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Karabakh Still Freer Than Azerbaijan, Says U.S. Watchdog

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Nagorno-Karabakh remains a “partly free” territory governed by a less repressive administration than Azerbaijan, the U.S. human rights group Freedom House said in an annual survey released on Wednesday.

Freedom House evaluated “political rights” and “civil liberties” in 195 countries and 13 disputed territories, including Karabakh, on a 7-point scale, with 1 representing the most free and 7 the least free. It again rated both Karabakh and Armenia “partly free” and kept Azerbaijan in the “not free” category of nations surveyed.

What is more, the “Freedom in the World” survey further downgraded Azerbaijan’s rating, giving the authorities in Baku a median score of 6. “Azerbaijan received a downward trend arrow due to an intensified crackdown on dissent, including the imprisonment and abuse of human rights advocates and journalists,” explained Freedom House.

Minsk Group Co-Chairs Call on Azerbaijan to Observe Commitments to Peaceful Resolution of Conflict

January 28, 2015 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Karabakh No Comments
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12:05, January 28, 2015

The Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, James Warlick of the United States of America, and Pierre Andrieu of France) met with Foreign Minister of Azerbaijan Elmar Mammadyarov today in Krakow.

They issued the following statement regarding that meeting.

“We expressed to the Minister our serious concern about reported incursions across the Line of Contact and the Armenia-Azerbaijan border, resulting in casualties. The rise in violence that began last year must stop for confidence to be restored and progress to be made in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process. We called on Azerbaijan to observe its commitments to a peaceful resolution of the conflict. We also call on Armenia to take all measures to reduce tensions. All sides must abide by the terms of the ceasefire agreement. Violence undermines efforts to bring about peace.

Mediators Concerned About Azeri Incursions In Karabakh

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U.S., Russian and French mediators on Tuesday voiced serious concern at Azerbaijani armed incursions reported by the Armenian side and urged Azerbaijan to seek only a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

The three diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group met with Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov in Krakow, Poland to discuss recent weeks’ upsurge of fighting in the conflict zone that has left at least a dozen soldiers from both sides dead. In an ensuing joint statement, they seemed to hold Baku primarily responsible for the latest escalation.

Russian Military Intervention ‘Unnecessary For Armenia’

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The Armenian army is strong enough to contain Azerbaijan and maintain the Nagorno-Karabakh status quo without Russia’s direct military intervention, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian insisted on Tuesday.

Ohanian said that Armenia will therefore not appeal to the Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) for assistance in the face of what it calls growing ceasefire violations by Azerbaijani forces. “The Armenian army has proved that it is a constantly improving and developing force and I don’t think that these outbreaks of tension could force us to appeal to the CSTO,” he told a news conference.

“We are now prepared for any action and, if need be, we can turn the Line of Contact [around Karabakh] and the adjacent enemy territory into a hotspot which [the enemy] wouldn’t make sense of,” he said, echoing threats voiced by President Serzh Sarkisian on Monday.

Baku Reports Azeri Combat Deaths

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After weeks of strong denial of Azerbaijani combat casualties in the latest escalation of fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the Azerbaijani military said on Monday that three of its soldiers have been killed by Armenian forces.

Azerbaijani news agencies cited the Defense Ministry in Baku as saying that they died while repelling an Armenian commando attack. The ministry did not specify when and where the incident took place. Nor did it identify any of the three servicemen, saying only that they were posthumously awarded medals by Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov.

Armenia Threatens Stronger Military Action Against Azerbaijan

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President Serzh Sarkisian on Monday accused Azerbaijan of again heightening tensions in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone and said the Armenian military could step up retaliatory strikes against Azerbaijani forces to prevent fresh truce violations.

Addressing Armenia’s top army generals and other military officials, Sarkisian said the latest upsurge in deadly fighting is part of the Azerbaijani leadership’s continuing to efforts to clinch more Armenian concessions in peace talks mediated by the United States, Russia and France. This “policy of blackmail” will not influence Yerevan and can only have “terrible consequences” for Baku, he warned.

“Until recently our retaliatory operations were symmetric in form and asymmetric in terms of causing greater casualties,” Sarkisian told a meeting held at the Armenian Defense Ministry. “From now on, there can also be retaliatory actions that are asymmetric in form.

Armenian-Azeri Fighting Continues To Intensify

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The Armenian military suffered two more casualties and claimed to have killed at least three Azerbaijani soldiers early on Friday in what appears to be a further escalation of fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone.

The upsurge in truce violations prompted serious concern from James Warlick, the chief U.S. negotiator in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks. In a Twitter post, Warlick urged the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan to “stop the violence along the Line of Contact and commit to negotiations.”

Armenia’s Defense Ministry said the two soldiers, Lieutenant Karen Galstian and Private Artak Sargsian, were shot dead and another serviceman, Hovannes Avanesian, seriously wounded in an Azerbaijani attack on its positions in the northern Tavush province bordering western Azerbaijan. It said that Azerbaijani forces failed to seize any of those outposts and were forced to retreat.

Karabakh Armenians Claim More Azeri Attacks

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Nagorno-Karabakh’s army said on Tuesday that its forces repelled fresh incursions launched by Azerbaijani troops overnight at eight different sections of “the line of contact” around the disputed territory.

The Defense Army claimed to have thwarted the commando raids and inflicted “losses” on the enemy. It also reported that one of its soldiers, Suren Pilosian, was killed by sniper fire from Azerbaijani army positions at one of those sections close to the Iranian border.

As always, the Azerbaijani military denied attacking Karabakh Armenian positions, saying that the Armenians themselves repeatedly violated the ceasefire over the past 24 hours. It also said that it suffered no casualties.

NKR Foreign Minister Received Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office

January 19, 2015 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Karabakh No Comments
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18:36, January 19, 2015

On January 19, Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Nagorno Karabakh Republic Karen Mirzoyan received Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk. 

During the meeting, the sides discussed a range of issues related, in particular, to the current situation on the Line of Contact between the armed forces of Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan, and the monitoring conducted by the Office of the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office.

The parties touched upon the January 14 planned monitoring of the Line of Contact between the armed forces of Nagorno Karabakh and Azerbaijan, halted because of a shot fired from the Azerbaijani side.

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Featured Books

Book Reviews

John Balian’s “Novel Approach” Brings the Armenian Saga to the Masses – An interview with John Balian by Lucine Kasbarian

Gray Wolves and White Doves cover art

Armenians often wish for a tale about the Armenian Genocide and its aftermath that would make a blockbuster film and draw attention to their cause. John Balian’s new book, Gray Wolves and White Doves (CreateSpace/Amazon.com), may be that tale.

 Largely autobiographical, this atmospheric novel is presented through the eyes of an innocent young boy trying to make sense of the world as he grows up amid repressive conditions in Western Armenia/Eastern Turkey during the 1960s and 70s.

 This fast-paced, multi-layered narrative takes readers from Hanna Ibelin’s (a.k.a. Jonah Ibelinian’s) close-knit family life in the perilous Asia Minor region of Palu to terror and tragedy while en route to Syria’s Kamishli, to a bleak existence on the mean streets of Istanbul.

New Children’s Picture Book From Armenian Folklore

Teaneck, N.J. and Belmont, Mass. –  An Armenian folktale retold by Armenian-American writer Lucine Kasbarian and illustrated by Moscow-based artist Maria Zaikina debuts with Marshall Cavendish Children’s Publishers in April 2011.

The Greedy Sparrow: An Armenian Tale is from the ancient Armenian oral tradition and culture, which was nearly obliterated during the Turkish genocide of the Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915. The author learned the tale from her father, editor and columnist C.K. Garabed, who would recite it to her at bedtime. He had learned it from his own grandmother, a celebrated storyteller from the Old Country.  The tale was first put to paper by Armenian poet Hovhannes Toumanian at the turn of the 20th century.

“We Need To Lift The Armenian Taboo”

Turkish writer and publicist Ahmet Insel labels the initiative of the Turkish Nationalist Movement Party to pray namaz on the ruins of Ani as provocation.

In an interview with “A1+,” the publicist said the initiative was supported only by a small percentage of Turks.

“They offered namaz in Ani in protest against Christian rites carried out in Trabzon and Akhtamar. The leader of the Nationalist Movement Party, Devlet Bahceli said if Christians are allowed to pray inside museums, similarly he can pray namaz in Armenian churches,” said Ahmet Insel.

The Turkish writer arrived in Armenia to participate in a book festival. Presentation of Armenian version of Dialogue sur le tabou arménien (Dialogue about the Armenian Tabou) co-authored by Ahmet Insel and Michel Marian was held during the festival.

US Media Discusses The Armenian Genocide

BURBANK, CALIFORNIA –  KFI 640, a popular news/talk radio station hosted by Bill Handel on September 23 aired a live interview with Michael Bobelian, the writer of a new book titled  Children of Armenia: A Forgotten Genocide and the Century-long Struggle for Justice

The book chronicles the aftermath of the Armenian Genocide of 1915, and recounts a people’s struggle for justice in the face of a century of silence and denial.

During the interview, which was aired during the prime morning time slot, Bill Handel addressed both the efforts within the United States to ensure that the US government appropriately acknowledges the Armenian Genocide and Turkey’s ongoing denial.

Handel, a well known and nationally syndicated radio talk show host, has discussed the Armenian Genocide during past shows.

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Commentary

Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

Yerevan Calling: A Weekly Roundup of Random Musings from Armenia

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13:05, October 3, 2014

Here it is dear readers, the debut of a weekly column I hope to maintain on a regular basis.

It’s sort of a catch-all of news snippets, irreverent commentary, and personal observations on what’s happened during the week here in Yerevan, and throughout Armenia.. Hopefully, you’ll find it interesting, if not slightly diverting.

Your comments and suggestions are welcomed.

Regards – Hrant

Oct. 2 – Protests Throughout Armenia: A Game of Numbers & Solidarity

Three separate protest rallies took place in Armenia today.

As Hetq reported earlier, business owners in the town of Sevan kept their stores and factories shut to protest changes to the so-called volume (sales) tax. Local residents flocked to the bread factory to wait on line for a loaf or two.

China: President Takes Action Against High Ranking Corrupt Officials

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21:31, July 30, 2014

Zhou Yongkang, one of China’s most powerful former leaders, is under investigation in the highest-level corruption inquiry since the Communist Party came into power in 1949.

Under current president Xi Jinping’s anti-corruption campaign, the party’s Central Commission for Discipline Inspection is investigating Zhou for “serious disciplinary violations,” as the officialXinhua news agency reports. Media has not yet, however, specified the allegations against him.

The probe is an attempt to show the length to which Xi and the party will go in order to combat abuse of power reportsThe Wall Street Journal. 

A commentary published in the officialPeoples Daily makes the point that regardless of  an official’s rank or supporters, punishment will result for violating laws or the party’s discipline. 

Armenian Gangs: Caught between an Archetype and a Cliché

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19:15, July 12, 2014

By Marineh Khachadour

“The whole thing started with a scene straight out of a mobster movie. It was around 6 p.m. when more than a dozen men from two organized crime groups opened fire on each other in a North Hollywood parking lot. Witnesses say nearly everyone was armed, and the shootout quickly went mobile. The men took off in cars, exchanging fire as they weaved through the Whitsett Avenue traffic.”

Stories such as this are not unique to Armenians in the American press, but this investigative report recently published in the LA Weekly is about Armenian Power, the Los Angeles based Armenian gang that operates in the heavily Armenian populated communities of Glendale, Burbank, and North Hollywood.