Last updated 20 August 2011

08-08-2011 ‘De ene genocide is de andere niet’ Nederlands
25-09-2010 Turkey treads cautiously … Armenian past English
20-09-2010 Terug naar de Armeense geboortegrond Nederlands
20-09-2010 Een Armeense mis op Akdamar, voor… Nederlands
15-09-2010 Europees hof hekelt Turkije Nederlands
15-09-2010 Turkije moet betalen voor moord journalist Nederlands
14-09-2010 Court Faults Turkey Over Editor’s Murder English
05-09-2010 Yerevan as Literary Capital in 2012 English
03-09-2010 Gouden olympiërs … bij de Europese top Nederlands

English Nederlands

Articles in English

25 September 2010

Turkey treads cautiously on question of Armenian past

The church on Akhtamar island is the only Armenian building still standing in eastern Anatolia

By Jonathan Head
BBC News, Van, Turkey

The Turkish government wants to improve relations with Armenia, but is it ready to leave behind decades of nationalist dogma and fully confront the country’s past?

From the vantage point of the ancient castle, perched atop a rocky outcrop, you can see the whole of the city of Van, spread out between the dazzling blue of the great lake and the jagged mountains to the east.

It is a featureless sprawl of ugly apartment blocks that you might find in any provincial Turkish city. Nothing suggests that it has any history going back more than a few decades.

If you then look to the south, directly beneath you is an area of rough grass, criss-crossed by a maze of paths, with just a few fragments of buildings still visible.

The story of how the Armenians vanished is not discussed in Van today

This is Old Van, a city that, until its destruction, had been continuously inhabited for more than 3,000 years.

And a large part of the people who inhabited it were Armenians – it had once been at the heart of a great Armenian empire.

Today there are almost none.

The only two buildings still standing there are mosques. Of the dozen or so churches, there is no trace.

The story of how the Armenians vanished from their historic homeland is not discussed in Van today.

The city proudly describes the waves of invaders who have passed through – Parthians, Greeks, Romans, Persians, Seljuk Turks – but the Armenians who dominated the city just a century ago are hardly mentioned.

“At least half of the original population died in what many historians call the modern world’s first genocide”

This is not surprising really, when you consider that the Ottoman Empire’s biggest minority was driven out of Anatolia in 1915 on ghastly death marches.

At least half, maybe much more, of the original population died, in what many historians call the modern world’s first genocide.

Today the inhabitants of Van are mainly Kurdish, some probably the descendants of those who killed and seized the property of the Armenians.

The current Turkish government is the first one to seek some kind of accommodation with its Armenian past.

It needs to if it is to fulfil its ambition to be a regional power and to be part of the European Union.

That is why it permitted a Christian service to take place last Sunday in the beautiful little church on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van.

It is the only historic Armenian building still standing in eastern Anatolia, and among the most holy for Armenian Christians.


I happened to be in a bus with an Armenian choir from Istanbul who had been invited to sing at the service.

They were being treated as VIPs – the municipal government wanted them to feel welcome – and we were being given a tour.

About 1,000 Armenians came to the rocky island for the service

Our guide was a young local woman called Fatima. She had won over her guests by singing some lovely renditions of old Armenian ballads.

But when she pointed out the wasteland that is the old city today, all she could say was that the Armenians had, in her words, “disappeared”.

For a few moments the bus went quiet then everyone broke into song again.

None of the Istanbul Armenians wanted to talk about the past. They are a very small community, acutely aware of their vulnerability.
The Armenians who had come from the United States for the service were more forthright.

“It’s bittersweet, coming here,” said one man whose grandparents had fled from Van during the killings.

“We’re like parallel cultures, we even look the same,” he said, “only we hate each other.”

He said there had been strong pressure on him from other American Armenians not to come – they saw the one-off church service as a cynical publicity stunt by Turkey.

At times on Sunday it did seem like that.

The local government had invited an army of journalists to witness the service who threatened to overwhelm the congregation. It also invited local Muslims, who talked and laughed all the way through it.

No-one made any effort to respect the sanctity of the ceremony.

A local boatman told me he was puzzled by the way they were praying. He had never seen a Christian service before. “And why are they crying,” he asked? He had no idea.

No discussion

The Turkish government still fiercely defends its version of history – that what happened in 1915 was a tragedy, not a war crime.

In Van, it points out, the Armenians took up arms. For a while they controlled the city and later they helped enemy Russian forces to occupy it.

Today, most of the population of Van are Kurds

In the chaos of war, it says, large numbers of Turkish Muslims also died.

But the annihilation of the Armenians is simply blanked out of the history taught in Turkish schools.

There is no discussion, and real dangers await those who try to start one.

It is less than four years since the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink was murdered in Istanbul by a young nationalist for calling for just such a debate.

“This church service is pointless if the Turkish government only wants to appear more tolerant,” one Armenian journalist told me.

“It has to change the mindset of the people. Make them confront their past.”

In the dreary avenues of modern-day Van, that process has not started yet. Its history is still buried under layers of concrete and by Turkey’s uncompromising nationalist dogma.

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The Wall Street Journal
14 September 2010

Court Faults Turkey Over Editor’s Murder


ISTANBUL—The European Court of Human Rights on Tuesday ruled that Turkey was guilty of failing to protect ethnic Armenian journalist Hrant Dink when authorities knew his assassination was imminent, and of then failing to adequately investigate his murder.

Mr. Dink, the editor of the small, Istanbul-based Armenian-language daily Agos, was killed with three shots to the back of the head as he returned to the newspaper’s offices in January 2007. His murder became a cause célèbre in Turkey, and a symbol of the state’s alleged protection or even encouragement of nationalist extremists.

“None of the three authorities informed of the planned assassination and its imminent realization had taken action to prevent it,” the court found, while “no effective investigation had been carried out” into those failures.

The decision is an embarrassment for the government of Turkey’s Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, which has pledged to improve the rights and treatment of the country’s ethnic minorities. The government recently sought to settle with the family, after withdrawing a defense of the state’s actions that relied on a precedent that appeared to compare Mr. Dink’s comments aimed at reconciling Turkish and Armenian views on the 1915 slaughter of ethnic Armenians with hate speech by a neo-Nazi.

A spokesman for the ministry of justice didn’t return calls requesting comment on the ruling. Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying the government didn’t intend to appeal the court ruling, and that “studies for implementation of Dink verdict rulings will be done and every possible measure for preventing repeat of similar violations will be taken.”

Mr. Dink’s family brought the case against the Turkish state at the European court in Strasbourg. Tuesday’s ruling found for the family on all counts, according to their lawyer Arzu Becerik, awarding Mr. Dink’s widow €100,000 ($128,760) in damages.

Police launched an investigation into the young Turkish ultranationalist who allegedly carried out the murder. They investigated 17 others, though not the police chiefs and regional governors the family believe were complicit in obstructing prosecution of those responsible, Ms. Becerik said in an interview. A video taken immediately after the assassination appeared to show police smiling and posing with the alleged killer, Ogun Samast, a high-school dropout then 17 years old.

The government is pursuing an alleged “deep state” organization in a series of massive court cases. It has said it is trying to clean up state institutions and bring them under full government control, where for decades they had acted as a law unto themselves, on occasion toppling elected governments. Ms. Becerik, however, said the government needed to do more in the case of Mr. Dink.

“We will take this decision as a basis to renew our criminal complaints [in Turkey] and take those responsible to court,” as well as demand the current investigation be widened, said Ms. Becerik. “These people cannot be taken to court because the regional governors did not give permission. The governors are civil servants and they answer to the government, which can take them to court.”

Ms. Becerik said the family hadn’t accepted the government’s offer of an amicable settlement, partly because it came too late, but also because a negotiation would follow in which the family would be asked to compromise on their efforts to secure justice.

Write to Marc Champion at

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IANYAN Magazine

Yerevan Hopes to Shine as Literary Capital in 2012
By Liana Aghajanian on September 5th, 2010

While it dates back thousands of years, with notable authors including Hovaness Toumanyan and Gostan Zarian, Armenian literature has largely remained overlooked by the international community, but that might be changing in 2012, when Armenia’s capital city Yerevan will hold the title of UNESCO World Book Capital.

Granted by the International Publishers Association (IPA), the International Booksellers Federation and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions, Yerevan is the 12th city to be designated World Book Capital after cities such as Madrid, New Dehli, Montreal and Beirut.

“It is the first city of the post Soviet space to be granted that title,” Alexis Krikorian, director of IPA Freedom to Publish program said in an email interview, adding that the title is an initiative which aims at fostering books and reading culture.

“Yerevan built an exciting programme focusing on freedom of expression, copyright, literature and activities for children who will be tomorrow’s readers, authors and publishers. This latter aspect (activities for children) was of particular importance.”

There’s also a symbolic twist – 2012 will mark the 500th anniversary of the first Armenian printed book in Venice – “Urbathagirq” or “Friday Book” published by Hakob Meghapart.

The designation comes at a crucial time in Armenian literary history – with publishing and reading numbers having declined steeply and steadily since the Soviet collapse. According to an article by Armine Ghazarian in the Armenian newspaper Yerkir,the number of books in public libraries in Armenia had, at the time of the article in 2005, decreased by 2.4 million since independence from Soviet rule. The number of library users had decreased by almost 500,000.

“There are only five bookstores in the Armenian capital,” Krikorian said. “In the last days of Soviet Armenia, the largest dailies had print runs of around 100,000. Nowadays, the largest dailies have print runs of around 5,000. The average book print run is 500.”

Nairi Hakhverdi, an Armenian author originally from the Netherlands who is now living in Armenia says that as far as she can see, the publishing industry is at an all-time low in the country.

“In the Soviet Union, books were published one after another and sold like hot cakes, as the saying goes,” she said. “Now the authors have to pay for their own publication and hardly anyone buys their books. The industry is practically dead and I don’t think it’s because of the incursion of the internet, but because nobody cares enough to invest money into it.”

Hakhverdi, who recently published a translation of Aksel Bakunts’ “The Dark Valley,” feels the literary culture in Armenia is divided into two groups – the old and the new. Where the old was considered good during the Soviet Union, taught in school and studied by academia, the new seems to be less afraid of the internet and more involved in literary culture in other parts of the world, she said.

On top of this divide, Hakhverdi cites a gender problem – whereas national treasures like Hovaness Toumanian and Khachatur Abovian are praised, women literary figures are largely ignored.

translation by Shushan Avgayan/AIWA/illustration by ianyanmag

“Even a praised poetess like Silva Kaputikyan does not have a statue or street in her name, let alone such giants as Shushanik Kurghinian and Zabel Yessayan,” she said.

Aram Pachyan, an award-winning Armenian author originally from Vanadzor, echos Hakhverdi’s sentiments.

Armenian literature is in a state of crisis, he says.

“At most, books receive a 500 circulation print, but hardly 50 of copies are read by the public,” he said in an Armenian-language email interview that has been translated, adding that the crisis is further aided by the fact that established works by Armenian authors do not get circulated outside of Armenia.

“Armenia today lives in a political blockade, we don’t have any ties to Europe, we live in the condition of closed borders, and our language is not English, French or Spanish, which is spoken by the world’s general population. Also, a very big problem exists – established Armenian literature isn’t systematically translated; a writer/translator relationships seems nonexistent.”

Hakverdi references the apathy towards Armenian literature in general as to why contemporary literary culture is barely there.

“Where in richer countries like Europe and America new authors are churned out and turned into bestselling authors almost on a daily basis, contemporary Armenian authors are practically unknown to their own people and completely obscure to the rest of the world,” she said.

While Armenian literature hasn’t seen a substantial amount of translations, notable translators include Alice Stone Blackwell, who translated numerous Armenian poems and even published an anthology of her translations, and author Ara Baliozian, who has translated books by Gostan Zarian among others.

Pachyan,the 2010 recipient of the Youth Prize of the President of Armenia, hopes that 2012 will bring new bookstores to the city and new books to the libraries in Armenia.

“I’d like our city to have one of the world’s best bookstores,” he said.

Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia holds the current title of world Book Capital, while Buenos Aires will take it for 2011.

Online and Offline Armenian Literary Resources, recommended by Nairi Hakhverdi
1. Inknagir – Anthology of Contemporary Armenian Literature
2. The Armenian Poetry Project – sponsored by the Armenian Students’ Association of America and created by poet and journalist Lola Koundakjian
3. Haybook – Electronic books in Armenian or in translation about Armenian culture.
4. Abril Bookstore
5. Berj Bookstore
6. -

Further Reading
“18-33: Modern Armenian Prose,” an anthology of 13 young Armenian prose writers, including Pachyan, Lilit Karapetyan, Mariam Sariyan and Sargis Hovsepyan was published in 2009 by the Hamazkayin Armenian Educational and Cultural Association.

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11 July 2010

A real ‘vintage shoe’
From the Palette
By Kay Sluterbeck

If you’re a woman who wears a size 7 shoe – and you happen to be 5,500 years old – your lost right moccasin has been found, and it’s in great condition. It might smell a bit funky, though. The world’s oldest shoe was recently discovered under a layer of sheep dung in a cave in Armenia, on the border between Iran and Turkey. This shoe was worn by someone who lived a thousand years before the Great Pyramid of Giza was built.

It isn’t known if the shoe was accidentally lost by its owner, or if it was deliberately buried in the cave as part of a ritual. Along with the shoe, the archaeologists also found three pots, each containing a child’s skull, as well as containers of well-preserved barley, wheat, apricot and other edible plants.

The right-footed shoe is made from a single piece of cowhide that was wrapped around the foot. The leather was tanned using vegetable oil. The back and top of the shoe were stitched together with a leather thong that ran through four and 15 sets of eyelets respectively. Loose grass was stuffed into the shoe, either as padding to keep the shoe warm or as a way to maintain the shape of the shoe when it was not being worn.

“We were all amazed to see its state of preservation and the fine details such as the laces, eyelets and the straw inside it,” said Ron Pinhasi of Ireland’s University College Cork and lead author of the research published in “PLoS One,” a journal of the Public Library of Science.

Scientists aren’t really sure if the shoe was worn by a man or a woman, because people were probably much smaller 5,500 years ago. They speculate that it may have been worn by an early farmer living in the mountains of the Vayotz Dzor province.

Its incredible preservation is due to the cool, dry cave and the thick layer of sheep dung. The dung acted as a solid seal to keep the ancient leather piece in perfect condition. In fact, the shoe was in such good shape that archaeologists initially thought that the shoe and other objects found in the cave were only about 600-700 years old.

“It was only when the material was dated that we realized that the shoe was older by a few hundred years than the shoes worn by Oetzi, the Iceman,” said Pinhasi.

Oetzi, you may recall, is Europe’s oldest natural human mummy, dating back 5,300 years. He was found in a melting glacier, and is preserved in cold storage in a scientific facility. Oetzi’s shoes included an inner “sock” made of grass, and a separate sole and upper made of deer and bear leather held together by a leather strap. Prior to the discovery of the shoe in the Armenian cave, Oetzi’s shoes were the oldest known leather footwear, and they were not complete; only parts of his footwear were discovered.

The previous oldest known non-leather footwear were sandals made from plants found in a cave in Missouri. They were made and worn a few hundred years after the Armenian shoe.

Three samples of the shoe’s leather were carbon-dated at the University of Oxford and the University of California. All tests gave the same results: Both the shoe and the grass in it date back to the Chalcolithic period, around 3,500 B.C.

Pinhasi says, “We now know that people were wearing shoes already 5,500 years ago and that these were not so different from the ones we had until recent times.” In fact, up until the 1950s, shoes very similar to the shoe from the cave, called “pampooties,” were worn on the Aran Islands in the west of Ireland.

Armenia’s climate 5,500 years ago was similar to today’s – hot in the summer, snowy in winter. The owner of the shoe would have worn wool and leather clothes, and relied on the shoes for protection as she walked around the rocky terrain. The shoe may have been made locally, or acquired through trade with the more sophisticated peoples of Mesopotamia.

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The Sofia Echo
6 July 2010

Yerevan named World Book Capital 2012 by Unesco
byClive Leviev-Sawyer

Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova

Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova

The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) has chosen the Armenian city of Yerevan as the 2012 World Book Capital as part of the agency’s ongoing efforts to promote books and reading.Armenia’s capital and largest city was chosen for the quality and variety of the programme it presented to the selection committee, which met at Unesco’s headquarters in Paris on July 2010, the UN News Service said.

The selection committee brings together representatives of Unesco and some of the main professional associations in the book industry – the International Publishers Association, the International Booksellers Federation and the International Federation of Library Associations and Institutions.

“I congratulate the city of Yerevan, which has presented a particularly interesting programme with many different themes, including the freedom of expression, as well as several activities for children, who will be the readers and authors of tomorrow,” Unesco Director-General Irina Bokova said.
“Mobilizing the entire world of books and reading, from authors to printers and publishers, will undoubtedly help to make the Yerevan programme a major success, with a sustainable impact,” Bokova said.

The city chosen as World Book Capital holds the distinction for one year, beginning on World Book and Copyright Day, which is observed on April 23.

Yerevan is the 12th city to be designated World Book Capital, after Madrid (2001), Alexandria (2002), New Delhi (2003), Antwerp (2004), Montreal (2005), Turin (2006), Bogotá (2007), Amsterdam (2008), Beirut (2009), Ljubljana (2010) and Buenos Aires (2011).

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5 July 2010

Hilary Clinton visited Tsitsernakaberd memorial complex

The official delegation headed by the US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton visited Tsitsernakaberd memorial complex of the Armenian Genocide victims. Mrs Clinton laid a wrath at the memorial of the Armenian genocide victims and honored the memory of them with one minute silence at the eternal flame, according to the official web site of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institue.

Director of the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Hayk Demoyan briefed US Secretary of State on the history of the construction of Armenian genocide memorial and the humanitarian response of the United States and American people to destitute victims of the Armenian genocide.

The Secretary of State was informed also about the burials of the Armenian martyrs fallen during the self-defense fighting in Karabagh but buried in Tsitsernakaberd as a sign of continuity of the genocide in the Armenian popular memory.

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5 հուլիսի 2010

Քլինթոնն այցելել է Ծիծեռնակաբերդ

ԱՄՆ պետքարտուղար Հիլարի Քլինթոնը այսօր Երևանից Թբիլիսի մեկնելուց առաջ այցելել է Հայոց ցեղասպանության զոհերի հիշատակը հավերժացնող Ծիծեռանակաբերդի հուշահամալիր և ծաղկեպսակ դրել «Հավերժական կրակի» մոտ` մեկ րոպե լռությամբ հարգելով Հայոց ցեղասպանության զոհերի հիշատակը:

Հայոց ցեղասպանության թանգարանի տնօրեն Հայկ Դեմոյանը Պետքարտուղարին ներկայացրել է Մեծ Եղեռնի հուշահամալիրի կառուցման պատմությունը` անդրադառնալով նաև հայերի դեմ իրագործված ցեղասպանությանը, Միացյալ Նահանգների, ամերիկյան ժողովրդի մարդասիրական արձագանքին և նրանց կողմից ցեղասպանության զոհերին անգնահատելի աջակցություն ցուցաբերելուն:

Այցի ընթացքում ԱՄՆ Պետքարտուղարը հետաքրքրվել է նաև Ծիծեռնակաբերդի հուշահամալիրի տարածքում արցախյան ինքնապաշտպանական մարտերի ժամանակ զոհված ազատամարտիկների գերեզմանների առկայությամբ: Ամերիկյան պատվիրակությունը տեղեկացվել է, որ հայ ազգային ինքնագիտակցության մեջ Արցախյան պատերազմն ընկալվել է որպես ցեղասպանության շարունակություն, որի առաջին զոհերը թաղվել են հենց Ծիծեռնակաբերդում:

Հայկ Դեմոյանն ամերիկյան պատվիրակությանը Հայոց ցեղասպանության թանգարանի կողմից հանձնել է պատմական մեդալ` թողարկված Ամերիկյան նպաստամատույց կազմակերպության կողմից 1920-ականների սկզբներին` Հայաստանում և Մերձավոր Արևելքի որբանոցներում իրենց ծառայությունը բերած աշխատակիցներին պարգևատրելու համար: Պատվավոր հյուրին հանձնվել է նաև մի լուսանկար, որում պատկերված են Ալեքսանդրապոլի (ներկայիս Գյումրիի) ամերիկյան որբանոցի հայ որբերը` կանգնած «Ամերիկա, շնորհակալ ենք» դասավորությամբ: Այս մասին տեղեկանում ենք Ցեղասպանության թանգարան–ինստիտուտի կայքից։

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4 July 2010
The New York Times

Clinton Urges Azerbaijan and Armenia to End Dispute

YEREVAN, Armenia (AP) — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton appealed to Armenia and Azerbaijan on Sunday to peacefully settle their long-running territorial dispute, but there were no outward signs of diplomatic progress.

The dispute between the two former Soviet states risks escalating to warfare and has caused diplomatic problems beyond their borders. Shuttling between their capitals, she told leaders to act quickly to settle the matter.

“The final steps toward peace often are the most difficult, but we believe peace is possible,” Mrs. Clinton said at news conference in Baku, Azerbaijan, with her counterpart in that nation, Elmar Mammadyarov.

She soon made the one-hour flight to Armenia and drove to the presidential palace in Yerevan for a meeting and dinner with President Serge Sarkisian, who said the dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, an enclave in Azerbaijan that has been under the control of Armenian troops and ethnic Armenian forces since a 1994 cease-fire, was the single most important issue for his country.

The truce ended six years of war that killed about 30,000 and displaced an estimated 1 million.

Mr. Sarkisian’s words were almost identical to those made in a statement hours earlier by President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, which shares a border with Iran, is of particular strategic importance to the United States. Tens of thousands of flights carrying war supplies to United States and allied forces in Afghanistan have crossed Azerbaijan’s airspace over the past nine years of fighting there since the Sept. 11 attacks. Azerbaijan also is part of an overland supply chain that is a critical alternative to the main land route through Pakistan to Afghanistan.

The United States also has good relations with Armenia, and has worked to broker an agreement between Armenia and Turkey on establishing formal diplomatic relations and opening their sealed border after a century of enmity.

Turkey, however, has refused to ratify the agreement until Armenia removes its military forces of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Turks have close cultural and linguistic ties to Azerbaijan.

At an evening news conference in Yerevan, Mrs. Clinton implicitly criticized Azerbaijan for a recent outbreak of violence. In mid-June, an exchange of gunfire along the front lines near Nagorno-Karabakh killed four ethnic Armenian troops and one Azerbaijani soldier.

The secretary of state urged Turkey to move ahead with the agreement to establish diplomatic relations with Armenia and said Armenia has done its part by stating its willingness to go forward with ratification of the agreement once Turkey drops its insistence that Armenia and Azerbaijan first settle their differences.

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4 July 2010
Voice of America

Clinton Presses Armenia, Azerbaijan for Nagorno-Karabakh Settlement
David Gollust | Yerevan, Armenia

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton met Sunday with the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan to press for progress toward settling their long-standing dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh. Clinton completes her brief visit to the southern Caucasus region Monday in Georgia.

She delivered the same message in Yerevan and Baku: that settling the Nagorno-Karabakh issue, on the basis of principles offered by international mediators, will open the way for political and economic gains that have eluded the region thus far.

The issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, an ethnic-Armenian enclave controlled by Armenian forces within the borders of Azerbaijan, has been a sources of periodic violence since before the collapse of the Soviet Union, including clashes in recent weeks.

The United States and its partners in the Minsk Group, France and Russia, have been trying to defuse the issue with confidence-building interim proposals aimed at spurring direct negotiations.

Clinton, beginning her day in Baku was told by Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev that peace requires an Armenian troop withdrawal. “As you know, for many years, our lands are under occupation. The United Nations Security Council, the OSCE, European Parliament, the Council of Europe, the Islamic Conference organization, all have adopted resolutions which reflect the situation and which demand the withdrawal of Armenian troops from internationally-recognized territories of Azerbaijan,” she said.

Hours later in Yerevan, the Secretary was meeting with Armenian President Sergh Sarkisyan, who depicted the conflict as a struggle for self determination for Nagorno-Karabakh’s ethnic-Armenian majority.

“The people of Nagorno Karabakh have a right for free development and advancement on their historic land. And the right of people for self-determination is one of the most fundamental principles of international law, which has been the basis of independence of most countries in the world today,” Sarkisyan said.

Nagorno-Karabakh is considered one of the “frozen conflicts” of the southern European-Caucasus region, but the lethal clashes between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces in the disputed area last month underline its volatility.

Meeting with reporters after her meeting with the Armenian president, Clinton said the clashes are unacceptable violations of a 1994 cease-fire and contrary to the stated commitments of both sides.

She said the United States urges them to refrain from the threat of, and use of, force and apply themselves to the Minsk peace process and completing basic principles leading to a final settlement.

“Everyone knows these are difficult steps to take, but we believe they are important ones and we have expressed our concern to both presidents today that the return to violence is unacceptable. We regret the incidents of the last several weeks. And it is in the interests, first and foremost of the people of Nagorno-Karabakh, but certainly of Azerbaijan, Armenia and the greater region, to work as hard as we can together to come up with an acceptable, lasting settlement of this conflict,” Clinton said.

Clinton, who is to spend several hours Monday in Georgia, reaffirmed her call for Russia to end what she termed the “continuing occupation” of the breakaway regions of Abkhazia and South Ossetia since the 2008 war with Georgia.

But she said the Obama administration believes it is possible to pursue a “comprehensive common agenda” with Moscow without disagreements on such issues as Georgia, as she put it, “freezing our relationship.”

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3 July 2010
The Washington Post

How to prevent another war in the Southern Caucasus
By Ronald D. Asmus

After Russian President Dmitry Medvedev’s recent visit, the Obama administration wants to prove it has a strategy to deepen ties with allies such as Poland while it pursues a reset with Russia, so it has sent Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on a whirlwind tour of Central and Eastern Europe and the South Caucasus. The trip also seeks to blunt conservative criticism that Washington is sacrificing allies for the sake of reconciliation with Moscow.

The administration has tried to pursue a twin-track strategy: reengaging Russia while upholding the core principle that these countries have the right to choose their own foreign policies and reject Moscow’s claims of a sphere of influence. The real question, however, is not about the administration’s rhetoric but whether its words are backed up with policies that produce meaningful engagement. So far, those policies are not in place. That is one deficit that Clinton’s trip will hopefully start to change.

The administration has already put relations with Central and Eastern Europe back on track on key issues such as missile defense. Negotiations over a new strategic concept offer an opportunity to provide reassurance and to make good on American and NATO promises to engage in defense planning and exercises and create infrastructure. Dealing with the South Caucasus is trickier. Two years ago, the West was caught by surprise when war broke out between Russia and Georgia and threatened to destabilize the region. The risk of future conflict cannot be ruled out. The administration needs to confront three very real dangers:

The first is the deteriorating relationship between Azerbaijan and Armenia and the conflict in the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. Recent shootings and casualties underscore the rising tensions. The collapse — hopefully temporary — of Turkish-Armenian rapprochement has also elevated tensions. Absent greater international and Western engagement, these tit-for-tat shootings could spin out of control and turn into a real war over the summer.

Second, we should not be deluded into thinking that the Russia-Georgia conflict is over. Moscow is determined to break Tbilisi’s will to align with the West. It may opt to wait out Mikheil Saakashvili’s Georgian presidency before making its next move, but its goals are unchanged. While Georgia has weathered the war and the global economic crisis better than expected, the unresolved status of the breakaway provinces of Abkhazia and South Ossetia, and the presence there of Russian forces — effectively an occupation — are a drag on attempts to stabilize and reform Georgia. The border regime managed by unarmed European Union monitors is weak. It is doubtful that mission would be adequate if real instability or tension arose.

But the biggest danger, and the wild card, in the region may be the North Caucasus, where a nasty brew of radicalization, destabilization and insurgent activity continues. The 2014 Olympic Games to be held in Sochi — a prestige project for Moscow — threaten to play into this dynamic. The Russian government may feel the need, in Vladimir Putin’s words, to “clean up” the region by eliminating the dangers that insurgents may stage terrorist attacks at the Olympics. In other words, Moscow may crack down so that the worst violence is over well before Western journalists start to pay attention or the first international athlete arrives in 2014. But that kind of preemptive action may make the situation worse.

The kind of blowback Moscow faces today for having encouraged separatist forces in the region for many years is a nightmare not only for Russian leaders but also for the West. Imagine if jihadists in the region thicken their ties to the similarly named groups we are nettling in the Middle East, Afghanistan and Pakistan. Even if the contagion does not spread that far, it could destabilize the South Caucasus. Historically, Russia has often sought to use the South Caucasus to control the North. Should it do so today by demanding the right of hot pursuit, the use of airspace or Georgian territory, we could quickly find ourselves on the precipice of another unwanted conflict.

What should the United States and the West do more generally? The administration’s foreign policy plate is full, but this is a classic case in which a modest investment now can help prevent or contain bigger problems later. Washington must try to engage Moscow on the North Caucasus. We are likely to have little leverage in influencing Russia’s policies there, but we might be able to limit the collateral damage and potential spillover from such policies in the South Caucasus. That sort of long-term payoff would require efforts now to put in place more effective border management mechanisms, involving the international community; stepped-up efforts to build political and economic stability; and the kind of reassurance that would enable these countries to weather such a storm.

Modest investments now could help prevent much greater problems down the road. Hopefully Secretary Clinton is finding consensus on this around the region.

The writer, a deputy assistant secretary of state in the Clinton administration, is executive director of the Brussels-based Transatlantic Center at the German Marshall Fund of the United States. The views expressed here are his own.

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26 June 2010

US, Russia, France back Nagorno-Karabakh peace moves

Reuters UK
HUNTSVILLE, Ontario, June 26 (Reuters) – The United States, France and Russia on Saturday pledged to support Armenia and Azerbaijan as they try to agree basic principles for settling a dispute over Azerbaijan’s breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region.

U.S. President Barack Obama, joined by French President Nicolas Sarkozy and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, said both sides had made a significant step in accepting the overall framework of a deal and now needed to work on details.

“Now the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan need to take the next step and complete the work on the basic principles to enable the drafting of a peace agreement to begin,” the three leaders said in a joint statement issued during a Group of Eight meeting in Canada.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton plans to visit both Armenia and Azerbaijan early next month during a trip to the South Caucasus.

The dispute between mostly Muslim Azerbaijan and mostly Christian Armenia remains a threat to stability in the South Caucasus, an important route for oil and gas supplies from the Caspian region to Europe.

Skirmishes, sometimes fatal, erupt frequently along front lines near Nagorno-Karabakh, a small mountainous region under the control of ethnic Armenians who fought a six-year separatist war with support from neighboring Armenia.

An estimated 30,000 people were killed and one million displaced before a cease-fire in 1994 but a peace accord has never been agreed and the ethnic Armenian leadership’s independence claim has not been recognized by any country.

The three powers’ joint statement on Saturday said the so-called “Helsinki principles” now recognized by both sides relate to the return of the occupied territories surrounding Nagorno-Karabakh, interim status for Nagorno-Karabakh guaranteeing security and self-governance and a corridor linking Armenia to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The framework also calls for the final status of Nagorno-Karabakh to be determined by a legally-binding vote and the right of all internally-displaced persons and refugees to return.

More than a decade of mediation led by Russia, France and the United States has failed to produce a final peace deal and Azerbaijan has said it may use force to try to regain control of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Tension has increased since Armenia and its traditional foe Turkey, which has close ties to Azerbaijan, reached a rapprochement last year.

The accord crumbled this year when Armenia suspended ratification after Turkish demands that it first reach terms over Nagorno-Karabakh, a condition set by Turkey to appease Azerbaijan, an oil and gas producer. (reporting by Alister Bull, writing by Andrew Quinn; editing by David Storey)

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22 June 2010

OSCE, EU Condemn Karabakh ‘Armed Incident’

The French, Russian, and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group issued a toughly worded statement on June 21 condemning the reconnaissance mission by Azerbaijani forces late on June 18 across the Line of Contact separating Azerbaijani and Karabakh Armenian forces east of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh republic.

Four Karabakh Armenian conscripts and one Azerbaijani serviceman died in the incident near the village of Chaylu in the district of Mardakert in northeastern Karabakh. Four more Armenian servicemen were injured.

Armenia launched a retaliation attack during the night of June 20-21 on Azerbaijani positions in Fizuli, southeast of the disputed enclave, killing one Azerbaijani serviceman. Of the seven Azerbaijani districts contiguous to Nagorno-Karabakh currently occupied by Armenian forces, Fizuli is one of the two that Baku is reportedly demanding should be the first to be returned to Azerbaijani control.

The Minsk Group co-chairs termed the June 18 attack, which took place the day after they met in Moscow with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev to discuss a peaceful solution to the conflict, as “an unacceptable violation of the 1994 Cease-Fire Agreement and…contrary to the stated commitment of the sides to refrain from the use of force or the threat of the use of force. The use of military force at this juncture “can only be seen as an attempt to damage the peace process,” they said.

The EU’s special representative for the South Caucasus, Ambassador Peter Semneby, for his part described the attack to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on June 21 as “a deplorable event” that “should not have taken place.” He further expressed regret for the “unnecessary tragic loss of life.”

Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry spokesman Elhan Polukhov said the June 18 clash was the direct consequence of Armenia’s failure to withdraw from occupied Azerbaijani territory. He said the way to avoid a reoccurrence is for Armenia “to sit down at the negotiating table and continue talks on the basis of the updated Madrid principles,” which he implied Armenia is unwilling to do.

Richard Giragosian, director of the Armenian Center for National and International Studies (ACNIS) in Yerevan, said that while the June 18 attack fits into “a consistent pattern of limited skirmishes and probes, especially Azerbaijani probing the defensive positions on the Armenian side,” it was nonetheless the most serious cease-fire violation in the past two years.

Citing unidentified Armenian military sources, he said the attack must have been prepared over a period of several days. He described it as more professional and more deadly than previous such incursions. The attack began with an Azerbaijani sniper inflicting a fatal head wound on an Armenian soldier on the front line.

Giragosian said the Armenian military anticipates an intensification of Azerbaijani military activity in coming months.

*UPDATE: It has been brought to my attention that I appear inadvertently to have misrepresented the statement bythe OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs that condemned the violent incident, but did not blame Azerbaijan for starting it. The statement further called on the sides to “exercise restraint” and “prepare their population for peace.”

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Artikels in het Nederlands

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De Volkskrant
8 augustus 2011

‘De ene genocide is de andere niet ‘

Leen van Dijke, Gert-Jan Segers, Joël Voordewind
In een tot niets verplichtende brief over de ‘Armeense kwestie’ waarin het woord ‘genocide’ wordt vermeden, ontziet het kabinet alle Turkse gevoeligheden. Dat schrijven Leen van Dijke, Gert-Jan Segers en Joël Voordewind…

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NRC Handelsblad
15 september 2010
Turkije Voor het eerst sinds de Armeense genocide kunnen Armeniërs in Oost-Turkije een kerkdienst bijwonen

Terug naar de Armeense geboortegrond

Honderden Armeniërs zijn gisteren naar Oost-Turkije gegaan om voor het eerst in 95 jaar te bidden in de kerk van Surp Khach. Het is een propagandastunt van de regering, zeggen cynici …

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De Volkskrant
20 september 2010

Een Armeense mis op Akdamar, voor het eerst sinds de slachtpartij van 1915

De Turkse regering wil de toenadering verbeteren tot buurland Armenië en tot de eigen Armeense minderheid. Een historische kerkdienst was zondag een eerste stap.

Van onze correspondent

VAN Zwetend sjokt de Armeens-Turkse architect, twee fotocamera’s op de buik, over de vlakte met ruïnes net buiten de Oost-Turkse stad Van. Op deze vlakte bevond zich ooit een eerdere versie van de stad. Maar Turkse troepen maakten de stad in 1915 met de grond gelijk en verjoegen en vermoordden de christelijke Armeense bewoners. ‘Kijk, daar woonden de rijken’, zegt de bouwkundige, wijzend naar een plek waar nog enkele verkruimelende stukken muur overeind staan. ‘Dat was de buurt van de regeringsmensen, diplomaten en zakenlieden.’ … meer

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NRC Handelsblad
15 september 2010

Europees hof hekelt Turkije

Door onze correspondent
Istanbul, 15 sept.- Het Europese Hof voor de Mensenrechten heeft de Turkse staat veroordeeld wegens zijn falen de vrijheid van meningsuiting en het leven te beschermen van de in 2007 vermoorde Turks-Armeense journalist Hrant Dink. Het hof in Straatsburg legde Turkije gisteren een boete op van 133.000 euro …

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De Volkskrant
15 september 2010

Turkije moet betalen voor moord journalist

Van onze correspondent

ISTANBUL Het Europees Hof voor de Rechten van de Mens heeft Turkije veroordeeld voor het onvoldoende beschermen van de Armeens-Turkse journalist Hrant Dink. Dink was hoofdredacteur van de krant Agos en werd in 2007 op straat bij zijn kantoor in Istanbul doodgeschoten.

Volgens het Hof had de Turkse politie tips gekregen dat radicale nationalisten van plan waren Dink te vermoorden. Maar de politie waarschuwde de journalist niet en nam geen maatregelen hem te beschermen … meer

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De Volkskrant
3 september 2010

Gouden olympiërs moeten knokken
voor een plekje bij de Europese top

Van onze medewerker
Peter Bruin

AMSTERDAM De olympisch kampioen waterpolo ligt op koers om bij het EK in Kroatië de volgende ronde te bereiken. Na de nederlaag tegen Hongarije won Nederland donderdag van Duitsland (17-10). De kwartfinales lonken.

Na het goud bij de Spelen van Peking nam een aantal routiniers afscheid van het nationale waterpoloteam. Met zes nieuwe speelsters in de gelederen laat Nederland zich gelden bij de titelstrijd in Kroatië. ‘We zijn echt heel goed bezig. We trainen hard. Met die nieuwelingen erbij presteer je in het begin wat grilliger, minder constant ook. Maar blijkbaar kunnen we met de juiste tactieken toch ver komen’, zegt Biurakn Hakhverdian, 24 jaar en toch al een oudgediende … meer

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21 juni 2010

Doden bij aanval op Nagorno-Karabakh

(Novum/AP) – Vier Armeense militairen zijn vrijdagnacht omgekomen tijdens een gevecht met militairen van het Azerbeidzjaanse leger in de betwiste enclave Nagorno-Karabakh. Dat heeft het Armeense ministerie van defensie bekendgemaakt … meer


Doden bij zware gevechten in Nagorno-Karabach

Jerevan – Bij zware gevechten in het grensgebied van de Armeense enclave Nagorno-Karabach zijn zeker vijf militairen om het leven gekomen, aldus het Armeense ministerie van defensie zaterdag … meer

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