ASBAREZ Online [02-02-2005]


1) Karabagh TV Airs Flip-flopping by PACE’s Atkinson
2) AGBU Addresses Lawsuit Filed by Archbishop Mutafyan
3) Phillips Discusses History of TARC in New Book
4) Nine Candidates Approved for City Clerk Race

1) Karabagh TV Airs Flip-flopping by PACE’s Atkinson

STEPANAKERT (Combined Sources)–The Public TV and Radio Broadcasting
Company of
Mountainous Karabagh Republic recently aired a 1993 interview with the current
Parliamentary of Council of Europe’s (PACE) Rapporteur on Mountainous Karabagh
David Atkinson, in which Atkinson affirms the rights of the people of
Mountainous Karabagh, and condemns Azerbaijan for launching the war in the
“I think the people of Karabagh have the right to decide their own destiny
future. Our organization and I shall personally do everything so that the
Karabagh Armenians live a free and full life on their land,” David Atkinson
notes in a 1993 interview conducted in the village of Kichan, in the Mardakert
region of Karabagh.
But after his 2004 appointment as Rapporteur, he sharply announced that the
principle of right to self-determination is not applicable to Mountainous
Karabagh Republic.
Just last week, in his recommendations presented to PACE, Atkinson criticized
Armenian forces for occupying considerable parts of Azerbaijan’s territory,
said that the 1988-94 war has led to large-scale ethnic expulsions and the
creation of mono-ethnic areas that “resemble the terrible concept of ethnic
In 1993, Atkinson categorically blames Azerbaijan for starting the war, “What
I have seen is above my imagination. Here is a real war which is taking away
many lives on a daily basis. It is obvious that Azerbaijan launched this war;
Azerbaijan will not be a member of the Council of Europe unless it is
He further describes the Azeris as “vandals” for desecrating Christian
in Shushi.

2) AGBU Addresses Lawsuit Filed by Archbishop Mutafyan

NEW YORK–The AGBU Central Board of Directors responded to the lawsuit
filed by
Archbishop Mesrob Mutafyan against the New York-based organization on January
13. The suit was filed in the Superior Court of the State of California,
addressing the formal announcement made by the AGBU in March 2004 that it
be closing the Melkonian Educational Institution in Nicosia, Cyprus at the end
of the 2005 school year.
In a statement released on January 28, the AGBU Board of Directors expressed
that Archbishop Mutafyan “has not been fully informed of the true position
regard to AGBU’s operation of the Melkonian Educational Institute.”
The statement continues to stress AGBU’s committment “to serve and pursue the
best interests of the Armenian nation and not the particular interests of the
few, no matter how vocal.”
“The decision to close the Melkonian Educational Institute was carefully
considered and is fully permitted under the terms of the unconditional grant
made to AGBU. In addition, contrary to the allegations made, through the years
AGBU has paid to the Patriarchate of Constantinople, pursuant to Garabed
Melkonian’s wishes, all sums provided for by him and much more, as
evidenced by
receipts and other documents,” it concludes.

3) Phillips Discusses History of TARC in New Book

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–In a new book titled `Unsilencing the Past,’ former chair of
the Turkish-Armenian Reconciliation Commission (TARC), David Phillips offers
his perspective on the activities of the controversial organization, and its
relationship with high-ranking government officials and political
in Armenia and abroad.
The 170-page publication delves into the history behind the creation of the
panel, which was largely the brainchild of the US government. According to the
book, Phillips was approached by Undersecretary of State for Political Affairs
Marc Grossman in 2000 with the idea of creating an Armenian-Turkish joint
commission. At the time of their meeting, Phillips held senior positions at
Council on Foreign Relations, the American University in Washington and the
Diplomatic Academy of Vienna. He also served as an advisor to the State
Department on issues of democracy and regional stability.
Additionally, Phillips had in the past worked to help bridge the Greek and
Kurdish communities with their Turkish neighbors. The United States’s
labeled `Track-Two diplomacy,’ held that various sections of civil societies
can facilitate the resolution of long-running ethnic disputes through meetings
in which root causes are dissected and analyzed. According to Phillips,
Grossman believed that the Track-Two efforts, as applied in Turkey and Cyprus,
could be used to resolve the Turkish-Armenian conflict, `one of the world’s
most intractable problems.’
Once the work began, the State Department, as noted by Phillips, covered only
`some of TARC’s direct costs’ and `never interfered in [his] work.’ That work
was effectively catalyzed by Armenian threats to veto the choice of
Istanbul as
the venue for the December 1999 summit of the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe, in protest of Turkey’s refusal to normalize relations
with Armenia. Phillips contends that the threats were used by the authorities
in Yerevan to provoke stronger US pressure on Ankara. He also states that Van
Krikorian, the then chairman of the Armenian Assembly of America who would
later become a key member of TARC, was asked to `undertake discussions with
State Department,’ circumventing Armenia’s ambassador to Washington.
Once the foundation was laid, senior State Department officials approached
Armenian and Turkish governments several months later with a formal offer,
which according to Phillips, was welcomed by both sides. Discord, however,
resulted in October 2000, when President Clinton blocked a congressional
resolution recognizing the Armenian genocide.
The process regained momentum soon after, when the sides agreed to meet in
Vienna in early 2001. The idea, according to Phillips, was backed by Armenian
officials. `I had met with [Foreign Minister Vartan] Oskanian on several
occasions to brief him,’ he writes. `At every turn, he endorsed the
Robert Kocharian also directly communicated his support for TARC.’
The first official reaction from the Armenian government offered support to
the newly developed group. `Armenia has always had a positive attitude towards
public contacts and dialogue between the two peoples, which allow for the
exchange of opinions and discussions on the existing problems,’ a Foreign
Ministry spokeswoman stated.
However, according to Phillips, when pressure was exerted by a number of
Armenian groups, most notably the Armenian Revolutionary Federation, the
Armenian government decided to reverse its stance. `Instead of publicly
endorsing the initiative, which Oskanian had committed to do, the Armenian
government got nervous about being associated with TARC,’ the book reads.
Armenian critics of TARC argued that it has no popular mandate to deal with
the issue and accused the Armenian members of the commission of participating
in a Turkey-US conspiracy to derail international recognition of the genocide.
Given this sentiment, Phillips asserts that the Armenian commissioners
during the process that then government of Turkey needs to come to terms with
its past. The commissioners and were also `incensed’ with comments made by
member Gunduz Aktan, whose aggressive denials of the genocide nearly disrupted
initial efforts to form the commission.
`Do you know how we feel when you try to embarrass us by introducing
resolutions in parliaments around the world? Our feelings are hurt,’ Aktan is
quoted in the book as telling his Armenian counterparts at the Vienna meeting
in 2001.
`How do you think we feel?’ former Armenian foreign minister Alexander
Arzoumanian is said to have replied. `We are the ones who were genocided.’
`The Armenians saw TARC as a vehicle for approaching Turkish elites and
initiating a dialogue about the genocide. Even if the Turks are sympathetic to
the suffering of Armenians, they were not prepared to have TARC acknowledge
genocide,’ Phillips explains.
This problem, Phillips notes, is rooted in the `selective memory’ of the
modern Turkish state founded by Mustafa Kemal in the aftermath of the Armenian
genocide. `Turks refuse to acknowledge the genocide because acknowledgement
contradicts their noble self-image…In addition, the government of Turkey fears
that the campaign is laying the legal groundwork for reparations or
Turkey’s persistent denials of the genocide prevented TARC from conducting
meaningful work. Meeting in New York in November 2003, the organization agreed
to ask the International Center for Transitional Justice (ICTJ), a New
York-based human rights organization, to conduct a study on the applicability
of the 1948 UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide to the
mass killings and deportations of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey.
Shortly afterward, two of the Turkish commissioners bypassed their colleagues
by instructing the ICTJ to `refrain from studying the subject matter.’ The
Armenian members responded with an angry statement stating that `TARC is not
going to proceed.’
`I insinuated that Ankara was responsible for scuttling the initiative. Just
mentioning the Genocide Convention stirred anxiety in the Turkish Foreign
Ministry,’ Phillips writes. He then appealed to US officials to help salvage
the endeavor.
Despite the dispute, TARC decided to go ahead with the ICTJ study when its
members converged on the Turkish resort town of Bodrum in July 2002. According
to Phillips, Van Krikorian and Aktan appeared before an ICTJ panel in
2002 to present the Armenian and Turkish interpretations of what happened in
1915. Aktan, in Phillips’s words, promised to `destroy’ ICTJ researchers with
his legal arguments but appeared `nervous’ after making his case.
He had reason to be edgy. On February 4, 2003, the ICTJ submitted to TARC a
detailed analysis which concluded that the slaughter of an estimated 1.5
million Ottoman Armenians includes `all the elements of the crime of genocide
as defined by the [UN] Convention.’ The study at the same time found that the
Armenians can not use the Convention to make `legal financial or territorial
claims arising out of the Events.’
`In a private conversation with Van, Oskanian `offered congratulations’ and
said it was a great accomplishment,’ Phillips says. `However, he refused to
publicly embrace the ICTJ analysis.’ Armenian political groups and public
figures also barely reacted to it.
Phillips’s discontent with the Armenian government’s repudiation of his work
found an outlet in his article on Armenia that appeared in `The Wall Street
Journal’ last April. It slammed Kocharian’s regime as `corrupt and inept’ and
welcomed opposition attempts to topple the Armenian president. In his book,
Phillips bluntly accuses Kocharian of `stealing’ the 2003 presidential
from opposition leader Stepan Demirchian.
TARC, meanwhile, held several more meetings before announcing the end of its
mission in Moscow on April 14, 2004 and submitting a list of policy
recommendations to the Turkish and Armenian governments. The first and
of them was an unconditional opening of the Turkish-Armenian border. However,
Ankara seems unlikely to drop its preconditions for lifting Armenia’s economic
blockade in the foreseeable future.
Although the initiative failed, Phillips believes `TARC broke the ice and
helped catalyze a wide array of civil society Track Two activities,’ he
concludes. `It was also a lightning rod for criticism, thereby enabling other
civil society initiatives to proceed `under the radar.’ Though
contacts cannot solve core political problems, they can help prepare the
for negotiations.’

4) Nine Candidates Approved for City Clerk Race

GLENDALE (Combined Sources)–As the city clerk race heats up, the petitions of
nine candidates have been finalized for the April 5 municipal election.
The City Clerk verified the petitions to certify that the candidates have
nominated by a minimum of 100 registered voters. The list of qualified
candidates and the order in which the names will appear on the ballot was
announced on February 2.
Ardashes Kassakhian began a 10-week sabbatical from the Armenian National
Committee to focus on his campaign for city clerk. He will campaign full-time
for the April 5 election, he said.
The other eight candidates are Paulette Mardikian, a customer service
representative for the city’s Building and Safety Department, Lorna Vartanian,
a financial accounting manager for a law firm, Narineh Barzegar, a graduate
student, Stephanie Landregan, a landscape artist, George McCullough, Gary
Sysock, deputy executive officer with Los Angeles County Clerk of the Board,
Kathryn Van Houten, an attorney, and Stephen L. Ropfogel, an independent
business owner.
All candidates filed the necessary signatures to appear on the ballot by
Tuesday’s deadline.
Since 1929, the city clerk position has been a political hand-me-down, with
incumbents retiring mid-term and the council choosing a replacement. During
those 75 years, the incumbent has never lost.

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