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05/31/2006
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1) Azerbaijan Flattens Sacred Armenian Site
2) Armenia and Turkey Hold Secret Talks
3) Parliament Postpones Election of New Leadership
4) Kocharian-Aliyev Meeting to Take Place in Bucharest
5) Oil Reaches Turkey through BTC Pipeline
6) Another Armenian Reportedly Killed In Moscow

1) Azerbaijan Flattens Sacred Armenian Site

(The Independent)--Fears that Azerbaijan has systematically destroyed hundreds
of 500 year old Christian artifacts have exploded into a diplomatic row, after
members of European Parliament were barred from inspecting an ancient Armenian
burial site.
The predominantly Muslim country's government has been accused of "flagrant
vandalism" similar to the Taliban's demolition of the Bamiyan Buddhas in
Afghanistan.
The claims center on the fate of rare "khatchkars," stone crosses carved with
intricate floral designs, at the burial ground of Julfa in the Nakhichevan
region of Azerbaijan, an enclave separated from the rest of the country by
Armenia.
The works--some of the most important examples of Armenian heritage--are said
to have been smashed with sledgehammers last December as the site was
concreted
over.
The Azeri Government, which denies the claims, is now at the center of a row
with MEPs, some of whom it accused of a "biased and hysterical approach." Its
ambassador to the EU also says the European Parliament has ignored damage to
Muslim sites in Armenia. Azerbaijan has refused to allow a delegation of Euro
MPs permission to visit the 1,500 year old Julfa cemetery during their trip to
the region last month.
Most of original 10,000 khatchkars, most of which date from the 15th and 16th
century, were destroyed by the early 20th century, leaving probably fewer than
3,000 by the late 1970s.
According to the International Council on Monuments and Sites (Icomos), the
Azeri Government removed 800 khatchkars in 1998. Though the destruction was
halted following protests from UNESCO, it resumed four years later. By January
2003 "the 1,500 year old cemetery had completely been flattened," Icomos says.
Witnesses, quoted in the Armenian press, say the final round of vandalism was
unleashed in December last year by Azeri soldiers wielding sledgehammers.
The president of Icomos, Michael Petzet, said: "Now that all traces of this
highly important historic site seem to have been extinguished all we can do is
mourn the loss and protest against this totally senseless destruction."
Some MEPs believe that, boosted by its oil revenues, Azerbaijan is
adopting an
increasingly assertive stance in the region. Charles Tannock, Conservative
Foreign Affairs Spokesman in the European parliament, argued: "This is very
similar to the Buddha statues destroyed by the Taliban. They have concreted
the
area over and turned it into a military camp. If they have nothing to hide
then
we should be allowed to inspect the terrain."
When MEPs passed a critical resolution in February, Azerbaijan's Foreign
Minister, Elmar Mamedyarov, made a formal protest. Then, when the parliament's
delegation for relations with Armenia, Azerbaijan, and Georgia, asked to
combine a mission to Armenia with a visit to the Julfa archaeological site,
their request was refused.
The Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly hopes to visit the site and
its
Secretary General has offered to set up an expert group to examine cultural
sites in Azerbaijan and Armenia. MEPs insist that the authorities in
Azerbaijan
should open their doors if they have nothing to hide.
Hannes Swoboda, an Austrian socialist MEP and member of the committee barred
from examining the site, said he hopes a visit can be arranged in the autumn.
He added: "If they do not allow us to go, we have a clear hint that something
bad has happened. If something is hidden we want to ask why. It can only be
because some of the allegations are true."
And he warned: "One of the major elements of any country that wants to come
close to Europe is that the cultural heritage of neighbors is respected."

2) Armenia and Turkey Hold Secret Talks

(PanArmenian)--Secret talks between Turkey and Armenia, launched after Turkish
Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan wrote a letter to Armenian President
Robert
Kocharian, have failed to make any headway coming out of their third round.
A part of the third session of secret talks was held on the sidelines of the
Turkey-European Union meeting in Vienna, Austria last March.
The Turkish side proposed the establishment of two committees to
simultaneously hold talks on political issues and the Armenian genocide.
In response, Armenia rejected the preconditions set by Turkey. It underlined
that scholars can debate the issue in conferences. Nevertheless Armenia did
request the revival of political talks between the two countries.
Following Yerevan's objection to the establishment of the two committees,
Ankara is now preparing for the fourth round of secret talks.
The New Anatolian reported that Ankara will exert an effort to solve its
problems with Yerevan.

3) Parliament Postpones Election of New Leadership

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)--An emergency parliament session convened
Wednesday
to elect a new Parliament Speaker and heads of two committees, vacated
following the resignation of former Parliament Speaker Arthur Baghdasarian and
the pullout of his Orinats Yerkir party from the governing coalition, decided
to put off the elections until June 1.
Deputy Parliament Speaker Tigran Torosian--widely expected to replace
Baghdasarian--said to journalists that it was his decision to postpone the
election. He said under the parliament statutes it is the person who chairs
emergency session who decides the order in which issues on the agenda are
considered.
Torosian, who is affiliated with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's
Republican Party (HHK), did not deny that he is Baghdasarian's most likely
successor. He said he will consider his new job as "yet another duty."
On Monday, Baghdasarian formally ceased to perform his duties, reaffirming
his
decision to step down.
"In accordance with the National Assembly statutes, I am relinquishing the
duties of National Assembly chairman," he told reporters in the halls of
Parliament.
Baghdasarian refused to answer any questions, saying that he wants to
"leave in peace."

4) Kocharian-Aliyev Meeting to Take Place in Bucharest

(Combined Sources)--A spokesman for President Robert Kocharian said that the
Armenian leader and his Azeri counterpart, Ilham Aliyev, will meet on the
sidelines of a summit of Black Sea nations which is scheduled to take place in
Romania's capital Bucharest on June 5.
The French, Russian, and American mediators have expressed hopes for
advancements in Karabagh conflict settlement following talks in Romania.
Diplomats from the foreign ministries of the Minsk Group co-chairing states,
as well as co-chairs themselves visited Baku and Yerevan in late May, setting
up the latest meeting between the two presidents.

5) Oil Reaches Turkey through BTC Pipeline

ANKARA (UPI)--Azeri oil began flowing through the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan (BTC)
oil
pipeline and reached Ceyhan, Turkey, over the weekend.
Oil reached the Turkish Mediterranean port on Saturday, according to the
Azertag news agency Sunday.
The BTC pipeline is designed to take Azeri and Kazakh oil through Georgia and
Turkey to international markets.
The $4 billion, 1,000 mile pipeline is aimed at reducing Western
dependence on
the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries. The pipeline, which runs
from Azerbaijan via Georgia to Turkey, avoids Russia.
Construction of the pipeline began six years ago.

6) Another Armenian Reportedly Killed In Moscow

(AFP)--A Russian man of Armenian origin has been stabbed to death by a
group of
young people on a train in a Moscow suburb, Moscow Echo radio quoted a lawyer
as saying Tuesday.
Simon Tsaturian, who represents the family of another ethnic Armenian killed
in Moscow last month, said the stabbing of Artur Sardarian, 19, took place on
May 25 and cited witnesses as saying the attackers were chanting "Glory to
Russia!"
The attackers then stopped the train by setting off an alarm and escaped,
Tsaturian said.
Moscow police said the incident was being investigated and the Armenian Union
of Russia confirmed the murder had taken place.

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