ASBAREZ Online [03-23-2004]


1) EU Envoy Discusses Pending Reforms, Karabagh Regulation
2) New Coalition in Armenia Examines Armenian Case
3) Turkey Allows Certain Foreigners to Purchase Land
4) Armenians in Venice to Highlight Save Venice 2004
5) Students walk out as AGBU Announces Melkonian Closure

1) EU Envoy Discusses Pending Reforms, Karabagh Regulation

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–The European Union’s (EU) chief representative to the South
Caucasus Heikki Talvitie, who is in Yerevan on a regular fact-finding tour of
the region, met with Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian and the two deputy
speakers of the Armenian parliament. The anticipated inclusion of the three
Caucasian states in the EU’s Wider European program of privileged ties with
neighbors was again high on the agenda of the talks.
Talvitie said that he discussed with vice-speakers Tigran Torosian and Vahan
Hovannisian efforts to amend Armenia’s constitution and a controversial
government bill on public gatherings pending debate in the National Assembly.
Torosian said that the draft legislation will fully correspond to European
principles and standards before presented to parliament for consideration. He
said it is currently being examined by the Venice Commission of the Council of
Europe which monitors legislative reforms in Armenia.
Unlike the Council of Europe, the EU until recently avoided close involvement
in the promotion of Armenia’s democratization, but indicated last January its
readiness to extend the Wider Europe initiative to Armenia, Azerbaijan and
Georgia. Membership in the scheme would require commitments on both economic
and political reform from the three ex-Soviet states.
A senior member of the Armenian parliament, ARF’s Armen Rustamian, announced
last week that Yerevan is ready to assume them. Torosian echoed the pledge.
is obvious that we don’t pass this stage successfully, talk of a future
membership of the European Union will remain a wishful thinking,” he said.
Oskanian, for his part, told the EU envoy that the Wider Europe strategy will
facilitate a peaceful resolution of the conflicts in Mountainous Karabagh and
elsewhere in the region. A Foreign Ministry statement said he and Talvitie had
a “detailed” discussion on Karabagh. Talvitie also held a separate meeting
Deputy Foreign Minister Tatul Markarian, who represents Armenia in the
peace talks; the two mainly discussed regulation of the conflict.

2) New Coalition in Armenia Examines Armenian Case


A new coalition of Eastern Studies Experts, who have united to examine the
Armenian Case, met on Tuesday at Yerevan State University to discuss the
Armenian Case in a contemporary light, and priorities of Armenian National
Committee (ANC) offices. Armenian Revolutionay Federation (ARF) Bureau
Political and Hai Tahd Office Director Giro Manoyan, presented the activities
of the Washington, DC, Moscow, and Brussels ANC offices that primarily advance
Armenian Genocide recognition issues, and strive to protect the rights of
Armenians in Mountainous Karabagh Republic and Javakhk.
Various countries have already passed legislation recognizing the Armenian
Genocide, informed Manoyan, but the ANC strives to gain the support of an
increasing number of countries.
Speaking about the Turkish Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC), Manoyan
said that it counters the work of the ANC–not because the ARF opposes
reconciliation, but objects to TARC’s approach. “Nowhere in the purpose of
commission is the recognition of the Armenian Genocide.”
Addressing the recent denial of the Armenian Genocide by the UK Ambassador to
Armenia, Manoyan found her actions not only unacceptable but also offensive to
all Armenians. “It is nothing but failed diplomacy,” he said. The ambassador’s
statement that the 1915 massacre of more than one million Armenians in Ottoman
Turkey was not a genocide, has cause worldwide fury among Armenians.
“The Armenian National Committee’s priority is to convince the international
community that Turkey is responsible for the Armenian Genocide–and is
obligated to provide both moral and financial restitution,” concluded Manoyan.

3) Turkey Allows Certain Foreigners to Purchase Land

TURKEY–The Turkish “Radikal” newspaper reported on Tuesday that foreigners
will be allowed to purchase land in Turkey, but that the government will
strictly monitor those who apply to acquire land. In fact, a commission was
created on December 24, 2003, to monitor those foreigners who seek to purchase
Forming the commission are representatives from the ministries of defense,
interior, foreign affairs, and justice, Turkey’s national Security Council,
secret service (MIT), military heads, as well as representatives of offices
dealing with property issues.
The commission will scrutinize the possible intent and future plans of those
non-Turkish citizens who wish to purchase property, and has formed a list of
important and strategic locations that can not be sold to outsiders.
While some processes will be simplified for foreigners, limitations will also
be enforced. For example, having recently reviewed the purchase of land in the
village of Alanya by 13,000 Germans, as well as the purchase of
Government-owned farms by Israelis and Armenians, the commission recently
decided that citizens of 35 countries–including Armenia–will be not be
allowed to purchase property in Turkey. Others include citizens of Iran, Iraq,
Afghanistan, Algeria, India, Cuba, Greece, Tunisia, and Saudi Arabia. Citizens
from countries welcomed to purchase land include Germany, United States,
Kingdom, France, Italy, Panama, Uruguay, Belize, Benin, and the Central

4) Armenians in Venice to Highlight Save Venice 2004

NEW YORK–Save Venice, a 35-year-old organization dedicated to supporting
conservation projects in Venice, will present a five day celebration of the
magnificent city’s history and treasures, August 29 through September 2, 2004.
The Gala week will feature an extraordinary Armenian dimension, in recognition
of Laurel and Walter Karabian’s major participation.
“We are very grateful to the Karabians for introducing us to the rich legacy
of the Armenians of Venice. Our membership is always eager to discover more
about the diverse cultures that make this city so fascinating,” expressed
Randolph H. Guthrie, Chairman of Save Venice, Inc. “The presence of Armenians
in Venice for nearly 1500 years can be seen in some of this exquisite city’s
most interesting locations.
More than 1,000 years before the Abbot Mekhitar founded his monastery on the
Island of San Lazzaro, Armenians were already leaving important footprints in
Venice. Armenian contributions began in 551 AD when the Byzantine Emperor
Justinian appointed his trusted aide Nerses the Armenian as Viceroy. Among
Nerses’s great contributions was the foundation of the first church ever built
on the site of St. Mark’s square. In Nerses’s footprint came the architect
Sahag, who built the Church of Santa Maria dell’Assunta on the Island of
Torcello, the oldest surviving building in the Venetian lagoon. This basilica
was consecrated in 639 AD by Isaac, the Armenian Exarch of Ravenna.
From Armenia’s strategic position on the Silk Road, Armenian traders and
translators frequently interacted with Venetians including the great explorer
Marco Polo. The Armenians established their own quarters near San Marco, which
soon included an Apostolic Church, Holy Cross of the Armenians, on a street
appropriately named Calle degli Armeni.
The Mekhitarian Monastery on the Island of San Lazzaro is today the most
prominent remnant from what was by the end of the 17th century a community of
10,000 Venetian-Armenians. From 1816 to 1818, Lord Byron studied at San
Lazzaro, learning the Armenian language and assisting the monks with the
publication of an English-Armenian dictionary. The great seascape painter Ivan
Aivazovsky (Hovhannes Aivazian), while visiting his brother Archbishop Gabriel
Aivazovsky, immortalized the Island and the Venetian lagoon in numerous
magnificent paintings. A number of Aivazovsky’s most famous paintings can be
found in the monastery of San Lazzaro, along with the artifacts sent by
Armenians from around the globe for safekeeping in this amazing repository of
Armenian culture. The San Lazzaro Library, art collections and printing press
are legendary in the Armenian Diaspora for what they have preserved and
The 2004 Save Venice Gala will include a luncheon in the gardens of the
Mekhitarian Monastery on the island of San Lazzaro degli Armeni hosted by the
Karabians, followed by a special tour of the island’s many treasures and a
walking tour highlighted by the historical importance of Armenians in Venive.
In addition, there will be a visit to the beautigul town of Udine with its
frescoes by Tiepolo, followed by a luncheon at the charming Villa Gallici,
visits to Venetian palaces, a private concert by the outstanding Venice
Barouque Orchestra, a dinner at Palazzo Ducale, luncheon at the Hotel Cipriani
and the final night’s festivities at the incomparable candlelit Palazzo Pisani
Tickets cost $3,250, of which $1500 is tax deductible, and cover
in all the activities of the five day Gala. Children under 17 can attend all
events except the Gala for a $500 ticket, and young adults age 17 to 39, can
purchase tickets for all events including that Gala for $1500 per person.
Travel and hotel arrangements are the guest’s own responsibility. To
receive an
invitation package, please send a request by email to Karen Marshall at
[email protected]. For more information regarding travel or group
arrangements, please call Garbis Titizian at Levon Travel (800) 445-3866.

5) Students walk out as AGBU Announces Melkonian Closure

NICOSIA (Gibrahayer)–Over 200 students of the Melkonian Institute walked out
of their classes Tuesday after news emerged that a US-based foundation that
runs the 78-year-old school in Nicosia has decided to shut it down in June
2005, and will sell the prime assets, whisking up to $80 million out of
Holding placards condemning the sale, students stood at the main gate and in
front of the founder’s mausoleum, chanting “Melkonian Not for Sale.”
Headquartered in New York, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) which
has managed the Melkonian Institute since 1928, has decided to close the
historic school in 16 months time, without providing sufficient justification
for its move.
In an official announcement, the AGBU-NY said that after “extensive
deliberations and thorough assessment, the Central Board 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 challenges of its mission
in the present context of the Armenian world.”
The decision is hotly challenged by the worldwide Melkonian Alumni and
Armenian Diaspora organizations, with the Cyprus Alumni employing all means to
overturn the decision.
The Cyprus government, all political parties, and leading Greek Cypriot
personalities support the efforts of the Armenian community to keep Melkonian
open, considering the school a part of their national heritage and culture of
the island.
Last month, a government cabinet, headed by President Tassos Papadopoulos,
allocated an additional aid package to keep Melkonian in Cyprus.
Alumni representatives say the core issue is the prime land on which the
school is located and the intention of the AGBU to sell the land and whisk up
to $80 million out of Cyprus, to use for unspecified purposes. They said that
the move also violates the provisions of the will of the Melkonian brothers,
who established the school in 1926, initially as an orphanage for children
surviving the Genocide.
The Alumni intends to bring in international experts to strengthen its
defense, as it moves to contest the decision and block sale plans in courts,
and has already sought legal advice from law firms in Cyprus and abroad.
“It is not just a matter of the sale of the land and the flight of some 80
million dollars to the US, in violation of a 1926 will by the founders, but
also abuse of the rights of Armenian children who are being deprived of their
human right to a fair education based on their cultural heritage,” says the
The local Armenian community plans a mass demonstration on March 24 in front
of Melkonian to show its disdain at the decision, and to raise awareness among
the Cypriot population to ignore a press marketing campaign employed by the
US-based organization.
Melkonian students are facing the risk of being expelled, according to Masis
Der Parthogh, the vice president of the school’s Alumni Association.
He argued that officials of the AGBU based in New York have sent warning
messages that they would expel any school children who take part in any
activities or demonstrations opposed to the Melkonian’s closure.
The same students, however, seem fearless of any repercussions as they stayed
away from classes yesterday and the day before.
Furthermore, they are getting ready to take part in the large
demonstration on
Wednesday. The vice president of the Alumni, whose daughter is also a student
at the school, said that the children have lost their will to attend classes,
as they know that in fifteen months’ time, their school will be shut down. He
added, however, that the Armenian community of Cyprus will not give up so
easily and will use every legal means possible to overturn the decision.
Meanwhile, the Alumni Association recently sent a letter to the Presidential
Palace, protesting that the agency handling public relations for AGBU has
strong ties to a leading political state official.
Local TV and radio stations, as well as Cypriot press have given widespread
coverage to the sale of Melkonian.

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