Microsoft to Open Office in Armenia

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–The Microsoft Corporation plans on opening an office in Armenia either before the end of 2005 or in early 2006.

The Armenian branch will be developing new software for the company–but the company will not carry out major projects there because of the limited scale of scientific potential in Armenia.

The Armenian economy will benefit greatly from having a branch of the world’s largest company operating in its market. Microsoft already has branches in Russia–Ukraine–and Kazakhstan. Microsoft also intends to open an office in Azerbaijan.

5) Successful Kick-off Raises $150,000 for Glendale-Ghapan Sister City Hospital Revitalization Project

GLENDALE–The Glendale-Ghapan Sister City Association (GGSCA) kicked off its Ghapan Hospital Revitalization Project Banquet at the residence of Dr. Alber Karamanoukian on November 9. The December 2 banquet nearly sold out at the kickoff.

Gelndale Mayor Rafi Manoukian–Councilmembers Bob Yousefian and Ara Najarian–along with supporters and friends of Glendale-Ghapan Sister City were at the event. Guy Devorris and Don Owen each contributed $50,000 to the Ghapan Hospital Revitalization Project.

Guy Devorris has served on the board of directors for Grammercy Homes–a non-profit whose mission is to provide transitional housing and free counseling & daycare to teenage mothers who are forced to emancipate at age 18 from the LA County foster care program. Don Owen is on the Board of Directors of the Property Owner’s Association of Santa Monica whose mission is to advocate the rights of small property owners. Bonnie Owen enjoys donating time to the American Red Cross and the American Diabetes Foundation.

"We thank Mr. Owen and Mr. Devorris for the generous support," Banquet Committee chair Alec Baghdasaryan said. "Their donations will enable us to tremendously enhance the health care system in Ghapan."

"On behalf of the board–I would like to commend the hard work of the banquet committee and especially thank Dr. Alber Karamanoukian and Mr. Rodney Khan for their efforts in rallying contributors to this noble cause," Glendale-Ghapan Sister City president Artin Manoukian stressed.

Ghapan–a city in the southern part of Armenia–is located approximately 220 kilometers southeast of Yerevan. With a population of 48,000–Ghapan has been experiencing limited economic advancement since the collapse of the Soviet Union.

Through the joint effort of the Armenian National Committee of Glendale–the City of Glendale–and the City of Ghapan–the GGSCA was established to help cultivate economic cooperation and cultural exchanges between the two cities. In December 2002–the Glendale City Council officially adopted Resolution 17023 recognizing Ghapan as a Sister City of Glendale. The Glendale-Ghapan Sister City Association aims to foster goodwill and understanding through cultural–educational–and economic cooperation between the people of Glendale and Ghapan. In October 2003–the GGSCA identified three areas of concern in Ghapan: schools–health care–and community infrastructure.

Currently–the GGSCA is working to renovate and provide medical equipment to the Ghapan Hospital–a facility that is in desperate need of reconstruction. The Ghapan Hospital Revitalization Project will replace outdated–malfunctioning equipment–and diagnostic tools that remain from the Soviet era and often jeopardize patient care.

The December 2 banquet will provide necessary funds to carry on the work of renovating the hospital’s infrastructure. Initial proceeds will go towards the OB-GYN–Neo-Natal–Delivery–and Surgery departmen’s–and the Lab at Ghapan Hospital. Former Glendale Mayor Larry Zarian will be the Master of Ceremonies at the banquet. The program will be followed by entertainment and music by an international band. For more information on the banquet–call (818) 828-8882.

The Glendale-Ghapan Sister City Association (GGSCA) was established to cultivate economic cooperation and cultural interchange between the two cities. The GGSCA will pursue programs–projects–and opportunities that foster goodwill and understanding–as well as cultural–educational–and economic cooperation between the people of the two cities.

6) Senators Sarbanes and Allen Press Prospective US Ambassador on Turkey’s Denial of the Armenian Genocide and Blockade of Armenia

— Legislators also raise concerns about Cyprus and Turkey’s ongoing persecution of the Ecumenical Patriarch

WASHINGTON–DC-Senators George Allen (R-VA) and Paul Sarbanes (D-MD) questioned US Ambassador to Turkey nominee Ross Wilson–during his confirmation hearing earlier today before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee–on US policy toward Turkey’s denial of the Armenian genocide and a host of other human rights issues–reported the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

"We want to thank both Senators Sarbanes and Allen for pressing for answers about US policy on the Armenian genocide during today’s confirmation hearing," said Aram Hamparian–Executive Director of the ANCA. "We look to them–and their colleagues on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee–to continue in the coming months to exercise oversight of how the incoming Ambassador and our diplomats in Ankara address this critical issue."

Ambassador Wilson–who served previously as the US Ambassador to Azerbaijan–took part in the confirmation hearing along with several other ambassadorial nominees–including the incoming ambassadors to Cyprus–Finland–and Iceland. Final Committee approval and confirmation by the full Senate are expected before Thanksgiving.

Senator Allen–who chaired the hearing–began his questioning of Ambassador Wilson by stressing that the Armenian genocide remains a significant factor in US-Turkey relations–reminding him to "be aware that [recognition of the Armenian genocide] will come up. I speak only for myself as Chairman–I do believe that one needs to remember history–so that it is not repeated. Maybe not against Armenia’s–but against others in the future." The Virginia Senator followed up by stressing his concern regarding actions taken by the Turkish government against the Ecumenical Patriarch.

Senator Sarbanes–during this questioning of Ambassador Wilson–raised a series of issues of special concern to Armenian Americans. He first turned his attention to Turkey’s blockade of Armenia–noting that "For over decade Turkey has kept a blockade of its border with Armenia in violation of international law and this has caused serious economic harm on Armenia. They couldn’t even send in humanitarian aid at one point. What steps would you take to persuade Turkey to lift its blockade of Armenia?"

In response–Ambassador Wilson explained that–"It has been long-standing US policy in this Administration–and I believe the one before it–to encourage Turkey and Armenia to engage in process of reconciliation and mutual understanding. It has specifically been the policy to encourage Turkey to consider opening the border with Armenia. That I think is a policy I would support. The central challenge is dealing with historical legacies–with moving both countries [in a direction] frankly that recognizes what happened but also recognizes the need that they have to work together–the money they can make–the prosperity they could build for their peoples if that border is opened."

Senator Sarbanes followed by noting his interest in discussing the Armenian genocide. He said that–"Turkey’s world famous author Orhan Pamuk has now been charged and faces going to prison for telling a Swiss Newspaper in February that ‘30,000 Kurds and 1 million Armenia’s were killed and no one dares to talk about it.’ Furthermore–they recently sentenced the Armenian writer Hrant Dink to a suspended jail sentence for writing a newspaper column about the same subject. This raises important human rights questions. How important is this human rights dimension of Turkish performance and how important will it be in the work of our embassy in addressing our relationship with Turkey?"

Ambassador Wilson responded by noting–"First–on the broader historical issue–the President of the United States annually makes a point of describing what is US policy in respect to the events that took place in Eastern Anatolia at the end of World War I–with respect to the ethnic Armenian population there. The statemen’s have varied over the years–but the central elemen’s are: an acknowledgment that a terrible tragedy occurred–encouragement to the parties to engage in a discussion about those events–a characterization of those events should form from that discussion–encouragement of the two countries to engage in a process of reconciliation. I think that is an important policy and one that I would support."

Ambassador Wilson went on to explain that–"The specific issue that you raised Senator–ironically–the fact that it comes up derives from the reality that the events that took place in World War I are being discussed in Turkey. I think that is somewhat encouraging. Many in Turkey viewed the charges against Mr. Pamuk as difficult to reconcile with Turkey’s democratic ideals."

At this point–Senator Sarbanes asked if the State Department had "expressed a concern about these charges against Pamuk." Ambassador Wilson answered that he "believes that we have expressed the view–and certainly I would express it here–that these charges are difficult to reconcile with Turkey’s democratic ideals and ambitions. And I believe that we have urged–as the European Union has urged–another look at the penal code under which Mr. Pamuk was charged."

Continuing the exchange–Senator Sarbanes said–"I thought–actually–that the Prime Minister of Turkey and the Foreign Minister expressed concerns about this action by the prosecutor that are stronger than the concern you just expressed. I would have to double-check that–but if that is the case–I am somewhat taken aback that our concern about this important human rights question with respect to this very distinguished author is lagging behind–so to speak." Ambassador Wilson answered this concern by stating–"Senator–with all due respect–I don’t believe our concern with respect to Mr. Pamuk lags behind others. The charges brought–I believe–were brought by a local prosecutor. As you noted–there has been some criticism about this by a range of figures within Turkey. It is clearly an important issue of freedom of speech. It relates to Turkey’s international obligations and provisions in its constitution. We need to defend freedom of speech in that country."

Senator Sarbanes then raised a number of issues related to the Turkish government’s occupation of Cyprus and ongoing persecution of the Ecumenical Patriarchate–leader of the worldwide Greek Orthodox Church. He noted that the Department of State’s International Religious Freedom Report was very critical of the Patriarch issue in Turkey. "What can we do? We have this historic denomination of Christianity and it is increasingly more difficult for it to function." Ambassador Wilson responded by noting that the US should continue to show support for the Patriarch and should work to ensure that the Halki Seminary is opened.

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