Yerevan to Host 7th Golden Apricot Film Festival on July 11-18

Yerevan to Host 7th Golden Apricot Film Festival on July 11-18

Thursday, May 20th, 2010
by Asbarez

YEREVAN (Combined Sources) – Yerevan is gearing up to hot the seventh
annual Golden Apricot Film Festival in Yerevan from July 11-18.

This year’s festival is being sponsored by the Armenian Ministry of
Culture and VivaCell MTS.

500 films have been submitted from 75 countries and for the first
time, entries were received from Jordan, Nicaragua, Venezuela and
Costa Rica.

The festival will kick off on July 11 with a special screening of
Henri Verneuil’s `Mayrik’ (Mother). Verneuil, a famous Diaspora Film
Director, will have his 90th anniversary celebrated in Yerevan

Anniversary elebrations will also be held in honor of film director
Henrik Malyan’s 85th anniversary, the 80th anniversary of actors Mher
Lazarian and Khoren Abrahamyan, cameraman Albert Yavuryan’s 75th
anniversary and Armen Jigarkhanyan’s 75th anniversary. Short
documentaries about the lives of these Armenian film luminaries will
be prepared and shown at the festival.

BAKU: ‘Liberation of occupied territories to bring peace to region’, Azerbaijan
May 22 2010

‘Liberation of occupied territories of Azerbaijan to bring peace to region’
Sat 22 May 2010 | 05:20 GMT Text size:

Ahmet Davutoglu ‘Liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan
will create great opportunities for the establishment of peace in the

Liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan will bring
lasting peace to the region, Turkish foreign minister Ahmet Davutoglu
said in a meeting of the Euro-Mediterranean Parliamentary Assembly in

Davutoglu said official Ankara will carry out, in the future, the
process of normalization of relationship with Armenia, as well.

This policy remains unchanged, he added.

Davutoglu underlined settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and
liberation of the occupied territories of Azerbaijan will create great
opportunities for the establishment of peace in the region.

The Turkish minister also touched upon the agreement signed with Iran,
adding it does not contradicts the international community`s

`Turkey understands the Western countries` anxiety over Iran`s nuclear
program, and will continue to make efforts to create an atmosphere of


Friends of Azerbaijan Shape EU Policy Toward Armenia, SC
May 22 2010

Friends of Azerbaijan Shape EU Policy Toward Armenia

The European Union is after rescuing Euro and South Caucasus may not
necessarily be its top priority. Yet, it just contradicted itself in a
big way by allowing friends of Azerbaijan to shape its policy toward
Armenia, Georgia and Nagorno Karabakh. If this continues in this
direction, the policy shaping and impartiality may become the second
casualty after Euro vs Dollar exchange rate dilemma.

Yesterday, The European Parliament published its legislative dossier
number 2216 called EU strategy for the South Caucasus. What is odd
about the strategy report is that it contradicts to EU’s previous
position on the region and is prepared by a person who has never been
in the subject land of Nagorno Karabakh.

In that report Kirilov Evgeni and Kazak Metin call on Armenia to
withdraw all of its forces from all occupied territories of
Azerbaijan. Yet, for some reason, they don’t call on Azerbaijan to
withdraw its forces from the Shahumyan region of Armenia and Martakert
region of Nagrono Karabakh. Never mind that Azerbaijan started this
war in 1988 against the Armenian population of Nagorno Karabakh by
bombing cities and deporting the civilians and the Armenian forces
just had to liberate those territories to stop the killing of the
innocent civilians. Any person who has read more than one book in his
or her life, should be able to know the cause and the root problem of
the conflict and the liberated territories.

Why did the international community intervene in Kosovo? What would
happen to the Albanian population of Kosovo if the NATO forces did not
interfere? The same things would happen to the Armenian population of
the Nagorno Karabakh Republic if the Armenian forces did not intervene
and defend it from Azerbaijan. Here I would like to remind Mr. Kirilov
and Metin that Armenian forces were not able to intervene in
Azerbaijan’s city of Sumgayit and thus yet another Armenian genocide
there. Here is a documentary about the Sumgayit Genocide of the
Armenian people from YouTube. We warn you that it is graphic.

The response from Armenia came quick. Azerbaijan, naturally welcomed
the EU report on South Caucasus. However, the Armenian response was
rather revealing. The Foreign Minister of Armenian Mr. Edward
Nalbandyan said the parts of the EU strategy report for the South
Caucasus that refer to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict resolution are
not in line with the Madrid Principles set forward by the mediator
countries, nor the Mayendorf statement, signed near Moscow between the
presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan. If the person, who prepared the
report, at least consulted the French representative of the Minsk
Group he would understand that this report totally contradicts the
2009 OSCE statement made in Athens, which is a very balanced approach
to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict.

While the response by the foreign minister of Armenia was rather
reserved, the parliamentarians were more direct and revealing. "Saying
that this document is a non-binding one Naira Zohrabyan from the
Prosperous Armenia Party recalled that Kirilov was the initiator
president of the group called Friends of Azerbaijan, assuming that he
could not have been impartial, reports this morning.

Thus, we question the morality of such a report when only one party is
called upon to remove its forces and nothing about the other party of
the conflict. We question this report when one party is asked to
remove its force without giving any security guarantees to another
party of the conflict. We question the credibility of this report when
it is prepared by people who have never been in the region of Nagorno
Karabakh. It is simply called trying to heal the symptoms and not the
root problem.

On the other hand, while Azerbaijan has welcomed the report, it is
better that it reads the report more carefully. This report calls on
the "peaceful resolution of conflicts." If Azerbaijan welcomes the
report, it should put an end to its bellicose statements about the
resumption of war if the negotiations fail. The reporters "condemn the
idea of a military solution and call on both parties to avoid any
further breaches of the 1994 ceasefire."

Here is where Azerbaijan should read it very carefully. The reporters
call on the international community and the EU to influence in finding
a solution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict "but without introducing
conditions for the respect of the sovereignty and territorial
integrity of the South Caucasus states." This sentence is pretty
ambiguous. "In respect" here rather means in regard. So far it is only
Azerbaijan who puts its territorial integrity as a condition for the
resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. So far only Azerbaijan
makes the conflict resolution conditional on its territorial
integrity. Thus, when EU report says "without introducing conditions,"
and Azerbaijan has welcomed it, this can mean two things. Either
Azerbaijan’s politicians did not carefully read this part of the
report, or Azerbaijan had a change of position toward a construction

Written by Armen Hareyan

EU Likely To Stay Cautious On Political Reform In Armenia

Emil Danielyan


When the European Union formally launched the Eastern Partnership
program one year ago it signaled a significant upgrading of its
political and economic engagement in six former Soviet republics
covered by the scheme. It also fuelled hopes for a more aggressive
EU push for democratic change there.

Yet all the indications now are that in at least one of them, Armenia,
the bloc will continue to tread carefully in pressing for democratic
elections, respect for human rights and other political reforms
required by the Eastern Partnership. Accordingly, local civic groups,
which believe EU involvement in democracy building in the country
has been insufficient, are cautious in their positive expectations
from the program.

"It will reflect positively on democratic changes in Armenia only in
one case: if the European structures put forward very serious demands
before our authorities," said Amalia Kostanian, chairwoman of the
Anti-Corruption Center, the Armenian affiliate of the Berlin-based
group Transparency International. "So far, we have seen only
declarative demands."

Boris Navasardian, the chairman of the Yerevan Press Club closely
monitoring the effort, is more optimistic. "I believe that any
initiative coming from our European partners is an opportunity for the
country," he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. "Just how the country
and its government structures, political parties and NGOs will use
that opportunity is a different matter."

In Navasardian’s words, a lot will also depend on details of an
"association agreement" stemming from the Eastern Partnership which
the EU is due to negotiate with Armenia in the coming years. "Only the
results of the negotiations will clarify what the program’s priorities
are," he said.

EU member governments gave on May 10 the formal go-ahead to the start
of association talks with Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia. According
to Raul de Luzenberger, head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, the
talks between the EU’s executive European Commission and the Armenian
government will get underway "in the coming months."

Armenia – Serzh Sarkisian, President of Armenia, and Angela Merkel,
Chancellor of Germany, at the EU Eastern Partnership Summit,

"It depends very much on Armenia how quickly it will be possible to
conclude an association agreement," Luzenberger said in an interview
with RFE/RL. "We are working with Armenia to speed this up."

As part of those talks, the two sides are to work out a "comprehensive
institution building" program, or CIB, which will apparently be the
main legal instrument of the Eastern Partnership. "It will focus
on a few selected institutions that will have a central role in the
implementation of the Association Agreement," the European Commission
explained in a recent policy paper on Armenia. The Brussels-based
commission said it will spend at least 32 million euros ($40 million)
on reforming those institutions in the next four years.

Luzenberger described a free trade regime and a facilitation of visa
procedures for Armenians traveling to the EU as "the two main pillars"
of the future agreement. Therefore, he said, only those Armenian
government agencies that mainly deal with immigration, trade and
other economic issues will be chosen for the CIB.

"The Association Agreement does not specifically cover electoral reform
or judicial reform," stressed the EU official. "But the rule of law and
respect for democracy and human rights are an important element of the
common values that are the fundamental of an association agreement."

The EU’s new National Indicative Program on Armenia, which sets out the
bloc’s reform efforts and objectives there in 2011-2013, likewise makes
clear that "sufficient progress" in the country’s democratization is
"one of the main preconditions for upgrading contractual relations
under the Eastern Partnership." That means, among other things, an
"improved quality of the electoral process and administration in line
with international standards."

It is unclear whether that also means the next Armenian presidential
and parliamentary elections must be evaluated by Western monitors
more positively than the last ones. Luzenberger said only that the
EU is "encouraging Armenia to make progress in improving and better
implementing the electoral law." He said the EU has provided technical
assistance for that purpose in other countries. It has primarily take
the form of training of election officials, monitors and proxies of
election contenders.

Armenian opposition groups and civil society representatives believe
that a similar training program in Armenia would not address the root
causes of the country’s increasingly entrenched culture of electoral
fraud. As Kostanian put it, "Even assuming that members of an election
commission know electoral legislation perfectly, if they get an order
from above to turn a blind eye to fraud or stuff ballots or bully
observers, proxies or journalists, they will duly comply."

What the EU considers a democratic election is another question. The
bloc, for example, endorsed OSCE observers’ largely positive verdict
on the disputed Armenian presidential ballot of February 2008, which
was followed by the worst street violence in the country’s history. By
contrast, the U.S. State Department branded the vote as "significantly
flawed," giving more weight to opposition allegations of massive vote
rigging. There is similar disparity between the EU and U.S.

assessments of the May 2009 municipal polls in Yerevan, which were
also denounced as fraudulent by the Armenian opposition.

Armenia — Foreign Minister Miguel Angel Moratinos of Spain, current
holder of EU presidency, comments on the Eastern Partnership at a
news conference in Yerevan on March 2, 2010.

U.S. officials have also been more vocal (at least in public) in
criticizing the Armenian government’s 2008 post-election crackdown
on the opposition that involved use of deadly force and mass arrests.

European diplomats insist privately that the EU has been no less active
in conveying its concerns to President Serzh Sarkisian behind the
scenes. They also argue that the 27-nation bloc has lent full support
to another pan-European structure, the Council of Europe, which has
brought the Sarkisian administration to task over the crackdown.

Even so, the dominant sense among local opposition and civic groups
is that EU pressure on the Armenian authorities has so far been
too weak to generate any meaningful democratic change. They regard
as practically fruitless Armenia’s participation in the European
Neighborhood Policy (ENP), another, less ambitious EU scheme launched
five years ago. In a recent assessment report, the European Commission
said Yerevan has made "progress in several areas" of an ENP action
plan aimed at bringing the country’s political and economic systems
into greater conformity with European standards.

Kostanian is "quite disappointed" with this conclusion. Reflecting a
common view among local pro-democracy campaigners, she claimed that
Armenia has in fact regressed in terms of democracy and human rights
in recent years. She argued in particular that more a dozen supporters
of opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian arrested following the 2008
election on dubious charges still remain in prison.

"One of the most important flaws of the ENP is that it has been too
much focused on institutional or formal reforms such as the adoption
of laws, [structural] improvements in the activities of various
state structures," said the YPC’s Navasardian. "While that process
is certainly very important, it doesn’t solve the problem in full."

"If citizens see no serious changes in their relationships with state
institutions and their lives in general, if they don’t see that
corruption, bureaucratic red are declining, that their rights are
better protected, then those formal changes become not only meaningless
but could also be harmful in the sense that they discredit the very
idea of reforms," he warned.

The EU seems to realize this, having decided to somehow involve civil
societies in all six ex-Soviet states in the Eastern Partnership. In
each of them, it is now helping to cobble together coalitions of NGOs
interested in promoting the program and monitoring their respective
governments’ compliance with its requirements.

Navasardian, who coordinates the NGO selection process in Armenia,
hopes that this will give EU officials a vital feedback which he thinks
has been sorely missing in their reform initiatives. Yet neither the
YPC chairman, nor other pro-democracy activists are convinced yet
that EU pressure for democratization in Armenia will grow markedly
as a result of the Eastern Partnership.

Ambassador Luzenberger also sounded a cautious note. "We are here to
support reforms that bring Armenia closer to the values that are the
fundamental part of our society, and we do it through a very broad
range of instruments," he said. "Nonetheless, our ability to support
is limited, first of all, by our budget possibilities and then by the
ability of the beneficiaries to receive our support and implement it."

Matthew Bryza Named New US Ambassador To Azerbaijan

Shahin Abbasov

May 21 2010

The White House has appointed US diplomat Matthew Bryza, a former
American co-chair for the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict resolution talks,
as its new ambassador to Azerbaijan, has learned.

A diplomat from the US embassy in Baku who asked not to be named
stated that an official announcement will be published on the White
House’s website on May 21.

The Azerbaijani government issued its official consent to the
appointment on May 20, the source said.

Bryza, whose appointment to Baku has long been the source of
considerable speculation, has a near-22-year-long diplomatic career
that put him at the center of two of the South Caucasus’ most
strategic issues: resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and
the introduction of non-Russia-related oil and gas pipelines from
Baku to the Black Sea.

As deputy assistant secretary of state for European and Eurasian
affairs from 2005 to 2009, Bryza coordinated US energy policy in
the Black and Caspian Sea regions, and represented the US on the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s Minsk Group
talks on a resolution of Azerbaijan’s 22-year conflict with Armenia
over the breakaway region of Nagorno Karabakh.

Under US President Bill Clinton, he served as a deputy advisor on
Caspian Sea energy diplomacy and worked on US government efforts to
develop a network of oil and gas pipelines in the region.

Bryza’s appointment must be confirmed by the US Senate, where he is
likely to face questioning about his actions leading up to the 2008
Georgia-Russia War, a conflict that some critics charge was prompted
by a Georgian misunderstanding of American readiness to intervene.

The Azerbaijani government has not yet issued an official comment on
Bryza’s appointment. Bryza’s name was submitted to the Azerbaijani
government a few weeks ago, the US embassy source said.

The absence of a US ambassador to Baku – the post has been vacant for
almost a year — has been cited previously as a source of irritation
for some Azerbaijani officials, who allegedly saw it as a slight of
President Ilham Aliyev’s government amidst American promotion of a
Turkish-Armenian rapprochement. With Bryza’s appointment, Washington is
sending a "positive signal" that it is ready to smooth over relations
with Azerbaijan, Elkhan Shahingolu, director of the Baku-based Atlas
think-tank, believes.

Brzya, whose 2007 wedding to Turkish-born foreign policy analyst Zeyno
Baran, was attended by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov
and several other Azerbaijani officials, is seen as a known entity
for President Ilham Aliyev’s government.

"They were in touch with him for a long time, they know his character
and see him as a good specialist on the region," commented Shahingolu.

"So why not to be happy?"

Editor’s note: Shahin Abbasov is a freelance correspondent
based in Baku. He is also a board member of the Open Society

BAKU: Turkey Does Not Recognize So-Called "Elections" In Karabakh

May 20 2010

Turkish Foreign Ministry The Turkish Foreign Ministry condemns the
conduction of the so-called "parliamentary elections" in Karabakh.

Zaman newspaper reports that Turkey says it does not recognize the
separatist regime in Karabakh and "elections" it is going to hold on
May 23.

It is also noted at the session that the norms of international
law are rudely violated and for this reason the conduction of such
elections is illegal.

Such "elections" cast a shadow on regional stability and also reduce
to zero the efforts of the international mediators on the peaceful
resolution of the Karabakh conflict.

The Turkish foreign ministry states once again that Ankara supports
the territorial integrity of Azerbaijan, does not recognize the
so-called "elections" in Kaabakh and considers them contradicting to
the international law.

Will Davutoglu Go To Azerbaijan Through Armenia?


May 19, 2010

"Turkey will press ahead its efforts towards the Karabakh conflict
settlement," said Turkey’s Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

"The resolution of the conflict will help Turkey and Armenia bury
a century of hostility, boost trade and guarantee stability in the
region," said the Turkish FM.

"There will come time when we shall travel to Azerbaijan through
Armenia," he added.

Hovik Abrahamyan Criticizes Government’s Haste


May 19, 2010

During today’s parliamentary discussion of the draft amendments to
the RA Law on Television and Radio, Armenian Parliament Speaker
Hovik Abrahamyan seriously criticized the RA government for its
"hasty introduction" of the bill on the National Assembly’s agenda.

The NA Speaker suggested organizing parliament hearings on the
bill with the participation of specialists and representatives from
international structures and NGOs.

Only after relevant changes will the bill have its second hearing in
the Armenian parliament.

Hovik Abrahamyan also suggested that his fellow colleagues vote for
the bill in the first reading and enable the government to continue
working on the amendments.

Voting is scheduled for on May 20.

Turkish Theological Schools Flourishing As Restrictions Relax On Rel

May 19 2010

Skull-caps on their heads, five students aged between 18 and
40 hunch over a text in Arabic in the southeastern Turkish town
NorÅ~_in. In front of them, legs folded like a yogi, a copy of the
same leather-bound book open on a low wooden lectern, an elderly
teacher declaims in sing-song Kurdish.

Strictly speaking, this gathering is forbidden under Turkish law. But
since the Islamic-rooted Justice and Development Party (AKP) came
to power in 2002, restrictions on religious expression have relaxed
slightly. This easing has opened the way for a minor local renaissance
in Turkey of one of the Muslim world’s oldest institutions — the
medrese, or theological school.

For half a century after 1880, the village of NorÅ~_in was arguably the
most important centre of religious learning in Kurdish areas of what
is now Turkey and Iraq. Students called it the Al-Azhar of the East,
after Cairo’s famous university, and came from hundreds of miles away
to attend.

But the founding of the Turkish Republic in 1923 dealt NorÅ~_in
a double blow. First, medrese were closed in the name of unified,
state-run education. Then, in 1925, unnerved by a major Kurdish revolt
led by the leader of a religious brotherhood, Turkey’s new leaders
clamped down on Sufi lodges too.

A member of the same, influential Nakshibendi brotherhood as the
rebel leader, Norsin’s sheikh had nothing to do with the rebellion. It
didn’t stop him being sent into internal exile, along with his family.

By the late 1970s, after decades spent in a semi-clandestine existence,
Norsin’s medrese had closed its doors.

Three decades on, the village has three medrese capable of educating
60 students at any one time. Construction on a fourth is nearing
completion, as NorÅ~_in moves to take advantage of a re-awakening of
interest that has seen theological schools across the region become
more active.

"Radical Islam collapsed because it was a product of the Cold War,"
said Mufit Yuksel, a prominent sociologist of Islam who studied at
NorÅ~_in. "Today there is a return to the traditional Islam symbolized
by NorÅ~_in. The whole Islamic world has understood that religion is
a tradition, not an ideology."

While Norsin’s renaissance dates back to the late 1980s, the AKP,
led by a politician, Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, seems more
aware than earlier governments of its potential symbolic power,
both for the religious-minded and for Kurds. Erdogan in his youth
was close to an Istanbul branch of the Nakshibendi.

Last August, as the government launched a concerted effort to end a
25-year Kurdish rebellion, President Abdullah Gul traveled to the town,
which is still officially known as Guroymak. But during the visit Gul
called it by its Kurdish (or, as at least one etymologist mischievously
suggested, Armenian) name of NorÅ~_in. It marked the first time since
the Turkification of place names began in the 1930s that a senior
official had publicly preferred a non-Turkish name. Many observers
interpreted the move as being part of a policy aimed at undermining
former Marxist Kurdish rebels by emphasizing Turkish-Kurdish Islamic

As Gul spoke, Turkish workmen paid for by Ankara, continued
restoration work on the tomb of the founder of the Turkish branch of
the Nakshibendi sect in the Syrian capital of Damascus.

"Sayyid Qutb is losing ground to… Mevlana," says Kurdish Islamist
intellectual Serdar Bulent Yilmaz, referring to the Egyptian-born
founder of the Muslim Brotherhood, a 20th century political Islamist
movement, and the 13th century Sufi mystic and poet who died in the
Turkish city of Konya. "Islam is supposed to go beyond the national,
but Turkey’s Muslims are rediscovering local symbols and local

In Norsin itself, members of the family that has provided sheikhs
for the local Sufi brotherhood for over 150 years take a harder-nosed
view of their village’s sudden return to prominence, as well as the
rejuvenation of its medrese.

In the past, said Baha Mutlu, nephew of the current family head,
NorÅ~_in used to boast of educating future religious teachers
"knowledgeable in the twelve sciences," a term used to describe
everything from natural philosophy through logic to shar’ia, or
religious law. Today, few students get beyond learning Arabic and a
good grounding in the Koran.

"The Republican period brought great trauma to the functioning of
medrese," Mutlu explains. "With the risk of a military police raid
at any moment, you have to pare the syllabus down, cut it down to
the bare minimum."

While older Kurds still remain attached to the religion of their
forefathers, the world view of younger generations has been affected
both by obligatory secular education and the charisma of gun-toting
Marxists in the mountains. In his early 50s now, Mutlu as a child
went to the village primary school in the morning and the medrese in
the afternoon. He can read Ottoman, an Arabic- and Farsi-tinged form
of Turkish that is written in Arabic script as easily as he can read
modern Turkish.

His nephew Ruknettin Mutlu, who studied public administration at
university and now teaches democracy and human rights at the high
school just down the hill from NorÅ~_in, is much more at home in modern
Turkish. "Our uncle is not a sheikh in the traditional sense of the
word," says Ruknettin’s older brother Omer Mutlu, referring to the
need for new Nakshibendi sheikhs to receive authorization from their
superiors before beginning to practice. "NorÅ~_in is an institution
and he took up leadership of it to tide things over. If he had not,
it would have disappeared for ever."

Sitting outside NorÅ~_in’s original medrese building, a simple white
turban – or shapik – on his head, Sheikh Nurettin has no cause for
complaint. He gestures behind him at cherry trees blossoming early
after an unusually mild winter. "This past winter has been so beautiful
that we have forgotten the bitter winters of the past," he says.

Five more students filed past him on their way to Arabic lessons with
the elderly professor, cross-legged behind his lectern.

They could get a similar education at one of Turkey’s official
religious schools. But Turkey’s official religious schools don’t teach
Kurdish. Nor, unlike NorÅ~_in, have they produced arguably the most
important Islamic thinker in 20th century Turkish history, Said-i
Nursi, rebellious Kurd in his youth, Koran exegete in his prime,
revered by millions as a near-saint after his death.

"Everybody who comes here dreams of being the new Said," says Sheikh

Editor’s note: Nicolas Birch specializes in Turkey, Iran and the
Middle East.

Armenian Judokas Win Judo Euro Cup


May 17 2010

Armenia’s Grigor Ivanian (in the 55 kg, Yerevan) and Gor Harutyunian
(in the 60 kg, Vanadzor) performed a signal victory at the Judo
Euro Cup, taking place in Ukrainian capital of Kiev on May 15-16,
a spokesperson for Armenian National Olympic Committee said.

Gor Harutyunian and Grigor Ivanian overcame their rivals and seeded
the first. David Kazarian (in the 66 kg), who was qualified for the
Youth Olympic Games in Singapore, seeded the seventh.