ASBAREZ Online [03-16-2004]


1) House Members Urge Speaker Hastert to Schedule Vote on Genocide Resolution
2) ARF Armenia Condemns British Ambassador’s Ignorant Remarks
3) Kocharian Congratulates Putin, Talks about Region
4) “No War, No Peace” Mood Settles over Renegade Georgian Region of Ajaria
5) Melkonian Educational Institute to Close in June 2005

1) House Members Urge Speaker Hastert to Schedule Vote on Genocide Resolution


WASHINGTON, DC (ANCA)–A bi-partisan group of over 60 House Members called on
Speaker Dennis Hastert (R-IL) last Friday, to bring the Genocide
Resolution–H.Res.193–for a full floor vote.
“As we saw in Rwanda a decade ago, and as we witness today the signs of a
possible new genocide emerging around the world–as a government and a
people–we must make sure that we apply the lessons of past genocide to
future crimes against humanity,” stresses the letter initiated by Rep.
Radanovich (R-CA).
The Genocide resolution was introduced in the House last April by
Representatives Radanovich, Adam Schiff (D-CA), and Congressional Armenian
Caucus Co-Chairs Frank Pallone (D-NJ) and Joe Knollenberg (R-MI). It was
adopted unanimously by the House Judiciary Committee in May, and has 111
cosponsors. Its companion legislation in the Senate, S.Res.164, was introduced
last June by Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ) and currently
has 37 cosponsors.
The resolution, in an effort to stop future atrocities, cites the importance
of remembering past crimes against humanity, including the Armenian Genocide,
Holocaust, Cambodian, and Rwandan genocides. Support for the measure has been
widespread, with a diverse coalition of over 100 ethnic, religious, civil and
human rights organizations calling for its passage, including American Values,
National Organization of Women, Sons of Italy, NAACP, Union of Orthodox
and the National Council of La Raza.
Joining Rep. Radanovich in cosigning the letter to Speaker Hastert were
Representatives: Tom Allen (D-ME), Rob Andrews (D-NJ), Tammy Baldwin (D-WI),
Xavier Becerra (D-CA), Howard Berman (D-CA), Michael Bilirakis (R-FL), Tim
Bishop (D-NY), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Ken Calvert (R-CA), Michael Capuano
(D-MA), Dennis Cardoza (D-CA), John Conyers (D-MI), Jerry Costello (D-IL),
Joseph Crowley (D-NY), William Delahunt (D-MA), Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), John
Dingell (D-MI), Elliot Engel (D-NY), Anna Eshoo (D-CA), Chaka Fattah (D-PA),
Michael Ferguson (R-NJ), Bob Filner (D-CA), Barney Frank (D-MA), Scott Garrett
(R-NJ), Mark Green (R-WI), Jim Greenwood (R-PA), Raul Grijalva (D-AZ), Luis
Gutierrez (D-IL), Maurice Hinchey (D-NY), Rush Holt (D-NJ), Michael Honda
(D-CA), Steve Israel (D-NY), Marcy Kaptur (D-OH), Dale Kildee (D-MI), Jerry
Kleczka (D-WI), Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), James Langevin (D-RI), Jim Leach
(R-IA), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Sander Levin (D-MI), Zoe Lofgren (D-CA), Nita
(D-NY), Stephen Lynch (D-MA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Edward Markey (D-MA),
James McGovern (D-MA), Michael McNulty (D-NY), Marty Meehan (D-MA), Juanita
Millender-McDonald (D-CA), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Eleanor Holmes Norton
(D-DC), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Frank Pallone (D-NJ), Charles Rangel (D-NY),
Rothman (D-NJ), Adam Schiff (D-CA), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Mark Souder (R-IN),
John Sweeney (R-NY), Edolphus Towns (D-NY), and Chris Van Hollen (D-MD).

The full text of the letter follows.

Text to Speaker Dennis Hastert

Dear Speaker Hastert:

We are writing to share with you our strong support for bringing H.
Res. 193 to the House floor for a vote as soon as possible.
This measure, as you know, commemorates the 15th anniversary of the U.S.
implementation of the Genocide Convention and reinforces our nation’s
dedication to this landmark human rights treaty. Approved in the shadow of the
Holocaust, the Convention stands today as the international community’s best
hope for the realization of the noble aim of eradicating forever the crime of
genocide. The House Judiciary Committee, recognizing the importance of this
effort, adopted H. Res. 193 without opposition on May 21st. One hundred and
ten Representatives have cosponsored this measure, including both the Chairman
and Ranking Member of the Judiciary Committee.
As we saw in Rwanda a decade ago, and as we witness today the signs of a
possible new genocide emerging around the world, as a government and a people,
we must make sure that we apply the lessons of past genocide to prevent future
crimes against humanity. Sadly, even as we confront new genocides, we still
have among us those who, against all facts and morality, deny the Holocaust or
seek to rewrite the history of the past atrocities. These hateful deniers
dishonor the dead and threaten the living. They make the world a more
dangerous place by emboldening future potential perpetrators of genocide to
believe that their crimes can be committed with impunity. Adolf Hitler
confirmed this with his chilling remark to his military staff prior to
launching the Holocaust, “who, after all remembers the annihilation of the
Clearly, the struggle against genocide is not over. The pressing need to
remain ever vigilant was underscored recently by Samantha Power, Pulitzer
winning author of ” A Problem from Hell: American in the Age of Genocide.”
Commenting on similar legislation in the 107th Congress, she noted that, “For
too long American leaders and citizens have reflexively uttered the phrase
‘never again’ without taking concrete steps to give the slogan meaning. This
legislation marks the beginning of a twenty-first century campaign to get the
U.S. government to commit itself politically and operationally to prevent
future genocide.”
Recalling your support for H.Res. 596 in the 106th Congress and knowing of
your principled advocacy for human rights around the world, we ask that you
please move quickly to schedule a vote on H.Res. 193. Thank you for your
consideration of our request.

2) ARF Armenia Condemns British Ambassador’s Ignorant Remarks

YEREVAN (Yerkir)–Speaking at the National Assembly (NA) on Tuesday, Armenian
Revolutionary Federation (ARF) NA faction leader Levon Mkrtchian condemned
British Ambassador to Armenia Thorda Abbott-Watt’s statements on the Armenian
“A foreign ambassador is obliged to honor the principles and the history of
the people of the country to which they are assigned. . . We have to question
the effectiveness of the ambassador’s future activity in Armenia,” said
Mkrtchian, and asked: “Is the ambassador aware of her country’s policies in
Middle East in the period between 1880’s and 1918? If so, what could prompt
to make such statements?”
He suggested that if the ambassador is ignorant of the policy, she should
begin to review British diplomatic literature on the issue that sharply
from her view.
Abbott-Watt was quoted by Armenian media as saying that “I do not think that
recognizing the events [1915 mass killings of Armenians in Ottoman Empire] as
genocide would be much of use.” In later comments, she had said that the
evidence “was not sufficiently unequivocal that what took place could be
categorized as genocide under the 1948 United Nations Convention on
“We are going to pose these questions to Armenia’s Ministry of Foreign
as well, and ask that the issue at hand–the ambassador’s announcement–as
as her behavior be addressed with great seriousness,” said the ARF leader.

3) Kocharian Congratulates Putin, Talks about Region

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–President Robert Kocharian congratulated the re-elected
president of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, in a phone conversation
today, where both leaders also discussed issues concerning Armenian-Russian
cooperation, as well as the situation in the South Caucasus region.

4) “No War, No Peace” Mood Settles over Renegade Georgian Region of Ajaria

BATUMI (–A mood of “no war, no peace” spread over the renegade
Georgian region of Ajaria on Tuesday, amid calls by the international
for restraint. Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili appeared in no mood for
mediation, as he accused Ajaria of engaging in “banditry” and “treachery.” In
Batumi, despite the imposition of an economic blockade, Ajarian leaders are
remaining steadfast in their refusal to submit to Tbilisi’s authority.
Since Ajarian police prevented Saakashvili from entering the region on March
14, both sides have mobilized for a fight, while probing for an opening to
negotiate. Many observers believe that a prospect for compromise, if one
at all, is very small. Both Saakashvili and Ajarian leader Aslan Abashidze
shown no willingness to be the first to make concessions. Saakashvili remains
insistent that Tbilisi’s authority take precedence over Ajaria’s,
especially in
the area of customs and tax revenue collection. Abashidze, meanwhile, rejects
any move that could reduce his control over the regional apparatus.
Saakashvili has explicitly stated that he will not negotiate with Abashidze,
casting the Tbilisi-Batumi dispute as a make-or-break moment for his
administration’s credibility. He insists that Georgia’s sovereignty depends on
Tbilisi’s ability to assert its authority over all regions of the country.
“Either we now stand firm, all together, and once and for all eradicate
banditry, feudalism, and treachery in Georgia … or we will no longer
exist as
a state,” Saakashvili said.
Abashidze claims that Saakashvili’s aggressive stance is pushing the Ajarian
leadership down a secessionist path. Unless Tbilisi moderates its position on
revenue collection, Abashidze hinted that Ajaria, like Georgia’s other
autonomous regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, would seek to make a formal
break with the central government. “We have already brought Abkhazia and South
Ossetia to the stage of separatism; we have forced them to leave Georgia,”
Abashidze was quoted as saying by the Russian RIA news agency. “Ajaria should
not be treated this way.”
Georgian officials have stressed that they have no intention of resorting to
arms to compel Batumi’s recognition of Tbilisi’s authority. However, Ajarian
leaders suggested the possibility of a clash remained high. “We have
strength to meet force with force,” said Jemal Gogitidze, an Ajarian security
official told the Russian Itar-Tass news agency.
Georgian leaders are presently striving to tighten an economic blockade they
imposed on Ajaria on Monday. Georgian warships reportedly prevented at
least 10
vessels from entering Batumi harbor. In addition, Turkey appears to be
a Georgian government request to close its border crossing into Ajaria.
According to accounts from Tbilisi, the early effectiveness of the blockade
unsettled Abashidze. They point to reports that the Ajarian leader has placed
several calls to Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania over the past 24 hours
to bitterly complain about the closure of the Batumi port.
The dangerous escalation in tension has already prompted several mediation
attempts. In a telephone conversation, US Secretary of State Colin Powell
Saakashvili “not to allow this situation … to escalate,” a State Department
spokesman said on Monday. Powell also contacted Russian officials, seeking
assurances that Russian troops based in Batumi would not become involved in
dispute. In addition, US Ambassador to Georgia Richard Miles met with Georgian
leaders to promote a negotiated settlement.
Solomon Passy, the Bulgarian foreign minister who currently serves as the
chairman-in-office for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
held telephone talks with Abashidze, calling on the Ajarian leader to help
preserve the “peace, stability, and territorial integrity of Georgia.”
Also on Monday, Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov arrived in Ajaria to act as a
go-between for Ajarian and Georgian officials. Georgian officials view such
initiatives with suspicion, given that the sympathies of Russian leaders lie
with Abashidze. Luzhkov told the Moscow daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta that he
embarked on his mission to Ajaria out of a desire to express solidarity with
Abashidze. “We consider ourselves brothers and, at a time like this, one wants
to stay close,” Luzhkov said. The Moscow mayor added that the source of
existing tension “does not come from Ajaria–it comes from Tbilisi.” The
newspaper report indicated Luzhkov didn’t coordinate his mission to Batumi
the Russian Foreign Ministry.
In Moscow, Russian politicians have been quick to criticize Saakashvili for
the Georgian government’s “unpredictable policy.” The deputy chairman of the
Russian Duma’s International Affairs Committee, Konstantin Kosachev, suggested
that Saakashvili’s unsuccessful attempt to enter Ajaria on Monday may have
an act designed to provoke a confrontation, the Itar-Tass news agency
Kosachev also suggested that much of the goodwill built during Saakashvili’s
early February visit to Moscow had dissipated amid the Ajaria tension.
Observers in Tbilisi believe the pressure will build on Saakashvili in the
coming days to take action to break the existing stalemate. Georgia’s
parliamentary elections are scheduled for March 28. If the status quo remains
in place on election day, most experts say Ajaria will not participate,
therefore discrediting the results. A faulty election would be a political
disaster for Saakashvili’s administration, perhaps permanently hampering its
ability to promote reforms.
The March 28 elections are also exerting influence over Abashidze’s
analysts believe. Elections in Ajaria are routinely rigged in favor of
Abashidze and his political allies, observers explain. Saakashvili’s stated
desire for a free and fair vote is seen as a threat to Abashidze’s
over Ajaria’s political system. Thus, many believe Abashidze is anxious to
an excuse to cancel the vote in the region. Kote Kemularia, Georgia’s
ambassador to Russia, said Abashidze’s aim is “to wreck the parliamentary
elections in Georgia” and so “obstruct the establishment of democracy in the
country,” Itar-Tass reported.
While Saakashvili undoubtedly feels a need to act, his options may be
Political analysts in Tbilisi say that the Georgian military has the
to subdue Ajarian defense units, but only in the event that Russian forces in
Ajaria remain neutral. Russian military commanders have said that the Batumi
garrison will under no circumstances intervene in the Ajarian dispute. At the
same time, Russian politicians have stated that Moscow cannot be a bystander.
Some Georgian political analysts believe that if Saakashvili attempts
action, Russian troops stationed in Batumi would come to the aid of Abashidze.
Moscow has a geopolitical interest in promoting tension, even conflict, some
Tbilisi experts maintain. Saakashvili has repeatedly stressed a desire to
Georgia out of Russia’s sphere of influence and into the Western camp. A
conflict in Ajaria would offer Moscow an opportunity to again insert itself
into Georgian domestic affairs, and thus bring a halt to Georgia’s drift
towards the West.

5) Melkonian Educational Institute to Close in June 2005

NICOSIA–The Central Board of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU)
announced that The Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI) will close in 2005.
The statement (full text below) reads that, “after extensive deliberations and
thorough assessment, the Central Board has resolved unanimously to discontinue
MEI [operations] in June 2005. This decision is based largely on the Board’s
conclusion that MEI no longer meets the challenges of its mission in the
present context of the Armenian world.”
The ‘Gibrahayer’ website reported that the situation at Melkonian on Tuesday
morning was very sad. Staff members were shocked and devastated by the
decision, while students tearfully staged a demonstration under the eyes of
local TV channels and press.

The following is the complete text of the Board’s unanimous decision:

(AGBU Website)–In the spirit of the discussion and analyses at the AGBU
General Assembly meeting in October, 2002, and consistent with the on-going
assessment of our educational institutions and activities worldwide, the
Central Board has carefully evaluated AGBU programs in respect to their past
achievements, current challenges, and future prospects. The Board has done so
in furtherance of the goals of the organization and its founding fathers.
The Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI), as a significant and historical
institution within AGBU, has been a concern of the Central Board over many
years. After extensive deliberations and thorough assessment, the Central
has resolved unanimously to discontinue MEI in June 2005. This decision is
based largely on the Board’s conclusion that MEI no longer meets the
of its mission in the present context of the Armenian world. The Board fully
recognizes and honors the continued legacy of the visionary Melkonian Brothers
and is determined to perpetuate their memory through new educational programs
to be implemented within and outside Cyprus, in line with the spirit of their
donation to AGBU.
Throughout its century-long history, AGBU has survived and thrived primarily
because it has recognized and addressed the needs of the Armenian people,
taking bold and forward-looking initiatives in challenging times as necessary.

The statement is signed by AGBU Central Board members.

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