Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Briefly: South American nations call for Genocide recognition,Central Asian join in Genocide denial, Akhalkalaki-Kars railroad launched

This was originally published in November 24, 2007 Armenian Reporter.
by Emil Sanamyan

South American states call for international affirmation of Armenian Genocide
The recently established parliament of a regional South American organization, Mercosur, issued a resolution recognizing and condemning the Armenian Genocide, the Armenian National Committee (ANC) of South America reported on November 21.

Mercosur, which is a Spanish and Portuguese acronym for the Common Market of the South, was established in 1991 by Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, and Uruguay to promote regional cooperation in a manner similar to the process of European integration. The 90-member Mercosur Parliament was launched at the end of last year with an equal number of delegates from each of the member states and is based in Montevideo, the Uruguayan capital.

Uruguay was the first state whose legislature formally commemorated the Armenian Genocide in a resolution passed in 1965. Parliaments of Argentina, Mercosur membership candidate Venezuela, and associated member state Chile have also passed formal resolutions on the issue.

According to the ANC of South America, the Mercosur parliament condemned the “Armenian Genocide, perpetrated by the Ottoman Empire, which took 1.5 million lives from 1915 to 1923,” expressed its support for the Armenian cause, and called on all countries to recognize the Genocide.

Turkey, Azerbaijan pull Central Asian states into Genocide denial
Officials from several Central Asian states backed Turkey’s Genocide denial during the 11th Turkish State and Communities’ Friendship, Solidarity and Cooperation Congress, held in Baku earlier this week.

The event, held on the initiative of Azerbaijani president Ilham Aliyev and attended by Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, also included the Turkmen Deputy-prime Minister, the Kyrgyz Education Minister, and the Kazakh Deputy-culture Minister. In all, more than 500 delegates from 30 countries were expected to take part in the annual congress of Turkic languages-speaking nations.

“Adoption of Armenian allegations pertaining to the incidents of 1915 in various parliaments have caused outrage and sorrow among Turkic republics” (sic), the congress participants reportedly said in a joint declaration, as mentioned in the Turkish Press on November 19.

The declaration also offered support for Azerbaijan’s position on the Karabakh conflict and support for Turkic communities in Georgia and Iraq, and called for a lifting of the international embargo against the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). Unlike Turkey, however, all the other Turkic states recognize the Greek-majority Republic of Cyprus rather than TRNC.

In Washington, coinciding with the pan-Turkic congress in Baku, the Central Asia and Caucasus Institute (CACI) at Johns Hopkins University held a discussion on Turkey’s role in the two regions on November 19.

The speakers, Zeyno Baran of the Hudson Institute and Svante Cornell of CACI, agreed that while the focus of Turkey’s foreign policy has for years been on the West and Middle East, Turkey’s leaders have recently again begun to pay more attention to that part of the world.

Mrs. Baran noted that in the 1990s U.S. and Turkish interests to a large degree coincided in the Caucasus and Central Asia. This, she said, may no longer be the case now, considering Ankara’s diminished partnership with Washington and Brussels.

Mr. Cornell suggested that it was “pointless” for the U.S. and Europe to continue to call on Turkey to establish relations with Armenia, since without Armenian concessions in Karabakh this would amount to “betrayal” of Azerbaijan, and that “geopolitically speaking Armenia is expendable.”

Ms. Baran added that support that Armenia receives from the West “does not make sense” and that here is a feeling among Turks and Azerbaijanis that this is a “Christian versus Muslim thing.”

Construction of Armenia rail bypass launched in Georgia
The Azerbaijani president and Turkish prime minister joined Georgian president Mikhail Saakashvili on November 21 in inaugurating the construction of the $420 million Akhalkalaki-Kars railroad, that would connect Georgia and Turkey.

Azerbaijan has lobbied for the project in an effort to remove economic arguments in favor of opening the Turkish-Armenian border, because of the existing railroad connecting Turkey and Georgia via Armenia. After failing to secure international funding for the project, Azerbaijan itself will pay for the construction on Georgian territory, amounting to $220 million.

While in Georgia, President Aliyev also inaugurated the Kulevi oil terminal on the Black Sea coast. Last year, the Azerbaijani state oil company bought the terminal from Georgian billionaire Badri Patarkatsishvili, who has since fallen out with the Saakashvili government.

This was Mr. Aliyev’s third visit to Georgia this year. In February he attended the inauguration of the Tbilisi airport renovated by a Turkish company, and in May he was in Tbilisi again, to attend the unveiling of a statue of his father and predecessor as president, Heydar Aliyev.

Nareg Seferian contributed to this week’s column.

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