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AAA: Armenia This Week - 08/30/2004

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  • AAA: Armenia This Week - 08/30/2004

    Monday, August 30, 2004

    Six Armenian nationals working on contract in West Africa appear to have
    been caught up in an attempted coup. Pilot Ashot Karapetian, co-pilot Samvel
    Darbinian, aeronautical engineer Ashot Simonian, navigator Samvel
    Matchkalian, flight engineer Razmik Khachatrian and technician Suren
    Muradian flew an Antonov-12, a Soviet-made cargo plane for Armenia-based
    Tiga Air company. The six were arrested last March in Equatorial Guinea,
    along with their client Gerhard Eugen Merz of Germany (who had since died in
    prison), several South Africans and Guineans.

    Ambassador Sergei Manaserian and other officials are currently in Equatorial
    Guinea for the trial, and had visited the aviators twice before. They met
    with local leaders to request that the Armenians be released and that their
    detention conditions be improved in the meantime. The Armenians did not
    report being ill-treated in custody and have been able to telephone their
    relatives in Yerevan on at least one occasion.

    The Armenians have pled "not guilty" to charges of coup plotting, which
    according to the governments of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Equatorial Guinea
    as well as confessions of would-be participants, involved dozens of South
    African and Angolan mercenaries led by British ex-Special Forces soldier
    Simon Mann, and was allegedly financed by Mark Thatcher, son of the former
    British Prime Minister. They are said to have sought to overthrow President
    Teodoro Obiang Nguema and install his Spain-based opponent in this oil-rich

    According to Armenian pilots and their lawyer, they arrived in Equatorial
    Guinea last January to fly freight between that country and two other
    African nations, and until last week were unaware on what charges they were
    held. Local prosecutors, however, have alleged that the Armenians were to
    fly in mercenaries for the would be coup and demanded they be sentenced to
    at least 26 years in prison.

    Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman Hamlet Gasparian described the
    accusations as "nonsensical, absurd.. and groundless." According to
    Gasparian, South African suspects in the case have denied that the Armenians
    were involved in coup preparations. A release of some of the alleged
    mercenaries following a separate, but related trial in Zimbabwe, may augur
    well for the Armenians. But Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian argued against
    a rush to optimism. The verdict is expected on September 1. (Sources: RFE/RL
    Arm. Report 3-10, 23, 31, 7-13, 8-23, 26; Arminfo 3-18, 23, 5-21, 6-21,
    7-16; 8-24, 30; ArmeniaNow 3-26; AFP 8-24, 26, 27)

    Georgia pulled out most of the forces it introduced in South Ossetia earlier
    this summer, heeding calls by the United States to de-militarize the region
    and resume peace talks. Some of the Georgian forces involved were trained by
    the U.S. The province lies in proximity to the Russia-Georgia gas pipeline
    and highway, both of key economic significance to Armenia. Armenian
    officials have expressed concern over recent fighting in the area, which
    Armenian observers see as setting a potentially negative precedent for the
    Karabakh peace process.

    The new cease-fire took hold last week, as President Mikhail Saakashvili
    sacked his Armed Forces' chief of staff, whom other Georgian officials
    accused of failing to achieve military objectives and losing at least 16
    Georgian soldiers in the process. The Ossetian side reported at least
    several police and civilians killed, mostly from Georgian shelling of the
    regional center of Tskhinvali. Saakashvili says he is committed to a
    peaceful settlement. Georgia is now seeking to replace Russian peacekeepers
    in the region with a Western force. (Sources: Arm. This Week 7-12; New York
    Times 8-5; RFE/RL Newsline 8-23, 25, 27; 8-26, 27)

    Armenia's 18-person team won no medals, as the 2004 Summer Olympics in
    Greece concluded over the weekend. Diaspora Armenians fared better winning
    at least one gold, one silver and several bronze medals.

    Armen Ghazaryan placed fourth in weightlifting, shy of a medal by only about
    a pound of his own weight, and Norair Bakhtamyan also placed fourth in
    shooting. Four wrestlers, two weightlifters and one boxer from the Armenia
    team finished in the top ten of their respective competitions. Armenia won
    one gold and one silver medal in 1996 and one bronze in the 2000 Olympics.

    Baku-born Karina Aznavourian won a team fencing gold for Russia, her second
    in as many Olympics. Three Gyumri natives, Ara Abrahamian, Artiom Kiureghian
    and Mkhitar Manukian, won silver and bronze medals in wrestling for Sweden,
    Greece and Kazakhstan, respectively. Another wrestler, Masis-born Armen
    Nazarian secured a bronze medal for Bulgaria. (Sources:;
    Arm. This Week 8-16)

    Note to readers: Due to the Labor Day holiday, the next issue of Armenia
    This Week will appear on September 13. Visit to read Armenia This Week issues
    since 1997.

    122 C Street, N.W., Suite 350, Washington, D.C. 20001 (202) 393-3434 FAX
    (202) 638-4904
    E-Mail [email protected] WEB

    Armenian Assembly of America
    Research and Information Office

    August 24, 2004

    In the years since the outbreak of the Karabakh conflict in the 1980s, the
    Azerbaijani government and entities sponsored by it have hurled a litany of
    threats, hate-mongering, complaints, accusations and abuse at the Armenians
    of Karabakh, Armenia and Armenians around the world. Such rhetoric continued
    unabated despite the establishment of a cease-fire in Karabakh in May 1994
    and the ongoing peace process, and has intensified in recent years.
    Egregious examples of this rhetoric follow:

    President Ilham Aliyev has repeatedly told his nation that
    Azerbaijan could launch a new war in Karabakh: "At any moment we must be
    able to liberate our territories by military means. To achieve this we have
    everything." Aliyev predicts that Azerbaijan will soon become an
    economically strong state, while its military "superiority" will increase
    further. "Under these circumstances we cannot react positively to those
    calling us to compromise." (Source: Zerkalo 7/23/04) Azerbaijan has been
    increasing its military spending to more than $217 million (Source: IISS
    Military Balance) and buying more tanks, artillery and aircraft (Source: UN
    Directory of Conventional Arms). Aliyev warned that unless Armenians
    capitulate "we will all smash the heads of the Armenians." (Source: Turan
    via BBC Monitoring 10/27/00)

    The Azerbaijani Defense Minister Gen. Safar Abiyev says that
    occasional violations of the 1994 cease-fire are "natural" since Azerbaijan
    is still "at war." (Source: Sarg via BBC Monitoring 8/14/03) Abiyev makes
    claims on Armenia's territory: "Armenia must always remember that what
    Azerbaijan accepted yesterday will not be accepted today and tomorrow.
    Azerbaijan will not want to have a separated state - meaning Nakhichevan,
    cut from the mainland Azerbaijan. This issue will be raised tomorrow."
    (Source: Ekho 5/16/03). Asked if the Azeri army is ready "to go to Yerevan,"
    Abiyev answers: "We can go even farther." (Source: ANS via BBC Monitoring
    3/22/02) Abiyev claims that "The Armenian state was created on the occupied
    Azeri lands with the area of 29,000 square kilometers." (Source:

    The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry spokesman Col. Ramiz Melikov: "In
    the next 25-30 years there will be no Armenian state in the South Caucasus.
    This nation has been a nuisance for its neighbors and has no right to live
    in this region. Present-day Armenia was built on historical Azerbaijani
    lands. I believe that in 25 to 30 years these territories will once again
    come under Azerbaijan's jurisdiction." (Source: Zerkalo 8/4/04) Following
    the brutal murder of an Armenian student of NATO English language courses in
    Hungary last February, Melikov qualified the confessed murderer Ramil
    Safarov as a "talented and disciplined officer." Melikov added that, "as an
    Azeri, I understand and support Safarov's actions." Melikov did not exclude
    similar attacks on Armenians in the future. (Source: Regnum 2/25/04)

    Azerbaijan's Ambassador to the Council of Europe Agshin Mekhtiyev
    warned of more attacks on individual Armenians, adding that he "would not
    advise Armenians to sleep easy in their beds." (Source: Zerkalo 2/24/04)
    Parliament member and former Heydar Aliyev bodyguard Siyavush Novruzov told
    Terry Davis, envoy of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe,
    that "similar incidents" could occur in PACE as well, unless the Karabakh
    conflict is settled in Baku's favor. (Source: Ekho 2/27/04) Azerbaijan's
    Human Rights Ombudsman Elmira Suleimanova said that Safarov should serve as
    "an example for Azerbaijani youth." (Source: Zerkalo 2/28/04)

    The Azerbaijani Ministry of National Security (MNS) has publicly
    and, according to media reports, clandestinely sponsored rhetoric and
    activities directed against Karabakh peace efforts. In 2004, this successor
    to the Soviet-era KGB held a public competition for the "best" films and
    books targeting Armenians, with Minister Namik Abbasov giving financial
    awards of up to $2,000 to the winners. (Source: 3/26/04) Azeri
    officials have condemned Track II peace-building contacts with Armenians,
    and groups linked to MNS have attacked Azeri peace activists. (Sources: ANS
    via BBC Monitoring 11/3/01, 4/16/02; 525ci Gazet 5/11/02; Zerkalo via BBC
    Monitoring 4/30/03; IWPR Caucasus Report 5/1/03)

    Heydar Aliyev's National Security Advisor Vafa Gulizade demanded
    that "Armenians should be driven out of Azerbaijan forever." Unless
    Azerbaijan fights and drives all Armenians out, Gulizade believes that
    "Armenians would [eventually] buy up real estate in Baku... They will try to
    take Azerbaijan into their hands in this way." (Source: Azadlyq via BBC
    Monitoring 10/10/01) "The entire Armenian population of Nagornyy Karabakh
    should be moved from there...This problem will not be resolved as long as
    Armenians are in Nagornyy Karabakh." (Source: Yeni Azerbaycan via BBC
    Monitoring 11/14/01) "If they want autonomy on our land, let us have
    autonomy in Zangazur and Goyca [southern and eastern Armenia] which will
    enable Azerbaijan to reach Turkey by land." (Source: ANS via BBC Monitoring

    The Azerbaijani Parliament member from ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party
    Asia Manafova: "Our people must repay the debt it owes to [the late
    President] Heydar Aliyev and free Karabakh from Armenian occupiers. To
    achieve this goal we are ready... undertake acts of suicide bombing."
    Manafova called on other Parliament members to also become suicide bombers.
    (Source: 12/15/03) The pro-government Azerbaijan News Service
    (ANS) has been the most active Azeri TV channel opposing any contacts with
    Armenians and arguing for war, suggesting, among other things, to recruit
    suicide bombers from among thousands of orphaned and homeless children in
    Azerbaijan. (Source: ANS via BBC Monitoring 10/13/02).

    As one of the leading mediators in the Karabakh peace process and Co-Chair
    of the OSCE Minsk Group, as well as a nation with deep bilateral ties with
    both Armenia and Azerbaijan, the United States needs to be much more active
    in securing an end to such irresponsible and bellicose high-level
    Azerbaijani statements. Clearly these officials envision another military
    offensive against NKR and Armenia, ethnic cleansing and in the case of Col.
    Melikov, Armenia's demise and genocide against its population. Silence in
    the face of such threats only emboldens the would-be aggressors.