Melkonian on the agenda in talks with Armenian minister

Melkonian on the agenda in talks with Armenian minister
By Jean Christou

Cyprus Mail
May 21 2004

THE CLOSURE of the Melkonian Educational Institute (MEI) in Nicosia
was discussed yesterday during discussions between Foreign Minister
George Iacovou and his Armenian counterpart Vartan Oskanian, who is
on an official visit to the island.

Speaking after the meeting, Oskanian said the issue was discussed with
Iacovou, as well as Interior Minister Andreas Christou and Nicosia
Mayor Michael Zampelas.

“This is an issue that concerns the Government of Armenia and I simply
heard the views of the Cypriot government officials as to what they
think about the future of the school; I should also say that I met
with the community members yesterday and I focused on the Melkonian’s
closure,” he added.

“We in Armenia like to see a solution to this issue that will meet
the needs of everyone,” the Armenian Foreign Minister said, adding
Armenia was ready to offer its good offices, if it could be of any
help, to reach a positive conclusion to this issue.

Last month, the government slapped a preservation order on the
Melkonian, giving the school, slated to close next year, a temporary
reprieve from the developers, but so far there are no assurances
about the school’s continuation beyond June 2005, after which a good
number of Armenian students living in Cyprus would be deprived of a
national-language school, while boarding students would be sent home.

The central board of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU)
in New York said in March that the 78-year old school should close
in June 2005.

The loss-making Melkonian is sitting on a £40 million plot in the
capital’s commercial district and reports have been rife that it is
up for grabs by developers.

The AGBU said in November that the school was not for sale but
then changed tack and announced the closure. The schools alumni are
convinced the foundation’s only aim is to “take the money and run”.

Staff at the school are also outraged over comments by the AGBU
that the standard of education at the MEI was not up to scratch,
and threatened this week to take industrial action.

Iacovou and Oskanian also discussed the Cyprus issue, the island’s
EU accession and relations with Armenia during yesterday’s meeting
Oskanian stressed the importance of Cyprus’ accession to the EU for
Armenia. “We see Cyprus as a friendly country, as an insider in the EU
and that we can rely on its help to further advance our integration
processes with European structures and particularly with the EU,”
he said.