ASBAREZ Online [07-08-2004]


1. ARF, Lebanese Foreign Minister Discuss Turkey-Lebanon Relations
2. Work on Constitutional and Election Law Reforms Complete
3. Minsk Group Plans Regional Visit
4. EU Commissioner Discusses ‘Neighborhood Policy’ in Armenia
5. Armenia Works to Prevent Money Laundering, Terrorism Financing
6. Tensions Grow in Georgia, Russia Angry
7. UNDP Report Traces Rising HIV Rates in CIS Countries

1. ARF, Lebanese Foreign Minister Discuss Turkey-Lebanon Relations

BEIRUT (Aztag)–A delegation representing the ARF Central Committee (CC) of
Lebanon met yesterday with Lebanon’s Minister of Foreign and Emigrant Affairs,
Jean Obeid, at the Foreign Ministry in Boutros Palace.
The ARF delegation consisted of CC representative Hovig Mkhitarian and
Hagop Pakradouni and Barouyr Der Ghougassian.
The discussions between Obeid and the ARF focused on Lebanon-Turkey
particularly in light of Turkish Foreign Minister Abdulla Gul’s visit to
Lebanon over the previous weekend and agreements that were signed between the
two sides.
Foreign Minister Obeid provided various clarifications regarding Gul’s visit
and Lebanese-Turkish relations. The ARF delegation presented its views on
topics and underscored that relations must be based on mutual respect, in an
attempt to rectify the mistakes that have accumulated throughout the
history of
the two countries and which, to this day, influence the development of events
in the region.
The ARF delegation cast doubt on Turkish officials’ recent statements
regarding the establishment of close ties with the Arab people. The ARF
representatives stressed the importance of keeping a close eye on Ankara’s
intent to gain political influence in the region while maintaining its
strategic cooperation with Israel.
Gul’s visit to Lebanon was the first in 21 years for a Turkish foreign
minister. The Lebanese Prime Minister and Foreign Minister visited Turkey in
April and May, respectively.

2. Work on Constitutional and Election Law Reforms Complete

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Armenia on Thursday completed work on developing two
packages of constitutional and election law reforms in an effort to meet its
obligations before the Council of Europe (CE).
The draft law on changes to election code must pass by the end of 2004, and
incorporates most of the recommendations and proposals offered by the Central
Election Commission (CEC), Venice Commission, and the OSCE.
Amendments to Armenia’s constitution will be put to a national referendum in
the first half of 2005, according to the timetable set by the CE.
The drafts will be translated and sent to the CE’s Venice Commission to
the amendments conform to European standards.
They will also be available to non-governmental organizations, political
parties, and all interested individuals, for review later this month, and will
be open to public debate.

3. Minsk Group Plans Regional Visit

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Minsk Group co-chairs will be visiting Armenia on their
tour of the region that includes Azerbaijan and Mountainous Karabagh Republic.
Co-chairs Yuri Merzlyakov of Russia, Stephen Mann of the United States and
Henry Jackolin of France are due in Armenia’s capital on July 10.
The Minsk Group spearheads the Organization for Security and Cooperation in
Europe’s efforts to find a political solution to the Karabagh conflict.

4. EU Commissioner Discusses ‘Neighborhood Policy’ in Armenia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Janez Potocnik, the European Union’s junior commissioner on
enlargement affairs, discussed with Armenian leaders on Thursday practical
consequences of Armenia’s inclusion in the list of countries entitled to
privileged ties with the EU.
After talks in Yerevan with President Robert Kocharian, Prime Minister
Andranik Markarian, and other senior officials, Potocnik reiterated the EU’s
position that Armenia itself should decide the extent of its cooperation with
the bloc under the European Neighborhood Policy (ENP). He said the EU’s
Executive Commission would only support and encourage Yerevan’s efforts to
European standards on free elections, human rights, and freedom of speech.
The decision to extend the ENP, also known as “Wider Europe,” to Armenia as
well as neighboring Azerbaijan and Georgia was formally made by the EU foreign
ministers on June 14.
Each South Caucasus country is responsible for submitting action plans on
economic and political reforms in order to receive assistance some time in
Potocnik said that he will submit to the European Commission a report on
Armenia by the spring of 2005, after which the two sides will begin discussing
joint programs on a broad range of issues. He also reiterated the EU’s
insistence on the quick closure of the Medzamor nuclear plant “for safety
“Our mutual agreement will allow for the decommissioning of the Medzamor
nuclear plant some time in the future.,” the Slovenian official said,
reaffirming the EU’s offer of a 100 million-euro compensation for the

EU officials in Brussels said earlier this week that during his regional
Potocnik will stress the bloc’s willingness to take a more active approach to
the regional conflicts. They said although the EU bloc will not act as a
mediator it will use incentives inherent in closer ties to foster compromise.

5. Armenia Works to Prevent Money Laundering, Terrorism Financing

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–A meeting on preventing money laundering and financing
terrorism brought together leading Armenian decision-makers on Thursday in
Yerevan. Armenia’s General Prosecutor Aghvan Hovsepian joined about 30
parliamentarians and a number of government representatives at the National
Workshop on Combating Money Laundering and Suppressing Financing of Terrorism
to discuss international conventions related to these crimes, implementation
mechanisms, and national initiatives.
The workshop is part of a large-scale program launched last year by the
Yerevan office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe
(OSCE). Two national workshops were organized in 2003 together with the UN
Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), which resulted in a number of
recommendations that are currently in the process of implementation.
In opening the event, head of the OSCE Office in Yerevan Vladimir Pryakhin
stressed that the actual fight can not take place within the limits of
borders. “Only close international collaboration and direct contacts between
law enforcement agencies and financial institutions can provide effective
to fight this evil,” he said.
Pryakhin also said that the fight against money laundering and the financing
of terrorism should be in line with fighting corruption.
Armenian authorities have already ratified the UN Convention against
Transnational Organized Crime, and the Council of Europe Convention on
Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime.
Armenian President Robert Kocharian last year endorsed the National
Anti-Corruption Strategy, which incorporates a number of measures to prevent
money laundering. The OSCE Office, which has been assisting the Armenian
Government in the development of the strategy since 2000, is now assisting

6. Tensions Grow in Georgia, Russia Angry

TBILISI (Reuters)–Tensions grew in Georgia on Thursday after some of its
soldiers were seized in the breakaway region of South Ossetia, while Russia
accused Georgia’s leadership of goading its wayward province into retaliation.
Georgian officials also said an armed group opened fire on a Georgian
peacekeeping checkpoint, wounding two soldiers and kidnapping one of them.
The clashes in South Ossetia were the latest flare-up since President Mikhail
Saakashvili moved to restore central control over separatist regions that seek
closer ties with Russia.
A police official near the region, that lies north-west of Tbilisi on the
border with Russia, said about 50 Georgian Interior Ministry troops had been
In Moscow, the Russian foreign ministry sided with the South Ossetians,
blaming the Saakashvili leadership for “unlawful and provocative actions in
Georgian-Ossetia zone of conflict.”
“Tbilisi is ignoring the fact that a sharpening of the crisis puts the people
of South Ossetia, most of whom are Russian citizens, under a serious security
threat,” a ministry statement said.
Tensions began to flare in South Ossetia after Georgia sent troops to the
internal border with the region in early June, to protect anti-smuggling
Then, in an incident that prompted a sharp reaction from Moscow Wednesday,
Georgian troops seized an arms convoy which it said was carrying rocket
launchers intended for separatists.
Russia said the weapons were intended for the members of its peacekeeping
Georgian Prime Minister Zurab Zhvania, who announced the armed attack and
kidnapping at a checkpoint between the villages of Tamarasheni and Kurta,
accused the South Ossetian leadership of stirring up armed conflict. “We will
never allow a repetition of the tragedy that we witnessed in 1991,” said
The region broke from Georgia after a war at the end of Soviet rule in 1991.
Uneasy peace has reigned since, supervised by a peacekeeping force from
Georgia, South Ossetia and Russia.
Saakashvili, who says he is striving to end awkward relations with Russia,
secured the removal of a local strongman in another wayward region, Ajaria,
which had considerable autonomy but never declared independence.
Since his election early this year, Saakashvili has set his sights on
restoring central control over South Ossetia and Abkhazia, a breakaway region
on the Black Sea.
Moscow aligns itself with the international view that both these regions are
part of Georgian territory and it has never offered to take them into the
Russian Federation.
At the same time, it has often backed them in disputes with the Tbilisi
leadership and has allowed many of their people Russian citizenship.

7. UNDP Report Traces Rising HIV Rates in CIS Countries

YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)On Wednesday, the United Nations Development Program
released the 2004 HIV/AIDS report for Eastern European and Commonwealth of
Independent States (CIS) countries, titled “Reversing the Epidemic: Facts and
Policy Options.” Vladimir Davidyants, Chief State Sanitary Doctor of Armenia,
Lise Grande, UN Resident Coordinator and UNDP Resident Representative, Samvel
Grigoryan, Head of the Republican AIDS Prevention Center and
representatives of
international and local organizations participated in the event, which was
at the United Nations House in Yerevan.
The report presents the first comprehensive outline of the HIV/AIDS epidemic
in the 28 countries of East and South-Eastern Europe, the Baltics and the CIS.
The UN estimates that 1.8 million people in the region have HIV and that
280,000 people contracted the virus last year. Despite a comparatively low
prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the region, growth rates in Estonia, Russia and
Ukraine are among the world’s highest. The report stresses that the HIV/AIDS
crisis poses a threat to the region’s economic growth, resulting in an
estimated loss of at least one percent GDP growth per year.
According to the report, once the number of those infected with HIV/AIDS
surpasses 1% of a country’s total population, it becomes extremely difficult
for experts to reverse the trend. Any delays, the reports notes, in addressing
the problem can be catastrophic: only twelve years ago, South Africa was
an infection rate among the adult population that was less than one percent;
now the rate is twenty times higher.
According to Grande, “UNDP’s report reveals that there is already an HIV
crisis in the CIS. Although the situation in Armenia is not as disastrous
as in
some other major CIS countries, steps need to be taken now to avoid the
kind of
catastrophe that is affecting other countries. By working together, the
government, civil society, the mass media and donors can make a difference.
Through reports like the one we are releasing today, we can help raise
awareness among the general public and promote responsible behavior among all
people living in Armenia.”
Between 1988 and 2004, 279 individuals infected with HIV registered with the
Armenian government. Of those affected, a vast majority are men (206
cases-77.7%). 79.2% are between the ages of 20-39.


Common Agreement with Armenia Difficult, Azeri Speaker Says

BAKU (ARMENPRESS)–The Mountainous-Karabagh conflict was the focus of a
Wednesday meeting between Azerbaijani parliament speaker Murtuz Alasgarov and
European Union (EU) commissioner on expansion Janez Potocnik, who spent two
days in Azerbaijan before coming to Armenia.
Alasgarov said that he backed the resolution of the conflict based on the
principles of territorial integrity. Speaking about the suggestions of
international organizations that called for the Azeri side to reach common
agreement with Armenia, the speaker stated, “How can Azerbaijan reach common
agreement with Armenia, which is an aggressor and doesn’t intend to withdraw
from the occupied lands of Azerbaijan?” Alasgarov moved on to condemn the
visits by some international diplomats to Mountainous-Karabagh from Armenia
without the prior consent of Baku.
Potocnik, in turn, noted that the successful integration of the South
region into the European Union was possible only after the peaceful
solution of
the Karabagh conflict. He underlined that the EU was ready to carry out
rehabilitation operations in Mountainous-Karabagh after the resolution of the
The EU commissioner also stressed that the EU special envoy on South Caucasus
Heikki Talvitie was ready to assist the OSCE Minsk Group in settling the

Iran Appoints New Ambassador to Armenia

TEHRAN (ARMENPRESS)–President Seyyed Mohammad Khatami appointed Ali Reza
Haqiqian as the new Iranian ambassador to the Republic of Armenia, the
Information and Press Department of the Iranian Foreign Ministry announced on
The appointment was made upon a proposal by Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi.
Haqiqian had previously served as a Foreign Ministry director-general as well
as Iranian
charge d’affaires to Baghdad.
Ali Reza Haqiqian was born in Isfahan in 1958. He received a university
education and has been working in Iran’s Foreign Ministry since 1981, holding
various positions in embassies in Canada, Germany and Iraq. The new
is married and is father to three children. He speaks fluent English.

World Armenian Congress Concerned with Armenian Church Destruction in Turkey

MOSCOW (ARMENPRESS)–The World Armenian Congress has expressed concern over
the condition of the Akhtamar Saint Cross Church–a unique monument of
Armenian architecture, which is situated in Turkey, on an island in Lake Van.
The church was built in 915-921, says a statement of the World Armenian
Congress, issued on July 7. It is currently in such a dilapidated state that
“soon only ruins will be left of it.”
The World Armenian Congress urged the Turkish and Armenian governments to
steps without delay for restoring the Akhtamar Saint Cross Church. It also
asked the two countries to work with UNESCO experts in the restoration of
Armenian architectural monuments on Turkish territory.

Azeri Transport Minister Accused of Cooperating with Armenians

BAKU (ARMENPRESS)–On Thursday, a group of senior officials of Azerbaijan’s
railway department accused the country’s transport minister Zia Mamedov of
secretly cooperating with Armenians. Speaking at a specially convened news
conference, the officials claimed that the minister “has built a mob network,”
which has embezzled $2.5 billion worth of public funds since 1995. As proof,
they noted the decrease in the number of government-owned locomotives–from
to 183–since the collapse of the USSR. In one instance, a 132-car train
bearing wine was sent to Russia, never to return. Locomotive parts, the group
stated, were removed and sold as scrap metal. The officials also stated that,
in leasing 300 cars to Russia,
Azerbaijan did not receive anything in return.
They went on to allege that the railway department is the sole government
agency that cooperates with Armenia. The officials claimed that 300 cisterns
were sold to Armenia. “Reports about these abuses were regularly sent to
prosecutors and the presidential staff, but nothing was done to investigate
into them,” they said. They said they will ask the president to order an
investigation into their allegations, which were described by Mamedov as

US Envoy in Baku Calls for Democratic Institutions in Nakhichevan

BAKU (ARMENPRESS)–The US ambassador to Azerbaijan, Reno Harnish, who was
recently on a visit to Nakhichevan, said “it was high time” to establish
democratic institutions in the region. Harnish had discussed the issue with
chairman of the local supreme council, Vasif Talibov.
Harnish confirmed that he had told the Guardian newspaper that Azerbaijani
law-enforcement bodies obtain 80 per cent of confessions through torture.
Journalists asked the ambassador about the recent US Congressional
decision to
allocate $5 million to Mountainous Karabagh. Harnish stated that the aid will
be used to assist refugees. He added that Azerbaijan will receive $13 dollars
in assistance for refugees currently living in camps.

Armenian-Spanish Relations Discussed

YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)–On July 5, the newly appointed foreign minister of
Spain, M. Moratinos, received Armenian Ambassador to Spain, E. Khojanian. The
sides discussed Armenian-Spanish relations and prospects for their
They noted that recent developments, such as the new European Union policy
towards the South Caucasus, create an opportune moment for the development of
relations. Moratinos expressed interest in Armenia’s economic and political
situation and revealed his readiness to support Armenian-Spanish relations in
all their forms. The Spanish minister also reconfirmed his government’s
readiness to receive the Armenian president on an official visit.

CSTO Secretary General Calls on Georgia, Ossetia to Use no Force

MOSCOW (ARMENPRESS)–Nikolai Bordyuzha, secretary general of the Collective
Security Treaty Organization (CTSO), composed of Russia, Belarus, Armenia,
Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan, has called on both sides of the
Georgian-South Ossetian conflict to refrain from the use of force.
“The situation on the Georgian-South Ossetian administrative border is
threatening to snowball out of control and lead to an armed conflict, to
unpredictable developments in the region,” runs Bordyuzha’s statement
circulated in Moscow. He emphasized that all issues pertaining to Georgia’s
relations with South Ossetia should be solved peacefully.
“Ultimatums, threats or, moreover, the use of force, including against
peacekeeping divisions deployed there, can have the most negative consequences
for the situation in the Caucasus,” the statement says.
“We are calling on the conflicting sides to refrain from the use of force and
to find, through a political dialogue, a constructive decision meeting the
interests of security and stability in the region,” the document runs.
Meanwhile, Georgian State Security Minister Vano Merabishvili said that
Georgia has averted a new armed conflict in South Ossetia. “We had the
information that Eduard Kokoity–president of the self-proclaimed
republic–planned to organize provocations on July 7 and 8, but what happened
was more than we had expected. However, despite the repeated armed clashes, we
have managed to avoid bloodshed and new confrontation between the Georgians
the Ossetians,” Merabishvili said at a live briefing in Georgia. “Kokoity is
ready for war, he has weapons and medicines but Georgia is not going to fight
against the Ossetians,” he continued.
In his words, “the Russian Federation’s official position on the Tskhinvali
district does not coincide with Kokoity’s plans, therefore he has nothing
to do
but organize provocations.” The Georgian minister told reporters that all
Georgian military subdivisions had been ordered not to use weapons. “This is
why Ossetian armed formations managed to take up to 50 of our servicemen
hostage,” Merabishvili noted.

Kocharian Condoles the Death of Austrian President

YEREVAN (ARMENPRESS)–Armenian President Robert Kocharian sent a condolence
message to Austrian Chancellor Wolfgang Schuessel, after the death of
Thomas Klestil. The Austrian president suffered a heart attack earlier this
week and died shortly after.
“I recall my meetings with president Klestil with warmth. His
contributions to
development of Austrian-Armenian relations are esteemed highly in Armenia. I
extend by deepest condolences to the people of Austria and ask to extend them
also to members of his family at this sad moment,” Kocharian’s message reads.
Klestil’s heart stopped on Monday as he was being flown by helicopter to
Vienna’s General Hospital after being found unconscious. Klestil, who had in
1996 suffered from a severe case of pneumonia, was recently having serious
The presidency will be transferred to Heinz Fischer, who won elections
this year. While the post is mostly ceremonial, Austria’s president serves as
the country’s commander in chief, and is bestowed with the power to reject
cabinet nominations.
Klestil, a career diplomat who earlier served as Austria’s ambassador to the
US and to the UN, is widely credited with restoring Austria’s credibility
following the controversial administration of Kurt Waldheim, who had served in
the military during WWII. On a trip to Israel during his first term, Klestil
expressed sympathy with victims of the Holocaust in a speech to the Knesset,
while referencing Austria’s role in the atrocities.. It was one of the
times he spoke out against Nazi horrors and his country’s role in them.

Indian Singer Performs for Vanadzor Residents

VANADZOR (ARMENPRESS)–Indian pop singer Ila Aruni performed at the Vanadzor
culture palace named after Charles Aznavour. The singer was introduced on
by Indian Ambassador to Armenia Deepak Vohra. In addition to renditions of
Indian songs, Aruni, who is also an actress, dancer and playwright, delighted
the audience by briefly singing in Armenian.

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