.

This would include EU hopefuls Ukraine Georgia, Azerbaijan and Armenia. Moldova and Belarus may be admitted later, the report suggests.

But the German plans have come under attack from European experts who say Brussels is wrong to demote its relations with the 10 non-European members.

“The problems of North Africa are just as important to the EU as those of Eastern Europe,” Charles Grant, director for the Centre for European Reform, told the newspaper.

“It is wrong to tell North Africa that because they are Muslims and live in sandy places, they can’t be integrated.”

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Azerbaijani hopes for peace dwindle with Karabakh disclosure

13 Jul 2006
Relief Web
Source: EurasiaNet
Shahin Abbasov and Khadija Ismailova 7/13/06

The sudden disclosure of details from a draft peace agreement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has sparked a surge in pro-war sentiments in Azerbaijan, analysts say, amid a growing conviction that negotiations with Armenia serve little purpose.

The tone for Azerbaijan’s official reaction was set on June 22 when President Ilham Aliyev, addressing military school graduates, termed the so-called "Prague process" of regular talks about the disputed enclave "ineffective." [For background see the Eurasia insight archive]. The remarks followed a statement from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group, the body charged with mediating negotiations, and a Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty interview with US Minsk Group co-chair Matthew Bryza that identified an Armenian troop withdrawal from the seven occupied Azerbaijani territories and a possible referendum on Karabakh’s status as among the key points of a proposed framework agreement. [See the EurasiaNet Insight archive.] The disclosure was reportedly made in an attempt to prompt public discussion about the plan.

In an early July interview with the Turkish newspaper Jumhirriyet, however, Aliyev went on to stress that no agreements had ever been reached between the two sides. "Armenia and Azerbaijan are very far from agreement. There are some proposals from the Minsk Group co-chairs, but their last statement disclosed only a few of these proposals."

Bryza’s assertion that an agreement now depends on Aliyev and Armenian President Robert Kocharian alone has been interpreted as a sign that the international community itself recognizes that mediation of the talks has reached a stalemate.

"The style of the disclosure by the co-chairs. . . clearly demonstrated that the issue is not resolved at all, and that the co-chairs would be happy to escape responsibility for any future development such as a resumption of war," Ilgar Mammadov, an independent political analyst in Baku, commented. (Ilgar Mammadov serves on the board of the Open Society Institute Assistance Foundation-Azerbaijan. EurasiaNet operates under the auspices of the Open Society Institute in New York.)

Mammadov, however, argued that the perceived failure should come as no surprise. He suggested that the Armenian and Azerbaijani, deep down, aren’t interested in talking to each other. "In November 2005, Mr. Kocharian had to survive a critical constitutional referendum, and Mr. Aliyev had to do the same with his first parliamentary elections. They both needed Western support at the polls, and, therefore, since January 2005 they pretended that progress was being made at the negotiations," said Mammadov. "The co-chairs understood their motives, but still accepted the game in the hope of making use of it. They failed."

The proposed referendum on the status of Nagorno-Karabakh, however, has nonetheless stirred particular concern among both government officials and the general public. Contrary to Armenia’s interpretation that such a referendum would be held in Karabakh alone, Azerbaijanis contend that the vote on the territory’s status must be held nationwide in Azerbaijan proper as well as in the disputed enclave. The OSCE statement itself does not specify the conditions under which any referendum would be held.

"Everybody understands that any referendum conducted only in Nagorno-Karabakh will result in the dismemberment of the country and Azerbaijan cannot accept that," commented Eldar Namazov, president of the For Azerbaijan Public Forum, a Baku-based non-governmental organization, and a former advisor to the late President Heydar Aliyev.

In his interview with Jumhuriyet, Aliyev dismissed as misleading Armenian discussion of the proposed referendum as a quid pro quo for a withdrawal from the seven Azerbaijani territories that border on Nagorno-Karabakh. "Armenia sometimes talks about unreal things. Meanwhile, the reality is that Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity is not a topic for discussions and Nagorno-Karabakh will never get independence," he said.

Talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan, "together with all of Azerbaijan," about Karabakh’s status, can only begin after Azerbaijani residents return to the enclave, Aliyev continued. "The future will show how much time is needed for such negotiations."

Local experts cotend that the co-chairs’ statements on the Karabakh talks have fanned pro-war sentiment in Azerbaijan. "The popular argument in Baku is that if a reality created by force is acceptable, then we should create one favorable to Azerbaijan whenever the opportunity appears," Mammadov said.

According to Aliyev, the only way to avoid war over Karabakh is for Armenia to withdraw from the occupied territories without preconditions. "War must not be ruled out. There is a fragile cease-fire regime, no security measures are provided at the front-line. There are no countries separating us, no peacekeeping troops. Thus, an ‘unpleasant incident’ can appear at any time," he told Jumhirriyet.

Azerbaijan’s opposition, its political position considerably diminished after the November 2005 parliamentary elections, has also expressed readiness to take up arms for Nagorno-Karabakh. Ali Kerimli, leader of the Popular Front Party of Azerbaijan (PFPA), one of the country’s largest opposition parties, has pledged to be at the front line himself if war breaks out. "I will be at the front and will call on my supporters to take part in the liberation war," he said. According to Kerimli, in 1997 Azerbaijan’s opposition parties signed a joint memorandum that they would cooperate with all political parties if war occurs in Nagorno-Karabakh.

In keeping with that approach, the PFPA, in a rare show of solidarity with the government, also supports Aliyev’s refusal to compromise on Karabakh. "The international community will put pressure on the Azerbaijani leadership, demanding that it accept these principles [in the draft framework agreement]. But the Azerbaijani opposition, even though the government always saw us as enemies. . .must support the authorities to stand up to this pressure," Kerimli told the news site on July 10.

Meanwhile, a series of mysterious fires in the occupied territories, which first broke out in early June, has further fueled a sense of building conflict. Armenian officials have denied that the fires were deliberately set, while the Azerbaijani foreign ministry has published photos taken from space that it alleges show entire villages burning.

Some Azerbaijanis, especially in the region of Agdam, close to the frontline, interpret the blazes as a sign that Armenian troops will soon withdraw. "They do it because they want us to find only burned villages when we go back to our homes," commented Alesger Mammadli, a Baku-based lawyer originally from Agdam region.

Editor’s Note: Shain Abbasov is a freelance journalist in Baku. Khadija Ismayilova is an analyst based in Washington, DC.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Dink Verdict on Way to European Court

BIA News Center

BİA (Ankara) - Armenian-Turkish bilingual weekly "Agos" newspaper Editor-in-Chief Hrant Dink’s lawyer Fethiye Cetin has said they will take his suspended 6 months prison sentence to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) following this week’s ratification of the verdict by the Turkish Court of Cassation.

Cetin said they would apply to the ECHR as soon as they received written notification of the Appeals Court’s decision that was taken despite objections of the prosecution, saying the verdict was “at the very least, sad for justice”.

“With regard to the interpretation of article 301, they could have created a precedent that would have been extremely just and in accordance with democracy. This would have been in the interest of Turkey. This opportunity was lost” Cetin said, evaluating the court’s conclusive decision that confirmed Dink’s sentence.

Dink was originally sentenced under article 301 by an Istanbul court to 6 months jail on October 7, 2005 where opinions expressed in his 2004 article series "The Armenian Identity" published in Agos were found to be "insulting and ridiculing Turkishness". Subject to the verdict were Dink's remarks "The poisoned blood that will spill from Turks will be replaced by noble blood of the Armenians who will create Armenia".

The same court later suspended the sentence justifying it with the convict's goodwill but the deferment was on condition that he did not commit a similar offence for a period of five years and if he did, would serve the previous sentence in full alongside any new sentence.

Following an appeal against the decision, the high court prosecutor demanded Dink's acquittal, but the demand which relied on the evaluation that Dink's controversial expressions were "allegorical" rather more than insulting "Turkishness" was turned down. (EO/II/YE)

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Sweet successLife in a chocolate factory

Wed, July 12, 2006

There's a real-life Willy Wonka in our midst. Her name is Stella Zhamkochian and she's at the helm of Gourmet Square, a manufacturer, wholesaler and distributor of chocolates.

We think her middle initial is C for chocolate -- or it should be, as this Markham mother of two's life is one of recreating this sweet treat on all levels.

Her company creates an array of sweets prepared in the most innovative ways. Everything from blueberry-inspired bon-bons to chocolate pizzas to chocolate-drizzled popcorn, Zhamkochian admits her mind is always on the go to find a new winner, a new flavour, a new idea.


Her goods are recognizable in some of Canada's finest hotels and shops, and she prepares for dozens of companies under their own private labels.

She even has a tiny retail shop open to the public when she's not too busy on the wholesale side of life -- "just phone and see if we're open that day," she offers.

A recent visit to her plant in the city's north end sees Zhamkochian -- "I was born in Armenia and came to Canada at the age of 12" -- multi-tasking at an alarming rate, hairnet sternly in place, white smock neatly pressed, sending out rapid-fire directions to her tiny staff and making sure her chocolate operation flows as smoothly as the decadent product she works with.

Her company's considered one of the tiniest players in the confectionary field, yet her volume of work is large, and the plant is a beehive of activity -- add to that the constant, heavenly aroma that permeates the place, and you might as well be in chocolate heaven.

"Here try this!" she says as she pops a small, pink-flecked bon-bon into a visitor's mouth. The explosion of flavour is instant and incredible -- velvety smooth, it's an exquisite bite of the most perfect strawberry cheesecake. "Whadya think of that!," says Zhamkochian triumphantly, as she lobs a second bon-bon -- this one a deep, rich red -- again into the visitor's mouth.

It tastes like the ripest, most intense bing cherry, bathed in a delicate chocolate chaser.

Zhamkochian pores a pile of brilliant-hued treats, in different shapes and flavours, on a spotless table. She points out the blueberry and banana treats, and offers up a raspberry and cherry, and that surreal cheesecake.

Truth be told, Zhamkochian's " bon-bons" are more reminiscent of magnificent jewels -- baubles for the taste buds, so to speak.

"I'm always thinking of a different flavour, or taking a standard flavour to a new level," says Zhamkochian, who, although the middle of summer, has Christmas carols playing in her heard, as she's currently working on a Yuletide line that includes a delicate eggnog-inspired treat, a mincemeat-laced chocolate, as well as a killer orange creme brulee.

" I find inspiration in everything, and at the weirdest hours, including the middle of the night," says Zhamkochian, while keeping a critical eye on a line of hand-finished chocolate pears being prepared for a wedding.

How did she decide on a career in chocolate -- especially as she's a florist by nature? "I worked in retail fashion for many years, and then I quit to have my son," says Zamkochian, mother of Matthew, 12 and Grace 7, who incidentally are named after her Grace- Matthews Collection, a new packaging line. "When Matthew was three, I opened a florist shop and it was quite a success. I started dabbling in chocolate to offer as an extra, and when that proved to be more successful, my husband Mario and I took a gamble and went into the chocolate business full-time seven years ago."

It was a gamble, but one on her terms. She wanted to offer chocolates "with a new twist. Sure, we have your basic chocolate-covered almonds. But we also offer cinnamon-dusted, toffee covered almonds in our chocolate. Our centres, like raspberry, orange, lemon, banana, even coconut-dusted pineapple, can sometimes fool you into thinking your eating a fresh fruit."

Zhamkochian knows she's playing with the big boys -- and holding her own. What started as a one-person operation has expanded into full and part-time staff. And she's looking to expand next year, into larger headquarters.

On any given week, she's using more than 2,500 lbs. of chocolate, sometimes as much as 4,500 lbs.

And what started out as a small venture has skyrocketed to where her wholesale operation has gone national, yet "I still do local orders for everything from weddings to special events. Plus we're kosher under the supervision of KSA, and we offer diebetic-friendly options."

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Disappearing History Doc Raises Questions

By Anne Becker -- Broadcasting & Cable

Did the History Channel pull a documentary because of political pressure? History Channel says no, but that hasn't mooted the question after Ottoman Empire: The War Machine mysteriously vanished from the network's schedule June 22, the day it was to premiere.

The program recounts the six-century reign of the Ottomans, the precursors to the modern republic of Turkey.

When the special did not premiere—even after History had run promos just days before and pre-sold DVDs on its Website—message boards at and Armenian-American blogs erupted with allegations the network caved to pressure from the Turkish government or other groups.

Although none have seen the documentary, the critics suspect it likely covers the death of more than a million Armenians at the hands of Ottoman Turks from 1915 to 1923. Armenians regard the killings as genocide, but the Turkish government disputes the characterization and is notoriously strident in advocating its version of history.

The History Channel says that it pulled the program because it was “incomplete and did not meet our broadcast standards,” and that it received no calls from any political groups regarding the special before its scheduled run date. “The History Channel never bows to political pressure from any interest group,” a network representative says. But critics of the Turkish government aren't convinced.

“This has been a pattern of this government's behavior in countries outside of its own,” says Peter Balakian, Chair in the Humanities at Colgate University and author of The Burning Tigris: The Armenian Genocide and America's Response.

Balakian says the Turkish government's efforts to stop media coverage of the Armenian issue dates back to 1935, when it pressured the U.S. State Department to shut down a Hollywood movie about the killings. “They have a history of working at intimidation, and I would hate to think this happened in this case,” he says.

Doris V. Cross, a vice president at Media Watch Armenia, a clearinghouse for historical and scholarly documentation on the killings, says she had not heard of any pressure from the Armenian side, but notes that complaints from Turkish officials to what they consider unfavorable media coverage are “not uncommon.”

“The title—Ottoman Empire: The War Machine—that could've been enough” to prompt protests, Cross says. “The official government policy is that there was no Armenian genocide. This could be one of those cases where it stays on the shelf.”

The situation echoes the controversy last April over The Armenian Genocide, a PBS documentary about the killings. In that instance, Armenian groups and members of Congress protested a planned follow-up program that featured panelists who deny the genocide occurred. Several PBS stations declined to air it.

Producers from Digital Ranch, the production company behind Ottoman Empire, did not return repeated calls for comment.

For their part, representatives of the Turkish-American community deny that they seek to censor content about the Armenian killings.

“The Turkish-American community doesn't believe in viewpoint suppression at all—quite the opposite, it wants multiple viewpoints represented,” says David Saltzman, a Washington-based attorney who represents the Turkish Embassy as well as the Assembly of Turkish-American Associations. “To suppress viewpoints, especially under pressure from politicians and lobby groups, is incorrect and not the American way.”

The History Channel says it has rescheduled the program for an unspecified date in the fall.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Armenians Disappointed with Situation

July 11, 2006
Angus Reid

- Many residents of Armenia are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs, according to a poll by Baltic Surveys released by the International Republican Institute. 55 per cent of respondents believe things in the country are headed in the wrong direction.

The Republic of Armenia declared it independence at the end of World War I, but was incorporated into the Soviet Union in the 1920s. Armenia regained its sovereignty in 1991 after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Armenian president Robert Kocharyan was re-elected to a new four-year term in March 2003 in a ballot marred by fraud allegations. In November, voters overwhelmingly approved a series of constitutional amendments, which limit presidential powers.

Earlier this month, Kocharian expressed satisfaction with the changes, saying, "They open new prospects for the comprehensive development of our country and people, ensure more balance activities of various branches of government, and boost respect for human rights."

In March, Armenia’s unemployment level dropped to 7.6 per cent.

Polling Data

Do you think things in Armenia are going in the...

Right direction

Wrong direction

Not sure / No answer

Source: Baltic Surveys / International Republican Institute
Methodology: Face-to-face interviews with 1,200 Armenian adults, conducted from Apr. 30 to May 8, 2006. Margin of error is 3 per cent.

Complete Poll (PDF)

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

European Parliament's committee to vote on Turkey report

July 11, 2006
Turkish Daily News

The European Parliament's Committee on Foreign Affairs is scheduled to vote today on a draft progress report on Turkey drawn up by Dutch Rapporteur Camiel Eurlings -- a report the content of which is described by diplomatic sources in Brussels as “the heaviest report in the history of the European Parliament.”

The draft asks Turkey to accelerate its reform process, particularly in the areas of freedom of speech, religious and minority rights, civil-military relations, women's rights, unions, cultural rights and independence of the judiciary as well as urging proper implementation of those reforms, the Anatolia news agency reported.

Welcoming the Ninth Harmonization Package launched by the government, the report is also expected to express concern over a new antiterrorism bill that has been widely criticized by the media, opposition parties and rights organizations in Turkey as they say it is a huge step backwards for Turkey.

The report calls for equality for all before the judiciary without discrimination for government officials or military and security officials.

As regards freedom of expression, arguing that certain articles of the Turkish Penal Code (TCK) are available for “arbitrary interpretation,” the report highlights need for change of those articles, particularly articles 216, 277, 288, 301, 305 and 318.

While condemning the violence launched by outlawed Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK), the report also expresses the expectation that the government will seek a democratic solution to the Kurdish issue.

“For having a wider representation at the Turkish Parliament, including pro-Kurdish parties,” the 10 percent threshold in the electoral system should be decreased, the report says.

Urging the opening of Turkey's ports and airports to traffic from Greek Cyprus, the report also asks Ankara to take one-sided steps for starting diplomatic and good neighborhood relations with Armenia -- first of all by opening its border with Armenia.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.


YEREVAN, July 11. /ARKA/. Representatives of the principal political groups of the European Parliament are for the issue of the Armenian Genocide to be put on the agenda of negotiations with Turkey for its admission to the EU.

The parliamentarians are for the admission of the Armenian Genocide in Turkey and the lifting of Armenia's blockade to be negotiated with Brussels as a condition for Turkey's admission to the European Union.

Finland, which took over the EU chairmanship from July 1, 2006, threatened to stop negotiations with Turkey.

Finnish Premier Matti Vanhanen stated that the dialogue can be stopped at any time if Ankara fails to execute its commitments to the European Union. Turkey still refuses to recognize the sovereignty of Cyprus, which was admitted to the EU in May 2004, and to receive planes and ships of that country.

On July 12, the Foreign Affairs Committee, European Parliament, is to consider Turkey's progress on its way to the EU.

The European Parliament also demands the resolution of the Kurdish problem. Turkey must ensure the right to free expression to the national minorities.

The Foreign Ministers of 25 EU member-countries "gave a go-ahead" to Turkey's admission to the EU in October 2005 with a reservation that the process would not be a mechanical one and might be stopped.

The European Parliament demands that Turkey admit the Armenian Genocide as a condition for its admission to the EU. P.T.

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.

Sona Zeitlian examines the centuries-old relationship between Armenians and their adopted Egyptian homeland

July 2006
Egypt Today
By David Lee Wilson

UNTIL THE FALL of the Soviet Union and the establishment of the modern Republic of Armenia, the Armenian people had been without a homeland for centuries. Between war, migration, deportation and genocidal massacres, the majority of the native Armenian population was forced to find settlement away from its homeland.

Egypt took the lead among nations that gave Armenians in exile a home. Here, Armenians were allowed to retain their cultural identity, given the opportunity to obtain citizenship and encouraged to contribute to every aspect of Egyptian society, including its political and military establishments.

The relationship between the Armenian diaspora and what became their adopted home has been put into focus with the publication of Armenians in Egypt: Contribution of Armenians to Medieval and Modern Egypt by renowned Armenian-Egyptian author Sona Zeitlian.

Zeitlian, now in her 70s, was born, raised and educated in Egypt. A teacher in Cairo for many years, she writes passionately about her ancestors’ contribution to her birth country. Filled with photographs and illustrations — and wonderfully annotated — Armenians in Egypt explores the achievements and accomplishments of artisans, politicos and pashas of Armenian descent who helped weave the complex tapestry that is modern Egypt.

While Zeitlian was in Cairo for a series of lectures connected to the English edition of the book, et sat with her for an exclusive interview. Excerpts:

Egypt Today: By all accounts you have had a very successful return to Egypt; how long has it been?

Sona Zeitlian: It was twenty years ago that I was last here. Unfortunately, that trip was cut short because my home at the time was in Lebanon and it was a time of civil war. I got the news that my husband had been kidnapped [he was later killed by his captors and his corpse found by the side of a Beirut street; no group has ever claimed responsibility for the slaying] and it was a whole new set of realities that had confronted me. Thankfully, my feelings then were completely different from those I’m experiencing. [laughs] I’m here to celebrate the Armenian-Egyptian experience, which means so much to me.

What’s the biggest change in Egypt you’ve noticed since returning?

I made it a point to visit both Islamic Cairo and Coptic Cairo to get both perspectives of the city, and so much has changed. There’s demographics, obviously: There are so many people and so much traffic, but those are only the things that you see immediately. On the other hand, there is much progress on the economic and political fronts. The Middle East is a turbulent place, and so what attacks one country will automatically attack the others. The Palestinian problem has been with us for so long and has affected our destiny in the Arab world, and we all feel the repercussions of that everywhere that we go.

The turbulence continues, especially with the situation in Iraq. The problems really haven’t changed. They are problems that have been with us for decades now and I feel strongly the urge to find justice. For me it is more urgent than the search for democracy. Of course democracy is essential, but the feeling from the common people is that they have to find justice finally.

Unless justice is granted to the people, I don’t think that there will be good grounds to build democracy.

Most Armenians have never been to their ancestral homeland, but they speak with an incredible passion on the subject. To what would you credit that?

There are two very important things about Armenian life that make us so passionate and make us seek the justice that has been denied us. First there’s the genocide. It was covered up; the powerful nations of the time, for their own political interests, accommodated it. They would say, “It has to be proven” and so on. Of course there are many people who have learned the truth about the genocide, but political interests prevail.

Statesmen have to take relations between countries and strategic situations into account — and that is understandable — but there is still an urge in us Armenians to find justice. Ninety years have passed, but we have two things that have sustained us, and the first is our church. Our church is not an international church. It is a church only for Armenians, a national church. The destiny of the church has been tied to that of the people. I mean, the Armenian church developed in the fifth century. We have had this national church, and even when we had no kings or nobility, it took care of the people.

The second thing we have going for us is our high regard for our culture. We had the alphabet very early on in the fifth century and this year we celebrate the 1,600th anniversary of the Armenian alphabet. The culture was nourished by intellectuals all of those years in the schools. Those schools, both national and private, fostered this. For instance, in Egypt, we had 30 schools up until the 1960s, when the community started to disperse. We had 30 private and public — when I say public I mean community schools — so there was great emphasis on education.

These important factors stressed our ethnic identity and made us passionate about what each of us can contribute to the Armenian people.

The ultimate support of any individual is the family, and they know that no matter what, they have a safe haven and open arms to receive them. So family has also sustained us.

Ultimately, my book is about setting the record straight in two ways: First, it’s about everything the Armenians have contributed to Egypt. Second, it’s about everything Egypt has done for the Armenian immigrants who came here with nothing, but were given the opportunity to make a life for themselves.

The implementation of justice, it seems to me, is very much dependent on who your publicist is. How is it that the world believes the genocides carried out against the Jews of Europe and the aboriginal people of the Americas, yet the Armenian experience flies below the radar — even though estimates claim anywhere from 650,000 to 1.5 million Armenians were massacred between 1915 and 1918?

You know, that’s a very important question. The first act of the genocide was to wipe out the intellectuals. They were the head to chop off, so as to make the body unable to defend itself and ultimately to disappear. It was very well planned from their perspective and we lost the cream of the Armenian society. Two generations passed before we were able to regain a foothold.

Even now, we are not very good at public relations. Maybe it is the residual effect of the genocide: the fear of what might happen if you raise your head and raise your voice. Maybe. But I think that the time has come that we should think about other strategies. For example, in Sohag in Upper Egypt, there is an old Armenian monastery called the White Monastery. At one time it belonged to the Armenians, and there are inscriptions that mark the dates when the Armenians were there and what they had achieved. Later on, as the Islamic population increased, there was a move of Armenians toward the Delta, Cairo and so on, and when there were no more Armenians in Sohag, the monastery passed to the Copts.

It is now an important place of pilgrimage for the Copts. A few years ago, under the previous ambassador, the previous patriarch, the Copts said, “We are going to whitewash the walls inside, and if you like, we can give you permission to remove these inscriptions and take them to your own churches or do whatever you want.”

There was a lot of discussion about this, and ultimately the patriarch of the Armenian Church decided that it was better to keep our heads down. It is the same state of mind that I was referring to earlier. Why not say, “Thank you for returning this to us!” and take advantage of the situation?

We didn’t do that and we should have.

What was it that enabled the Armenians to weave themselves into Egyptian culture?

The very early Armenians that came here came to study at the great institutions, the Alexandria Library and so forth. This was in the third and fourth centuries, and they came to study at the Hellenic institutions that had a worldwide reputation. Other Armenians came for trade opportunities, because there had been long-established Armenian trade networks on the caravan routes in Anatolia and Mesopotamia. They also supplied and trained troops — you would call them mercenaries — to defend the caravan routes.

There was a third category of Armenians, and those were slaves. When the amir freed his slaves, those slaves, according to their abilities, often became generals. The person who led the Fatimid army and who was the initiator of building a new capital was of Armenian descent. He was a former slave, a Muslim and also the founder of Cairo. Surprisingly enough, Al-Azhar University — though it was not a university at the time, but still a place of higher education — from that time until today they still remember his name, Gohar. He was called, “Gohar the Sicilian,” because he was imported as a slave to Tunisia from Sicily. That was another category, former slaves who had attained important positions in the Army: in the administrations and especially as calligraphers or secretaries. If you were a good calligrapher, you had a position in the administration.

The first Armenian who was instrumental in founding the Holy Armenian See, the future patriarchate, was also a former slave who was also the governor of Syria. When the Fatimid dynasty was in poor shape, this former slave was already known as a very courageous man, so they asked him to become vizier in Cairo. He made one condition for this; he said, “I will bring my Armenian army with me.” Because of their dire straights they replied, “Whatever you want, just bring peace to this country.” It is estimated that there were 10,000 Armenian soldiers that accompanied him. This was Badr al-Gamali.

During his time, he never forgot that he was an Armenian. He was a Muslim, of course, and he was also not only a vizier, or what we would call a prime minister today; he was also the leader of the army and the chief of the propaganda apparatus. He monopolized all three posts, so he was really a dictator if we used the modern term. He was very good to Armenians, and the time that he was vizier here corresponds to the time of the fall of the Armenian kingdom in our native land.

Because of the benevolent attitude towards Armenians in Egypt, many Armenians came here, and he gave them free housing and encouraged the establishment of the Holy See.

The acceptance of Armenians in Egypt wasn’t the norm, was it?

There was a huge difference in Egypt. Armenians here gave a lot of money and material help in 1896 and 1915 to the Armenian casualties and the refugee camps in Syria and so many other places. The Egyptian government accepted the transfer of so much money out of Egypt for humanitarian reasons. They could have objected and said that no Egyptian money could leave the country, but they allowed it. So, we have much to be grateful for to this country.

One hears of sporadic tensions between Copts and Muslims in Egypt. Is there a similar tension between Armenians and Muslims?

I wouldn’t say that. You know, when the revolution took place, one of the important slogans was “Egypt for Egyptians.” Now, Armenians were by this time Egyptian and there was a difference between Armenians and Greeks or Italians or other foreign minorities in the sense that there had been special dispensations for foreigners. It was an Ottoman arrangement that they made to encourage the Europeans to invest in Egypt. Europeans were free from the regulations and the laws of the country. They only followed the laws of their own country, and if anything happened — from a misdemeanor to manslaughter — they were judged only in their consulate courts and not by the government of Egypt.

Armenians did not have this status since they had no independent country of their own. In fact, there was only an Armenian embassy in Cairo after the fall of the Soviet Union, when the Armenian Republic was established just 15 years ago.

I will give you an example. I taught at Kalousdian School in Boulaq. There was a very rich Armenian who had a monopoly on hammams, or public baths. He was also very prominent in the maritime trade on the Nile. He was a very wealthy man, but he had no children, so he gave all of his money to that school, and it bears his name because of that. There was a rule that even though you leave your money to a specific school, the money goes to the Ministry of Education, and it is the ministry that determines if they will give the money to the school or not. It depends on their agenda.

Our patriarch wrote the prime minister at the time and said, “Do you want this school to be closed, where so many Armenian children are being educated, most of them free of charge? Do you want us to lose this school? If you care for the Armenians, you must do your utmost for us to retain this school.”

Mubarak Pasha Baya, a very prominent Armenian who was the prime minister, found the loopholes to approach the problem through. The result was that he was able to keep the school for the Armenians and in court it was registered in the name of the community.

Last year they celebrated their 150th anniversary. So, you see, this is an example that without having a government or an embassy to support you, and only thanks to that high official, the rights of the Armenian people were taken care of.

So is Egypt still an attractive home for Armenians?

The political situation has changed. You know what struck the Armenian community in Egypt hard was Nasser’s nationalization policy. My father was a tobacco distributor in Old Cairo and one day when he went to his place of work, it was closed with red tape and he was told, “Now this belongs to the government.”

They said that maybe if he waited 15 or 20 years, that gradually the government would return what it took — and of course that never happened. The Armenian community was really a wealthy community, many involved in both light and heavy industry, and that blow was very hard. In just one night, you went back to your work and it was no longer yours.

At the same time there was a welcoming cry from countries like Australia and Canada. They opened wide their doors and said, “If you want to leave, we are ready to welcome you.” If those doors had not opened as wide or they were not so welcoming, not so many Armenians would have left — I am sure.

Of course much has changed now from the policies of that time, but it’s a shame: One of our foremost filmmakers, Atom Egoyan, was born in Egypt and his father was a classmate of mine. He was born here, and when the revolution came he was five years old and his family immigrated to Canada. Now he is a famous film director and producer, and if he had stayed here that talent would have gone to Egypt.

Have you been able to get a feel for the current Armenian-Egyptian experience? And what has been the general reaction to the book in Egypt thus far?

There were many Armenians who came to me and told me that they did not know so much about their culture and history in Egypt — even though they have lived here all of their lives. What impressed them most was that there was an uninterrupted Armenian presence here.

Today, we have a very good ambassador to Egypt, and he has taken good care of the community. There was an initial printing of the book that appeared in 2004 and at the time he was newly appointed as ambassador to Egypt, and one of the friends of my daughter who knew him in Armenia gave him the book. She thought that it would give him an idea of the history of Armenians in Egypt.

Apparently, he liked the book, and when we started working on the expanded English edition, he asked to write the forward and he wanted to present the book in Cairo where the story began. From what I saw at the launch party yesterday, it was well received by the Egyptian dignitaries and the other ambassadors. If you present them facts and not just speeches, and you accept in all humility what this country has done for the Armenian community, it will always be well received. et

Note: Above are excerpts from the article. The full article appears here. Clarifications and comments by me are contained in {}. Deletions are marked by [...]. The bold emphasis is mine.