Monday, January 10, 2005

In this issue:

Parliament OK's Armenia's joining of U.S.-led coalition in Iraq

Senior European politicians call for formalizing Armenian control of NK

Heritage Foundation: Armenia remains regional leader in economic freedom

Baltic Times: Turkey must face the truth to be admitted to EU


A solid majority of the Armenian Parliament members voted last month to
approve the government's decision to join the U.S.-led coalition in
Iraq. The 46-person task force drawn from professional military,
including commanders who have Kosovo peacekeeping experience, includes
transportation, de-mining and medical personnel and is due to deploy in
Iraq within two weeks. They will serve for at least a year as part of
the Polish-led multi-national division south of Baghdad.

Parliamentarians voted 91 to 23 with one abstention following seven
hours of closed-door debate that ran late into the night of December 27.
Defense officials led by Minister Serge Sargsian lobbied for the move as
important for Armenia's national interest. Prime Minister Andranik
Margarian's Republican Party, Speaker Artur Baghdasarian's Country of
Law Party, United Labor Party of businessman Gurgen Arsenian, opposition
National Unity Party of Artashes Geghamian and a number of non-party
members voted in favor, while the Armenian Revolutionary Federation
(Dashnaktsutiun) and the opposition Justice Bloc voted against.

In comments following the vote Sargsian said that "Armenia cannot have
stayed aside from actions by other states that are aimed at peace and
stability, and at combating terrorism. I think that the U.S. needs
Armenian support in Iraq, otherwise there would be no such decision."
Dashnaktsutiun leaders, while voting against deployment, said they
"understood" the government's motives. The Justice Bloc, along with
several non-government organizations, accused the government of exposing
the Armenian community in Iraq and Armenia itself to possible
retaliatory attacks by anti-U.S. insurgents and terrorists. A recent
poll found that just as in most other countries with forces in Iraq, the
majority of Armenians opposed the move.

Iraqi Armenians, as well as other Christian minorities in Iraq, have
already come under insurgents' attacks. The Armenian government
officials argued that they would be at risk whether or not Armenia takes
part in Iraq's stabilization. (Sources: Armenia This Week 12-13;
Associated Press 12-27; Interfax 12-27; RFE/RL Armenia Report 12-27,


Armenia should take "temporary control" over Nagorno Karabakh until a
new popular referendum is held there in five to ten years. This is what
the former Spanish Foreign Minister Ana Palacio and the current chairman
of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly Pierre Lellouche of France suggest as
a compromise way out of the current deadlock in the Karabakh peace
process. Palacio and Lellouche recently toured the Caucasus.

Nagorno Karabakh held a legally sanctioned referendum in 1991 that paved
the way for its formal separation from then Soviet Azerbaijan.
Successive Azeri governments refused to abide by results of that vote
and launched several unsuccessful offensives to take control of the
region and remove its population until the current cease-fire came into
effect in 1994. In 2001, following protracted negotiations, the late
Azeri President Heydar Aliyev was close to an agreement that would lead
to Karabakh's incorporation into Armenia in exchange for the return of
most of the Azeri districts now held by Karabakh Armenian forces. The
Azeri government has since insisted on unilateral Armenian concessions
before agreeing on Karabakh's status.

Armenian and Azeri Foreign Ministers Vartan Oskanian and Elmar Mamedyrov
are due to meet in Prague tomorrow to continue their discussions on a
new approach to settlement. The two officials are reportedly considering
combining mutually acceptable approaches from past proposals that had
been turned down. Last year, the "peace process" over Karabakh was set
back substantially, following Azeri President Ilham Aliyev's comments
that he would not make compromises and would seek ways to put greater
pressure on Armenia.

Most recently, the Azeri government blocked rail traffic into Georgia to
tighten its economic blockade against Armenia. Azeri officials alleged
that some of the goods, like fuels from Central Asia shipped via Baku to
Tbilisi, were destined for Armenia. The move had no impact on Armenia's
market, however, where prices for gasoline, diesel and aviation fuel
fell reflecting wider market trends. (Sources: Armenia This Week 12-13,
20; Arminfo 12-14, 1-10; Zerkalo 12-22; Le Figaro 12-21; Mediamax 12-21;
Noyan Tapan 12-22)


The annual rating of economic policies around the world, prepared by the
Wall Street Journal and the Heritage Foundation, a leading U.S.
conservative think tank, was published last week. Armenia has once again
improved its record, while continuing to lead its region in economic
freedom. Armenia was ranked 42nd out of 161 countries, just behind
Poland and ahead of France, and is the best rated "mostly free" economy
in the former Soviet Union. Georgia is ranked 100th, Azerbaijan - 103rd,
and Turkey - 112th.

The study notes the Armenian government's sound fiscal policies, low
level of protectionism, but also continued problems with revenue
collection. While these revenues have grown significantly in recent
years, they remain low when compared to the overall size of the economy.
In his comments in recent weeks, President Robert Kocharian promised a
crackdown on tax and tariff evaders both in the business sector and
among corrupt government officials. (Sources: Armenia This Week 1-16-04;
Arminfo 12-27, 1-10; <>


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The Baltic Times [Riga, Latvia]


The debate over whether to include Turkey in the European Union
crystallizes the essence of what it means to be "European." Not
surprisingly, the range of answers is broad, often diametrically
opposite. Geography, history, religion, economics and even mentality
have been cited as reasons why or why not to invite the Muslim country
to the world's biggest economic bloc. Simple "expansion-fatigue" within
the 25-nation (and soon to be 27-nation) union is another.

One thing you can't take away from Turkey: the country truly longs to be
a EU member. Both its political leaders and the public, any the
religious and the secular segments of society, want to build their
future as part of Europe. They have had this desire for decades now,
even throughout the multiple political changes and economic pitfalls the
country has undergone.

As a result, on Dec. 17 EU leaders are likely to give the green light to
begin accession talks - e.g., to designate Turkey a candidate country
for membership - at their summit in Brussels. This will entail 10 - 15
years of accession negotiations before the country is formally granted
member status, and there are likely to be a number of stop signs and
roadblocks along the way. But even on this score the debate is heated,
with pro-Turkey advocates arguing that accession criteria for the
70-million-plus country should be no different than for, say, miniscule

But they should. The choice of accepting an ant or an elephant into the
family has radically different implications for the household, and those
who are blind to that are likely to be the first to complain when
something goes wrong later.

Regarding Turkish membership, the real issue is not about size. It is
about mentality. Specifically, the country has refused to acknowledge
the genocide of 1915, when over 1 million Armenians were led to their
death in the Syrian deserts or just slaughtered. The incident has been
well documented and includes thousands of eyewitness accounts. Yet
Turkey continues to deny it, saying a lot of people died at the time,
including Turks (an argument Russia employs in regards to WWII, as Balts
are well aware). The country has closed its archives and even banned use
of the word genocide. Is this the behavior of someone ready for Europe?

Imagine how different Europe would be today if for the past 60 years
Germany had denied the Holocaust. Now transfer that image onto the
Anatolian peninsula and you will see what is taking place today - Turks,
Kurds and Armenians living side by side and in a state of deep animosity
and suspicion.

Thankfully, France has taken the lead in putting the genocide issue on
the accession table. (France is one of the only countries that has
recognized the 1915 Genocide. The United States hasn't.)* Foreign
Minister Michel Barnier said last week that France wants Turkey to
recognize the genocide as part of its membership requirements. "This is
an issue that we will raise during the negotiation process. We will have
about 10 years to do so, and the Turks will have about 10 years to
ponder their answer," he said.

It was the first time someone has tried to link EU membership with the
Ottoman atrocities. As expected, the reaction from Ankara was swift and
unequivocal, with one official saying that Turkey would never recognize
the "so-called genocide."

If that is the case, then the door to the EU should be closed. As a
Polish poet once wrote, "How frightening is the past that awaits us." If
a country cannot come to terms with its past - as Germany has - then the
future will have precious little to offer it. In Europe, truth and
reconciliation must come first.

* AAA Note: The Armenian Genocide had been affirmed by the United States
in the past. The April 21, 1981 proclamation by then President Ronald
Reagan used the term Genocide in reference to the Armenian deportation
and massacres, although subsequent U.S. presidential statements
commemorating the events have avoided the term.

The Genocide has also been affirmed by a number of national parliaments
around the world, most recently by the Netherlands on December 21, 2004.
Other countries, whose parliaments have affirmed the Armenian Genocide
include: Argentina, Belgium, Canada, Cyprus, France, Greece, Italy,
Lebanon, Russia, Slovakia, Sweden, Switzerland, the United States and

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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress