Sunday, 31 August 2008
by Samuel Ciszuk
World Markets Research Centre
August 29, 2008
A new deal has been reached between Armenia and Iran over the export of Iranian gas through a long-finished pipeline in exchange for Armenian exports of electricity,Upstreamreports (seeIran: 12 August 2008:). In a 2007 deal, the countries originally agreed to construct a gas pipeline and entered into a supply agreement, but gas failed to flow after the pipeline's completion by mid-2007, with unspecified technical problems on the Armenian side cited as the main cause of the standstill. The newly reached deal specifies that Iranian gas exports will start by 1 October 2008 at a rate of about 1.1 bcm/y, eventually increasing to 2.3 bcm/y. Armenia will pay Iran in electricity from a power plant close to the Iranian border at 3KWh per every cubic metre of gas.
Significance: While the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia is handy to blame for Armenia's sudden willingness to start using the Iranian import option--Armenia currently imports all of its gas from Russia through a pipeline passing Georgia--there seems to be a confluence of interests making this moment particularly opportune. Russia's Gazprom took a leading stake (57.6%) in the Russian-Armenian company that owns the pipeline, ArmRos- Gazprom, indicating that the switch to Iranian supplies--if it actually gets under way--will be in Russia's best interests too. With Armenia no longer dependent on the trans-Georgia pipeline, Russia will be free to shut down its exports to Georgia, which also supplies the country, giving it further political leverage over its neighbour.
Meanwhile, Armenia is given a golden opportunity to escape rising Russian gas export prices in favour of Iranian gas, bought from Iran with electricity at a time when Iran is in the midst of a deep electricity shortage and seems to have agreed to a more favourable pricing scheme than before (seeArmenia: 1 August 2008:). With Armenia a close ally of Russia, its large protector might not see Iran's role as Armenian supplier as a particular threat anyway, preferring for the moment to help shield its poor, but strategic ally from rising costs. However, Iran's chronic gas shortages do cast doubt over its chances of guaranteeing steady supplies to Armenia, especially later this year, when the winter kicks in.
INTERMEDIA SURVEY FINDS ARMENIANS MOST FAVORABLY INCLINED
August 28, 2008 Thursday 10:53 AM EST
Despite a powerful Diaspora lobby in the United States, Armenians' positive feelings towards the U.S. are nearly 40 percentage points behind their feelings towards neighboring Russia. So says a survey of the small (3 million inhabitants) yet strategically located nation, conducted earlier this year by InterMedia, a Washington, D.C.- based research, evaluation and consulting organization.
The InterMedia survey found fully 90 percent of Armenians are favorably inclined towards Russia, but only 53 percent say they are so inclined towards the United States.
"The higher favorability towards Russia compared to the U.S. is not surprising," says Lyuda Andriyevska, one of InterMedia's project managers for Eurasia. "Russia has been the main strategic partner for Armenia for centuries. Currently, Russia provides landlocked Armenia
with oil and gas, invests heavily in business and infrastructure, sells weapons and supports many positions of Armenian foreign policy, the touchiest of which is its dispute with Azerbaijan over the
Armenia is strategically significant in the region due in part to its location at both the energy and ethnic crossroads of Europe, Asia and Middle East. With growing demand for energy resources in the world, Armenia is an important player among three regional powers -- Iran, Turkey and Russia -- all of which compete for political and economic leadership in the region.
Only slightly more than one-quarter of Armenians, 28 percent, are favourably inclined towards their northern neighbour, Georgia. "One reason is the souring of Georgian-Russian relations over the last couple of years," says Ms. Andriyevska. "Georgia serves as a lifeline for the Armenian economy, as all the inland trade with Russia goes through it. However, the ongoing conflict between Georgia and Russia has seriously disrupted communication and transportation of energy and food supplies to Armenia. This should serve to increase Armenians' animosity towards Georgia and perhaps even take some of the lustre off their feelings towards Russia."
The InterMedia survey also found Armenians are pro-European but less keen on NATO. Seventy percent of the population agree or strongly agree with the statement that "Armenia should join EU." NATO, on the other hand, has the support of only slightly more than a quarter of the population, 27 percent.
Although favorability toward Russia is high, there are fundamental differences in public sentiment between the two countries. The InterMedia survey finds Armenians are more optimistic about democratic changes in their country and have more faith in the power of the
electoral process than do Russians. Almost two-thirds of Armenians, 64 percent, anticipated increased chances for democracy and personal self expression after the presidential elections in February 2008; only 5 percent of the Russian population expected similar improvements in terms of democracy and self expression after their own 2008 presidential elections. (InterMedia's Russian survey took place in January 2008.)
InterMedia is a leading international media research, public opinion, evaluation and consulting organization creatively equipping clients to understand their audiences, gauge their effectiveness and target their communications in transitional and developing societies worldwide. Based in Washington, D.C., and active year-round in more than 60 countries, InterMedia helps clients understand complex issues in challenging research environments. The company's strengths include its people-area experts skilled in scientifically-based research and focused on client solutions-its vast global network of local research partners and contacts and its rich data archive of more than 670 media and opinion surveys carried out over the past 15 years.
Survey Details: InterMedia conducted a nationally representative survey of 2,000 face-to face interviews in Armenia between 22 January and 27 February 2008. Maximum margin of error, with a 95% confidence interval, is +/-2.2%.
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, Information Services
Services Leading to the Blessing of the Holy Muron
On Tuesday, August 19, His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians, presided over the first of 40 prayer services, which will culminate in the Blessing of the Holy Muron (Chrism) scheduled for September 28 of this year. The prayer service, which begins a 40-day process of psalms, hymns, scripture readings and prayers, took place following Evening Vesper Services in the Mother Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin.
The cauldron, which contains the Holy Muron, was placed on the bema of the Holy Altar the previous evening, filled with pure olive oil. Pure olive oil is the first of the three primary substances that are mixed with the many additional aromatic and floral ingredients, following the blessing of which is transformed into the Muron. For the subsequent 39 days, the members of
the Brotherhood of Holy Etchmiadzin, will follow the same procedure according to the ancient Canons of the Holy Armenian Apostolic Church.
The 40-day countdown began with His Holiness ascending the Altar of Holy Etchmiadzin and reading from the Gospel of St. Mark. The Catholicos then read the main prayer dedicated to the blessing of Muron. His Holiness stated in his remarks, that he wishes for all faithful of the Armenian Church to raise their prayers to the Almighty during this period of prayer and prepar- ation for Sunday, September 28, which also happens to be the Feast of the Holy Cross of Varag.
The faithful of the Armenian Church are invited to join in prayer during these coming days as Holy Muron is prepared for use in Armenian Churches in Armenia and throughout the Diaspora.
For further updates and schedule of events surrounding the festivities, the faithful are encouraged to visit the website of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, www.armenianchurch.org, to follow the progress and learn new facts surrounding the Blessing of the Holy Muron.
Turkish Bodyguards `Preparing For' Gul's Trip To Armenia
By Ruben Meloyan
A team of Turkish security officials will reportedly travel to Yerevan this weekend to discuss security measures that would be put in place in the event of President Abdullah Gul's historic visit to Armenia.
President Serzh Sarkisian, meanwhile, has again expressed hope that Gul will accept his invitation to arrive in the Armenian capital and watch with him the first-ever game between Armenia's and Turkey's national football teams scheduled for September 6.
Gul said in televised remarks late Wednesday that he is `still considering' the invitation. `What is important is whether such a visit will be useful or not,' he said.
The Turkish daily `Zaman' reported on Thursday that the Turkish president's security detail is already preparing for his possible trip and planning to send a `forward unit' of 15 bodyguards to Yerevan. It said they would discuss with their Armenian colleagues security measures in and around the city's Hrazdan stadium where the qualifying match for the 2010 football World Cup in South Africa will be played.
`According to current plans, a group from the [Turkish] counterattack team, armed with M5 and M16 rifles, will be responsible for Gul's security during the visit,' `Zaman' said.
Another leading Turkish newspaper, `Hurriyet,' said the Foreign Ministry in Ankara is trying to arrange the security team's visit and is going to contact the Armenian government for that purpose. The paper said the Turks will either approach the Armenian embassy in Georgia or Armenia's permanent representative at the Istanbul headquarters of the Black Sea
Economic Cooperation organization.
A diplomatic source in Yerevan told RFE/RL that the Armenian side has not been contacted by Ankara as of late Thursday afternoon. Another Armenian source, who asked not to be identified, essentially confirmed the Turkish newspaper reports.
The invitation extended to Gul in June underscored a thaw in relations between the two estranged neighbors that followed Sarkisian's victory in Armenia's February 19 presidential election. The new Armenian president responded positively to Ankara's offers of a `dialogue' on problems hampering the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties. Senior diplomats from the two countries held confidential talks in Switzerland in early July.
In an interview with the Turkish daily `Radikal' made public on Thursday, Sarkisian stressed the importance of what would be the first-ever trip to Armenia by a Turkish president. `If I did not believe in the visit's importance, I would not invite Mr. Gul in the first place,' he said. `We are neighbors. We went through difficult times in our history. But Armenia is prepared for a development of our relations and expects the same from Turkey.'
Sarkisian also stated that he and his Turkish counterpart `have reached the decision-making phase.' `Those will not be easy decisions,' he said. `Those decisions will not be approved by the entire publics in Armenia and Turkey. But I am sure the majority of the publics will support
Sarkisian also indicated that Yerevan and Ankara can reconcile their conflicting proposals to set up commissions discussing issues of mutual concern. Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan suggested in 2005 that the two states form a commission of historians who would look into the 1915 Armenian massacres in the Ottoman Empire and jointly determine whether they consistuted a genocide. The Armenian government turned down the offer and came up with a counter-proposal to have this and other problems hampering a Turkish-Armenian rapp- rochement tackled by an inter-governmental body.
`The best solution is the establishment of diplomatic relations,' Sarkisian told `Radikal.' `That way we can form many subcommissions and groups within the framework of the commission to be set up by the governments.'
Sarkisian was also asked whether the Yerevan government shares territorial claims to Turkey voiced by some Armenian political groups. `I don't remember a single Armenian official speaking about territorial claims,' he replied. `But I keep hearing about that from the opposite side.'
`If that was our official policy, then we would be called not the Republic of Armenia but the Republic of Eastern Armenia,' added the Armenian president.
Aug 30 2008
President Of Turkey Gul To Visit Armenia
According to the English version of Hurriyet the president of Turkey Abdullah Gul has accepted the invitation of the president of Armenia Serz Sargsyan to visit Armenia and to watch the football match between the national teams of Armenia and Turkey together.
Hurriyet writes "Turkish President Abdullah Gul has accepted an invitation from his Armenian counterpart to watch the World Cup qualifier between the Turkish-Armenian national teams in Yerevan as the Turkish Foreign Ministry said the visit would contribute to renewed relations between the two countries, Vatan daily reported on Saturday."
Vatan Daily has reported the news here, but it's in Turkish.
According to the newspaper Armenia, has not yet been officially informed about Gul's decision to travel to Armenia, but will be invormed officially next week.
It's very interesting that yesterday the foreign minister of Azerbaijan Mr. Elmar Mamediarov was in Turkey meeting the foreign minister Babacan and said that Azerbaijan is basically cool to Turkish president's visit to Armenia. Mamediarov also added that it's up to the Turkish president to accept the invitation or to deny it.
Months ago the president of Armenia as a good gesture invited the president of Turkey together to watch the world qualifier football match between the two national teams that will meet first time in history. This would also be a good opportunity for them to discuss the bilateral relations and bring the positions of the two countries closer through dialogue.
Yesterday Today's Zaman in an article "Reluctant Baku says Armenia visit decision up to Turkey" reported that there are mixed reactions about the Turkish visit to Armenian in Azerbaijan, but it was very interesting to read one of the reactions according to which the president of Azerbaijan Mr. Ilham Aliev should go to Armenia to join to talks and to watch the match.
""Gül should not go there because there will be provocation and chaos if he goes. No one will be welcoming if Gül agrees to visit," said Akif Rustemov, a teacher, to Cihan news agency. He softened his opposition when asked whether Gül and Sarksyan should discuss the Nagorno- Karabakh conflict. "If this is the case, then he should go. In fact, our president, Ilham Aliyev, should also join. Foreign mediators have been trying to find a solution for 17 years, but nothing happens. We have to solve this ourselves."
Woudn't it be nice if the three presidents together just watch a soccer match with one another and dialogue about the future of their countries.
Agence France Presse -- English
August 29, 2008 Friday 3:46 PM GMT
Football: Turks without Hamit Altintop and Nihat
ISTANBUL, Aug 29 2008
Turkish coach Fatih Terim on Friday unveiled a 28-man pre-squad forGroup 5 World Cup qualifiers against Armenia and Belgium.
The Turks, who lost the semi-finals of Euro 2008 to Germany 3-2, will be without Bayern Munich midfielder Hamit Altintop and striker Nihat Kahveci of Villarreal as both are injured.
The Turks meet Armenia on September 6 at Yerevan and then host Belgium four days later in Istanbul. Group 5 also contains European champions Spain, Estonia and Bosnia.
Volkan Demirel (Fenerbahce), Serdar Kulbilge (Kocaelispor), Tolga Zengin (Trabzonspor)
Gokhan Gonul, Ugur Boral (Fenerbahce), Servet Cetin, Hakan Kadir Balta (Galatasaray), GÃ¶khan Zan (Besiktas), Ibrahim Kas (Getafe/ESP), UgurKavuk (Antalyaspor), Mehmet Polat (Gaziantepspor), Caglar Birinci (Denizlispor)
Kazim Kazim, Emre Belozoglu (Fenerbahce), Mehmet Topal, Ayhan Akman, Arda Turan (Galatasaray), Serdar Ozkan (Besiktas), Selcuk Inan, Mehmet Topuz (Trabzonspor), Mehmet Aurelio (Real Betis/ESP), Gokdeniz Karadeniz (Rubin Kazan/RUS), Tuncay Sanli (Middlesbrough/ENG), Nuri Sahin (Borussia Dortmund/GER)
Gokhan Unal (Trabzonspor), Halil Altintop (Schalke 04/GER), Semih Senturk (Fenerbahce), Mevlut Erdinc (Sochaux/FRA)
Hayots Ashkhar Daily
30 Aug 2008
Towards New Solutions
The discussions that have started in Turkey after President Serge Sargsyan's interview to the Turkish `Radical' newspaper testify to the fact that Turkey has recently started to demonstrate an increased interest in Armenia.
The Turkish Mass Media conduct thorough discussions over President Abdullah Gyul's visit to Armenia for watching the Armenia-Turkey football match to be organized on September the 6th, but the official circles of the country continue announcing that they haven't made a final decision yet.
The reason is that the new situation in the Armenian-Turkish relations has some complex processes underlying behind. It is actually the `mirror' of the new geopolitical realities developing in the South Caucasus.
The first and perhaps the most important reality is Russia's active and biased participation in the regulation of the century-old Armenian-Turkish conflict.
And the second reality which makes the task of accelerating the Armenian-Turkish dialogue an urgent issue is the international crisis `in and around Georgia'.
The ruling elite of Turkey have started to realize that it is no longer possible to implement their programs in the South Caucasus while continuing to pursue their traditional policy of isolating Armenia.
Therefore, when is seems on the one hand that the political-military situation in the region is favorable for our county and on the other hand Armenia faces the threat of being subjected to a total blockade, it becomes obvious that we may find a breakthrough in the communication blockade by way of opening the Kars-Gyumri railroad.
But because the process of unknotting the Armenian-Turkish entangled string is related to a lot of difficulties, we can't, for the time being, speak about bringing the parties' viewpoints with regard to strategic issues closer. All we can do at present is to discuss the possibilities of opening the Armenian-Turkish `railway corridor' and initiating a sincere dialogue with the help of Russia, the interested party.
Serge Sargsyan's invitation addressed to his Turkish counterpart and the subsequent discussions initiated by that country, as well as the recent rumors on the probability of constructing the Armenian `branching' of the Baku-Jeyhan oil pipeline can be accounted for by this. In such conditions, the presence of the Turkish President at the September 6 football match may become the `prelude' of the whole process.
In his recent interview, S. Sargsyan expressed belief that `all the measures will be taken to receive President Gyul in Yerevan in an appropriate manner.'
However, right after receiving relevant clarification on the `urgent Atopic', the correspondent of `Radical' immediately passed on to the traditional and strictly painful agenda of the Armenian-Turkish relations. Through the questions asked to the RA President, he tried to clarify Armenia's official attitudes towards the recognition of the Armenian Genocide, the probability of presenting territorial claims to Turkey and other issues.
The answers Serge Sargsyan gave to the Turkish correspondent left no room for speculating the `package of preconditions' of the Turkish side.
In particular, the President gave the following answer to the question concerning the mutual recognition of the borders, `Armenia is for the UN Charter and a number of other international treaties, and it respects its international commitments.' And in response to the question concerning the territorial claims, the President said, `I don't remember any Armenian official expressing an opinion about territorial claims.'
By saying that, Serge Sargsyan made it clear that our state creates no occasion or pretext that may be viewed as an obstacle or put an end to the Armenian-Turkish dialogue.
The same concerns the correspondent's lame attempt of viewing the recognition of the Armenian Genocide as a `precondition of the Armenian party'. The RA President immediately interrupted the correspondent by giving the following clear-cut answer, `All over the world, there's no Armenian not believing the fact of the Genocide. However, the recognition of the Genocide is not a precondition for regulating the relations with Turkey.'
That's to say, the President of Armenia managed to find such formulations for presenting the painful points in the Armenian-Turkish relations that do not allow the Turkish side to make all that a favorable pretext for postponing the solution of the issue of resuming the bilateral relations and opening the borders.
This new `portion' of political messages the Armenian President sent to Turkey through `Radical' newspaper actually `shift the ball to the Turkish half of the field.' Turkish President Abdullah Gyul has now no pretext for rejecting the invitation of visiting Yerevan and excluding our country from regional programs.
It now rests with Russia, our strategic ally, to make its unhesitant intervention in the process of lifting the blockade of Armenia.
Armenian Genocide Museum
August 30, 2008
Armenian Sport in the Ottoman Empire
From September 2 to September 15, a temporary exhibition called `Armenian Sport in the Ottoman Empire' will be on display at the Armenian Genocide Museum. A total of about 70 photos, documents, newspapers and magazines will be on show. They reflect the history of
Armenian sports clubs and football teams in the Ottoman Empire until 1915.
Armenian sports clubs and sportsmen played an important role in the development of sport in the Ottoman Empire. The number of the Armenian sports clubs in the Ottoman Empire reached 100.
In 1911-1914, four Armenian Olympic Games were held in Constantinople. From 1911 to 1914, Shavarsh Qrisyan published the Marmnamarz sports magazine, the first sports periodical in the Ottoman Empire.
For the first time in the history of Turkish Olympic Games, two Armenian sportsmen Vahram Papazian and Mkrtich Mkryan represented Ottoman Turkey in the Fifth International Olympic Games in Stockholm in 1912.
In 1915-1920, many Armenian sportsmen became victims of the genocide and most of the Armenian sports clubs were shut down.
GIBRAHAYER EMAGAZINE TO LAUNCH
|Gibrahayer - Nicosia - As part of its plans to expand its online activities, Gibrahayer e-magazine will be launching an Educational online Trivia Game, that parallel to providing prizes to its winners, will provide an educational forum on important historical and political happenings of Armenian reality.
A team across Armenia and the Diaspora has already started working on the project and the Game will be officially launched this autumn.
More than 100 major prizes have been donated and will be given out to our winning subscribers.
We urge our subscribers to support our new online activities by financially contributing to the team that will be working on the project.
MAKE THIS EDUCATIONAL TRIVIA GAME
|Thank you for extending Gibrahayer e-magazine's lifeline and providing us with the opportunity to constantly bring innovation to our online services.
Call 909-35037. Every call costs 7.86 euro for Cypriot subscribers.
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Saturday, 30 August 2008
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Friday, 29 August 2008
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of the Republic of Armenia
Answer of Tigran Balayan, Head of MFA's Press Office to the questions by Regnum News Agency.
Question: What is Armenia's position on the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia independence.
Answer: Armenia has always favored and continues to believe that any attempt for military solution to conflicts is futile. Such conflicts should only be resolved on the basis of free expression of the will of the people.
Armenia's Fuel Crisis Continues
By Shakeh Avoyan
Gasoline remained in short supply in Armenia on Tuesday despite urgent fuel deliveries organized by the government over the weekend and the resumption of the country's rail communication with the outside world via war-stricken Georgia.
Armenia received late Monday the first trainload of wheat and other basic supplies since the August 16 explosion that downed a key rail bridge in central Georgia, all but cutting it off from the Georgian Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti. The train carried no petrol, leaving the landlocked country to rely on fuel brought in by more than 30 heavy trucks from the port terminals. Thousands of tons of petrol and diesel fuel have been stockpiled there and are awaiting delivery to Armenia.
According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, another train carrying 10 rail cars of petrol was about to bypass on Tuesday afternoon the damaged section of Georgia's east-west railway through a smaller and hitherto disused rail bridge prepared for temporary use. `Those ten cars of petrol should reach Armenia by tomorrow morning,' a ministry spokeswoman, Susanna Tonoyan, told RFE/RL.
Meanwhile, petrol was barely available for sale in most filling stations in Yerevan. Queues of cars could be seen outside the few functioning stations, most of them belonging to large fuel importing companies. Some of them continued severe fuel rationing introduced at the weekend, while others did not sell fuel for cash, accepting only vouchers sold by those companies to privileged buyers.
Workers at filling stations blamed the crisis on a `panic' among motorists keen to stock up with unusually large amounts of petrol because of the continuing uncertainty in Georgia. `There are drivers who buy 60 liters of gasoline a day,' said Vagho Vanian, manager of a station owned by Flash, the country's number one fuel importer. `Armenians are always quick to panic.'
`People are worried that there might be no petrol tomorrow,' said a seller at another station chain. `That's why we don't have enough of it ¦ Sometimes when you start filling a car tank you see that it's already almost full.'
`There will be lots of gasoline in town on August 29,' predicted another station worker.
Despite the shortages, the prices of various gasoline brands have remained virtually unchanged, hovering between 410 and 440 drams ($1.35-$1.45) per liter. The local market is tightly controlled by Flash and a handful of other firms owned by government-connected persons.
Ensuring continued imports of wheat and other basic foodstuffs has been the Armenian government's main priority so far. Tonoyan said most of the rail cars that have already entered or are on the way to the country are loaded with wheat.
Opposition Protesters Detained, Attacked
By Ruben Meloyan and Anush Martirosian
Police detained several young men at the scene of an ongoing opposition sit-in in Yerevan on Tuesday as they sought to prevent its participants from placing new anti-government posters and other agitation material there. All of them were released later in the day.
The police used force on Monday to remove stands with pictures of detained oppositionists and opposition posters from a section of the city's upscale Northern Avenue where dozens of supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian have been camped since early July.
Law-enforcement officials cited complaints lodged by the owners of street buildings and shops.
Eyewitnesses told RFE/RL that riot police detained at least four opposition supporters on the spot after discovering pro-Ter-Petrosian graffiti painted on the floor. `Three of our young men have just been dragged away, and another ran away. I don't know if they caught him,' one of the protesters, Yelizaveta Tarverdian, said, crying. `How can they do this?'
`We asked the police to explain why they are taking away the guys but there was no reply,' she said.
Colonel Aghasi Kirakosian, deputy chief of Yerevan's police department, explained the detentions as he spoke with protesters shortly afterwards. `We must clarify who wrote this,' he said, pointing to the `Levon president!' inscription written on the pedestrian boulevard's tiled floor.
`Why should this section of Northern Avenue not be clean?' said Kirakosian. `So clean this up and we'll clarify things and free the lads.'
In another Northern Avenue incident, a 17-year-old opposition supporter was reported to have been stabbed and wounded in the arm by a government loyalist late Monday. David Kiramijian described the attacker as an elderly man who shouted abuse at the protesters. `I just told him that there are women and children here and he should stop swearing,' Kiramijian told RFE/RL. `He then came up to me, swearing.
`I was about to respond when he took out a knife and moved to hit me. I raised my arm to shield my body, and so the knife pierced my arm.'
Kiramijian was immediately taken to hospital to have his wound stitched up. The Armenian police said in a statement the next day that his presumed attacker, identified as Volodya Manukian, was detained for questioning and then set free pending investigation.
Northern Avenue, which leads to Yerevan's Liberty Square, has been the scene of daily gatherings of Ter-Petrosian supporters ever since the end of emergency rule imposed by the authorities following the deadly March 1 unrest in the capital. The authorities tried unsuc- cessfully to stop what the opposition has dubbed `political strolls' with random detentions of their participations in late March and early April.
Ter-Petrosian's Armenian National Congress (HAK), an alliance of 16 opposition parties, has condemned the latest police actions there. `Can there be a more miserable thing than a dictator- ship fighting against posters?' Levon Zurabian, a senior HAK member, said on Tuesday. `The
authorities presented no legal grounds for such actions.'
FOR TRUE CAUCASUS STABILITY TURKEY MUST REMAIN ON COURSE
Turkish Daily News
August 26, 2008 Tuesday
Turkey closed its border with Armenia in mid-1993 was due to Armenian aggression and occupation of Azerbaijani territories of Karabakh and seven other regions (total of about 15 percent of Azerbaijan, with over 800,000 Azerbaijanis and Kurds displaced or killed). Inciden- tally, these binding demands on Armenia about withdrawing and ceasing occupation were made not just by Turkey, but by the U.N. Security Council, the U.N.General Assembly, OSCE, PACE and OIC, just to name a few, all of which Armenia ignored
What is troublesome is that not only was this worthy initiative of PM Erdogan monopolized by the Armenian lobby, but it also quite overtly attempts to hurt Georgia, by reducing trade turnover of all the regional states with Georgia and redirect pipelines and railroads to be routed through Armenia, instead of Georgia. When PM Erdogan was drafting his proposal, he probably could not have imagined that his idea would be ripped from context and used with such ulterior
motives by one special interest group to the detriment of Georgia, Azerbaijan as well as Turkey.
If Armenia was serious about good neighborly relations, it would have stopped its occupation of Azerbaijan, removed all its troops, and stopped the blockade of Naxcivan region (which has been under Armenian blockade since 1989). This would have definitely improved the situation in the region, and would have placed Armenia on the
right side of economic development and relations with its neighbors
Secondly, what has Armenia done to repay Turkey for its persistent goodwill, to demand yet another expensive gesture? For example, Turkey was among the first states to have recognized Armenia back in 1991,has allowed regular, charter and humanitarian air flights to/from Armenia, welcomed over 60,000 illegal immigrants from Armenia, has cut in half its border and other security personnel on the border, has at least $35 million in official trade turnover with Armenia (unofficially could be as high as $200 million), charges the same tourist visa fee ($12 for one month) as it does on everyone else [eh?] , is among the first to congratulate the new Armenian president on assuming his new office -- the list is long and can go on.
In return, Armenia attempts to put pressure on Turkey through thirdparties, sometimes resorting to blackmail, such as speculating that the recognition of 1915 events as "genocide" would be "rewarded"with a EU membership, or, as the latest article in The Economist claims, if the land border opens then the U.S. Congress might not adopt its non-binding "genocide" resolution. All these speculations are of course untrue
Border politics and economic impacts
Armenia's remaining population is around 2 million [eh?] and its purchasing power is increasing very slowly, meaning it simply cannot afford to import Turkish goods and prefers less expensive Iranian and Chinese goods. Also, as Armenian economy found ways to cope with trade sanctions, the effect of lifting the Turkish embargo would have almost no positive economic change, although will make the Turkish
market more accessible for illegal immigrants and suitcase traders from Armenia.
Turkey stands to gain much more through increasing trade with the truly booming economies of Azerbaijan and Georgia, than with Armenia, as every dollar invested into Armenia without strings attached currently fuels further groundless claims and occupation, whilst investment to
Azerbaijan and Georgia, along with other Turkic countries, creates economic growth, prosperity and more economic opportunities with positive return on investment
Hence, there are simply no real political, economic, trade and monetary benefits for opening of the land border. However, opening of the land border would mean a great symbolic victory by Armenia over both Turkey and Azerbaijan. For starters, it would irreparably damage relations between two brotherly states. It would also greatly damage prospects of Karabakh war settlement. It would show that pushing Turkey around and holding it hostage to never ending demands works, and that Turkey
can be forced to rescind its own words and promises. All this would empower Armenia, but weaken Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey
What would be the right course of action for Turkey in this situation?
1) To be firm and continue demand Armenia to comply
with international law and UN resolutions;
2) To continue and accelerate regional projects with Georgia
and Turkic nations;
3) To promote greater research and awareness of Turkish
history, particularly in the period of WWI, such as through the Azerbaijan Turkey Historical Research Foundation (ATAF); 4) President Gul should accept President Sarkissian's invitation to watch the football match, but travel to Yerevan from Baku, so that the symbolism is not lost on the host, and while in Armenia, to simply enjoy the game, while firmly reiterating point No. 1 as a precondition for CSCP to be viable. The sooner Armenia complies with the international law, the quicker confidence and trust towards it will be built. The region wants and deserves peace, but achieving it requires firmness and honoring commitments.
Thursday, 28 August 2008
Monday, 25 August, 2008
Armenia Hit By Fuel Shortages
By Shakeh Avoyan
Armenia was grappling with its worst fuel shortages since the early
1990s on Monday despite the reported reopening of Georgia's east-west
railway that serves as the main supply line of the two South Caucasus
A section of that railway close to the central Georgian town of Gori was
damaged by a weekend fuel train explosion which Georgian officials said
was caused by a landmine. It occurred just over a week after another,
powerful explosion downed a nearby rail bridge. Russia denied Georgian
accusations that it was behind the attack.
The August 16 blast left the Armenian government scrambling to restore
supplies of wheat, fuel and other basic commodities from the Georgian
Black Sea ports of Poti and Batumi which process more than 90 percent of
Armenia's external cargo turnover. The government sent a convoy of about
40 fuel trucks to collect gasoline stranded in the ports.
Officials said on Monday that the convoy returned to Armenia at the
weekend with more than 500 tons of petrol. The government does not plan
to send more heavy vehicles to Georgia in view of the renewed rail
communication, they said.
Meanwhile, the situation with fuel supplies only deteriorated, with the
vast majority of filling stations in Yerevan resorting to severe fuel
rationing on Sunday. They stopped selling petrol altogether the next
morning. Only holders of prepaid corporate vouchers issued by the
country's largest station chains could buy a limited amount of petrol on
`We have run out of gas and are selling it only to company cars. This is
all the information I have at this point,' said a worker at one filling
station besieged by angry motorists.
`The war is in Georgia, but it's Armenia that is in crisis,' one of them
complained. `They keep saying that petrol is coming and there are no
problems. But there is a problem.'
`Even in the most remote Georgian village there is no petrol shortage,'
said another driver. `Why? Because there are many petrol importers in
Georgia but only three of them in this country.'
The cargo company Apaven, which was assigned by the government to
organize the emergency fuel imports, downplayed the crisis. `The
[Georgian] railway has begun functioning at a fraction of its capacity,'
Apaven's executive director, Gagik Aghajanian, told RFE/RL. `But even
that is enough. If there is any deficit, I think it will be eliminated
Aghajanian referred to the start of rail traffic through a smaller,
disused rail bridge which Georgia, helped by Armenia and Azerbaijan, has
prepared for use until the damaged bridge is repaired.
According to the Armenian Ministry of Transport and Communications, the
August 16 blast left a total of 178 rail cars, 108 of them loaded with
wheat, stranded on Georgian railway sections west of Gori. `In all
likelihood, 35 cars loaded with wheat will head to Armenia today,' a
ministry spokeswoman, Susanna Tonoyan, told RFE/RL.
`Besides, we have a lot of freight in the ports of Poti and Batumi
awaiting shipment,' she said. `In particular, in Poti there are two
ships carrying 6,700 tons of wheat and 93 rails cars of other goods. In
Batumi, we have 2,500 tons of wheat, ten cars of petrol and another one
thousand tons of petrol.'
Tonoyan added that the government has also organized `intensive' fuel
and wheat supplies from neighboring Iran. More than 400 tons of flour
have already bee imported to Armenia through Iranian territory, she
By M. Alkhazashvili
Aug 26 2008
Russia's intervention in Georgia and its deliberate damaging of
Georgia's transport infrastructure have caused serious problems to
Russia's strategic partner Armenia. That country receives many of its
essential goods by cargo through Georgia. The suspension of transit
caused by damage to Georgia's transport infrastructure has created
a shortage of certain products in Armenia, most importantly fuel
To try and alleviate the fuel shortage the Armenian Energy Minister
has traveled to Iran, although agreeing to obtain fuel from there
would be a difficult step to take as it would be more expensive than
getting it through Georgia.
There are currently 37 petrol tankers in Batumi which could be used to
transport fuel to Armenia. The Batumi terminal however is storing 1,800
tonnes of petrol which is due for delivery to that country. Armenia
is therefore sending 40 extra petrol tankers to Batumi. One of six
carriages of wheat intended for Armenia is also stranded in Georgia
due to Russia's damage of the railways.
Both Armenia and Azerbaijan are vitally interested in the prompt
restoration of the Georgian railway system. Specialists from both
countries are assisting Georgia to reconstruct it.
By Vartan Oskanian
AZG Armenian Daily
YEREVAN, Armenia. Although we could see the clouds gathering, the
recent Georgia-Russia confrontation shook us all. No one had allowed
themselves to believe that mixed messages and complicated agendas
would come to such a head, causing so much devastation, loss of life
and geopolitical chaos.
The South Ossetia conflict should not be viewed solely through the
larger prism of Georgia-Russia relations. This is an ethnic conflict,
after all, and one of several in the Caucasus. It is a warning to
the international community: If pipeline safety is a concern now,
then imagine the very real dangers that an Azerbaijani-Armenian
conflict over Nagorno Karabakh would create.
Therefore, in order to seriously tackle the more difficult conflicts
throughout this region, the comparatively more straightforward security
and stability issues must be resolved first - and quickly.
Conflicts in the region would be viewed in a wholly different, more
reassuring and tolerant context if there were a binding and strong
security pact that assured non-use of force.
These conflicts are not frozen. In the absence of a security pact,
there is an arms build up that is in itself destabilizing, distorting
national budgets and hampering the normal development of civil society.
Yet in the Caucasus, our countries and peoples have lived under a
common umbrella far more than we have been divided. Today, we share
a common vision of European integration, a vision that is greater
and more enduring than issues that divide us. It is in the broader
context of European integration that our issues should be resolved.
Although integration with Europe is not controversial, NATO expansion
is. Never in history has a grand coalition formed to defeat a
particular enemy survived after the task was completed. Not after
the Napoleonic wars, not after World War I and not after World War II.
After the West's Cold War victory, two things happened. NATO tried
to reinvent itself by directing its attention and resources to other
regions and addressing other problems. Containing Russia was not a
declared intention. And NATO created the Euro Atlantic Partnership
Council, which invited all Eastern Bloc and former Soviet republics
This was visionary and potentially sustainable. After all, the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe and the Council
of Europe extended their efficacy in that way by including the
remnants of the USSR. Not only did they remain relevant and viable,
they contributed immeasurably to our own growth and development.
But NATO also planned to continue and even expand in the same form,
even after its stated goal had long been met. Given the changed
security environment and Russia's great security sensitivities,
this was, it appears, a strategic mistake.
Georgia's eagerness to get into NATO is understandable. But the
security benefits to Georgia that NATO membership would bring would
be offset by the creation of a dividing line in the Caucasus, and
its attendant security challenges.
Perhaps this is the Caucasus moment: A historic opportunity, in the
context of a new regional security pact, for Brussels, Washington and
Moscow to meet with Tbilisi, Yerevan and Baku and create a nonaligned
Caucasus, free of security memberships and adversarial alliances. Such
positive, engaged, inclusive neutrality will be possible and beneficial
This would be in the best interest of this highly combustible region. A
U.S.-Russia confrontation at the Georgia-Russia level will make life
very difficult, not just for us here in Armenia but also for Azerbaijan
It is in the context of these existential security issues that we
must view the recent Turkish proposal for a Caucasus Stability and
The idea of such a pact was floated already in 1999. The concept
found favor because there were fresh memories of the use of
force in our region, and the urgency of security arrangements was
evident. Opposition to Russian interests was not yet deep and there
were no tensions through proxies. But even during such a honeymoon,
the idea didn't become reality.
Today, force has been used again, and perhaps for that reason, the
idea has resurfaced. But today, with the threat of a renewed Cold-War
mentality, divisive lines may be drawn through these mountains and
all regional relations will become unimaginably complicated. That is,
where there still are relations.
Turkey's proposal is therefore interesting and the urgency is not lost
on anyone. But the concept must be developed right and implemented
well. But we've been down this road before in this part of the world,
where good intentions were sidetracked by the very political problems
they were meant to resolve.
The Black Sea Economic Cooperation pact, for example, was created
precisely for the purpose of bringing together those who otherwise
shared no common forum for economic cooperation and the resolution
of problems. But it's effectiveness has been limited because Turkey
lacked the commitment to use the forum as a way to relate with a
country like Armenia, with whom its borders are closed.
The proposal today, in this new tense environment, must be more
serious and sustained. It must marginalize no one. Security issues
are intertwined, and they ought to be addressed in a stability pact
with a comprehensive, strong security component.
During his visit to Baku last week, Turkish Prime Minister Recep
Tayyip Erdogan discussed the Turkish plan and publicly made reference
to Armenia's inclusion. It is also a fortuitous coincidence that
President Abdullah Gul of Turkey has been invited by President
Serzh Sargsian of Armenia to watch the Turkey-Armenia FIFA World Cup
qualifying match on Sept. 6 together.
This offers an opportunity for these two neighbors to discuss common
security challenges and pave the way for a region of peace.
Vartan Oskanian was foreign minister of Armenia from 1998 to April
2008. He is the founder of the Civilitas Foundation in Yerevan,
which addresses foreign policy, democracy and development issues in
Aug 25 2008
The Board of the Central Bank (CB) of Armenia decided today to
forbid all the banks on the territory of Armenia to participate in
the international Western Union money transfer system.
As Mediamax was told in CB press service, the banks were ordered to
annul the cooperation agreements with Western Union in an envisaged
The CB press service informed that this decision was made to reduce the
banking risks as "there are cases of unfounded violation of agreement
provisions between Western Union and several banks acting on the
territory of Armenia. Thus, in branches of several banks the money
transfer system stopped service which can harm the usual activity of
the banks, their financial status, lead to an unexpected situation
in the sphere of money transfers, as well as influence the economic,
financial and real sectors of the country."
Mediamax recalls that earlier Azerbaijan demanded that Western
Union, Moneygram and some other systems stopped their activity in the
"Nagorno-Karabakh Republic" (NKR) threatening to ban the activity of
the systems in Azerbaijan. As a result of this, several money transfer
systems stopped their activity in "NKR".
Turkish Daily News
Aug 22 2008
Turkey's proposal to create a stability pact in the Caucasus is
helping improve Turkish-Armenian ties amid low-profile diplomatic
contacts that have commenced between the two neighbors.
As questions linger over the fate of the Turkish-led proposal, due
to conflicts between the potential members, Russian Foreign Minister
Sergei Lavrov is expected to communicate Turkey's proposal for a
Caucasus stability pact with Armenia after a telephone conversation
with his Turkish counterpart, Ali Babacan, this week.
On another front, the deputy undersecretary of the Turkish Foreign
Ministry, Unal CevikÃ¶z, is expected to hold talks with his Armenian
counterparts regarding the Caucasus plan. CevikÃ¶z was one of the
Turkish diplomats who held secret talks with Armenian officials
Turkey has prioritized Armenia's involvement in the regional
cooperation mechanism. Diplomatic sources earlier told the Turkish
Daily News that it was Armenia that was most negatively affected by
the Georgian-Russian war in the region and highlighted the importance
of Yerevan joining the platform.
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced Wednesday that Babacan
would speak to Lavrov this week after which the format of the contacts
would be determined. The proposal is expected to be first presented
to the Armenian side by the Russian foreign minister.
Meanwhile, Yerevan welcomed the Turkish will to include Armenia in the
Caucasus pact. "Armenia was always in favor of dialogue and talks,
particularly on the issues concerning cooperation and security in
our region," Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in a
written statement released by the Armenian Foreign Ministry.
"The Turkish prime minister's statement on the intention to start
talks with Armenia on this agenda could be welcomed," he noted.
Babacan is expected to hold talks with his Armenian counterpart on
the sidelines of the annual U.N. General Assembly meetings in New
York in September.
Turkey continues practice to ease airspace quota
Ankara's move to relax its airspace quota for Armenia is also
considered another positive gesture toward Yerevan, in addition to
considerations of aid to civilians.
Turkey decided to loosen its airspace quota for Armenia to allow easier
access for humanitarian aid to war-torn Georgia. The most visible
aim is to contribute to aid efforts by facilitating the transfer of
material via Armenia and to help civilians leave Georgia by using
Yerevan as an alternative to Baku, which is already overcrowded.
European countries mostly used Georgian and Russian air space before
the war. Charter flights from Istanbul and Trabzon to Yerevan were
already available; now all planes flying to and from Yerevan are
granted flight permission. The TDN learned that the practice is still
ongoing and this liberal air space quota may be kept in place while
progress in the betterment of Turkish-Armenian ties gets clearer in
the upcoming period.
ARMENIA AND THE NEW TURKISH PROPOSAL
Turkish Daily News
Aug 22 2008
As the conflict in Georgia over the past two weeks has so demonstrably
confirmed, there is a glaring need for stability in the South
Caucasus region. As part of a broader Turkish initiative to assert
geopolitical influence, Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan
has recently launched a new bid for bolstering stability and security
in the region. Hailed as the "Platform for Stability and Cooperation
in the Caucasus," this new Turkish initiative seeks to forge a new
cooperative attempt at conflict prevention, multilateral security
and regional stability.
Heralding this new initiative, the Turkish prime minister arrived in
Baku on August 20 to meet with President Ilham Aliyev and to more
clearly define the proposal's goal for securing the now vulnerable
energy export routes running from the Caspian basin to Europe.
The Energy imperative
While one of the most pressing needs is to rapidly resume the flow of
oil exports through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan, or BTC, pipeline, closed
since August 6 after an explosion damaged the Turkish portion of the
pipeline and has not been reopened since the subsequent conflict
in Georgia raised fresh security concerns. Although preliminary
testing of the Turkish section of the pipeline began on August 18,
serious concerns linger, especially as the BTC's back-up route, the
90,000-barrels-per-day-capacity Baku-Supsa pipeline, has also been
shut down after a key railway bridge was destroyed in Georgia.
Erdogan's Azerbaijan visit comes in the wake of earlier meetings in
both Moscow and Tbilisi last week, where he also pressed for support
of the new initiative. Most importantly, it is the imperative of
stability for energy that is the key to the initiative, as the recent
outbreak of hostilities in Georgia has raised new concerns over the
viability of not only the BTC and Baku-Supsa pipelines, but also
the Baku-Tbilisi-Erzurum natural-gas pipeline and the U.S.-EU backed
Nabucco gas pipeline project, which proposes bringing an additional 31
billion cubic meters of natural gas to Europe once operational by 2020.
Mutually positive messages
Although Azerbaijan and Georgia have obvious vested interests in the
Turkish proposal driven by their shared energy ties, the exclusion of
Armenia from the regional energy infrastructure will only exacerbate
the challenge of convincing Armenia of the need to accept and support
the initiative. Although this challenge seems to be recognized by
Ankara, as seen by Prime Minister Erdogan's recent statement promising,
"We will discuss the project with Armenia to construct a cooperation
region with five countries," made at the Turkey-Africa summit in
Istanbul, Armenia seems by no means ready to follow Ankara's lead
without any serious improvement in the two countries' non-existent
relations and closed borders.
Yet there have been some recent signs of optimism from both sides,
demonstrated by both Turkey's relaxation of its air space quota for
Armenia in order to ease access for humanitarian aid flows into Georgia
via Armenia, and President Abdullah Gul's August 16 reconciliatory
message to Armenia. That statement noted that Turkey is "no enemy" and
pointed out that the recent conflict between Georgia and Russia affirms
the need for "early measures to resolve frozen problems in the region
and ... prevent instability in the future." The Turkish president
went on to state, "This is our understanding on all problems. We are
no enemy to anyone in the region," before reiterating the Turkish
proposal to set up a regional forum for stability in the Caucasus.
In addition, after a round of secret talks in Switzerland, there is
ample room and even greater necessity for a historic breakthrough in
relations between Turkey and Armenia.
If Gul rejects the invitation
But Gul's conciliatory remarks were not part of an attempt to restore
bilateral ties, but were in response to a question on whether he would
accept an invitation by Armenian President Serge Sarkisian to go to
Yerevan in September to attend a World Cup qualifying match between
Turkey and Armenia on September 6. And as he replied that he was still
"evaluating the invitation," there is a danger that Armenian public
opinion will be angered and disappointed by a Turkish rejection of
the invitation, which seems likely at this point.
Such a negative Armenian reaction to a likely Turkish decision not
to come to Yerevan would also set back recent Armenian overtures,
including an Armenian decision to unilaterally suspend its visa regime
with Turkey to facilitate the arrival of Turkish fans for the upcoming
first-ever match between the two countries' national football teams. An
earlier and far more significant overture came earlier this summer,
when Armenian President Sarkisian signaled his government readiness to
accept, in principle, a Turkish proposal to form a joint historical
commission, which would theoretically also examine the historical
veracity of the alleged Armenian genocide of 1915.
Thus, it seems equally clear that while Ankara is not yet willing
or able to tackle its unresolved bilateral problems with Yerevan at
this time, Armenia will remain unwilling to accept or support this
new Turkish initiative for regional stability. And Armenian public
reaction, both within Armenia and its worldwide diaspora, is certain
to reject any move to sign up to the Turkish regional initiative prior
to the restoration of normal diplomatic relations and the opening of
the closed Armenian-Turkish border.
by VAL JAVIN
STORYTELLER Vergine Gulbenkian's fascination with traditional tales
began with her own Armenian origins.
But once she had researched stories from the rich Armenian oral
tradition Vergine turned her attention to other cultures.
She will be sharing that rich mix of tales when she appears at
Huddersfield Public Library in the autumn.
Vergine has called her show Cradle Of Life and in it she threads
together three stories from very different parts of the world.
In the show at the library in the centre of Huddersfield on October 21
expect lullabies, incantations, repeated themes and factual
The stories themselves are linked by the timeless themes of
motherhood, birth, death, listening and sacrifice.
Her tales will include the Mesopotamian story of the birth of mankind
and the Flood, the Tibetan story of the wrathful mother goddess Palden
Lhamo and the Celtic story of Ceridwen and the birth of Taliesin.
Vergine has taken her storytelling skills to major venues in London,
including the South Bank Centre, the Battersea Arts Centre, the
British Museum and the Barbican Centre.
She has also visited museums, schools and storytelling clubs around
Britain. Armenian folk songs are an integral part of her performances.
The show, which begins at 7.30pm, is suitable for adults and children
over 12. Tickets are pounds 4 (pounds 3 concessions), including
refreshments from the library on 01484 221959 or 221960.
(Arek Yapoudjian) The Armenian Olympic Team has achieved the best ever result at the Beijing Olympic Games.
The proud Armenian medallists who were welcome home as great heroes were:
► Hrachik Javakhyan (Boxing 60kg)
► Tigran Gevorg Martirosyan (Weightlifting 69kg)
► Gevorg Davtyan (Weightlifting 77kg)
► Tigran Vartan Martirosyan (Weightlifting 85kg)
► Roman Amoyan (Wrestling Greco-Roman 55 kg)
► Yuri Patrikeev (Wrestling Greco-Roman 120 kg)
It should be noted that Javakhyan’s medal is Armenia’s first Olympic medal in Boxing. As a result of these great
Armenian athletes achieved medals for other countries as well. Artur Ayvazian and Armen Vardanyan represented
Congratulations to all our heroes and looking forward to London 2012.
Wednesday, 27 August 2008
Dear FriendsI urge you to read this powerful article by Robert Fisk, with a reference to the desecration of the Armenian Genocide Monument in Cardiff. The truth of the Genocide, set in stone in Cardiff must surely beg the question: "Does Wales have the beginnings of a Foreign Policy?"Sadly the strong support given by the majority of Welsh MPs in recognising the Genocide in the EDMs in 2006 anmd 2007 has not been heeded by the UK government (or the UK Conservative Party for that matter).We shall be lobbying strongly at the Manchester Labour Conference under the banner of the Independent Labour Party, for an ethical Foreign policy from the government including Armenian, Assyrian and Anfal Genocide Recognition. The title of the ILP fringe meeting speech will be " Has Labour lost its soul?" At 6 15 p.m. in Brannigans, 100 meters from the Conference CentreDetails from 07718982732It's interesting the point that Robert Fisk makes, that the desecration was reported world-wide but hardly at all in BritainRegardsEilian Williams
The Independent, UKAug 23 2008Robert Fisk's World:A voice recovered from Armenia's bitter past
Saturday, 23 August 2008It's a tiny book, only 116 pages long, but it contains a monumental truth, another sign that one and a half million dead Armenians will not go away.It's called My Grandmother: a Memoir and it's written by Fethiye Cetin and it opens up graves. For when she was growing up in the Turkish town of Marden, Fethiye's grandmother Seher was known as a respected Muslim housewife. It wasn't true. She was a Christian Armenian and her real name was Heranus. We all know that the modern Turkish state will not acknowledge the 1915 Armenian Holocaust, but this humble book may help to change that. Because an estimated two million Turks – alive in Turkey today – had an Armenian grandparent.As children they were put on the death marches south to the Syrian desert but – kidnapped by brigands, sheltered by brave Muslim villagers (whose own courage also, of course, cannot be acknowledged by Turkey) or simply torn from their dying mothers – later became citizens of themodern Turkey which Mustafa Kemal Ataturk was to set up. Yet as Maureen Freely states in her excellent preface, four generations of Turkish schoolchildren simply do not know Ottoman Anatolia was between a quarter and a half Christian.Heranus – whose face stares out at the reader from beneath her Muslim headscarf – was seized by a Turkish gendarme, who sped off on horseback after lashing her mother with a whip. Even when she died of old age, Fethiye tried to record the names of Heranus's Armenian parents – Isguhi and Hovannes – but was ignored by the mosque authorities. It was Heranus, with her razor-sharp memory, who taught Fethiye of her family's fate and this book does record in terrible detail the now familiar saga of mass cruelty, of rape and butchery.In one town, the Turkish police separated husbands, sons and old men from their families and locked the women and children into a courtyard with high walls. From outside came blood-curdling shrieks. As Fethiye records, "Heranus and her brothers clung to their mother's skirts, but though she was terrified, she was desperate to know what was going on. Seeing that another girl had climbed on to someone's shoulders to see over the wall, she went to her side. The girl was still looking over the wall; when, after a very long while, she came down again, she said what she had seen. All her life, Heranus would never forget what came from this girl's lip: 'They're cutting the men's throats, and throwing them into the river.'" Fethiye says she wrote her grandmother's story to "reconcile us with our history; but also to reconcile us with ourselves" which, as Freely writes, cuts right through the bitter politics of genocide recognition and denial. Of course, Ataturk's decision to move from Arabic to Latin script also means thatvital Ottoman documents recalling the genocide cannot be consulted by most modern-day Turks. At about the same time, it's interesting to note, Stalinwas performing a similarly cultural murder in Tajikistan where he moved the largely Persian language from Arabic to Cyrillic.And so history faded away. And I am indebted to Cosette Avakian, who sent me Fethiye's book and who is herself the granddaughter of Armenian survivors and who brings me news of another memorial of Armenians, this time in Wales. Wales, you may ask? And when I add that this particular memorial – a handsome Armenian cross embedded in stone – was vandalised on Holocaust Memorial Day last January, you may also be amazed. And I'm not surprised because not a single national paper reported this outrage. Had it been a Jewish Holocaust memorial stone that was desecrated, it would – quite rightly – have been recorded in our national newspapers. But Armenians don't count.As a Welsh Armenian said on the day, "This is our holiest shrine. Our grandparents who perished in the genocide do not have marked graves. This is where we remember them." No one knows who destroyed the stone: a request for condemnation by the Turkish embassy in London went, of course, unheeded, while in Liverpool on Holocaust Day, the Armenians were not even mentioned in the service.Can this never end? Fethiye's wonderful book may reopen the past, but it is a bleak moment to record that when the Turkish-Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was prosecuted for insulting "Turkishness", Fethiye defended him in court. Little good it did Dink. He was murdered in January last year, his alleged killer later posing arrogantly for a picture next to the two policemen who were supposed to be holding him prisoner. It was in Dink's newspaper Agos thatFethiye was to publish her grandmother's death notice. This was how Heranus's Armenian sister in America came to read of her death. For Heranus's mother survived the death marches to remarry and live in New York.Wales, the United States, even Ethiopia, where Cosette Avakian's family eventually settled, it seems that every nation in the world is home to the Armenians. But can Turkey ever be reconciled with its own Armenian community, which was Hrant Dink's aim? When Fethiye found her Aunt Marge in the US – this was Heranus' sister, of course, by her mother's second marriage – she tried to remember a song that Heranus sang as a child. It began with the words"A sad shepherd on the mountain/Played a song of love..." and Marge eventually found two Armenian church choir members who could put the words together."My mother never missed the village dances," Marge remembered. "She loved to dance. But after her ordeal, she never danced again." And now even when the Welsh memorial stone that stands for her pain and sorrow was smashed, the British Government could not bring itself to comment. As a member of the Welsh Armenian community said at the time, "We shall repair the cross again and again, no matter how often it is desecrated." And who, I wonder, will be wielding the hammer to smash it next time?