ASBAREZ ONLINE [10-28-2004]

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10/28/2004
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1) “Kef For Kerry” Concert Tour Rallies South Florida for Democratic Nominee
2) Four Unrecognized Republics to Hold Exercises in S. Ossetia
3) Livingston: Kerry Tied up with ‘Armenian Genocide’ Statements
4) UN Panel Recommends Debate on Occupied Azeri Lands
5) Greece Refuses to Cede Any Sovereignty to Turkey
6) International Forum on Armenian Farming, Agribusiness
7) MPs Forced to Learn Armenian Anthem
8) llham Aliyev Ends Checkered Year As President on Wednesday
9) AzerbaijanForBush.com

1) “Kef For Kerry” Concert Tour Rallies South Florida for Democratic Nominee

–MA State Rep. Peter Koutoujian; Gwen Graham Among Special Guests
–Sen. Graham Set to Cosponsor Genocide Resolution (S.Res.164)

FORT LAUDERDALE–Over 200 Armenian Americans from South Florida’s Tri-County
area (Dade, Broward, and Palm Beach counties) donned “Armenians for Kerry” and
“Armenstock 2004” t-shirts and danced the evening away at the Las Olas
Riverfront Sunday, in support of John Kerry’s presidential bid, reported the
Armenian National Committee of Florida.
The concert, organized as part of the nationwide “Kef for Kerry Tour of
Battleground States,” featured the Cascade Folk Trio and included special
guests–Massachusetts State Representative Peter Koutoujian, Gwen Graham,
daughter of US Senator Bob Graham (D-FL) representing the Kerry/Edwards
Campaign, and ANCA Government Affairs Director Abraham Niziblian.
Between musical sets, Gwen Graham reminded the attendees about the Democratic
Presidential candidate’s strong record on Armenian American concerns and
read a
special message from Sen. Kerry to the Florida Armenian community. In the
letter, Sen. Kerry restated his commitment to proper recognition of the
Armenian Genocide. “I want to assure you, as President, I will continue to
fight against denial of the Armenian Genocide,” explained Sen. Kerry.
Following cheers from the crowd, Graham went a step further to announce that
her father, Sen. Bob Graham, has also pledged to co-sponsor the Genocide
resolution, S.Res.164, making him the first Florida Senator to support a
similar initiative. Introduced by Senators John Ensign (R-NV) and Jon Corzine
(D-NJ), S.Res.164 marks the 15th anniversary of the US implementation of the
Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. With the
addition of Sen. Graham, the legislation will have 41 cosponsors.
State Representative Peter Koutoujian (D-MA) electrified the crowd, making a
compelling case for Armenian-Americans and all Americans to cast their vote
for
the Kerry/Edwards ticket. “John Kerry has been a true friend to
Armenian-Americans. Whether it has been fighting for recognition of the
Armenian Genocide or providing for Karabagh’s security, Senator Kerry deserves
our vote based on his impeccable record,” said Koutoujian. He charismatically
emphasized the importance of voting and especially voting for Senator John
Kerry, whose twenty years of support for Armenian issues earned him an
unequivocal endorsement from the Armenian National Committee of America.
“On behalf of the Florida Armenian community, we would like to thank Sen.
Graham for his principled stand in support of the Genocide resolution,” stated
ANC of Florida Chairman Bedo Der-Bedrossian. “As we approach the 90th
anniversary of the Armenian genocide, we look forward to working with the
Florida Senate and House delegation in the 109th Congress to ensure proper US
reaffirmation of this crime against humanity. We also greatly appreciate
Representative Koutoujian’s participation in our Kef for Kerry event. During
his two day stay dedicated to rallying Armenian-Americans behind John
Kerry, he
has attended numerous community events and significantly strengthened the ANC
of South Florida’s effort to get out the Armenian vote.”
Community support for the evening was tremendous, primarily due to a
far-reaching internet and e-mail campaign and traditional canvassing by
Florida
ANC activists. Armenian Americans throughout South Florida, both active and
new
to community affairs, attended the gathering. “I am very happy you found my
name,” said Florida Atlantic University student Karina Azrumova.
“We were thrilled by the turnout of this wonderful event and look forward to
expanding our outreach to all facets of the Florida Armenian community as we
work to advance the issues of concern dear to our hearts,” concluded Bedo
Der-Bedrossian.
Billed as the Armenian version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Vote for Change” tour,
the “Kef for Kerry Tour of Battleground States” visited Wisconsin, Michigan,
Florida, and Pennsylvania during the final three weeks of October. Modeled
after Armenstock 2004, each stop on the tour combines a single musical
performance with a political program designed to generate enthusiasm among
young activists and bring in hundreds of new fellow passengers onto the
Armenians for Kerry bandwagon. The battleground states chosen for the Tour
have
sizable Armenian communities and are expected to play a pivotal role in the
outcome of the presidential election this year. For more information about the
Kef for Kerry Tour of Battleground States, visit:
The Kef for Kerry tour is made possible by a generous contribution from Dr.
Carolann and K. George Najarian.

2) Four Unrecognized Republics to Hold Exercises in S. Ossetia

MOSCOW (Interfax)–The Defense Ministries of four unrecognized
republics–Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Mountainous Karabagh and
Transdniestria–will hold joint military exercises before the end of the year,
a source in the Abkhaz Defense Ministry told Interfax on Thursday.
“Task groups from the defense ministries will hold joint training for
response
to armed incursions before the end of this year,” the source said.
“All these republics do not rule out that the armed forces of countries to
which our republics used to belong may try to restore control by force. The
most apparent danger exists for South Ossetia and Abkhazia,” he said.
South Ossetia and Abkhazia are legally provinces of Georgia, but conflicts in
the 1990s led to their de facto independence. Azerbaijan lost control of
Mountainous Karabagh, and Moldova lost control of Transdniestria at
approximately the same time. All of these unrecognized republics are seeking
international recognition, while Tbilisi, Baku, and Chisinau are stepping up
efforts to restore control over their breakaway provinces.

3) Livingston: Kerry Tied up with ‘Armenian Genocide’ Statements

WASHINGTON, DC (Zaman)–According to the Turkish newspaper Zaman Daily, a
founding partner of the firm that officially lobbies in Washington on
behalf of
the Turkish government remarked that Democratic presidential candidate Kerry
has entrapped himself with his statements on the Armenian genocide
“I am afraid that if Kerry is elected president, there may be big a change in
American policy on the genocide issue,” Bob Livingston, the chairman of The
Livingston Group is quoted as saying.

4) UN Panel Recommends Debate on Occupied Azeri Lands

YEREVAN (RFE-RL)–A key United Nations committee has backed Azerbaijan’s calls
for the UN General Assembly to discuss the resettlement of Armenian
families on
Armenian-controlled Azerbaijani territories around Mountainous Karabagh.
Meeting in New York on Wednesday, the UN’s General Committee voted to
recommend the inclusion of the issue on the agenda of the assembly’s ongoing
session. The move was demanded by Azerbaijan and strongly backed by
representatives of Muslim nations, including Pakistan and Turkey, which sit on
the panel.
The recommendation was considered to have passed, even though only 9 of
the 28
committee members voted for it, while 14 others, including a US diplomat,
abstained. There were no votes against. The General Assembly now has to decide
whether it wants to consider the issue.
Azerbaijan’s permanent representative to the UN, Yashar Aliyev, reportedly
accused Armenians of building settlements on the occupied lands. “Azerbaijan
will not tolerate colonization of its territory,” he said. Aliyev called for
international pressure on Armenia which he said is keen to change “the
demographic situation” in the zone of the Mountainous Karabagh conflict.
Aliyev’s Armenian counterpart Armen Martirosian, opposed a debate on the
issue
and denied the existence of an Armenian policy of resettlement. A French
member
of the UN committee, speaking on behalf of the French, Russian, and US
co-chairs of the Minsk Group, also spoke out against raising the issue with
the
General Assembly, warning of “negative consequences” for the peace process.
“We state once again that there is no official policy of resettlement,” the
spokesman for the Armenian Foreign Ministry, Hamlet Gasparian, said in a
statement earlier on Wednesday. He accused Baku of seeking to deflect
international attention from Karabagh’s future status.
Continued Armenian control of Lachin seems to have been upheld by all peace
proposals put forward by the mediators over the past decade.

5) Greece Refuses to Cede Any Sovereignty to Turkey

ATHENS (AFP)–Greece said on Wednesday it would not even slightly cede its
sovereignty to Turkey, after accusing Ankara of almost daily violations of its
air and maritime space in the past few days.
“Turkey has its own positions and we stand by our own. We are not going to
give up a centimeter of our sovereign rights,” deputy government spokesman
Evangelos Antonaros told a news conference in Athens.
The Greek military authorities on Wednesday reported new Turkish
violations on
Greek airspace in the Aegean Sea.
“Thirteen violations of Greek airspace took place on Wednesday, while three
clashes (between Greek and Turkish planes) took place near the Greek
islands of
Chios, Lesbos, and Limnos,” military spokesman Constantin Loukopoulos said.
Improved bilateral ties with Greece, a European Union member, is of
particular
importance to EU candidate Turkey as it awaits a crucial December decision
from
Brussels on whether it will be given a date to start full membership talks.
Although strained ties between the two neighbors have improved significantly
since 1999, spats in the Aegean have been frequent for years as Athens and
Ankara remain at loggerheads over territorial and air control rights there.
The Turkish foreign ministry denied Monday the Greek charges, saying that
Turkish ships and planes had been carrying out routine training operations in
the area.
Greece said it supports Turkey’s integration in Europe but has not clarified
if it will come out in favor of Ankara`s EU bid in December.

6) International Forum on Armenian Farming, Agribusiness

YEREVAN (RFE-RL)–Hundreds of Armenian farmers and agribusiness owners joined
experts from 27 countries for an international conference on ways of boosting
Armenia’s struggling agriculture, which began its work in Yerevan on
Thursday.
The opening session of the three-day forum was attended by senior Armenian
officials and representatives of Western donor agencies and other
international
institutions. The latter pledged continued assistance to the sector which
generates at least 20 percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product.
Liz Grande, the head of the United Nations mission in Yerevan said that
low-income Armenian farmers can hardly boost their productivity without
obtaining machines and other equipment.
According to Zareh Izmirlian of the US-Armenian Technology Group, Armenian
agriculture can not be competitive without the necessary equipment. “Our
overall impression is that Armenian agriculture is not competitive at the
moment,” he said.
At the forum, The World Bank also pledged to continue its financing of the
Armenian government’s irrigation and rural infrastructure projects.
The conference was timed to coincide with an exhibition of various
agricultural products by some 60 Armenian firms. Their owners cited a wide
range of problems hampering further growth of the sector, that has expanded
considerably since the late 1990s.

7) MPs Forced to Learn Armenian Anthem

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)Members of Armenia’s parliament will be obliged to know the
full text of the national anthem by heart under a proposed code of ethics
to be
debated by the National Assembly soon.
The legislation has been drafted by the parliament’s committee on legal
affairs and formally endorsed by the leaders of parliament’s majority.
“I think that the deputies must really know it by heart,” said Mher
Shahgeldian, a senior lawmaker representing the Orinats Yerkir party.
Other majority leaders appeared to speak for many of their colleagues when
they admitted that their knowledge of the anthem’s lyrics leaves much to be
desired. “I don’t know the full text of the state anthem. It’s very difficult
for me learn this anthem,” said Galust Sahakian, the leader of the Republican
Party.
“Nobody has the right to teach anyone something by law,” Sahakian complained
before assuring reporters that he will try to comply with the measure.
“That’s OK,” said deputy speaker Vahan Hovannisian. “He’ll learn. It’s not
that tough.”
“I knew it even before it was adopted as national anthem,” Hovannisian added,
referring to the Mer Hayrenik (Our Fatherland) song the lyrics of which are
based on a 19th century verse by Mikael Nalbandian, a prominent Armenian
poet.
The song was also the national anthem of the first independent Armenian
republic that existed from 1918-20, which founded and governed by
Hovannisian’s
Armenian Revolutionary Federation party.
The proposed code of ethics, which is meant to prevent deputies from bringing
the assembly into disrepute, has already sparked debate due to some of its
controversial provisions. Under one of those provisions, lawmakers would
not be
allowed to publicly comment on criminal cases before court verdicts.
Sahakian appeared to be unaware of that despite signing the draft code along
with fellow faction leaders recently. “If there is such stupidity [in the
code], I will fight hard against it,” he said. “Deputies must have a right to
make political assessments.”
The parliament’s second vice-speaker, Tigran Torosian, has also expressed
serious misgivings about the bill.

8) llham Aliyev Ends Checkered Year As President on Wednesday

By Jean-Christophe Peuch

On October 31, 2003, 41-year-old Ilham Aliyev formally succeeded his ailing
father as president of the oil-rich Caspian republic of Azerbaijan. While
taking the oath on the Koran and Azerbaijan’s Constitution, Aliyev pledged to
bring his country “peace, order, progress, stability, and economic
prosperity,”
and to pursue a path toward democratic reforms. While Aliyev’s first year in
power has brought some positive changes, he seems unableor unwilling to make a
clean break with his father’s controversial legacy.

PRAGUETo be sure, Ilham Aliyev’s mandate started under unfavorable
circumstances.
The day following his election on October 15, 2003, tens of thousands of
opposition supporters took to the streets of Baku to protest the outcome. The
protesters called the vote fraudulent and claimed that their candidateMusavat
Party leader Isa Qambarhad garnered more votes than any other contender.
At least one person was killed in clashes with police.
In the following weeks, authorities arrested hundreds of opposition
activists,
closed Musavat headquarters, and imposed a ban on antigovernment newspapers.
Restrictions were subsequently eased. The vast majority of detainees were
released after spending a few weeks in jail, where they reportedly endured ill
treatment.
Seven opposition leaders, however, went on trial for allegedly inciting Baku
residents to revolt. On October 22, Azerbaijan’s Court for Serious Crimes
sentenced them to jail terms of up to five years.
International organizations and human rights groups have condemned the ruling
and criticized Azeri authorities for failing to grant the defendants a fair
trial.
For Baku-based political expert Rasim Musabeyov, last week’s ruling is
characteristic of the new regime.
“In this respect, [one sees] little difference between Azerbaijan, Russia, or
Armenia. Yet what is even worse is that [Azerbaijan] starts looking like
[some]
Central [Asian countries]. This is certainly not an innovation brought by the
younger Aliyev,” Musabeyov said. “The existing system largely owes to the
elder
Aliyev. Yet, the big difference [between the two men] is that the elder Aliyev
felt strong and confident enough to put up with a regime of semi-freedom. But
when the younger Aliyev assumed power, the ruling elite became, if not afraid,
at least wary and less prone to tolerate that regime of semi-freedom.” Critics
generally blame Aliyev for not addressing corruption and for failing to bring
new blood into Azerbaijan’s political elite.
As evidence, Musabeyov cites conclusions made by the Freedom House
nongovernmental organization. In its 2004 report on civil liberties worldwide,
the Washington-based group downgraded Azerbaijan to its list of “not free”
nations, down from its previous status of “partly free.”
Not everyone in Azerbaijan believes Aliyev’s human rights record is poorer
than that of his father, however.
Independent expert Sahin Rzayev of the Moscow-based Center for Journalism in
Extreme Situations, said that, despite last week’s court ruling, the past year
has brought some improvements in Azerbaijan’s human rights record.
Rzayev in particular cites Aliyev’s decision to pardon four prominent
political prisoners. Iskander Hamidov, Suret Huseynov, Ilqar Safihanov, and
Alikram Hummatov had been sentenced to between 14 years and life imprisonment
under the elder Aliyev, and the Council of Europe had long pressed for their
release.
“One has to note that Azerbaijan has fulfilled nearly all its obligations
before the Council of Europe with regard to political prisoners,” Rzayev said.
“Some 923 prisoners have been amnestied. Aliyev signed four pardon decrees
and,
with a few exceptions, nearly all the political prisoners listed as such by
human rights groups have been released by now. Some have remained in
Azerbaijan, others have left the country.”
Rzayev also disagrees with the widespread view that Aliyev is less shrewd and
astute than his father. He argues that even after his father’s death last
December, Aliyev has shown enough political clout to survive infighting among
the ruling elite.
“[Aliyev] is surrounded by people with whom he can work and whom he trusts.
Yet, one can feels frictions and disagreements among the ruling elite,” Rzayev
said. “Conventionally speaking, one could say the infighting pits ‘young
reformers’ against ‘old conservatives.’ But it is very difficult to figure out
what is really going on because these things are not debated publicly. These
frictions started already during Heidar Aliyev’s illness, when nobody really
knew what would happen next, and they are more acute now.”
Critics generally blame Aliyev for not addressing corruption and for failing
to bring new blood into Azerbaijan’s political elite. With a few exceptions,
most of Heidar Aliyev’s cabinet ministers have retained their jobs, and
corruption remains rampant among state officials.
Political analyst Musabeyov argues that this is evidence that Aliyev’s
government differs little from that of his father.
“I would say this is a stagnation in Azerbaijan’s life,” Musabeyov said. “The
inertia that used to characterize the final years of the elder Aliyev’s
rule is
continuing under the younger Aliyev.”
Confronted with such criticism, the government has responded by noting
economic improvements over the past year. It claims gross domestic product has
increased in recent months, while inflation has been curbed and thousands of
new jobs created.
But analysts question official figures and say increased national revenues
stem largely from favorable circumstances on the world energy market, not from
real economic growth. Rzayev says that although hydrocarbons account for some
85 percent of Azerbaijan’s export revenues, the recent hike in world oil
prices
has not benefited the country’s impoverished population.
“Unfortunately, this [cash flow] does not reach the population. The
authorities are placing it on a special stabilization fund,” Rzayev said.
“Starting from 1 January, retail prices such as that of gas and other energy
products will increase. I would say that, for the population, things have
deteriorated [compared to the times of Heidar Aliyev]. Life has become even
harder, and people have the right to ask why.”
The government says its oil stabilization fund may be used in the future to
finance social projects and improve the country’s depleted infrastructure. But
with an annual inflation rate estimated at around 20 percent, few in
Azerbaijan
pay attention to the government’s promises.

9) AzerbaijanForBush.com

An independent website created by Azeri-Americans–AzerbaijanForBush.com,
provides a clear look at Azerbaijan’s view on the presidential candidates.
The website comes out in full support of President Bush’s policies, which it
says have supported the independence and security of the Republic of
Azerbaijan.
It says that President Bush’s administration has sought to de-link American
aid to Azerbaijan from aid to Armenia, reflecting a belief that each of
America’s allies should be dealt with on its own merits.
It also reports that “President Bush has worked to abolish US sanctions
against Azerbaijan instigated by the Armenian lobby in 1992. By contrast,
Senator Kerry was a sponsor of that pro-Armenian legislation.”
In its report card comapring President Bush to Senator Kerry, the website
notes that while Bush is not endorsed by any Armenian or pro-Armenian
political
parties, news organizations, or NGOs, Senator Kerry’s campaign is supported by
the Armenian political parties in America, including the ARF, which it calls
“the notorious Armenian Revolutionary Federation historically supporting
terrorism, the Hunchakyan (the Bell),” as well as the Armenian National
Committee of America, calling it the “main Armenian lobby and propaganda
organization.”

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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS