YEREVAN — A group of Armenian pop singers on Friday launched a campaign to boycott the 2012 Eurovision song contest which will be hosted by their country's bitter enemy Azerbaijan.
"We refuse to appear in a country that is well-known for mass killings and massacres of Armenians, in a country where anti-Armenian sentiments have been elevated to the level of state policy," said the statement signed by 22 singers including three former Armenian Eurovision contestants.
They hope to pressure the authorities into pulling out of the European pop extravaganza in the country with which Armenia fought a war after the fall of the Soviet Union.
Armenia has applied to take part in the contest, but has yet to choose a singer to represent the country, according to Eurovision's official website.
The influential director of Yerevan's State Song Theatre, where many successful Armenian singers have studied, was the first signature on the boycott petition.
"How can we sing in a country that has caused us so much loss?" director Artur Grigorian said on Armenian television.
"I think that Eurovision is art, it's a show, and it's political," he added.
But several liberal Armenian bloggers have questioned the proposed boycott.
"Theatre of absurdist Eurovision related propaganda continues," wrote blogger Mika Artyan on Facebook.
Azerbaijani and Armenian forces fought a war over the disputed region of Nagorny Karabakh in the 1990s which left some 30,000 people dead, but despite years of negotiations since a 1994 ceasefire, no final peace deal has been signed.
Azerbaijan has repeatedly threatened to use force to win back Karabakh if negotiations fail to yield satisfactory results, but Armenia has warned of large-scale retaliation against any military action.
Azerbaijani singers Ell and Nikki won Eurovision in Duesseldorf in May 2011, giving the energy-rich ex-Soviet state the right to host the high-profile pop contest this year.
The Azerbaijani administration sees Eurovision 2012 as a chance to boost the international profile of a country until now mainly known as an energy exporter on the fringe of Europe.
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