ASBAREZ ONLINE [05-18-2004]


1) EU’s Prodi Caught Off Guard by Aliyev’s Request
2) Rustamian Calls on Opposition to Show True Colors For Sake of Reform
3) US Details Armenia Responsibilities for MCA Participation
4) ARS Festival Celebrates Armenian Heritage with All

1) EU’s Prodi Caught Off Guard by Aliyev’s Request

BRUSSELS (Reuters)–Azerbaijan called on the European Union (EU) to help
resolve a long-running dispute with Armenia over Mountainous Karabagh,
apparently catching the EU’s executive Commission off its guard. The
this month added Azerbaijan, with Caucasus neighbors Armenia and Georgia, to
its New Neighborhood program, which seeks closer ties with countries around
bloc following its expansion eastwards on May 1.
Azeri President Ilham Aliyev lost no time in challenging Commission President
Romano Prodi to translate this into action by asking the EU to take a leading
role in the conflict.
Karabagh is a territory wholly inside Azerbaijan, populated by Christian
ethnic Armenians, which broke away from Baku’s rule as the Soviet Union
collapsed. The Azeris, their country controlling large oil resources, want it
Prodi told journalists after meeting Aliyev that the EU had expressed “our
disposal to help if requested.” He insisted he could not give details as no
request had been made.
Not so, shot back Aliyev. “We already asked, and during today’s meeting once
again,” he said.
A ceasefire, ending a six-year conflict that killed about 35,000 people, has
held for a decade. However, the Minsk Group of 11 countries, led by France,
United States, and Russia under the mandate of the Organization for Security
and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), has so far failed to settle the problem.
Aliyev, who succeeded his father as president last year, backed the Minsk
Group but said he wanted more.
“Azerbaijan is very strongly interested that other important European
organizations, first of all the European Union, take a more active stand,” he
“If Azerbaijan and Armenia are now in the New Neighborhood policy, the
occupation by one country of the territory of another must be stopped,” he
added, demanding the immediate withdrawal of Armenian troops.
His remarks suggest the EU may face problems by rolling out the new policy,
which could mean “importing” several conflicts–notably in Moldova, another
Neighbor, where a stalled war pitting Romanian-speaking Moldovans against
ethnic Russians has also rumbled on for a decade.

2) Rustamian Calls on Opposition to Show True Colors For Sake of Reform

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–In an interview with Noyan Tapan, ARF’s Armen Rustamian
said that if the opposition is sincere in its claims that a power shift is not
an end in itself and that it seeks reforms, then it must opt for dialogue.
Rustamian, Chairman of the National Assembly’s foreign relations commission
and the chairman of ARF Armenia’s Supreme Body, said that dialogue, on the one
hand, allows for achievements to date to be preserved, while opening the doors
to resolving existing problems.
The only alternative to political confrontation, Rustamian stressed, is the
resolution of issues through political consent. He proposed that the
accept the offer to participate “as an equal side, with rights of veto” in
working to reform Armenia’s electoral code and constitution, and struggling
against corruption–generally in implementing obligations assumed by Armenia
[before the Council of Europe].
Part of the opposition, said Rustamian, opposes dialogue because it does not
grasp that proposals put forth are, in fact, very realistic.
“Working with that part of the opposition, and extending the idea of
consent, we must present the idea–not as an empty declaration, but a concept
that has serious potential.”
“Another portion of the opposition simply will not opt for dialogue
because of
its fundamental desire to increase its electorate on the threshold of possible
elections,” Rustamian added.
Rustamian said that the possible collision of authorities and the opposition
weaken the nation, and the government becomes the responsible party.
He revealed that the opposition, while considered “a persecuted political
force carrying out an unshakable struggle for democracy,” is void of ideas and
programs. For this reason, Rustamian said, they must enter into the political
process and work constructively, instead of putting forth far-fetched,
artificial reasons, pre-conditions, and ultimatums–anything to avoid

3) US Details Armenia Responsibilities for MCA Participation

YEREVAN (Armenpress/RFE/RL)–The 8th session of US-Armenia Task Force
on Tuesday with detailed discussions on Armenia’s responsibilities for
participation in the US-funded Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program.
Ambassador Carlos Pascual, a senior State Department official coordinating US
aid to Europe and the former Soviet Union, reviewed criterion for the
of countries eligible.
Armenia is among 16 countries of Africa, Asia, Latin America and the former
Soviet Union selected for the MCA earlier this month on the basis of 16
indicators of political and economic reforms. Six of those indicators,
including protection of civil rights and freedom of expression, deal with what
is defined as one of the three main objectives of the scheme: promotion of a
“just government rule.”
Pascual said that by qualifying, countries are not guaranteed funding, and
that allocation of funds will be based on the quality of program proposals,
on a compulsory basis. Their financing will depend on the economy’s fair
management, addressing investment in social issues, as well as the quality of
programs presented.
“As you know, there have been issues here in Armenia that have raised
questions about political and civil liberties in the past few months,” Pascual
told a news conference in Yerevan. “The expectation, in order to be able to
move forward with the program, is that there would be progress on these issues
and not movement backwards.”
Pascual, who co-chaired a two-day session of the US-Armenian
“task force” with Finance Minister Vartan Khachatrian, said that Yerevan would
further increase its chances of securing MCA funding by combating endemic
corruption in earnest. “We had some very frank discussions about struggle to
fight corruption in Armenia and the importance of translating the
[government’s] anti-corruption strategy into specific steps,” he said, calling
for “concrete examples that can show the population the seriousness of the
to fight corruption.”
Khachatrian agreed, saying: “We must do a lot of work to get that
He confirmed that the Armenian government has “in effect” already drawn up a
number of strategic Poverty Reduction programs to submit to the Millennium
Challenge Corporation, a US government agency in charge of the MCA’s
implementation. He said those programs will be discussed in detail with a team
of other US officials who are due to visit Yerevan later this month. The
government will also initiate public debate on its proposals, Khachatrian
The task force also discussed the ongoing regular US aid to Armenia, which
exceeded $1.5 billion since 1992 and, according to Pascual, will total $94
million this year. More than half of the 2004 funds are to be spent on job
creation, poverty reduction, and social services, while $15 million is
earmarked for “security and law enforcement,” officials said.

4) ARS Festival Celebrates Armenian Heritage with All

GLENDALE–The third annual Armenian Relief Society (ARS) festival proved to be
yet another year of success, providing delicious food, rousing music, arts and
crafts, and spontaneous dancing. Over 7,000 people passed through the doors of
the Glendale Civic Auditorium, for the two-day weekend festival, May 15-16.
The festival drew in a mixed crowd of both Armenians and non-Armenians who
shared the rich Armenian cultural experience with their children,
grandchildren, and friends. The upper level of the auditorium was filled to
capacity with people eager to watch the dancing and view the Armenian clothes
modeled by local teenagers.
Vendors lined the auditorium, selling artwork, ceramics, jewelry, T-shirts,
food, drinks, books, clothes, and desserts. Informational displays were
available on the lower level of the auditorium, filled with postcards and
stamps from Armenia and pictures of the country’s men and women and their
fashion from different eras.
Through the festivities, the ARS was able to fulfill a sense of pride and
tradition for Armenians and non-Armenians alike.

All subscription inquiries and changes must be made through the proper carrier
and not Asbarez Online. ASBAREZ ONLINE does not transmit address changes and
subscription requests.
(c) 2004 ASBAREZ ONLINE. All Rights Reserved.

ASBAREZ provides this news service to ARMENIAN NEWS NETWORK members for
academic research or personal use only and may not be reproduced in or through
mass media outlets.