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EU urges conflicting sides to observe ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

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The European Union calls on the conflicting parties in Nagorno-Karabakh, the subject of an unresolved dispute between Azerbaijan and Armenia, to observe the ceasefire, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said on Sunday, RIA Novosti reported.
“We are very concerned by the latest armed incidents which caused a number of casualties along the Line of Contact and the Armenian-Azerbaijani State border in recent days. We call on both sides to immediately respect the ceasefire, refrain from the use of force or any threat thereof, and continue efforts towards a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict,” the spokesman said in a statement.
The EU is ready to engage in renewed efforts towards a political settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and contribute to peace-building efforts, in full complementarity with the OSCE Minsk Group, the spokesperson added.
“We reiterate our full support to the efforts of the OSCE Minsk Group and the work of the three Co-Chairs, especially with regard to the need to continue negotiations at the highest level, as was agreed at the meeting between Presidents Sargsyan and Aliyev in Vienna on November 19, 2013,” the statement reads.Tensions along the contact line of Nagorno-Karabakh with Azerbaijan have been running high over the past few days. The ceasefire regime in the region has been violated several times, leading to casualties.Azerbaijan’s Defense Ministry said 14 Azeri servicemen have been killed and several others have been wounded. Defense officials of Nagorno-Karabakh Republic said at least three people on their side have died.
Armenia and Azerbaijan are still technically at war after a conflict over the disputed region of Nagorno-Karabakh in the early 1990s, left some 30,000 people dead. A ceasefire was agreed on in 1994, but a permanent peace deal has still not been signed.

Rebels ambush convoy in MH 17 crash site

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Separatist rebels in eastern Ukraine have ambushed a government troop column, killing at least 10 soldiers, close to where flight MH17 crashed, BBC News reports.A military spokesman confirmed 10 deaths but Ukrainian media say as many as 20 died in the overnight attack.
The rebels say they destroyed more than 30 vehicles while unverified video shows bodies around a burning vehicle.
A team of 70 Dutch and Australian forensic experts has arrived at the crash site.
Travelling in a convoy with Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) monitors, they are equipped to recover furtherhuman remains, the Dutch justice ministry said on its website (in Dutch).
Fighting in the region had previously hindered them reaching the area where the Malaysia Airlines jet came down on 17 July with the loss of all 298 passengers and crew.
But after Ukraine’s military declared a unilateral one-day suspension of operations against the rebels in Donetsk region on Thursday, an exploratory visit was made, followed up by the full deployment on Friday.
Australia believes that around 80 bodies remain at the site.

We are to blame for the challenges we face, says Armenian politician

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In an interview with Tert.am, Suren Abrahamyan of the opposition Republic party addressed the hottest issues on Armenia’s domestic and foreign political agenda and the keys problems the country faces today. The politician said doesn’t find any fault with foreign powers for either the political U-turn to the Eurasian integration or the increased tension across the Armenian-Azerbaijani borderline. Instead, he called for stronger pan-national efforts towards combating the existing challenges.
Azerbaijani-provoked subversive acts have become more active in the recent period. Do you see any warlike scenario?
Normally, when the trilateral meetings by the co-chairs [of the OSCE Minsk Group] reach a certain culmination, the Azerbaijanis start inciting provocations of the kind. Azerbaijan wishes to artificially exacerbate the situation to lead the international community to the belief that the Karabakh conflict can never receive a peaceful solution.
Such acts, unfortunately, serve as a basis for anti-Armenian decisions by the UN, Council of Europe etc. Yes, they do not contain mandatory requirements, but the impression is that they expect a solution to be reached by use of force. But the things unfortunately become more complicated we all thought.
You had objections to September 3 [the day President Serzh Sargsyan declared Armenia’s intention to join the Eurasian Customs Union], and now the CU accession format still remains unclear. Do you have any foreign policy strategy?
What the country and the society have to do for that is consolidation; all the efforts should be directed at raising the society’s immune system to help us resist international challenges. I assure you that neither the Turk, nor the Russian and nor even the European are to blame for the situation we are in today; the fault and responsibility lies with us. We need a new strategy and new approach to resist this permissiveness, this obscenity by Azerbaijan.
What can the Armenian authorities do in such a situation?
We must, first of all, keep our borders and defense positions strong to prevent the enemy’s bullet from reaching our towns and villages. So, I expect bolder and more sensible steps by the government. 

Azerbaijani Press – 8 Azerbaijani Soldiers Killed in Yesterday’s Border Clash

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11:30, August 1, 2014

While the Artsakh Defense Army yesterday reported that two of its soldiers were killed while repulsing an Azerbaijani incursion across the border, various Azerbaijani news outlets have today issued their own take on the incident.

APA reports that eight Azerbaijani servicemen were killed while repulsing an Armenian incursion.

Trend reports that Azerbaijani forces repulsed an Armenian incursion along the Aghdam and Terter border regions and that both sides suffered losses in the ensuing firefight.

According to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, some 20 soldiers from both sides have been killed in shooting incidents so far this year.

Source: HetqOriginial Article

Eurozone inflation slips deeper into danger zone

August 1, 2014 Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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Eurozone inflation has fallen to its lowest level since the height of the financial crisis, sliding further into what the European Central Bank (ECB) has described as a “danger zone”, BBC News reports.Prices rose in the single currency area by 0.4% in July, from 0.5% in June.The ECB considers that an inflation rate of below 1% poses a risk of deflation.Separate figures show that unemployment in the region fell slightly to 11.5% in June compared to 11.6% in May.Separate figures show that unemployment in the region fell slightly to 11.5% in June compared to 11.6% in May. the rate remains persistently below the ECB’s target rate of 2%. Prices have risen at an annualised rate of less than 1% for the last ten months.Central Bank governor, Mario Draghi, has previously warned that he would deem inflation below 1% to be in a “danger zone”, which could lead to prices tipping into a deflationary spiral. 

Western Watchdogs Alarmed By Another Azeri Arrest

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Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International demanded on Thursday the immediate release of another Azerbaijani civil society member arrested on charges of spying for Armenia.

Leyla Yunus, a prominent human rights activist critical of Azerbaijan’s leadership, was taken into custody on Wednesday after repeated interrogations relating to her involvement in Armenian-Azerbaijani people-to-people diplomacy. She was charged with treason, tax evasion and fraud and remanded in pre-trial custody.

Azerbaijani prosecutors also charged her equally famous husband, Arif Yunus, with high treason but stopped short of arresting him pending investigation.

In a joint statement, Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor-General’s Office and National Security Ministry claimed that the couple for years maintained contacts with Armenian non-governmental organizations with the aim of spying for Armenia. They said Yunus and her husband recruited prominent journalist Rauf Mirgadirov and other Azerbaijanis to pass classified information to Armenian intelligence agents posing as civic activists.

Russia Slams U.S. ‘Threats’ To Armenia

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Russia condemned the United States on Thursday for warning Armenia against business dealings with Russian firms that have been sanctioned by Washington as well as the European Union.

The Russian Embassy in Armenia reacted to the “thinly veiled threats” to the Armenian government and business community just hours after a statement on the matter released by U.S. Embassy in the country.

“We express concern over American attempts to complicate the work of Russian business in the Republic of Armenia,” the Russian mission said in a statement. “All Russian companies present in Armenia, including the VTB Armenia and Areksimbank banks, are under its jurisdiction, operate within the framework of the country’s legislation, make profits and pay taxes in Armenia, and employ a considerable part of the population.”

Double Whammy: European Court Hits Russia with $2.6 Billion Payment Demand in Yukos Case

July 31, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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12:44, July 31, 2014

Just days after some shareholders in the former oil giant Yukos won a $50 billion settlement in The Hague, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has awarded Yukos shareholders another 1.9 billion euros ($2.6 billion) in compensation, according to Reuters.

Shareholders had argued that Russia had unlawfully seized it after imposing bogus taxes and via a sham auction.

The Strasbourg-based court said Russia should also pay 300,000 euros in costs and expenses, plus any tax.

Yukos had sought compensation of just under $38 billion, according to the ruling. This was based on a valuation by a specialist energy firm, according to a source close to the claim.

Department of State’s religious freedom report not unbiased – opinions

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The US Department of State’s 2013 Religious Freedom Report on Armenia is estimated as biased and untrue by religious circles and national minority representatives.
What particularly raises controversies is the allegation that minority religious groups face discriminations against the backdrop of wide privileges granted to the Armenian Apostolic Church.
“Religious organizations are obliged to preserve and protect their own belief instead of engaging themselves in soul hunting. Nobody prevents them from pursuing their own belief. Such a statement could have been made only by individuals, circles and groups that are interested in destabilizing of Armenia and contributing to the Armenian nation’s internal splitting. What is mentioned there is absolutely untrue,” Archimandrite Komitas Hovnanyan told Tert.am, expressing his strong disagreement with the findings.
He said he is more than convinced that increased privileges to religious organizations are a major national security threat. “There are, so to say, religious minorities whose propaganda is based on plans to split the state institution. The youth, for instance, are called upon to avoid serving in the military, using weapons or protecting their country,” he noted.
Commenting on what the report described as privileges to the Armenian Apostolic Church, Mr Hovnanyan said, “The Armenian Apostolic Church does not actually have any privileges at all. It just follows that the publications on the Armenian Church contain no wrong records. The history of Armenian church is taught in schools by secular [teachers] not priests,” he added.
Hovnanyan said he believes that countries publishing such reports pursue specific interests, adding that Armenian state in turn is obliged to protect its own interests in such circumstances. “We must not let anyone speculate the concepts of freedom of conscience or speech by distorting their meaning. Freedom of conscience implies freedom of individual, not violence and coercion into adopting a belief of which the nation is not a follower,” he added.
Alexander Amaryan, the president of the Rehabilitation Center for Victims of Destructive Sects, agreed that granting wide privileges to the non-traditional religious groups is a threat to national security.
“All the data the Department of State publishes in the report are provided by local rights institutions which submit biased reports in an effort to extort grants. No other country is as tolerant as Armenia, as the laws here never place restrictions on religious organizations,” he added.
Amaryan said he thinks that restrictions exist in Europe not in Armenia, adding that the national churches in all countries enjoy certain privileges. “They all have begun assisting religious organizations and later complain about intolerance. That’s a bluff,” he said, describing the findings as an attempt to exert pressure on the Armenian authorities.
Aziz Tamoyan, the president of Armenia’s Yezidi community, also disagreed with the allegation that ethnic and religious minorities experience discrimination in the country. “We are free; nobody prevents us from preserving our national holidays and traditions. On the contrary, we here have our own schools, and it is thanks to Armenia that our culture develops around the world,” he said, adding that the Armenian Apostolic Church demonstrates respect for the Yezidis’ traditions.
“Why doesn’t [the United States of] America care about the disappearing Yezidi and Asyrian populations in the north of Iraq? Let them think of measures to prevent their Yezidis from changing their religion, as they are physically exterminated by Muslims,” Tamoyan noted.
The Jewish community’s president, Rima Varzhapetyan, also denied the reports about restrictions or violations against minority groups in Armenia.
Asked whether the community is concerned about the privileges granted to the national church, Varzhapetyan replied, “The Armenian Apostolic Church has always proven that it is very tolerant and progressive.”
According to Avetik Iskhanyan, Chairperson of the Helsinki Committee of Armenia, the report is based on objective evaluations.
“Religious tolerance is really quite a serious issue in Armenia, as the media all the time conduct a one-sided propaganda. In secondary schools, the history of Armenian church is taught in an effort to conduct an anti-propaganda against other religious organizations. The children who receive such kind of education develop intolerance to other religious organizations,” he noted.
Asked whether it isn’t normal that the Armenian Apostolic Church has privileges as opposed to other religious groups, Ishkhanyan said, “International standards allow for granting privileges to a church, but that should not amount to a discriminatory attitude to other religious organizations. Our laws give the Apostolic Church monopolistic rights,” he added.
Asked whether higher privileges for other religious organizations would not be a national security threat, Ishkhanyan said he thinks just the other way about. “Religious intolerance is a real threat to Armenia’s security, as it splits up the nation on religious grounds,” he noted.
“Representatives of other religious organizations are oppressed in Armenia, because they never see themselves as full-fledged citizens. This is really a national security threat, because identifying an Armenian with the Armenian Apostolic Church really splits up the nation.” 

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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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Commentary

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.

Want to Write for Hetq?

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10:24, March 14, 2014

I’m looking for freelancers who can broaden the scope of Hetq’s English edition

Arts & Culture, Commentary, Politics, Civil Society, Interviews…

Anything interesting happening in your local community you’d like to share?

Write to me with your ideas and story suggestions.

Hrant at hg.hetq@gmail.com

Source: HetqOriginial Article

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.