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Baku Blasts EU ‘Double Standards’ On Karabakh

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Azerbaijan on Monday criticized the European Union for failing to explicitly voice support for the restoration of Azerbaijani control over Nagorno-Karabakh during last week’s summit in Riga with six ex-Soviet republics.

An Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry statement confirmed Baku’s dissatisfaction with references to the Karabakh conflict made in the summit’s concluding declaration.

“By trying to draft a compromise text on conflicts affecting some [EU] partner states, the authors of the declaration could not avoid something which is called double standards in the international practice,” charged the statement cited by the Trend news agency. “Azerbaijan expects the EU to express a clear and explicit position on the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.”

Azerbaijan Objects To EU Summit Statement Over Karabakh

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Azerbaijan nearly vetoed on Friday a joint declaration adopted at the European Union’s latest summit with six ex-Soviet states because of the wording of its references to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov, who represented his country at the summit held in Riga, reportedly stormed out of its concluding session that discussed the text drafted by EU officials. News reports from the Latvian capital said Mammadyarov demanded changes relating to the Karabakh dispute.

The 13-page declaration calls for the resolution of ethnic and territorial disputes in the former Soviet Union “on the basis of the principles and norms of international law.” It expresses “full support to the mediation efforts by the co-chairs of the Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including at the level of [U.S., Russian and French] Presidents and their statements since 2009.”

Armenian Military Vows ‘Restraint’ During Baku Games

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The Armenian military will do its best to prevent a fresh upsurge of fighting in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone during the upcoming European Games in Baku, Armenia’s First Deputy Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan said on Tuesday.

Tonoyan also warned Azerbaijan against escalating tensions along the “line of contact” around Karabakh and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border after the Olympic-style games scheduled for June 12-28.

“Olympic games will be held in Baku and Armenian forces will display restraint until their end,” he told Tert.am in an interview. “They are already showing restraint now, which is evident and visible. We are not provoking [skirmishes] or escalating the situation.”

National Press Club to Honor Azerbaijani Journalist

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23:11, May 18, 2015

WASHINGTON, May 18, 2015 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ —  The National Press Club announced that it will honor an Azerbaijani reporter, Khadija Ismayilova, with one of its 2015 press freedom awards.

Ismayilova, who has reported for Radio Free Liberty/Radio Free Europe and other news organizations, has been jailed sinceDecember 2014 on a variety of charges that independent observers such as the Committee to Protect Journalists have called bogus. Ismayilova is well known for hard-hitting reporting, including on the financial dealings of Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev and alleged corruption in his government.

She is one of nine reporters known to be jailed in Azerbaijan on similarly trumped up charges, in addition to a greater number of political prisoners who are not journalists, according to human rights groups.

Azerbaijan Oil Junket: 10 Members of U.S. Congress Took Trip Secretly Funded by Baku

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16:30, May 14, 2015

According to a confidential ethics report obtained by The Washington Post, SOCAR (the state-owned oil company of Azerbaijan) funded an all-expenses paid trip to Baku in 2013 for ten members of the U.S. Congress and 32 staff member to a conference in Baku.

The 70 page report by the Office of Congressional Ethics claims that SOCAR allegedly funneled $750,000 through nonprofit corporations in the U.S. to conceal the source of the funding.

The conference, titled “U.S.- Azerbaijan Convention: Vision for the Future,” took place on May 28 and 29, 2013.

During the previous year, SOCAR and several large energy companies sought exemptions for a $28 billion natural gas pipeline project in the Caspian Sea from U.S. economic sanctions being imposed on Iran.

Azeri, Turkish Troops Hold More Drills

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The Turkish and Azerbaijani armies began on Tuesday fresh joint military exercises in Azerbaijan highlighting their growing cooperation.

A statement by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry cited by local news agencies said the five-day exercises are taking place in Baku and the Nakhichevan exclave surrounded by Armenia, Iran and Turkey. It said they will be watched later this week by Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and General Umit Dundar, the commander of the Turkish Third Army deployed near Turkey’s borders with Armenia and Georgia.

The statement added that the drills are aimed at boosting “friendship, cooperation and coordination” between the armed forces of the two allied countries. It said nothing about the number of troops and military hardware involved in them.

World Bank Responds: ‘People Not Displaced Due to Our Projects’

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14:00, May 12, 2015

The World Bank yesterday rejected the findings of a recent International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that projects funded by the World Bank have physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people over the last decade.

On April 17, Hetq covered the main findings of the ICIJ investigation (Evicted and Abandoned), in an article entitled, “World Bank Project Displaces 440 People in Armenia According to ICIJ Investigation.”

The investigation claimed that an estimated 440people in Armenia have been physically or economically displaced by the World Bank’s “Electricity Supply Reliability Project”. In addition to the above project, the ICIJ claims that another three World Bank (WB) projects in Armenia have been cited as having confirmed or possible displacement between 2004 and 2013.

Azerbaijan: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Baku Bureau Finally Closed

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21:02, May 11, 2015

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Baku office has officially closed.

Azeri authorities raided the bureau in December 2014,interrogatingemployees and seizing computer equipment.

The premises were sealed off to staff, although the media service continued working from outside that office.

The owners of the office space, which formed part of a business center, reportedly asked RFE/RL not to return. RFE/RL had operated from the premises since 2006.

Prosecution investigator Sanan Pashayev allowed staff to enter the office on May 6 to clear out their possessions, according toPanorama.

The RFE/RL Baku team will continue its work in Prague, according to recentreports.

The closure is part of a wider trend of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media outlets finding themselves unable to continue operating in Azerbaijan.

Armenian Troops March In Russian WW2 Parade

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An Armenian army unit participated in Saturday’s massive Russian military parade in Moscow held on the 70th anniversary of victory over Nazi Germany in World War Two, which was also officially marked in Armenia.

The 64-strong unit and similar contingents from Azerbaijan, several other ex-Soviet states as well as China and India joined as many as 16,000 Russian soldiers in marching through Red Square.

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Russia – Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian watches a WW2 military parade in Moscow’s Red Square, 9May2015.

The parade, the biggest show of Russia’s military might since the Soviet collapse, was boycotted by the leaders of major Western powers because of Moscow’s role in the conflict in Ukraine. But about two dozen other world leaders, including President Serzh Sarkisian, chose to watch it alongside Russian President Vladimir Putin.

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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.

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.