Friday, November 30, 2007

Armenia 'Ba2' rating balances low debt burden with modest development - Moody's


MUMBAI (Thomson Financial) - Moody's Investors Service said its stable outlook and 'Ba2' local and foreign currency debt rating on Armenia balances the low debt burden of the government and economy against the country's weak institutional capacity and modest level of economic development.

The ratings agency said Armenia's 'Baa3' foreign currency country ceiling rating for bonds are based on Moody's (nyse: MCO - news - people ) assessment of a low risk of payments moratorium in the event of a government bond default.

While Armenia's debt burden compares well with similarly rated countries, as a relatively poor nation in the process of transitioning to a market-based economy, its institutions are still relatively undeveloped, Moody's said.

Armenia's general government debt burden -- at about 17 pct of GDP and falling -- compares favourably with other 'Ba2'-rated countries. The terms of its debt are also very comfortable relative to its peers, Moody's said.

The country's double-digit growth continues, at one of the fastest rates registered in the world, reflecting the economy's small size, and the government's fiscal and monetary policies are prudent, Moody's said.

However, links between Armenia's political class and the business elite foster entrenched vested interests, while the level of financial intermediation remains low. There are also geopolitical uncertainties linked to the conflict in the Nagorno-Karabach region, Moody's 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.


Turkey, Armenia matches to go ahead despite divisions

29 Nov. 2007
By Darren Ennis
This is a positive step falling in line with opening of borders and establishing diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey. Let the best team win.
BRUSSELS, Nov 29 (Reuters) - The World Cup qualifying games due to take place between Turkey and Armenia are expected to go ahead despite bitter political divisions between the two countries, UEFA president Michel Platini said on Thursday.

Concerns were expressed about the two fixtures after both countries -- at odds with each other over Turkey's failure to accept that 1.5 million Armenians suffered genocide at the hands of Ottoman Turks -- were drawn in the same qualifying group for the 2010 World Cup.

"We met with the associations from Armenia and Turkey and there weren't any problems, they said the games would be played the best possible way," Platini told reporters on a visit to Brussels.

Two Euro 2008 qualifiers between Armenia and Azerbaijan were cancelled in June due to a long-running dispute over land. Turkey shut its border with Armenia in 1993 to protest against Armenia's occupation of territory inside Azerbaijan.

"We had a problem last year between Armenia and Azerbaijan because it was worse than non-existing relationships, there was a problem of extreme tensions and so the executive committee took the decision of cancelling the two games," Platini said.
Up to 1.5 million Armenians died in massacres and mass expulsions in 1915. Armenia and the Armenian diaspora abroad -- backed by many Western historians -- say it was genocide and want foreign states to recognise it as such.

Turkey accepts there were widespread killings, but says they did not amount to genocide. A law in Turkey makes calling the deaths a genocide a criminal offence.
"But as far as Turkey and Armenia are concerned, there hasn't been any indication of a potential problem and the cancellation of matches," Platini said.

Both countries were drawn in Group 5 alongside Spain, Belgium, Bosnia and Estonia. (Editing by Miles Evans)

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.

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Thursday, November 29, 2007

Azeri Defence Spending Under Fire

Institute for War and Peace Reporting, UK
By Rashid Suleimanov in Baku (CRS No. 421 29-Nov-07)

Big increase in defence expenditure allegedly failed to lift soldiers out of poverty.

For the past nine years, Azerbaijan army captain Elchin Safarov has served with the Baku military garrison. He has long dreamed of having a house of his own, but his salary is only enough to rent a flat in a small village north of Baku for himself, his wife and children.

Safarov gets some state family benefits on top of his army pay, as sole breadwinner, he has been unable to get a mortgage to buy a house. When Azerbaijan celebrates Armed Forces Day on July 26 every year, the whole family waits for news that army salaries have gone up.

Azerbaijan’s state budget for 2007, currently under discussion in parliament, envisages defence spending of 1.3 billion US dollars, an increase of 30 per cent on last year. President Ilham Aliev has said he wants to see his country’s defence budget grow to exceed the entire government budget of neighbouring Armenia, with which relations have been coldly hostile since the Karabakh war of the early Nineties.

Parliamentary deputy Siyavush Novruzov, who sits on the assembly’s defence and security commission, told IWPR that some of the new money would go to support the army, some for the security forces, and the rest on defence research.

Novruzov said living conditions for army personnel were improving thanks to greater spending. “The increase in military funding has had an effect on both the food and the clothing of soldiers,” he said.

Yashar Jafarli, who chairs the Reserve and Retired Officers organisation, told IWPR that salaries doubled in the military last year.

However, there is concern that the influx of money has not had a noticeable effect on the welfare of officers and the other ranks, because rising prices have cancelled out increased pay levels.

Captain Safarov confirmed that there was no shortage of food or uniforms in his unit, and said the canteen fed the men better than it did five years ago. But he said officers were still inadequately provided for.

Eighty to ninety per cent of officers have no homes of their own and are obliged to live in rented premises.

Officers receive a benefit payment of 22.60 manats (just over 26 dollars) a month on top of their salaries, but the sum is only enough to buy a sack of flour. This benefit has remained unchanged since 1992. The government is promising to raise the sum to 80 manats in the 2008 budget, and to review it every year to keep pace with inflation.

Jafarli said that most new defence spending over the last two years had gone on weaponry and equipment, with large sums also spent on infrastructure.

“In recent years, many barracks and headquarters have been built and military colleges and medical facilities have been repaired,” said Jafarli. “A new building at the [military] central hospital has come into use. There’s no lack of uniforms for the military, though we still have unresolved problems with full-dress uniforms.”

In 2006, Azerbaijan bought five MiG-29 fighters from Ukraine. In its annual report to the United Nations Weapons Register, Kiev says it also sold around 60 military vehicles and 22,000 small arms to Azerbaijan last year. Azerbaijan is currently negotiating with Pakistan for the purchase of 24 Chinese-made JF-17 Thunder combat planes, worth between 16 and 18 million dollars each.

Some experts say that the defence money is being misspent, and complain that the budget is not open to scrutiny.

Alekper Mamedov, who heads Azerbaijan’s Centre for Democratic Civil Control of the Armed Forces, said fundamental problems in the army are not being resolved, and increases in salaries and benefit payments have little effect when the cost of living is going up so fast.

He said funds that should have gone on the wages of junior officers had been spent on repairing buildings.

“The changes in the army are cosmetic in nature.” said Mamedov. “Compared with previous years, military units in rear positions are somewhat better provided with food and clothing, but those that are stationed in outlying areas are still in lamentable condition.”

Mamedov said cases of food poisoning were frequent. “The public is well aware that the army receives poor-quality food,” he said. “And this is a result of defence spending not being transparent.”

The Reserve and Retired Officers group has produced which says that officers had found it impossible to get the financial compensation they were entitled to claim in lieu of food and leave allowances, while those serving on the front line close to Karabakh were not getting the extra pay they are due on time.

Major Ilgar Verdiev of the defence ministry’s press service said the defence budget could not be scrutinised in detail because Azerbaijan was still “at war” with Armenia.

He insisted there were no problems with nutritional and clothing supplies, and the food supply system was getting better every year.

Major Verdiev said the government was doing its best to solve outstanding problems. Two apartment blocks containing a total of 165 flats in Baku would soon be handed over to military families and blocks of flats were also being built in the towns of Shemkir, Ganja and Geitep, he said.

Captain Safarov does not expect to receive a flat in the near future. The army is still full of officers who cannot afford to own property, he said. In January, he will make another attempt to get a mortgage from the bank.

Rashid Suleimanov is head of Manoeuvre, a military think-tank, and a correspondent with the APA news agency in Baku.

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 to Close Nuclear Plant

29 Nov. 2007

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Armenia approved a plan Thursday to shut down its lone nuclear power plant, following years of pressure from foreign nations concerned about its Soviet-era design and safety.

The government gave no date for closing the Medzamor reactor, located about 20 miles west of the capital, Yerevan. The 27-year-old plant, which supplies nearly half the country's electricity, halted operations after a 1988 earthquake but was restarted during an energy shortage in 1995.

Since then, Armenia has been under constant pressure to close the plant due to safety concerns and possible design flaws. The European Union has pledged $295 million in loans and other assistance to help close it.

The shutdown could cost up to $280 million, Energy Minister Armen Movsisian said.

Armenian officials have long refused to shut it without another source of electricity.

Last week, the United States said it would fund a preliminary feasibility study on building a new nuclear plant.

President Robert Kocharian has said that building a new, 1,000-megawatt plant — double that of Medzamor — would cost more than $3 billion.

In 2004, Russia's state-run electricity grid operator, RAO Unified Energy Systems, assumed financial control of Medzamor in a deal struck to relieve Armenia's massive debts to Russian energy suppliers. UES and Armenia now share management of the plant.

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, November 27, 2007

A Story of Survival Armenians remember those slain by Turks

Tuesday, November 27, 2007
The Post-Standard -, NY
By Renée K. Gadoua Staff writer

Richard Roomian's father left his family in Armenia - then a part of the Ottoman Turkish Empire - in 1915 to come to America and earn a living as a tailor.

He settled in Syracuse and soon sent money for his family to flee oppression from the Turks and join him. His parents never made it.

His mother - Richard Roomian's grandmother - was killed before she could board a boat. His father - Roomian's grandfather - died on a forced march out of Armenia that left an estimated 150,000 people dead.

That's the story of every Armenian. They have immediate relatives that were killed," said Roomian, a leader in Central New York's Armenian community.

A recent failed congressional resolution would have labeled as genocide the deaths of Roomian's grandparents and hundreds of thousands of other Armenians by Turks beginning in 1915.

Roomian says the resolution would have been a cathartic step toward forgiveness, while opponents say such a resolution was not an appropriate congressional action. Others pointed out a resolution could harm U.S. relations with Turkey.

Many scholars view the deaths of 1.5 million Armenians during the World War I era as the first genocide of the 20th century. Turkey's leaders say the deaths occurred during inter-ethnic conflict.

Roomian says it's important that people understand the Armenians' story of survival. He was born and grew up in Syracuse, home to an Armenian community of about 350 families. He now lives in Rochester and serves as chair of the

parish council of St. Paul's Armenian Apostolic Church, 310 N. Geddes St., Syracuse.

The church serves as a cultural center for many Central New York Armenian-Americans.

St. Paul's is one of 10 Armenian Apostolic churches in New York. Others operate in Binghamton, Rochester and Niagara Falls. A second Armenian church in Syracuse, St. John's, 372 W. Matson Ave., closed a few years ago.

About 1.3 million Christian Armenians worship in about 110 churches in the United States, said Michael O'Hurley-Pitts, spokesman for the Armenian Church headquarters in New York.

The church, a branch of the Oriental Orthodox Christian Church, was founded at the foot of Mount Ararat in ancient Armenia, which is now in Turkey. Mount Ararat is believed to be where Noah's ark came to rest after the biblical flood.

Christianity became the national religion of Armenia in 301 A.D., a fact that's still significant, O'Hurley-Pitts said.

"Armenians' Christian identity is tied up in their national identity," he said.

O'Hurley-Pitts is disappointed the resolution was abandoned.

"If we favor the passage of the resolution, it is because we cannot pick and choose which crimes against humanity are worth recognizing and which are not," he said.

At the very least, he said, the proposed resolution raised interest in Armenian history.

"The Armenian people don't need an act of Congress to tell them there are gaping holes in their family trees," he said.

Armenians began arriving in Syracuse about 1894, according to "Like One Family: The Armenians of Syracuse," a 2000 book by Arpenia S. Mesrobian, former director of Syracuse University Press.

"Even while the recently arrived immigrants sought to establish themselves in a new land, their minds and hearts remained with the families and compatriots they had left behind in a homeland which most of them would never see again," she wrote in the preface.

That's how Nevart Apikian, of Syracuse, remembers her youth. Her father came from Armenia to America about 1910.

She was a charter member of the now-defunct St. John's Armenian Church and remembers attending picnics with Syracuse's Armenians.

"Everybody would talk, and people gave $25 or $50 to $100 for people who needed it in Armenian organizations," she said.

She said people were passionate about their homeland, but rarely talked openly about what they experienced.

"You didn't ask questions," she said. "You got little snippets."

Renee K. Gadoua can be reached at or 470-2203.

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 Defense Minister Hints at War

27 Nov. 2007

ASTANA, Kazakhstan (AP) — The long-standing dispute over the Armenian-controlled territory of Nagorno-Karabakh could spark a new war if it remains unresolved, Azerbaijan's defense minister said Tuesday.

"As long as Azerbaijani territory is occupied by Armenia, the chance of war is close to 100 percent," Safar Abiyev said during a meeting in Kazakhstan of defense chiefs from ex-Soviet republics.

His startlingly worded remark was a reminder that Azerbaijan has not ruled out use of force in recapturing Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding areas.

Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding territory that is also part of Azerbaijan have been controlled by Armenian and ethnic Armenian forces since a shaky 1994 cease-fire ended one of the bloodiest conflicts that followed the collapse of the Soviet Union. The six-year war killed 30,000 people and drove more than 1 million from their homes, including many of the region's ethnic Azeris.

Azerbaijan and Armenia remain locked in a dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh despite more than a decade of coaxing from international mediators led by the United States, Russia and France to resolve the region's status.

Gunfire breaks out regularly along the border between Azerbaijan and Armenia and in the regions near Nagorno-Karabakh.

Armenian Defense Minister Mikhail Arutyunian said he sees no alternative to a peaceful settlement, the RIA-Novosti news agency reported.

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 patriarch visits Chicago faithful

27 Nov. 2007
Pueblo Chieftain, CO
In his Holiness Kareking II's words "In spite of all the crimes committed against Armenia, our people have never been filled with hate toward the Turkish people".

I concur with that statement. It is Turkey that portrays Armenians as hating Turks, because it is convenient for them to hate Armenians. Hate is emotion and does not speak to reason. Armenians are seeking understanding from Turkey in order to protect themselves from future repeats of the genocide. It is a shame that many journalists pick up from Turkey's PR propaganda that Armenians hate the Turks.
CHICAGO - Robed in gold and black vestments with a jeweled cross on his forehead, His Holiness Karekin II, patriarch of the worldwide Armenian Apostolic Church, anointed the entrance of a modest, brick church in Chicago on Wednesday and urged his people to remain on the path toward faith.

Outside St. Gregory the Illuminator Church, old and new generations of Armenians sang hymns of their native country nation as Karekin climbed onto a step ladder and blessed the new, bronze doors. As the crowd watched, he dipped his thumb in holy oil and traced a cross above the entry. Inside the building, Karekin told more than 200 worshipers that the anointing of the doors was a symbolic gesture to remind Armenians to continue living their Christian faith.

‘‘My exhortation to you all . . . is to walk always in the ways that are leading you to the church,’’ Karekin said. ‘‘With God, we have stayed together . . . Faith in God has helped us survive.’’

As Catholicos of all Armenians, Karekin is the spiritual leader of the world’s 7 million Armenian Orthodox Christians, including 1 million in the United States and about 10,000 in the Chicago area. This pontifical trip is Karekin’s second visit to the U.S. and his first to Chicago.

‘‘I’m overwhelmed by this visit by His Holiness,’’ said Raelene Ohanesian, 33, who wept after the patriarch blessed her. ‘‘He represents our heritage, our conversion to Christianity. We have such a long history of struggle and it’s our faith that has gotten us through.’’

Before the blessing at St. Gregory, Karekin met with Chicago’s Roman Catholic archbishop, Cardinal Francis George. On Wednesday night, the Armenian patriarch also attended a public prayer service with ecumenical leaders at a Greek Orthodox Church.

Karekin’s trip has taken him to New York, Boston, and Washington, D.C. to spread a message of ‘‘Bringing Faith Home.’’ He has stressed efforts to remember faith and culture, which are tightly intertwined in the Armenian community, and bring back Armenians who have left the church.

Karekin’s visit comes on the heels of an explosive debate in Washington regarding a painful piece of Armenian history. Earlier this month, a congressional committee approved a nonbinding resolution that condemns as genocide the killing of 1.5 million Armenians in Turkey nearly a century ago as genocide. The resolution, though largely symbolic, unleashed an international furor that offended the Turkish government, a key supporter of the American presence in Iraq. President George W. Bush opposed the resolution, saying it could damage efforts to end the war in Iraq.

At an interview in his hotel suite at the Four Seasons, Karekin said the recognition of the killings as genocide is necessary to prevent further atrocities. He expressed disappointment that the resolution had faced opposition in Congress due to Turkey’s logistical importance in the war.

‘‘The best way to prevent similar kinds of atrocities is through recognition and condemnation,’’ Karekin said. ‘‘Values such as these should never be sacrificed for political interests.’’

‘‘Our people are a Christian people. . . . In spite of all the crimes committed against Armenia, our people have never been filled with hate toward the Turkish people.’’

Though Karekin did not speak of the genocide resolution at St. Gregory’s Church, it was on the minds of many. Karekin offered a special blessing to 100-year-old Helen Polaian, a survivor of the genocide.

‘‘It happened,’’ said Diane Abezetian, ‘‘regardless of the resolution or what anyone says. We know it happened.’’

Although the community is united politically, the religious identity is strained by division within the Armenian church. The church became divided administratively about 50 years ago as the former Soviet Union curbed religious freedom. Some Armenian churches broke off and switched allegiance to the Lebanon-based See of Cilicia. Others remained loyal to the Armenia-based church.

Today, Armenia is an independent republic, but the split in the church remains. One branch is headed by Karekin and based in the Armenian city of Etchmiadzin. The other is led by His Holiness Aram I and based in Lebanon. As supreme patriarch, Karekin is pre-eminent. The division means that there are two Armenian archbishops in the United States. Archbishop Oshagan Choloyan, who reports to Aram, and Archbishop Khajag Barsamian, who is under Karekin.

When asked if there was any hope for reconciliation, Karekin said church leaders have formed committees to discuss healing the rift.

‘‘You cannot have two bishops. I am hopeful we will one day have a solution,’’ 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.


Mrs. Evans Reveals Intriguing Details of her Husband’s Recall

Sassounian's column of Nov. 29, 2007

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
America's foreign policy is corrupted by the Turkey's policy of denial. When will politics take a back seat to human rights. Genocide recognition must not be sullied by politics.
More than two years after her husband became the first U.S. diplomat to publicly acknowledge the Armenian Genocide, Donna Evans revealed some of the behind-the-scene details of Ambassador John Evans’ tenure in Armenia and his dramatic forced retirement from the U.S. Foreign Service. She spoke at the Armenian Assembly’s Annual Capital Region Holiday Reception held at the Armenian Embassy in Washington, D.C., on November 18.

Mrs. Evans began her talk by describing the phone call she received from her husband, telling her, “Assistant Secretary of State Beth Jones had just informed him that he was the State Department’s choice to be assigned as Ambassador to Armenia in the summer of 2004. She told him that it was a small country but growing in importance and had a significant assistance program and a new Embassy was being built. She encouraged him to accept it and he did, without hesitation.”

After Senate confirmation, Amb. Evans and his wife moved to Armenia in fall 2004. Mrs. Evans described the constant “tension” because the “unwritten policy of the State Department was that the word ‘genocide’ had to be in quotation marks and, if spoken, it would be referred to as the ‘g’ word.” She said Foreign Service officers “knew, for certain, that the word ‘genocide’ was a strict taboo.”
She went on to state, “The Armenian genocide was a very sensitive subject and therefore avoided in diplomatic circles in Yerevan. The wives of other ambassadors did not talk about it even in private. The first time we drove by the Genocide Memorial my husband whispered to me ‘there’s the Genocide Memorial.’ I looked over and caught a fleeting glance of the spire. As I turned back, our driver’s eyes caught mine in the rear view mirror. I was so uncomfortable. My husband told me that we were allowed to go there once a year, on April 24th.”

Amb. Evans’ problems began during his speaking tour of the Armenian communities in the United States in early 2005. Upon the couple’s arrival in California, Mrs. Evans said her husband informed her that “he was going to use the word ‘genocide’ and that it might cost him his job." She said she was "stunned at first but then very proud of him. I hoped that telling the truth would result in no more than a reprimand and that he would be marginalized for a while. I thought that losing his job was the very worst-case scenario.”

Once her husband used the term “genocide” in public, Donna Evans was amazed that the Armenian American media did not rush to publicize it immediately – “It was as if they were protecting the Ambassador.” Eventually, after a press release from ANC revealed that Amb. Evans had actually used the words “Armenian Genocide” during his talk at Berkeley, she said her “husband went on to Washington to brief the State Department on what had transpired. The reaction was not pretty to say the least” which made her “sick at heart.” Meanwhile, the Ambassador did not know “whether his recall orders would be on his desk when he returned to Yerevan. I did not know whether I would be returning to Yerevan myself.”

Mrs. Evans had harsh words for the State Department for buckling under Turkish pressure. “It was unthinkable that the Turkish ambassador and the Government of Turkey had enough clout to get a knee-jerk reaction from the State Department and cause the recall of an ambassador,” she said.

Leaving his ambassadorial post voluntarily was out of question, Mrs. Evans said. “Not resigning was the right thing to do. My husband had not committed a crime, he only acknowledged a crime,” she said.

Upon returning to Yerevan, Mrs. Evans said her husband went on carrying out his diplomatic duties and “acted as if it was business as usual.… However, each morning he arrived at the office wondering if the morning e-mail and telegram traffic would include his official recall. Then, on July 2, 2005, the dreaded telephone call came.” Dan Fried, the Assistant Secretary of State, called to inform that her husband’s position was “about to be posted as open for the summer of 2006 and that we could be removed at any time,” she said.

Mrs. Evans said she was “furious” particularly since this call had come “just before July the 4th, Independence Day and axed a professional diplomat with 35 years of faithful service to his government -- and a 12th generation American -- just because he said ‘genocide’ in an academic setting in the United States.”

Mrs. Evans further revealed that she wrote a personal letter to First Lady Laura Bush because she said she believed “in spouse power.” She never received a reply.
When the word got out -- this writer was the first to report that Amb. Evans was about to be recalled for his statement on the Armenian Genocide -- Mrs. Evans reported that “the pressure was on…[there was] wild speculation in the Armenian papers, some calling my husband a hero and others not so flattering and some downright ridiculous. Again the press had a field day. My husband’s answer had to be ‘I serve at the pleasure of the President.’ I died a little every time I heard him say it.”

Notably, Mrs. Evans revealed that during those tumultuous days, “the diplomatic community” supported her husband “privately.” She then described April 24, 2006 as “an unforgettable day” in her life when thousands of Armenians from all walks of life tied yellow ribbons to a fence at the Genocide Memorial Monument in Yerevan, in support of her husband. “How this was pulled together and who supported it is a remarkable story. I wish I could give them all a hug individually. This event inspired us to stay strong during a very trying time,” she said.

As they say, the rest is history. The White House cut Amb. Evans’ service short and announced the nomination of his successor, Richard Hoagland, who never made it to Armenia.

Showing her continued support for the reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide, Mrs. Evans said that when the House Foreign Affairs Committee adopted the Armenian Genocide resolution, it was one of the happiest days of her life.

However, she was “stunned and outraged” when her husband showed her the letter that was signed by eight former Secretaries of State opposing the congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide. “How could Secretaries of State so blindly sign such a document? What I would say to the former Secretaries of State is ‘shame on you’ for being used by the Turkish lobby. By your actions, you have set back any progress that has been made to normalize diplomatic relations between Armenia and Turkey. It would have been better to remain silent. A special shame on Secretary [of State Alexander] Haig because he served under President Reagan, who acknowledged the genocide,” she said.

Donna Evans described her dismay at some of the negative reactions to the genocide resolution. “What followed was the worst turn of events that I had witnessed in all my time in Washington. The supporters of the recognition of the genocide were in shock and awe at the cruel commentaries, articles, and Internet buzz. What we were witnessing was a hyper-overkill of a human rights issue.”

She concluded her remarks with heart-warming words: “The Armenian experience has woven itself into my soul like the intricate carvings in the Khachkars. It is beautiful, it is sad and it is hopeful. So what do we do now? We don’t give up. We bide our time and return to the fight, more experienced, better informed and therefore better armed. Most important of all we continue to educate. Grassroots support is vital. You are vital. This issue needs to be resolved. You and your ancestors deserve an apology and recognition of the first genocide of the 20th century…the Armenian Genocide.”


Monday, November 26, 2007

Accident Kills Three Employees of Azerbaijani Baku Electricity Network

Azerbaijan, Baku / Тrend corr K. Zarbaliyeva / An accident occurred in the Narimanov District of Baku.
What a shame that instead of through the cemetery they could not get around the cemetery. I do not think it was because of lack of lands around the cemetery.
During removal of a stone fence surrounding an old Armenian cemetery located behind the Odlar Yurdu University, three employees of the Bakielektrikshabaka OJSC ( Baku electricity network) were trapped in the ruins.

One victim aged 25 and 30 years old, was taken to the hospital and died, the other two are still in the hospital, according to a Trend correspondent reporting from the scene of the accident.

A road is being constructed through the Armenian cemetery. The area was fenced due to construction work.

The Narimanov District Prosecutor’s Office confirmed the reports and said an investigation has been launched into the case.

Accident Kills Three Employees of Azerbaijani Baku Electricity Network (UPDATED)
26.11.07 13:38

Azerbaijan, Baku / Тrend corr K. Zarbaliyeva / An accident killed three employees of the Bakielektrikshabaka ( Baku electricity network) Narimanov office.

According to the Narimanov District Prosecutor’s Office, a stone fence collapsed during the repair of cables in substation 215 in the Bakielektrikshabaka Narimanov office. As a result, three employees of Bakielektrikshabaka – Isa Hajiyev, Elnur Mustafayev, and Elmar Nasibov died.

A criminal case was filed on violation of technical safety regulations resulting in accidental death.

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, November 22, 2007

Rare Armenian manuscripts dazzle and delight

November 21, 2007
Swissinfo, Switzerland

Image caption: An exquisite example of a manuscript, the "Gospels of Perugia", 1331 (Bodmer Foundation, Geneva)- To watch, click on the article at the bottom.

An exhibition of exquisitely illustrated Armenian manuscripts has opened for the first time in Switzerland at the Martin Bodmer Foundation in Cologny near Geneva.
The documents of great cultural importance reveal how ancient and medieval Armenian literature was dominated by both Christian thought and scientific curiosity.

"This exhibition is truly unique," said exhibition curator Valentina Calzolari. "It's the first time that Armenian manuscripts, a majority of which come from Armenia's famous library, the Matenadaran, have ever been shown in Switzerland."

Armenia, which shares borders with Turkey, Georgia, Azerbaijan and Iran, is one of the earliest Christian civilisations.

It has a rich cultural heritage, the result of being repeatedly invaded and spending many years under Turkish or Persian control. Despite that, the Armenian language and identity has survived largely intact.

Around 40 manuscripts, dating from the ninth to the 17th century, are on display at the "Illuminations of Armenia" exhibition.

Calzolari, who is also the director of the Armenian Research Centre at Geneva University, said the religious element was very important during this period. Armenians, she said, were and still are a "Christian people par excellence".

She said that historians had always sought to find elements of national identity in Christian thought and in literature. This has manifested itself in translations of the Bible and in religious writings.

This exhibition is truly unique.

Valentina Calzolari, curator

Scientific side

But this is not the only side to the Armenians, who "have been interested from the very beginning of their literary endeavours in the sciences too. They have always been fascinated by everything that was not considered sacred," said Calzolari.

"Therefore we also have astrological manuscripts, musical manuscripts and historical ones which tell of the exploits of Alexander the Great."

There are many rarities among the texts, such as the first ever manuscript miniature on a non-religious subject: a book of hymns depicting scenes from an epic 5th-century battle fought between the Armenians and the Persians.

"On two of the pages you can admire the Persians on the one side, with their elephants," said Calzolari. "And on the other, Armenian general Vardan Mamikonian with his valiant companions, in the midst of strenuously defending the Christian faith but also - and above all - the Christian identity of the Armenians."

Also shown are Armenian versions of philosophical texts. One of them includes a commentary by the great Armenian scholar, the Neo-Platonist Davide Invitto, who neatly encapsulates the country's dual interest in subjects both religious and secular.

Next to it is a plain, sober manuscript containing no illustrations, "but is of major importance", according to Calzolari.

"It's one of the first medical texts. It's not a translation of a Greek, Syrian or Arab text, but one written directly in Armenian by [the founder of Armenian medieval medicine] Mekhitar Heratsi."


Another curiosity shows the astrological sign of Pisces. The text around it explains the zodiac, and includes an astrolabe – an early way of helping to tell the time – as well as some songs.

Calzolari says it was almost certainly used by merchants on their travels to help read the skies and alleviate periods of boredom.

The "Illuminations of Armenia" exhibition is also showing a series of photographs, taken by French religious art and architecture historian, Régis Labourdette, depicting the architectural dimensions of the cross as used in 7th-century Armenian churches.

"It was the intention of the organisers... to show these two symbols of the continuity of Armenian culture: the book and the stone – the churches," said Calzolari. "Because this is what they are still considered to be by the Armenians today."

swissinfo, based on an Italian article by Paola Beltrame in Cologny

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.


Georgia, Azerbaijan: A New Oil Terminal, and More Money for Baku

November 21, 2007
There is a mistake in the article below. Russia does not have peacekeepers deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Georgia and Azerbaijan inaugurated a new oil terminal in the Georgian Black Sea port of Kulevi. Not only does this translate into more oil and petroleum products for the West, it also means Baku's coffers will be full like never before.


Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev opened a new oil terminal Nov. 21 in Georgia's Black Sea port of Kulevi. The Kulevi terminal, which Azerbaijan's state-owned oil company SOCAR will run, will start with a capacity of 100,000 barrels per day (bpd), but that is expected to double.

The Kulevi oil terminal will supply the West with crude oil and refined products from Azerbaijan, which has received increasing attention as Europe looks to decrease its energy dependence on politically hot countries such as Russia, and as Azerbaijan seeks export options outside its typical use of Russian energy infrastructure. Over the past two years, Azerbaijan and Europe have built an energy relationship, with the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) oil pipeline and Turkey-Greece Interconnector (TGI) natural gas pipeline coming on line. What is different about Kulevi is that a third of the exports will be refined petroleum products -- something Azerbaijan has not exported to the West before.

The Kulevi terminal will make Azerbaijan the big winner -- especially financially. The BTC alone has brought $3 billion to Azerbaijan in the first year of operations. The money flow is expected to increase vastly with the TGI and now Kulevi coming on line.

Energy wealth has doubled Azerbaijan's gross domestic product, but the sudden wealth is very worrying to certain of Azerbaijan's neighbors because the majority of the money is going toward defense. Azerbaijan's defense budget has jumped from just a few hundred million a year to a billion this past year. The country is arming itself, and neighboring Armenia is closely watching. The two countries have been deadlocked over the Azerbaijani secessionist region of Nagorno-Karabakh -- a conflict that has flared into a war in the past. Azerbaijan's armament now has many wondering if Baku is planning another conflict against a neighbor that has been cut out of the region's recent energy wealth.

But there is another player in this game: Russia. Moscow has continually been part of the negotiation over Nagorno-Karabakh and currently has peacekeepers deployed there. Should the conflict spin up again, Russia would definitely sweep into action as the "great mediator." Currently it is playing both sides by supplying both Armenia and Azerbaijan with weapons, though Baku obviously has its own money to buy them. However, as Azerbaijan becomes more of an energy rival to Russia, Moscow has an increased interest not only in arming both sides, but also in seeing Azerbaijan fully destabilized by embroiling itself in a messy conflict.

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.


South American Coalition Condemns and Recognizes the Armenian Genocide

22 Nov 2007

MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay--The parliament of a South American Coalition representing several countries of the continent, known as MERCOSUR Monday adopted a resolution recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide, reported the Armenian National Committee of South America.

MERCOSUR, which is a trade organization representing Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay and Paraguay condemned the “Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire, which took 1.5 million lives from 1915 to 1923.”

The MERCOSUR resolution also expressed its support for the Armenian Cause and called on all countries to recognize the Genocide.

The resolution was introduced by the representatives of Argentina and Uruguay, and after approval by the Human Rights Committee, was approved by the entire MERCOSUR parliament.

MERCOSU member states Argentina and Uruguay have already recognized the Genocide, followed this year by another South American nation, Chile.

The Armenian Genocide was carried out by the "Young Turk" government of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1916 (with subsidiaries to 1922-23). One and a half million Armenians were killed, out of a total of two and a half million Armenians in the Ottoman Empire.

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, November 21, 2007

Turkey: From Bloody Birth to Power Broker

21 Nov. 2007, CA
by Ann Berg

According to legend, its flag sprang from the reflection of a star and the crescent moon in a pool of native warriors' blood. The national anthem exults, "Martyrs would gush out were one to squeeze the soil!" Of all the Muslim countries created after World War I, only Turkey succeeded in expelling Western occupiers to achieve a modern statehood that many consider miraculous. Today, its treatment by the U.S. as a backwater pawn has roused the nation to defiance: 86 percent of all Turks now hold a negative view of America.

Ruled by Muslim Turks since 1453, the Ottoman Empire entered a long period of decline during the 19th century. Shrinking in territories and burdened with war debt, it defaulted on its international loans in 1875, drawing France and Britain to Constantinople – present-day Istanbul – to collect repayment from the Ottoman treasury. When the sick man of Europe crumbled during World War I, world leaders carved it into a dozen pieces under the 1920 Treaty of Sevres and subsequently refined the borders under the Sykes-Picot agreement. A mandate system that allowed the newly formed entities varying degrees of independence delineated five states: Britain claimed Iraq, Palestine, and Transjordan (now Jordan), while France took Syria and Lebanon.

Because the Entente powers considered the Anatolian Turks incapable of self-rule, they parceled the strategic coastal areas among the victors. The British, the French, and the Italians sent occupation forces to Constantinople, and Greece, staunchly backed by Britain, took over the Aegean port of Smyrna (Izmir). Its goal was to restore Constantinople – the seat of the Greek-speaking Christian empire for a millennium – to its Byzantine glory. And finally, to the east, the Bolsheviks were eager to stamp a communist footprint on this strategic landmass. Strapped for foreign exchange, Russia needed unencumbered transit from the Black Sea through the Dardanelles to export its wheat surplus and newly discovered crude oil.

Against this backdrop, by 1922, the Turks drove out the Greeks (who had advanced into the central plateau with the goal of capturing the newly declared capital of Ankara), expelled the European powers, and reclaimed large territories to the east from Armenia. The Turkish-Greco war still lingers bitterly. Historical records blame the Greeks for a scorched-earth policy as they were driven out of Smyrna, while others depict the Turks burning the Greek and Armenian Christian villages to the ground. Witnesses say that 75 percent of Smyrna was destroyed. Standing on the waterfront of the ancient Mediterranean port, I asked a Turkish friend what happened during the postwar deportation of the remaining Greek and Armenian communities, and he quietly told me, "The boats came and they went."

By 1923, all Western forces had demobilized. Turkey established most of its modern-day borders under the Treaty of Lausanne. Although the U.S. had stayed out of the Turkish wars, Turkey's success at Lausanne caused the U.S. ambassador to Germany to proclaim, "Christian civilization was crucified … and the Stars and Stripes were trailed in the mire in the interest of a group of oil speculators."


Anyone visiting the capital city of Ankara is struck by the ubiquitous presence of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of the modern Turkish state. His likeness appears in every visual form imaginable, gracing photographs, paintings, busts, masks, bas-reliefs, and statues. On the main thoroughfare, his face gazes out at the street procession from gigantic Orwellian tapestries unfurled from the tops of buildings. The symbolism is forceful – it serves the citizenry as a permanent reminder of Turkey's struggle for independence 84 years ago (Oct. 29) and fuses the state and the man into an enduring mythological unity.

Ataturk's life was a one-man revolution of breathtaking proportions. Officially, he is credited with the establishment of a modern, Western-leaning republic that included a civil code and language reform, universal education, equal inheritance and voting rights for women, and the abolition of the Caliphate, as well as industrial projects, including railway development and state-run manufacturing. Accounts of his personal life are dizzying: war hero, president (Time dubbed him "dictator"), educator, arts patron, father of seven adopted daughters – all of which he managed while drinking himself to death by age 57. But beneath the glowing biography is a darker story of Kemalism. While espousing republican principles and secularism, the doctrine sought to unify Turkey as one culture and one language by forced assimilation. The new republic outlawed mystical and ecstatic orders such as Sufism and denied the Kurds – a minority accused of deviant worship and orgiastic sexual practices – basic expression of culture and language. As early as 1925, uprisings were repressed with bombardment, slaying, and hanging. Beneath the philosophy of rational enlightenment lay brutal repression and a strong dose of militarism.

After World War II

Since the Korean War and following Turkey's entry into NATO (never mind that it is nowhere near the Atlantic), the U.S. has assumed Turkey would dutifully bow to America's dictates. But Turkey – boosted by its booming economy and its perception of the U.S. as a clumsy brute at its doorstep – is experiencing a resurgence of nationalism. Its parliamentary rejection in 2003 of the coalition's plan to stage the Iraq invasion through Turkish territory and its embrace of Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan – a devout Muslim – have caught the U.S. completely flatfooted. The U.S. government fails to see that its transformative design for the region and Turkey's desire for border integrity and economic expansion are on a collision course.

On the economic front, Turkey, which has an energy deficit, envisions becoming an energy transit hub. Its southeastern port of Ceyhan is the terminus for one pipeline originating from the Caspian Sea port Baku (BTC) and another from Kirkuk, Iraq. Turkey projects earning several hundred million dollars in transit fees per year from these two pipelines and sees the restive Kurdish region as a threat to its plans. It has announced intentions to secure a long-term supply contract with Kirkuk and strongly opposes Kurdish plans to incorporate the city (once claimed by Turkey after WWI) into the semi-autonomous northern Iraqi region. Similarly, Turkey plans to expand trade with Iran, notwithstanding U.S. disapproval. According to the Turkish press, trade has grown from $2.3 billion to $6.7 billion between 2003 and 2006, and the two countries have signed a preferential trade pact on a series of goods. Iran (along with Russia) supplies Turkey its gas needs, which have been growing in pace with the economy.

On the political side, Ankara and Tehran progressively share a cause that unites them – a "war on terror" against the PKK and its Iranian arm, PJAK. For Turkey, the growing attacks by the PKK against Turkish forces are not just acts of terrorism (the U.S. view), but the embodiment of the separatist movement that wants to chip off its southeastern region. Turkey sees duplicity in America's role: the U.S. condemns the PKK, but not PJAK – finding the latter useful for provoking Iran. Hence, Turks overwhelmingly support the military crossing the border – not just to crush the rebels but to commit an act of defiance against the superpower.

As it begins to play a role of regional political power broker, Turkey openly bristles at American sermonizing and patronizing, especially since it correctly warned the U.S. how instability would ripple through the whole region following the Iraq invasion. As a country that criminalizes "insults to Turkishness," it views the recent U.S. congressional effort to recognize as genocide the Ottoman Turks' massacre of Armenians in 1915 to be an irreparable blow to its alliance with the U.S. Fiercely proud of its revolutionary birth and protective of its sovereign borders, the rising crescent will increasingly exert its own will in the region. For the U.S., that means one more miscalculation in a bloody field of failures.

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.

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Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Secretaries Albright and Cohen Should be Removed from Genocide Task Force

Posted November 20, 2007
Huffington Post, NY
Harut Sassounian

How hypocritical of Madeleine Albright and William Cohen, former Secretaries of State and Defense, to announce the formation of a task force on prevention of genocide, when two months ago they wrote a letter to the U.S. Congress against a resolution on the Armenian Genocide!

One would have thought that genocide denialists would not be the most qualified people to lead an effort on averting future genocides. Yet, this is exactly what happened last week.

Albright and Cohen shamelessly stood in front of TV cameras at the National Press Club in Washington on November 13 to declare that they are co-chairing a new "Genocide Prevention Task Force." The other members of the task force are Sen. John Danforth, Sen. Tom Daschle, Amb. Stuart Eizenstat, Michael Gerson, Secretary Dan Glickman, Secretary Jack Kemp, Judge Gabrielle Kirk McDonald, Amb. Tom Pickering, Julia Taft, Vin Weber and General Anthony Zinni. This effort is jointly sponsored by the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, the American Academy of Diplomacy, and the United States Institute of Peace. The task force has five working groups dealing with early warning, pre-crisis engagement, preventive diplomacy, military intervention, and international institutions. It is expected to issue its report in December 2008.

Cohen told members of the media with a straight face that the task force is going "to look certainly to the past for lessons" in order to prepare a set of recommendations to the U.S. government on how best to respond to future threats of genocide. He stated that mass violence is "inimical to human behavior, to human decency, [and] to our sense of humanity....We can no longer live in a state of denial or willful indifference." These bold words are from a man whose company, The Cohen Group, is affiliated with DLA Piper, one of the major lobbying firms hired by the Turkish government, at a cost of $100,000 per month, to deny the facts of the Armenian Genocide.

As soon as the two former high-ranking officials finished delivering their opening remarks at last week's press conference, they were confronted by skeptical members of the press and Armenian activists who questioned their sincerity and pointed out their hypocrisy. This accusatory exchange was covered extensively by CNN, AFP, AP, and The Jerusalem Post.

Albright and Cohen were asked by a reporter: "How do you reconcile your work in trying to build a moral American sentiment, an unconditional consensus against genocide, when just very recently both of you signed letters urging America not to recognize the Armenian Genocide?" Albright, forgetting her earlier words about learning from the past, quickly shifted the mission of the group to the future. Carefully avoiding the term "Armenian Genocide," she acknowledged that "terrible things happened to the Armenians -- a tragedy.... While we were Secretaries, we recognized that mass killings and forced exile had taken place, and we also said that the U.S. policy has been all along for reconciliation between Turkey and Armenia on this particular issue." She also said that her earlier letter to Congress against the genocide resolution merely questioned whether "this was an appropriate time to raise the issue." Secretary Cohen, in his turn, referred to the Armenian Genocide as "the human suffering that took place between 1915 and 1923." He said he was concerned that the Armenian resolution "might result in reactions on the part of the Turkish government that could place our sons and daughters in greater jeopardy [in Iraq]." The two officials gave evasive answers when another reporter asked whether they were advocating that "for political expediency purposes we shouldn't be taking action on future genocides because of what it could mean to U.S. interests."

A third reporter then pointedly asked if Albright and Cohen were in fact saying: "If our friends do it, it's not genocide; if our enemies do it, it is genocide.... If you are going to define genocide by who does it, not by what it is, your task force is in trouble."

Exposing his ignorance on the issue of the Armenian Genocide, Secretary Cohen said: "I don't know that the UN has declared that genocide occurred in the Armenian situation." He must not be aware that back in 1985 the UN Sub-Commission on Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities, by a vote of 15-1, adopted a report which included a section acknowledging the Armenian Genocide. "The experience of the Armenians does indeed conform with the UN Convention," a fourth reporter shot back at Cohen and added: "The two of you have personally worked toward ensuring that the United States government does not take a stand recognizing the Armenian Genocide. However, taking on this new role, how can you reconcile your positions and the U.S. foreign policy?"

Given their repeated attempts to block the reaffirmation of the Armenian Genocide resolution, both during and after their tenure in government, Secretaries Albright and Cohen should be removed from the leadership of the Genocide Prevention Task Force. They have undermined their own credibility and lost the moral standing to speak on the topic of genocide. One cannot deny a genocide and then turn around and act as a defender of its victims. Furthermore, Secretary Cohen has a personal conflict of interest due to his firm's affiliation with a company that lobbies for Turkey against the congressional resolution on the Armenian Genocide. This fact alone should disqualify him from membership, let alone leadership, of the genocide prevention group.

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.


Turkey and Azerbaijan Strengthen Economic, Security Ties

20 Nov 2007
World Politics Review Exclusive
Marianna Gurtovnik

The early-November visit to Azerbaijan of the newly elected President of Turkey, Abdullah Gul, highlighted the strategic importance of the Turkey-Azerbaijan relationship and the two countries' common economic and security interests. As such, it attracted much attention in the Azerbaijani media, where analysts happily noted that Azerbaijan was the first country visited by the Turkish leader since he assumed his post in July. As Azerbaijaini political scientist Rustam Mammadov suggested in the wake of the trip, Gul's visit even had implications for the complex political situation unfolding in the Middle East. Speaking to the News - Azerbaijan agency, Mammadov said "the situation in Iran and Iraq as well as Turkey's deteriorated relations with the United States and the European Union require careful consideration on the part of the Turkish leader and his Azerbaijani counterpart."

Fighting the PKK

Indeed, Gul's visit to Azerbaijan occurred amidst events that have prompted Turkey's leaders to shore up support from long-time allies such as Azerbaijan. The Turkish leadership was particularly exercised by the Kurdistan Workers' Party's (PKK) intensified incursions into Turkey. Speaking at a press conference in Baku, Azerbaijan's capital, Gul said that the United States should bear responsibility for the fight against terrorists throughout Iraq and not just in selected provinces. He also told journalists that Turkey expected Azerbaijan's cooperation against the PKK. On Nov. 6, Azerbaijan's parliament, the Milli Majlis, announced its intentions to recognize the PKK as a terrorist organization, a step may help address the Turks' lingering misgivings about the PKK's allegedly deep roots in Azerbaijan.

In light of Turkey's recent spat with Iraqi Kurds, Azerbaijan and Turkey are also worried that the energy security in the region might be jeopardized. Global Insight, a Boston-based economic forecasting publication, last month noted the threat the PKK poses to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline if Turkey pursues retaliatory strikes in Kurdistan. The BTC carries oil from Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to Georgia and Turkey. Over half of the pipeline -- 669 of 1,092 miles -- passes through Turkish territory that is home to significant numbers of ethnic Kurds.

The Milli Majlis intends to have a draft statement on the PKK ready before the end of November. But naming the PKK a terrorist organization might have little practical effect given the absence in Azerbaijan of a comprehensive legal, diplomatic, and administrative strategy against terrorism. Until such a plan is in place, Azerbaijan should rely on international anti-terrorism conventions to which Azerbaijan is a party when developing specific measures to combat PKK, says Baku-based political analyst Rauf Mirkadyrov. But he insisted that such measures be fully transparent. "This is necessary in order to avoid the abuse of power by law enforcement officials," Mirkadyrov wrote in a Nov. 9 analysis in the Azerbaijani daily Zerkalo.

Azerbaijani authorities have traditionally taken the threat of terrorism seriously. Earlier this month, local security forces quashed what appeared to be a massive Islamist plot against government offices and the British and American embassies in Baku. Both embassies briefly suspended their operations following the arrest of several suspects and the killing of one member of the terrorist group.

Cultivating Regional Allegiances

Azerbaijani-Turkish relations received another boost last month when Azerbaijan's Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the resolution to recognize as genocide the early-20th century massacre of Armenians in the Ottoman Empire that was adopted last month by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives. The Azerbaijan Foreign Affairs Ministry's Oct. 12 statement condemned the resolution as "wrong and biased . . . and harmful for the developments in the region and globally." The statement further backed "the Turkish call to examine the archival documents related to the World War I tragedies . . . before taking steps."

The Azerbaijan-Turkey alliance against Armenia dates back to the early 1990s. Following Armenia's occupation of the Azerbaijani enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh and seven adjacent Azerbaijani regions in 1992-1993, Turkey closed its border with Armenia. Turkish officials link the reopening of the border to Armenia's return of the occupied lands to Azerbaijan. Indicative of Turkey's ambitions to assert itself as a regional peacekeeper, President Gul noted earlier this month in an interview with Azerbaijan's Turan news agency that "Ankara is ready to lend its efforts to the maintenance of peace and stability in the South Caucasus region."

Turkey's Economic Designs

Bilateral economic relations represented another prominent item in the Turkish president's agenda in Azerbaijan. Gul and his Azerbaijani counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, signed several bilateral agreements, including ones pertaining to long-term economic cooperation and mutual economic privileges.

Speaking to the press in Baku, Gul pointed out that over 2,000 Turkish firms have created 50,000 jobs in Azerbaijan and invested $5 billion in Azerbaijan's economy, including the energy sector. To prove his intention to solidify economic ties with Azerbaijan, Gul included 200 Turkish entrepreneurs in his delegation. The move was supposed to mollify Turkish businessmen who complained that Gul's predecessor, Ahmed Necet Sezer, rarely brought them along on his foreign trips. But the change failed to produce the desired effect: Turkey's business elite were disappointed with Gul's choice of small- and medium-sized business owners over the country's top financiers. Their Azerbaijani counterparts appeared to agree. Rashad Rasullu, secretary general of the Baku-based Azerbaijan-Turkey Businessmen Union, believes that Turkey should move more aggressively to avail itself of new investment opportunities in Azerbaijan. In a Nov. 6 interview with the Turkish Daily News, Rasullu said that Azerbaijan "needs help and experience to adapt itself to the rest of the world. Turkey should not miss this chance of becoming a stronger partner."

Gul's rhetoric about "brotherly ties" between the Turks and other regional Muslim nations did not appear to particularly excite Azeris, who have heard such rhetoric many times from Turkish presidents. Yet, lofty speeches aside, Gul did not lack ambitious ideas, and displayed an eagerness to push them forward. In an interview to the Turkish newspaper Today's Zaman prior to flying to Baku, he talked at length about his plans for new energy and transportation networks that will connect Turkey to the South Caucasus and further to Kazakhstan and even China. He said he hoped that a new natural gas pipeline from Baku to the Turkish port of Erzurum via Tbilisi, Georgia, would be completed by the end of 2007, followed, in a few months, by a railway linking Baku and Tbilisi with the Turkish city of Kars. Gul sounded confident that these projects would become a reality soon, citing the example of the BTC pipeline, which became operational in 2005 despite the initial strong doubts about its feasibility.

This is not Turkey's first attempt at economic influence in post-Soviet Azerbaijan. In the mid-1990s, Turkey scaled back an attempt to boost its economic presence in Azerbaijan, partly because of local corruption but also because it lacked the resources to become the regional superpower that it aspired to be. A decade later, Turkey seems to be attempting a comeback. Given the latest turbulent changes across the region and in Turkey itself, it is now in greater need of strong alliances with its neighbors. Whether President Gul's Administration will be successful at forging these alliances remains to be seen.

Marianna Gurtovnik is a freelance analyst based in the United States. She covers governance reforms, foreign policy, and civil society developments in the Newly Independent States.

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.


Turkic countries issue false statements on Armenian Genocide


The summit of friendship, fraternity and cooperation of Turkic countries issued a Baku Statement on the Armenian Genocide in the Ottoman Empire in 1915-1923. The statement says in part that “attempts of parliamentarians of some states to express an erroneous attitude about historical events are nothing but a preconceived approach to the entire Turkic world.”

Turkic states claim that statements about the Armenian Genocide do not base on the historical truth. “Armenia did not respond to Turkey’s official proposal to open archives and form a joint Turkish-Armenian commission of historians,” the document says.

The authors furnish absolutely false data as regards the Armenian population in Turkey in the early 20th century. “Some 150 thousand of Armenians lived on the Turkish territory at that period. Historical facts, documents and evidence of witnesses prove that the events taken place in 1915-1918 were conditioned by hostilities between the Turkish army and Armenian armed unites, which yielding to Russia and some western states stabbed Turkey in the back… Armenians brutally killed over 2 million of Turks.”

Concluding the statement, the authors emphasize that “bringing these facts to the notion of the international community, we once again state that investigation in historical disputes is the business of historians but not politicians,” Bakinsky Rabochy newspaper reports.

According to the data of the Constantinople Patriarchate of the Armenian Apostolic Church about 2.5 million if Armenians lived in six vilayets of Western Armenia. 1.5 million of Armenians lived in Istanbul, Izmir and other major cities. In February 1915 the Young Turks triumvirate adopted a secret directive on deportation and slaughter of the Armenian population of Turkey. Over 1.5 million of Armenians were killed, many died of starvation and diseases.

! 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.

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Easing Armenia's Transition to a Market Economy

19 Nov. 2007
World Bank Group, DC


With independence in 1991, Armenia suffered a severe economic contraction. Between 1990 and 1993, GDP dropped by more than 50 percent. This led to hyperinflation, a budget deficit that reached a high of 55 percent, factory closures, little electricity supply, and large-scale emigration. About 80 percent of the population survived on humanitarian assistance and more than half the population lived below the poverty line.


A series of 10 projects—spanning a dozen years—supported Armenia’s economic reform program to restore and maintain macroeconomic stability, create conditions for economic growth, and improve living conditions. These broad areas would form the foundation for the transformation of the economy from a centralized model to a market-based one. The program included a rehabilitation credit for 1995-1996, five structural adjustment credits between 1996 and 2004, two structural adjustment technical assistance credits between 1996 and 2002, and two poverty reduction support credits beginning in 2004 and ongoing. The technical assistance projects supported the implementation of the eight adjustment operations by providing the necessary expertise for strengthening institutions.

Over this 12-year period, Armenia has achieved spectacular income growth – by about 10 percent on average per year, rising to 13-14 percent in 2005 and 2006 – and poverty reduction – from 56 percent in 1998 to 30 percent in 2005.

Approach Highlights:
Financial Discipline and Public Sector Management
- Economic stabilization: inflation fell to 0.6 percent in 2005 from 176 percent prior to the adjustment program; the budget deficit fell from 9 percent to 1.9 percent; growth has averaged about 10 percent per year.
- Improving budget management through the adoption of a rigorous medium-term expenditure framework to manage the scaling-up of sector reforms.
- Improving customs and tax administration and broadening the tax base.
- Improved payment discipline in energy: collections increased from 30 percent to 85 percent.

Private Sector Development- Removal of nearly all price controls and trade barriers.
- Adoption of key financial legislation early in the program: a real property code, bank insolvency law, bankruptcy law, collateral law.
- Reduction in bureaucracy: Armenia ranked 34 in the World Bank Group’s Doing Business 2007 report.
- Privatization of nearly all state-owned enterprises.

Social Development:- Adoption of a poverty reduction strategy that provides a powerful tool for policy formulation.
- Significant increase in budget allocations for health and education, doubling from 2002 to 2006.
- Family poverty benefit and pensions increased by more than 50 percent during 2002-04.

IDA Contribution:

- The 10 projects totaled US$410 million of which US$382 million came from IDA financing and US$28 million from other sources-principally the Netherlands, as well as Argentina.
- Operations were in rapid succession, providing sustained financial and technical support to the government and generating a critical mass of reforms that helped to raise living standards.
- More than just providing critical deficit financing, the projects also provided a genuine opportunity for the government to benefit from external expertise. Technical assistance came from IDA and bilateral donors, with significant support from the Japanese Policy and Human Resources Development fund.
- Parallel investment operations in water, health, education and power were mutually reinforcing. For example, improved energy regulation and ownership policies supported by policy-based credits were matched by investment lending in energy.
- These policy operations were closely linked to IMF stabilization and poverty reduction programs.

Next Steps:- IDA is providing two more Poverty Reduction Support Credits that focus on supporting the government to strengthen corporate and public governance, including tax and customs, and competition policy and human development. These policy-based projects are closely linked with on-going sector-specific projects.
- The completion of the credit series will coincide with the parliamentary and presidential elections of 2007 and 2008, respectively. Future policy-based lending will depend upon budgetary needs and the government’s commitment to pursuing a reform agenda.

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, November 19, 2007

Carrying A Big Stick

Published: 11/19/2007
Turkish Press, MI

AKSAM- President Abdullah Gul’s three-day visit to Azerbaijan ended yesterday. The call made by Gul to Armenia during the visit was very important. Some in Armenia might believe he was carrying a big stick, but his visit was important for reflecting the real political situation in the region. In addition to the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil pipeline, taken together the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum gas line, the railway extending to Kars and the forthcoming Marmaray connecting the European and Asian sides of Istanbul under the Bosporus will constitute a strategic energy, transportation and communication corridor from China to Europe . In Gul’s words, you could get on a train in China , enter Turkey from Kars and then, after passing under the Bosporus, proceed to Europe , also on train. In addition, oil and gas from the Caucasus will be able to be transported to Europe via Turkey . Let’s add Turkey ’s possible European Union membership to this as well. These huge projects will have a big impact on the entire region, but an atmosphere of peace and stability is necessary towards this end. Those who can’t accept the key role to be played by Turkey in the years to come might want to sabotage this atmosphere. Terrorist attacks and the so-called Armenian genocide claims can be seen as part of this.

Gul said this to Armenia : If you want to take your share in the region, then you have to join this caravan. In other words, either stay poor or get rich. But throughout the long history of the Caucasus region, not even the most steadfast ruler has reigned for more than 50 years. This is a region that has seen fierce clashes. The 70 years of the Soviet Union was an exception. When Gul put Sheikh Shamil’s sword in his hand at the Gence Art Museum , he said, ‘As this is the Caucasus , the sword should always rest ready in its scabbard.’ In other words, you could face a threat anytime, so you should be careful. Turkey is aware of this, and the world is aware of Turkey . Particularly after the option of a cross-border operation by Turkey into Iraq came up, people are paying more attention to Turkey . Moreover, Turkey has made its power felt on the international stage as a global actor.

The Saudi king will arrive in Turkey today. In addition, the Jordanian king, Israeli President Shimon Peres and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas will all visit Ankara next week. Lebanese Prime Minister Fuad Siniora is also due to visit. During the upcoming Middle East conference, regional problems will be discussed but these bilateral contacts in Ankara are important for evaluating regional problems from a different perspective. Meanwhile, Gul says that everybody knows the importance placed on Turkey . But Turkey isn’t watching on the sidelines from Ankara . The fact that during Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s visit to the US this week Gul also paid his first official visit to Azerbaijan , and even visited Gence –the first such visit for a Turkish statesmen to this place, just 60 kilometers from Armenia -- is rich with meaning.

Gul will visit Turkmenistan early next month. In addition, there are plans for visits to Uzbekistan , Kyrgyzstan and Kazakhstan as well. We used to call these regions our brothers, but then a new concept of relationship was developed. Gul defined it by saying that if you act only with excitement, you won’t accomplish anything, and so you must fuse enthusiasm and pragmatism. Meanwhile, Turkey ’s EU membership bid hasn’t been forgotten. On this issue, Gul said that the important thing for Turkey to know its needs and implement reforms. He added that if only this had been done and membership talks had started earlier, the situation would have been different. He’s quite right, but we should stop being mired in the past. If Turkey can continue this vision, Turkey will become a global country with a huge impact on world politics. Imagine you’re a country in the middle of a strategic corridor extending from China to Europe, an EU member, and the Caucasus is the EU’s neighbor. Some people might call this a dream. But today such huge projects as the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline, which yesterday was only a dream, are a reality. The foundation of the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars railway will be laid next year. As Gul said, if we can cast away the shackles in our minds, new dreams will come true in the years to come.

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.


Sunday, November 18, 2007

AXA to pay descendants of victims of the Armenian genocide - report - Forbe

This story comes at a time when the Armenian genocide recognition is in full focus in the USA. Let this be a testimony for the perseverance of the descendants of the Armenian genocide survivors towards the ultimate goal of the recognition of the Armenian genocide by Turkey. This will be a win for Turkey's democracy.

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Report: Israel trying to 'Judaize' Temple Mount

Published: 11/18/2007
If Turkey is saying what it is as it sees it to Israel, why is Israel not doing the same regarding the Armenian Genocide?
Israel is trying to destroy the Muslim nature of the Temple Mount, according to a report by a Turkish mission.

The Turkish team sent to inspect the Israeli excavations near the Temple Mount blamed Israel for attempting to harm sites holy to Muslims and for conducting what they call unnecessary digs near the Mugrabi Gate, according to the Turkish daily al-Zaman, which published large parts of the report Sunday.

The mission also criticized Israel for not cooperating with the Muslim Wakf.

The Turkish team visited the site in March, but the report's release was delayed due to political concerns, including the recent debate over the Armenian genocide issue.

The Turkish Consul General, Ercan Ozer, who is an architect, an archeologist, a geologist and a history professor, warned that "Israel is trying to change Old Jerusalem's character and to 'Judaize' the history of the Temple Mount," Yediot Achronot reported.

Israel's foreign ministry responded to the report saying "Israel is cooperating fully with UNESCO, which had sent a professional team to the site of the dig and published a report refuting all the allegations against Israel."

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.


Greenway park plaque will mention Armenian genocide

November 17, 2007
Boston Globe, United States

Final wording to be determined by city, Turnpike Authority

By Thomas C. Palmer Jr.
Globe Staff

A park being donated for the Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy Greenway by the nonprofit Armenian Heritage Foundation will include a plaque that refers to all immigrant groups but also makes an explicit reference to the Armenian genocide of the early 20th century.

more stories like thisWording suggesting the park commemorates the 1.5 million deaths of Armenians around 1915 at the hands of Turks contradicts the intentions of planners over the last decade, who insisted the Greenway not be politicized or be a place for statues, plaques, or memorials.

Although the wording for a plaque is not final, officials of the Mayor's Central Artery Completion Task Force, an influential advisory group, acknowledged at a meeting this week that the specific historic event would be mentioned.

Nearly 100 years after it occurred, the Armenian genocide remains an intensely emotional issue. Turkey, an ally of the United States in a part of the world where the United States has few friends, rejects the term genocide. The Turkish government has said a proposed congressional resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide would severely damage US relations.

In Boston, the final say on the plaque will be made by the Massachusetts Turnpike Authority and the City of Boston, which both support the proposed wording. The city and the agency are negotiating with the task force and the Armenian Heritage Foundation, a local group that is sponsoring the park, on the project.

The park and plaque are the result of a campaign by the local Armenian community since 2000 to find a Boston location for a commemoration of their ancestors. Because the gift of a park was opposed by some planners and community activists, the plaque's proposed wording has been broadened to refer to the diverse set of immigrant groups that, like the Armenians, sought refuge in the Boston area.

One objection has been that the Armenian Heritage Foundation did not follow the specific public process for Greenway proposals approved by the Federal Highway Administration.

"I would like to go on record that this is not acceptable as a process," Anne Fanton, a member of the task force, said Thursday. "We want to be certain that this never happens again."

The proposed park, with a 60-foot-diameter paved labyrinth, a sculpture, and water jet and reflecting pool, has been hailed as inspired in design and supported by many in the North End community.

The issue of the plaque's wording surfaced several times during a Thursday meeting on the park. North End community leader Nancy Caruso said she understood from previous private meetings that the park would be dedicated to all immigrants but not have a specific reference to the genocide.

But, asked specifically whether there would be mention of the words "Armenian genocide," task force cochairman Rob Tuchmann said, "There will be."

James M. Kalustian, representing the Armenian Heritage Foundation, the group sponsoring the park, agreed. "The current wording as being discussed includes a reference to the Armenian genocide," he said.

Yesterday, Erkut Gomulu, president of the Turkish American Cultural Society of New England, who has opposed placement of the park on the Greenway, said any plaque should not reference a specific group's history.

"It's supposed to be inclusive of all communities, right?" he said. "It's claimed it will not be a memorial. On the other hand it will have 'genocide' in the wording."

The board of the conservancy that will assume responsibility for operating the Greenway once it's completed has called for a moratorium of at least five years on any memorials.

"An awful lot of people have worked hard to try to get to a place that works for everyone," said conservancy chairman Peter Meade. "We want the Greenway to become a noncontroversial place where everybody in our community is welcomed."

But Meade's organization does not have an active role in the discussion.

Tuchmann said he did not consider the park or the plaque a memorial. Genie Beal, a member of the task force and chair of the board of the Boston Natural Areas Fund, yesterday agreed.

"It says 'Armenian genocide' in the last line. I think that's a good solution," said Beal. "It's not a memorial, it's a 'thank you' " to the foundation for the gift of a park.

Thomas C. Palmer Jr. can be reached at

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, November 17, 2007


The Jamestown Foundation
November 16, 2007 -- Volume 4, Issue 214
Gareth Jenkins
Supported by America? Turkish democracy in action? Anything is acceptable as long as you are a friend of America, but if it were China then it becomes repression!
Amid fading hopes of EU membership, there are increasing signs that the Turkish authorities are tightening restrictions on freedom of speech.

A new set of regulations for Internet Service Providers (ISPs) published in the Turkish Official Gazette on November 1, 2007, makes it compulsory for all commercial ISPs to take measures to prevent access to “illegal content” and use government-approved filters to block users from visiting undesirable websites. In addition, all commercial ISPs are now obliged to record details of all the websites visited by their subscribers and store the data for a period of at least one year.

The new regulations have caused outrage in the Turkish ISP community, which has described them as not only limiting freedom of expression but, also as a gross violation of privacy.

“Turkey is becoming a police state,” complained Mehmet Ali Koksal, a member of the board of Turkish Information Technology Association (TBD) (Milliyet, November 11).

But the new requirements have received little coverage in the mainstream Turkish media, with the result that few Turks are aware that they are now effectively under surveillance each time they access the Internet.


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, November 15, 2007

The Turkish alternative

Yossi Sarid tells it as it is. If other politicians did the same then perhaps Turkey will understand that it is to their advantage to recognize the Armenian genocide. In this respect both Shimon Peres and George Bush junior have failed.

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Archbishop Vicken Aykazian is installed as President of the National Council of Churches

Archbishop Vicken Aykazian, a Turkish-born priest who represents the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in Washington, was installed Thursday (November 9) as the President of the National Council of Churches in the USA.

The installation was a moving and colorful ceremony attended by hierarchs, clergy and laity in St. Vartan Armenian Cathedral in New York. Also installed was the NCC's new general secretary, the Rev. Dr. Michael Kinnamon, and other NCC officers. (See related story)

On January 1, 2008, the Archbishop will succeed President Michael Livingston, who has served in the office since January 2006.

His Eminence Archbishop Aykazian is the 24th NCC President since the Council's beginnings in 1950.

He is the third Orthodox president and the first from the Oriental Orthodox tradition. (Other Orthodox presidents were the Very Rev. Leonid Kishkovsky, Orthodox Church in America, 1990-91, and Elenie K. Huszagh, Greek Orthodox Archdiocese, 2002-03

Vicken Aykazian was born in Siirt, Turkey, in 1951. He studied theology at the Armenian Patriarchate in Jerusalem and was ordained a deacon in 1968 and later a celibate priest in 1971.

In 1992, His Holiness Vasken I, Catholicos of All Armenians at Holy Echmiadzin in Armenia, ordained him a bishop.

Archbishop Aykazian, who holds a Ph.D in history and is working on a second Ph.D in theology at Catholic University in Washington, is an active ecumenist. In addition to his contributions to the NCC as a member of the Governing Board, he has been active in the World Council of Churches as a member of the Mission and Evangelism Unit, the Orthodox Task Force and the Central Committee.

The archbishop is the legate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) in Washington, and ecumenical officer.

He has also served as Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church in Switzerland from 1992 to 1996.

As pastor of the Armenian Church of Switzerland from 1980 to 1992, he established and organized new church communities in Zurich, Bern, Kreazlingen and Lugano.

Archbishop Aykazian is fluent in English, Armenian, French and Turkish.

Since its founding in 1950, the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the USA has been the leading force for ecumenical cooperation among Christians in the United States.

The NCC's member faith groups -- representing a wide spectrum of Protestant, Anglican, Orthodox, historic African American and Living Peace churches – include 45 million persons in more than 100,000 local congregations in communities across the nation.


Contact Philip E. Jenks, 212-870-2228, or Daniel Webster, 212-870-2252

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.


Turkey motivated blocking of air space for Armenian planes by security reasons?

15.11.2007 16:38 GMT+04:00
/PanARMENIAN.Net/ The Armenian Foreign Ministry requested Turkey to explain the reasons of blocking the air corridor for Yerevan-Beirut and Yerevan-Aleppo flights, RA MFA Spokesman Vladimir Karapetian told a PanARMENIAN.Net reporter. No explanation has come yet, he said.

November 13 an Armavia-owned Yerevan-Beirut flight had to turn back to Yerevan, since the Turkish authorities blocked the air space.

Meanwhile, a source told PanARMENIAN.Net that Turkey blocked the air corridor for security reasons, as the route to Syria goes across the territory controlled by Kurdish rebels.

! 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: Sad Fate of Azeri Graves

15 Nov. 2007
Institute for War and Peace Reporting, UK

Link to original article by Naira Bulgadarian in Vanadzor, Armenia. Published in CRS No. 411, 20-Sept-07

By Naira Bulgadarian in Vanadzor, Armenia (CRS No. 419 15-Nov-07)

When I heard that the Azerbaijani cemetery in the village of Nor Khachakal, in Lori district, had been repaired by the NGO Helsinki Civil Assembly, I felt an urge to see with my own eyes the graves of Azerbaijanis who once lived in the country.

In 1988, a dispute over Nagorny Karabakh broke out in the Caucasus, with most ethnic Azerbaijanis leaving Armenia and vice versa. As the conflict grew, monuments were destroyed in both countries - especially graveyards. In the once Azerbaijani-populated village of Saral, which was renamed Nor Khachakal, its two Azerbaijani cemeteries are abandoned, and many of the headstones broken.

Last year, the Armenian culture ministry was allocated two million drams (about six thousand US dollars) of government money to collect information about Azerbaijani cemeteries and cultural monuments in Armenia. This study identified a total of 69 cemeteries in Armenia and another 52 in Nagorny Karabakh and the seven Armenian-controlled territories outside Karabakh.

The study concluded that more of the cemeteries had been preserved than had been destroyed. The government then chose not to allocate money for their restoration after deciding that the graveyards had no intrinsic cultural value.

However, the Helsinki Citizens’ Assembly did a study of the Azerbaijani cemeteries in the region last year, which showed they were in a ruinous state, and decided to use grant money to restore them.

I wanted to see the places that used to be home to Azerbaijanis now perceived as “the enemy”, to see the state of the graves and tell the former Azerbaijani residents of Armenia about the fate of their dear ones’ resting places.

The urge to write became even stronger, when I saw Azerbaijan, who’d come to Armenia at the invitation of the organisation implementing the rehabilitation works, praying at the old cemetery in Nor Khachakal. There they conducted a special worship ritual, asking God to give rest to the souls of those buried there, and thanking the Armenians for trying to restore the graves.

On that day, the cemetery was strewn with white carnations - the first flowers laid there for 18 years. Seeing those graves now restored and covered with flowers, one could not help thinking once again how wrong it was to bear a grudge against the dead, how wrong were those who, embittered by the conflict, took their anger out on the graves.

Armenia’s Azerbaijani cemeteries should be written about, I thought, for the sake of peace and greater tolerance between the two societies.

Less than a year later, I went to Nor Khachakal again only to be disappointed: I had hardly entered the cemetery, when I noticed that the plate giving details of the renovation of the graves was already broken.

However, local residents - Armenian refugees from Azerbaijan – seemed to know nothing about it, while the head of the village promised to find the wrongdoers.

Conversations with the villagers proved discouraging. I, who wanted to write about how humane it was on part of the Armenians to repair the cemetery in Nor Khachakal, now had to listen to stories about Armenian cemeteries razed to the ground after the war. They said that potatoes were grown where an Armenian cemetery used to lie in Azerbaijan and offered to prove their claims with videotapes sent to them by their former neighbours and acquaintances from Azerbaijan.

The picture was even gloomier in the village of Arjut, several kilometres away from Nor Khachakal. Some graves had disappeared altogether.

I felt a pain that one feels when seeing something that is left to the mercy of fate, even if it belongs to a different culture, and it strengthened my belief that it was wrong to keep silent about it.

And patriotism has nothing to do with it. It’s not unpatriotic to speak about the shoddy treatment of graves, even if they belong to the other side.

After the article was published, I had to listen to and read many critical comments about the inappropriateness of writing about Azerbaijani graves at a time, when they were destroying Armenian cemeteries and Khachkars (ornate Armenian stones commonly used to mark graves).

I felt somewhat subdued when a person who had probably never in any way contributed to promoting peace questioned my love of motherland and professionalism.

But this did not last long, because when you are a journalist and writing about people and their fates, it is not your emotions, but the objective reality that matters most.

Naira Bulgadarian is an IWPR contributor in Vanadzor, 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.


Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Nagorno-Karabakh: Risking War

14 novembre 2007
International Crisis Group, Belgium
Europe Report N°187


Armenia and Azerbaijan have failed to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, even though the framework for a fair settlement has been on the table since 2005. A comprehensive peace agreement before presidential elections in both countries in 2008 is now unlikely but the two sides still can and should agree before the polls to a document on basic principles, which if necessary clearly indicates the points that are still in dispute. Without at least such an agreement and while they engage in a dangerous arms race and belligerent rhetoric, there is a risk of increasing ceasefire violations in the next few years. By about 2012, after which its oil revenue is expected to begin to decline, Azerbaijan may be tempted to seek a military solution. The international community needs to lose its complacency and do more to encourage the leaderships to prepare their societies for compromise and peace.

In 2006 the co-chairs of the Minsk Group (France, Russia, the U.S.), authorised by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to facilitate negotiations, proposed principles for settlement: renunciation of the use of force; Armenian withdrawal from parts of Azerbaijan surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh; an interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh, with substantial international aid, including peacekeepers; and mutual commitment to a vote on Nagorno-Karabakh’s final status after the return of displaced Azeris. These principles, which were essentially identical to those proposed by Crisis Group a year earlier, still offer the best framework for a deal. Indeed, the sides have publicly said they generally agree with the concept but lack of political will to resolve the remaining key issues, especially the Lachin corridor, has undermined the process and turned stakeholder optimism into cynicism. None of the parties feels that there is any urgency to settle the conflict.

Azeri and Armenian leaders have also failed to engage their constituents in discussion of the merits of peace. The European Union (EU), the U.S. and Russia have not effectively employed political and economic pressure for a settlement. The anticipated focus on domestic politics in Yerevan and Baku as well as several of the Minsk Group countries in 2008 means that even the incremental diplomatic progress that has been made could well be lost.

Oil money has given Azerbaijan new self-confidence and the means to upgrade its armed forces. It seems to want to postpone any peace deal until the military balance has shifted decisively in its favour. Yerevan, which itself has done surprisingly well economically, has also become more intransigent and increased its own military expenditures. It believes that time is on its side, that Nagorno-Karabakh’s de facto independence will become a reality increasingly difficult to ignore. Playing for time is dangerous for all concerned, however. The riskiest period could be around 2012, when Azerbaijan’s oil money is likely to begin to dwindle, and a military adventure might seem a tempting way to distract citizens from economic crisis. Important oil and gas pipelines near Nagorno-Karabakh would likely be among the first casualties of a new war, something Europe and the U.S. in particular have an interest in avoiding.

The wider international community, not just Minsk Group co-chairs, should coordinate efforts to impress on Baku and Yerevan the need for progress, specifically early agreement on a basic principles document. Nagorno-Karabakh needs to be put at the centre of relations with both countries. The EU special representative in the region should become more active on the issue, and the EU should use the first reviews of its action plans with both countries to promote conflict resolution and the development of transparent, credible institutions which can underpin peace efforts. Engagement is needed now to avoid the danger of war in a few years.


To the Governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan:

1. Agree before the 2008 elections on a document of basic principles making provision for:

(a) security guarantees and the deployment of international peacekeepers;

(b) withdrawal of Armenian and Nagorno-Karabakh forces from all occupied territories adjacent to Nagorno-Karabakh, with special modalities for Kelbajar and Lachin;

(c) return of displaced persons;

(d) Nagorno-Karabakh’s final status to be determined eventually by a vote, with an interim status to be settled on until that time; and

(e) reopening of all transport and trade routes.

2. Failing consensus on a comprehensive document, agree what can be agreed and clearly identify the points still in dispute.

3. Encourage politicians to make positive references to peace and the need for compromise in their 2008 election campaigns.

To the Governments of Armenia and Azerbaijan and the De Facto Nagorno-Karabakh Authorities:

4. Respect the 1994 ceasefire, refrain from the use of force, halt the rise of defence budgets and cease belligerent and provocative rhetoric directed at the other.

5. Promote track two diplomacy and debate about compromise solutions, including on the above principles, encourage parliaments to lead these debates and facilitate contacts between Azeris and Armenians.

6. The de facto Nagorno-Karabakh authorities should end support for settlement of occupied territories with Armenians, including putting an end to privatisation, infrastructure development and establishment of local government structures in those areas;

7. Azerbaijan should allow Karabakh Azeris to elect the head of their community and make a concerted effort to increase transparency and reduce corruption so that oil revenues are used to benefit all citizens, particularly internally displaced persons (IDPs).

To the Minsk Group Co-Chairs (France, Russia, the U.S.) and the Wider International Community:

8. Make a renewed effort to secure agreement on basic principles, with remaining points of disagreement clearly indicated, in order to maintain continuity in the process and to provide a starting point for negotiations between the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan after the 2008 elections.

9. Raise the seniority of the co-chair representatives and make resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict a key element of bilateral and multilateral relations with Armenia and Azerbaijan.

10. Make public more information on the substance of negotiations and avoid artificially fuelling expectations by overly optimistic statements.

11. In the case of the European Union:

(a) increase the role of the Special Representative for the South Caucasus (EUSR), who should observe the Minsk process, support direct contacts with all parties, travel to Nagorno-Karabakh, visit IDPs in Azerbaijan and, with the Commission, assess conflict-related funding needs; and

(b) use European Neighbourhood Policy (ENP) reviews and funding to promote confidence building, as well as institution building and respect for human rights and the rule of law.

Tbilisi/Brussels, 14 November 2007

Click here to view the full report as a PDF file in A4 format. For more information about viewing PDF documents, please click here. This document is also available in MS-Word format

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.