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YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 9, ARMENPRESS: A deputy Armenian culture minister told Armenpress today that the neighboring Turkey has not responded to Armenian initiatives to make the medieval Armenian city of Ani, now in eastern Turkey close to its border with Armenia, “a cultural corridor.”

Ani, the ancient, walled capital of the kings from Bagradit dynasty who ruled Armenia from the 9-th to the 11-th centuries AD, was in its heyday a millennium ago and a rival to Constantinople, Baghdad and Cairo. Despite earthquakes and Mongol raids, much of Ani’s immense, fortified walls, as well as the city’s citadel, caravansary, cathedral and six churches still stand well preserved, their stone facades a testament to a well-developed level of craftsmanship. Today Ani is a ghost town, deserted except for the presence of Turkish border guards and the occasional tourists.

The deputy minister, Gagik Gurjian, said the issue was first raised in 2001 at different international organizations, including also the UNESCO. “Making Ani a cultural center remains in the focus of Armenia’s foreign policy, as Armenia stands firmly for improvement of relations with Turkey and a cultural dialogue is one of ways to do it,” Gurjian said adding that so far no progress was made except a verbal arrangement.

He said a French archeologist, Pierre Mahier, who headed an expedition for archeological dig in Ani asked the Armenian culture ministry to provide it with research materials collected during a 1905 archeological expedition in Ani, led by a prominent archeologist Toros Toromanian, which are kept in Armenia and which are very important in conducting any research in Ani, “but we refused explaining that the participation of Armenian archeologists would be more effective.”

He said the Armenian culture ministry sent to Turkish counterparts a report about joint Armenian-American excavations in Akhtamar and Van, both in Turkey and a daft project for continuing researches, which also remained unanswered.

Gurjian said they have learned that Turkey has asked the European Parliament to fund reconstruction of several monuments in Eastern Anatolia, which include also old Armenian cities of Van and Igdir. He said if the European Parliament approves this project the Armenian ministry will try to get some Armenian monuments in these regions involved in the project.

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