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Ukraine crisis: US raises pressure on Russia

April 19, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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The US has threatened tougher economic sanctions if Russia fails to abide by a new international agreement to help de-escalate the crisis in Ukraine, BBC News reported.
The Kremlin responded by accusing the White House of treating Moscow like a “guilty schoolboy” over the deal.
Meanwhile, Ukraine’s foreign minister said “anti-terrorist” operations in the east would be put on hold over Easter.
Pro-Russian separatists in several cities are refusing to leave buildings, defying a key term of the accord.
Russia, Ukraine, the EU and US had agreed during talks in Geneva that illegal military groups in Ukraine must be dissolved, and that those occupying government premises must be disarmed and leave.
The sides also decided there would be an amnesty for all anti-government protesters.
But the separatists’ spokesman in the city of Donetsk said that the Kiev government was “illegal”, and vowed they would not go until it stepped down.
The protesters also insisted that pro-European Union demonstrators in Kiev’s Maidan Square – the vanguard of the protest movement that toppled President Viktor Yanukovych, an ally of Moscow – had to pack up their camp first. See more here.

Sarkisian Again Defends Turkish-Armenian Accords

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Armenia – President Serzh Sarkisian examines an Armenian-made rifle during a visit to the Defense Ministry in Yerevan, 18Apr2014.

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President Serzh Sarkisian on Friday again defended his administration’s 2009 normalization agreements with Turkey against strong criticism voiced in Armenia and especially its worldwide Diaspora.

Yerevan Silent After Russian ‘Threat’

April 18, 2014 Armenia, Arts, Europe, Top News No Comments
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Armenia – Russian Ambassador to Armenia Ivan Volynkin.

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The Armenian government has pointedly refused to add its voice to domestic concerns about Russia’s recent pledge to counter any “aggressive” foreign interference in Armenia’s internal affairs.

EU Parliament condemns attack on Kessab and other vulnerable communities in Syria

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The European Parliament in its last plenary session before the May 2014 elections, adopted a resolution on Syria, expressing its concern on the latest developments in the country, especially with the situation in Kessab, and vulnerable communities who find themselves in the middle of the war.

The resolution specifically condemns the attack against the Armenian town of Kessab, and takes note that “the fights between regime forces and rebel fighters, including elements linked to Al-Qaeda, at the end of March 2014 led to the evacuation of the vast majority of the population of Kassab, an Armenian town on the Syrian-Turkish border”.

European Parliament condemns attack on Kessab

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In its last plenary session before the May 2014 elections, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on Syria, expressing its concern on the latest developments in the country, especially with the situation in Kessab, and vulnerable communities who find themselves in the middle of the war.
The resolution specifically condemns the attack against the Armenian town of Kessab, and takes note that “the fights between regime forces and rebel fighters, including elements linked to Al-Qaeda, at the end of March 2014 led to the evacuation of the vast majority of the population of‪#‎Kessab‬, an ‪#‎Armenian‬ town on the Syrian-Turkish border”.
The resolution also takes note of the rich diversity of ethnic and religious communities, stressing that these communities have always been part of Syrian society, and have an important role to play in the democratization of Syria and need to be represented in any consultation on the country’s future and in any reconciliation process; and that these communities had tried to avoid taking sides in the conflict, and as many may recognize the need for a change of regime in Syria, but also fear that, if the government is overthrown, they will be targeted by Sunni jihadist rebels calling for the establishment of an Islamic state. The European Parliament is also worried with the Al-Qaeda-linked al-Nusra Front capturing a number of Christian and Kurdish villages on the Turkish border.
Bastiaan Belder (Europe of Freedom and Democracy, the Netherlands) stressed that the resolution will not be full, unless it mentions the whole truth about Kessab, about Turkish involvement once again, after the Armenian Genocide, in depopulating the Armenians of the region; MEP Belder also noted, that there must be an investigation on Turkey’s role in the attack against Kessab, which is a continuation of Ankara’s disastrous Middle East policy. Veronique De Keyser (Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats, vice-chair, Belgium) condemned the depopulation of Armenians from Kessab by terrorist groups.
Joaquin Almunia, Vice-president of the EU Commission, is troubled with the jihadist attack on Kessab and the extremely violent civil war in Syria, stressing that the EU will be helping the vulnerable groups and those displaced in the three years of the Syrian conflict.
Kaspar Karampetian, President of the European Armenian Federation for Justice and Democracy (EAFJD) stressed that the resolution has been soft on Turkey, which opened its borders with Kessab assisting the jihadists to attack the region, but nevertheless, puts the blame on Turkey for the border attacks on Christian and Kurdish cities and hindering humanitarian aid. “Turkey is guilty of assisting the extremists in driving out the peaceful population at the border with Syria”, said Kaspar Karampetian. “Armenians are thankful to the Syrian people for sheltering us after the Genocide committed by Turkey 99 years ago, and we sympathize them for the terrible violence in the country these days. We hope for an end soon, and that all communities are part of Syria and must be included in re-building the country with no outside interference”, said Karampetian, and concluded that the EAFJD is committed in assisting the Armenian community of Syria with humanitarian aid from Europe.

Date Set For Armenia’s Accession Treaty With Russian-Led Union

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With less than two weeks to go before the signing of an accession treaty with the Customs Union, Armenia has not yet secured vital trade preferences for its membership in the Russian-led bloc, Economy Minister Vahram Avanesian admitted on Thursday.

Top Job Vacancy: Parliament speaker’s appointment as PM triggers search for successor

April 16, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe, Karabakh No Comments
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Analysts think that a lawmaker “loyal” to the government will eventually be elected to the post of parliament speaker that remains vacant since its holder, Hovik Abrahamyan, was appointed prime minister earlier this week.

Abrahamyan’s powers as lawmaker and chairman of the National Assembly were terminated as he assumed the post of prime minister on Monday. Before the election of the new chairman, first Deputy Speaker Eduard Sharmazanov will act as speaker according to the National Assembly regulations.

Abrahamyan, who was first elected to parliament from a single-mandate constituency in 2008 and shortly became its speaker was returned to the legislature on the Republican Party of Armenia (RPA) list in 2012. According to the Electoral Code, within a week the seat will become available to the next candidate on the RPA list, which is RPA Council member Lernik Alexanyan in this case. Alexanyan said he will pick up the mandate.

Armenian Face of Ukrainian Drama: Armenian killed in Donetsk region hailed as hero by pro-Russia protesters

April 16, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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The death of a young ethnic Armenian in Ukraine amid escalating tensions in the eastern regions of the country has raised more concerns in Yerevan about the fate of compatriots living in this former Soviet country engulfed in civil strife.

By a twist of fate, 29-year-old Ruben Avanesyan, who was killed during clashes in Slavyansk, Donetsk region, on April 13, became the first victim on the side of those opposed to the new government in Kyiv. In January, Serhiy Nihoyan, a 20-year-old ethnic Armenian from Ukraine’s Dnipropetrovsk region, was shot dead during a protest in the streets of Kyiv, becoming one of the first victims among Euromaidan supporters and, in fact, an icon in the struggle against the government of Viktor Yanukovych that led to a change of power in late February.

Aliyev Blasts Armenia, West Over Karabakh

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Azerbaijan – President Ilham Aliyev speaks at a cabinet meeting in Baku, 13Apr2014.

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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.

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10:24, March 14, 2014

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For Better or For Worse: Nature Protection Ministry Proposes Amendments to Water Use Laws

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16:44, February 14, 2014

With the goal of providing a systematic solution to issues of effective use of water resources in Ararat valley, the Ministry of Nature Protection of the Republic of Armenia (RA) is proposing amendments and additions to the RA Water Code, and the RA laws on the Republic of Armenia’s National Water Program, on Licensing, and on State Tax.

The proposed legislative package has been sent to the relevant state agencies for their input.

Head of the Ministry of Nature Protection’s Water Resources Management Agency Volodya Narimanyan told Hetq, said that with this amendment package his ministry is attempting to clarify the ideas and the ambiguous commentary, as well as introduce new requirements. For example, one of the main points of the proposed amendments is if water use permit conditions are not met, the water use permit might be annulled.

2013 in Civil Society: Protests and more protests

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The struggle of civil movements this year has been comprehensive and diverse with limited success in certain fields due to unified efforts and active involvement of the civil society.

Despite the rather passive start of the year in terms of civil movements, the second half of 2013 turned out to be tense with active developments.

Some analysts believe that especially after the February 18 presidential ballot, when current president Serzh Sargsyan won a decisive victory over his opponents and was re-elected for a second term, despite the widespread poverty and atmosphere of injustice in the country, people became even more aware of the fact that is it impossible to achieve changes via elections and started practicing their constitutional rights to civil protest and disobedience more frequently.

Armenian Foreign Policies 2013: Customs Union, U-turn on EU accord, Karabakh, Turkey, regional developments

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2013 became a milestone year for Armenia not only in its foreign, but also domestic politics. After nearly four years of negotiations with the European Union over the signing of an association agreement on September 3 Armenia unexpectedly announced its intention to join the Customs Union of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan.

This decision has had its influence not only on Armenia proper, but also on the processes elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Inspired by Armenia’s decision, Russia stepped up its pressure on Ukraine, which suspended the process of signing of the Association Agreement with the EU one week before the Vilnius summit of Eastern Partnership. As a result, on November 29 such agreements were initialed only by Moldova and Georgia.

Heritage reshuffle: Postanjyan becomes new leader of parliamentary faction

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Zaruhi Postanjyan has been elected new head of the opposition Heritage faction in parliament. The change comes after Ruben Hakobyan announced his decision to resign as faction leader earlier today.

Talking to media in parliament Hakobyan said Heritage Party leader Raffi Hovannisian had been notified about his move well in advance. He left questions about reasons for his step without commentary, only saying that he had decided to step down as faction leader before the recent scandal around Postanjyan in the wake of her controversial question to President Serzh Sargsyan about his gambling habit at the PACE plenary session in Strasbourg on October 2.