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Armenia’s decision in favor of Customs Union not surprise for anyone – Serzh Sargsyan

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In response to a question concerning the reasons for Armenia’s decision to join the Customs Union, Armenia’s president said that Armenian-Russian friendship is 250 years old. The two peoples had for decades lived in one state and have common culture and economic ties.Therefore, no one was surprised at Armenia’s willingness to join the Customs Union.“Besides, we have a bilateral friendship agreement and we are part on one and the same security system. In addition, the Customs Union grants certain privileges to the member-states. For example, Armenia will be able to import energy carriers at competitive prices, which will enable us to produce competitive goods in our reduced circumstances. This is the motive for our decision, which, however, does not mean we end cooperation with the European Union,” Armenia’s leader said.Moreover, during the talks with his French president, President Serzh Sargsyan said that it is desirable that the EU make a special proposal for association to Armenia.On his part, the French president stated his willingness to exert efforts to develop Armenia-EU cooperation in all areas.Armenia’s geopolitical location is unique. Therefore, it decided to continue ties with Russia. So President François Hollande tries to treat Armenia’s position with understanding.Full association with the EU meets Armenia’s interests, the French president said. On the other hand, he does not encourage Armenia to sever its ties with Russia. The EU should understand Armenia’s exceptional circumstances and that the country has to be involved in a process of integrating with the EU, the French leader said. 

South Caucasus singers create English version of song ‘Together’

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The European Integration NGO has released the following statement:Dear colleagues ,In the framework of the project “Together 2” implemented by non-governmental organizations “European Integration” (Yerevan), “Society for Humanitarian Research” (Baku) and “Institute of Public Diplomacy” (Stepanakert) there is prepared the English version of the song “Together” www.soundcloud.com/project-together/song-together / created with the joint effort of musicians and song-writers from the region of Karabakh conflict in the first phase of the project. The song is performed by Yevgeniya Timchenko (Baku), Narine Grigoryan (Stepanakert) and Gayane Sargsyan (Yerevan). The design of the song, then its dissemination today – on May 12 – is symbolic as today is marked by the 20th anniversary of the ceasefire agreement signed on May 12, 1994 in Bishkek.Project “Together 2” (as well as the preceding project “Together”) is implemented with the assistance of the US Government.Project “Together 2” is the continuation of the project “Together” in the framework of which musicians, poets, designers, PR specialists, photographers and video-makers from the region of the Karabakh conflict presented their ideas and works (attributes, logos, slogans, lyrics, music, photos and videos) on the topic of “Peace”.In the framework of the project “Together” the Russian version of the song “Together” /https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DIIFzldcY6c/ was already disseminated in 2012.We should mention that the song (both Russian and English versions), the logo, slogan, video and photo of the project “Together” are the result of the co-authorship of the participating sides.We prioritize also the fact that motivation of the representatives of the creative groups taken part in the project was not any kind of award but rather inspiration with the whole concept of the project. There was no other motivating component foreseen by the project.The organizers and participants are united with a common belief that such projects, even with a single step, a single note still bring us closer to peace which we all are looking forward to.To find out more about the project, its results, you can visit its Project “Together” page on Facebook /https://www.facebook.com/pages/Project-Together/173624829397826?ref=hl/.Sincerely,NGO “European Integration”
 

France’s Hollande Calls For EU-Armenia ‘Association’

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The European Union should upgrade its relationship with Armenia to political “association” despite Yerevan’s plans to join the Russian-led Customs Union, French President Francois Hollande said at the start of an official visit to the country on Monday.
 
Hollande arrived in the Armenian capital on the second leg of his tour of the three South Caucasus states which he began in Baku on Sunday. He and his Armenian counterpart, Serzh Sarkisian, opened a French-Armenian business forum immediately after a welcoming ceremony held at the Zvartnots international airport.
 
“We are not forcing Armenia to make a choice that runs counter to Armenia’s interests. I spoke with Serzh Sarkisian about that during his visit to France [last autumn,]” Hollande told the forum attended by several dozen French businesspeople.
 
“We need to devise a Europe-Armenia association that would not constrain you with regard to the Customs Union plans that you have with Russia,” he said. The EU and Armenia can work out a model for such association, he added.
 
Armenia was on track to sign a far-reaching Association Agreement with the EU until Sarkisian unexpectedly decided last August, under apparent Russian pressure, to join the Russian-dominated trade bloc. The EU abandoned the planned agreement in response, saying that its dominant component — the creation of a Deep and Comprehensive Freed Trade Area (DCFTA) — is “not compatible” with membership in the Customs Union.
 

FCO Minister Comments on 20th Anniversary of Nagorno-Karabakh Ceasefire

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11:38, May 12, 2014

Minister for Europe calls for renewed effort by all parties to find a permanent solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. 

Speaking on 12 May, David Lidington, Minister for Europe said:

Today marks 20 years since the Nagorno-Karabakh ceasefire agreement. While it brought an end to the fiercest fighting, real peace is yet to be achieved. Sniper fire continues to take lives on both sides; often the soldiers fighting are younger than the ceasefire itself. A humanitarian crisis continues as hundreds of thousands of displaced people still lack an adequate resolution to their plight. Peace will only be possible through compromises on both sides.

Hollande in bid to boost Caucasus ties amid Ukraine crisis

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French President Francois Hollande starts a three-day visit to the South Caucasus on Sunday as he seeks to bolster European ties on Russia’s southern doorstep amid the crisis in Ukraine, Agence France-Presse reports.Hollande was due to arrive in the Azerbaijani capital Baku around 6:00 pm (1300 GMT) Sunday, on the same day separatists in eastern Ukraine held referendums on breaking away from the country.His visit is unlikely to be welcomed in Moscow, which has long considered the ex-Soviet republics of Azerbaijan, Armenia and Georgia to be in its sphere of influence.French officials insisted the visit is not confrontational and aimed only at boosting the European Union’s relations in the region.”We do not see this work for closer ties with the European Union as against Russia,” a source in Hollande’s office said.”This is not a combative visit, but one aimed at promoting closer ties,” the source said.Hollande will meet Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev before heading to Armenia on Monday and Georgia on Tuesday.Like Ukraine, all three countries have sought closer ties with Europe, with Georgia going so far as to seek to join the NATO military alliance.Hollande’s visit to the Georgian capital Tbilisi is especially sensitive in the wake of the 2008 Georgia-Russia war over the regions of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.The EU is keen to sign “Eastern Partnership” political and trade agreements with ex-Soviet countries, including those in the South Caucasus.Much of the focus of Hollande’s visit will be on economic ties, in particular in Azerbaijan, where European companies are heavily involved in the country’s energy industry.In Armenia he will focus as well on cultural ties, attending a concert Monday by Charles Aznavour, the French crooner of Armenian origin, and dedicating a square to Missak Manouchian, a French-Armenian poet and resistance fighter who was executed by the Nazis.There are some 500,000 French of Armenian descent and the community is an important political constituency.Hollande will also discuss the Nagorno-Karabakh dispute with the Azerbaijani and Armenian leaders, after years of fruitless negotiations on resolving the frozen conflict.Along with Russia and the United States, France has for 20 years been trying to mediate a peace deal in the conflict.The conflict has simmered on, with frequent exchanges of gunfire and vows from Baku to retake the region by force. 

Lithuanians elect president as 2015 Euro adoption nears

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Dalia Grybauskaite is set to win re-election as Lithuania’s president today, getting a mandate to lead the nation into the euro area next year, Bloomberg reports.
Grybauskaite, the first female president in the nation of 2.94 million, leads six other candidates in the race for a five-year term, opinion polls show. Voting starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 8 p.m. First results are expected around 10 p.m.
Lithuanians are picking their head of state as the Baltic nation prepares for euro adoption on Jan. 1. She has supported the government’s austerity efforts to cut a budget gap and qualify for euro adoption during her term in office.
“We’re fully prepared to join the club that makes economic decisions in Europe,” Grybauskaite said during her campaign on Lithuania’s readiness to adopt the euro. The nation is ready to sit at the decision-making “table and not be left behind.”
The incumbent had 41 percent support, compared with 16 percent for her closest rival and former Finance Minister Zigmantas Balcytis, according to an April 11-24 poll for ELTA by Baltijos Tyrimai polling agency that interviewed 1,001 people. The margin of error was 3 percent.
To win the presidency in today’s first round, Grybauskaite has to garner more than 50 percent of votes cast with turnout of at least 50 percent, or get one third of all eligible votes if turnout is below 50 percent. If she fails to do so, the winner will be picked in the second and final round on May 25.
Grybauskaite, an independent candidate, is the country’s former finance minister and had also served as a European Union budget commissioner.
In Lithuania, the president is responsible for foreign policy, nominates cabinets for parliamentary approval, appoints judges and has the right to veto laws.
Some 5 percent of eligible voters have already cast ballots in early voting this week, the chief Election Committee said in a statement on May 9.

Russian Envoy Stands By Controversial Remarks

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Armenia – Russian Ambassador to Armenia Ivan Volynkin.

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Russia’s show of military might in pictures

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15:47 • 09/05
Prosperous Armenia party delegation visits Victory Park

15:14 • 09/05
Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin flies to Crimea

14:50 • 09/05
‘I’ll never backtrack’ – Ivan Volynkin

14:25 • 09/05
Armenia’s premier determined to do his best for equal economic conditions

14:09 • 09/05
Serzh Sargsyan attends in Victory Day events in Karabakh (photos)

13:47 • 09/05
Renowned composer Konstantin Orbelyan to be buried in Armenia

13:39 • 09/05
Russia’s show of military might in pictures

13:34 • 09/05
Armenia’s first president joins victory celebrations

13:27 • 09/05
Victory Day celebrated in Yerevan Victory Park

13:10 • 09/05
US Embassy to Armenia responds to criticism over Warlick’s speech

Ukraine crisis: Vladimir Putin flies to Crimea

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President Vladimir Putin has flown to Crimea, which Russia annexed in March, amid celebrations of the Soviet victory over Nazi Germany in 1945, the BBC reports.In a speech in Moscow earlier, Mr Putin paid tribute to World War Two heroes and vowed to defend the “motherland”.German Chancellor Angela Merkel had said it would be a pity if Mr Putin used the anniversary to visit Crimea.Meanwhile, reports say several people died in a shoot-out between Ukrainian troops and separatists in Mariupol.Mr Putin, addressing thousands in Moscow’s Red Square during a huge hour-long military parade, did not mention Ukraine in his speech.He told the crowd that 9 May, known as Victory Day in Russia, was a “day of grief and eternal memory” and stressed how the “iron will of the Soviet people” had saved Europe from slavery.”It is a holiday when an overwhelming force of patriotism triumphs, when all of us feel particularly acutely what it means to be loyal to the motherland and how important it is to defend its interests,” he said.
 

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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

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.

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.