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Mediator Says Sarkisian, Aliyev Met During Hague Summit

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The presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan met on the sidelines of the recent Nuclear Security Summit, an American peace broker said on Thursday.

James Warlick, the United States co-chair of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe’s (OSCE) Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, reported through his Twitter account that Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev “spoke together” during the event held in The Hague on March 24-25.

“Are they really committed to finding a way to Nagorno-Karabakh peace?” the mediator wondered in a short message, without giving details about the meeting.

No official statement on the meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders has been made yet.

Security Fixation: Do Armenian Officials Really Need Armored Limos and Huge Police Escorts?

March 27, 2014 Armenia, Arts, Europe No Comments
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10:18, March 26, 2014

In recent months, Armenian citizens have witnessed how the government is spending millions of AMD on security and personal comfort when officials have to get from Point A to Point B.

Take Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan’s trip to Sochi to attend the Winter Olympics. Instead of taking a commercial flight for the short trip, an Air Armenia plane was hired for US$20,000.

So why couldn’t Sargsyan fly with the rest of us mortals? Couldn’t the government find a better place to spend all that money?

Armored limousines, police escorts, closed streets…All this to provide security for our beloved government representatives.

Armenia To Abstain During UN Vote On Crimea Draft Resolution

March 26, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Top News No Comments
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Armenia is going to abstain during the vote on the draft resolution on Crimea which is to take place at the United Nations General Assembly on Thursday, a source at the Armenian Foreign Ministry said.
 
According to Reuters, Ukraine has circulated a draft resolution to the U.N. General Assembly that would declare invalid Crimea’s March 16 referendum. The new text, which U.N. diplomats said Ukraine distributed to the 193-nation assembly over the weekend, dismisses the referendum as “having no validity, (and) cannot form the basis for any alteration of the status of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea or of the City of Sevastopol.”
 
It is noteworthy that in their telephone conversation on March 19, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian and his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin were quoted as stating that the referendum in Crimea “constitutes another case of exercise of peoples’ right to self-determination via free expression of will.” Ukraine construed that statement as Armenia’s recognition of Russia’s annexation of what official Kyiv still considers to be Ukrainian territory. Last week Ukraine officially recalled its ambassador from Armenia, warning of serious damage to bilateral ties.
 
Meanwhile, a vote is also due to be held at the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) on two resolutions implying sanctions against Russia in the context of Crimea’s annexation. Head of the Armenian delegation to the PACE David Harutiunian said the members of the Armenian delegation could have different positions. “I can speak for myself and say that I am against the application of sanctions. I will vote against this initiative rather than abstain,” said Harutiunian, a member of Armenia’s ruling Republican Party.

Armen Rustamian, another delegation member representing the opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation, also spoke against the initiatives. “It simply means giving up on dialogue, which is much more important today in order to achieve solutions to problems in the political domain. But sanctions will, on the contrary, push Russia towards seclusion.”

Armenia Still Sees Opportunity For Political Accord With EU

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Officials in Armenia as well as some members of the country’s opposition still see an opportunity for signing the political component of the Association Agreement with the European Union after Brussels inked a similar document with Ukraine last week.

From Karabakh to Nuke Station Concerns: Armenian president attending Hague summit

Armenian News

A nuclear security summit is opening in the Hague, Netherlands, on March 24. According to official information, the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan, Serzh Sargsyan and Ilham Aliyev, will attend the summit. U.S. co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group James Warlick earlier through his Twitter expressed a hope that the presidents will meet in the Hague to discuss the Karabakh issue.

However, it is no less interesting whether Sargsyan will meet with world leaders and how they will react to the fact that Armenia, in fact, supported the referendum on Crimea’s secession from Ukraine and accession to Russia. In a telephone conversation with his Russian counterpart Vladimir Putin last week the Armenian president described the referendum as “another case of exercise of peoples’ right to self-determination via free expression of will.” Meanwhile, the international community has condemned the referendum, considering Crimea’s joining Russia to be a case of annexation.

Turkish President Gül says presidency in contact with Twitter to end ban

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President Abdullah Gl has said the presidency is in talks with Twitter for a speedy resolution to the block on the website in Turkey, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
“I instructed my staff to contact [Twitter] when this problem started to put an end to this bitter situation,” Gl told reporters in Ankara before his departure for an official visit to the Netherlands on March 23.
“It is not legally possible to shut down the Internet and platforms [like Twitter]” he added, remarking on the fact that the number of tweets had doubled since the government blocked access to Twitter.
“This is of course an unpleasant situation for such a developed country as Turkey, which has weight in the region and which is negotiating with the European Union. Therefore, it will be overcome soon,” he said.
The president also confirmed that the U.S.-based social media giant had hired a lawyer in Turkey for negotiations with the authorities.
“Twitter did not have any representative in Turkey. There should be good communication channels with such… giants. They now have a lawyer here acting for them,” he said.
Gl, an enthousiast social media user, took to Twitter on March 21 to criticize the government’s ban hours after the network went dark, becoming the highest-level leader in the country to circumvent the block, along with some ministers.
The Twitter ban was instituted late March 20 after Prime Minister Recep Erdogan vowed to “wipe out” the social network amid the leak of a number of wiretapped phone recordings, mostly linked with the graft scandal.

Russia: Crimea ‘reunification’ was ‘not planned’

March 23, 2014 Arts, Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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Moscow’s ambassador to the EU has welcomed what he called the “reunification” of Crimea with Russia but denied that the move was planned, the BBC reports.Vladimir Chizhov told the BBC the move was the end of an “abnormality” which had lasted for 60 years.Russia formally annexed the Ukrainian region on Friday after a referendum.On Saturday Russian troops and pro-Russian protesters stormed two Ukrainian military airbases in Crimea, bringing them under Russian control.Mr Chizhov said Ukrainian troops in Crimea had to decide whether to resign, join the Russian army or leave the territory in uniform.He warned the US against sending troops or military aid to Ukraine, saying it would be a “grave mistake”.Mr Chizhov said that while Russia did not recognise the new government in Kiev, he expected them to safeguard the rights of ethnic Russians in Ukraine.”We want to see the interests of people living in eastern Ukraine – ethnic Russians, Russian speakers, all the population of eastern Ukraine – to be taken into account by whoever is the authority in Kiev today” he said.He added that Russia did not have any intention to send troops into other parts of Ukraine or Europe. 

No need to hurry for Russian integration, says Employers’ Union Chief

March 22, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe No Comments
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The president of the Republican Union of Employers has warned against any haste in the Customs Union integration efforts. 
At a news conference on Saturday, Gagik Makaryan said he thinks that lingering the process would now be in the best interests of Armenia in the light of the United States’ attempts to maximum undermine the Eurasian Customs Union.He stressed the importance of letting Russia know that Armenia has lost real donor money due to the conflicts with Ukraine and the United States’ reaction to all that. Makaryan said he thinks Russia’s conduct a clear sign that the country is not absolutely interested in the economic development of Armenia.
He said he doesn’t find Russia’s large-scale projects for Armenia effective enough to bring about a real progress. He particularly pointed out to the Russian railway project. “The railway is a huge system that sees money spent for reasons not absolutely understandable. But the trains go no faster than they did in the 18th century; that’s horse speed,” he said, further complaining of the low effectiveness of the Russian projects in the electric networks and the natural gas sector.
Makaryan said he doesn’t expect the United States and Europe to cease pressures against Russia. He said the sanctions will continue “until the Russia economy is weak enough to allow for democratic movements”.He noted further that a possible deterioration of the living standards in Russia will cause many Armenians to lose jobs.
Makaryan noted that all that would eventually deteriorate the socio-economic life in Russia, also causing harm to many Armenians working there. “If the construction industries weaken in Russia, the Armenian will really suffer losses, as there will be less transfers. That will also affect Armenia, increasing the poverty rate even more,” he added. 

Breath of Victory: Armenia’s Eurovision 2014 participant, officials upbeat on song success

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Positive responses to the romantic ballad to be sung by Armenia’s representative in Eurovision 2014 as well as bookmaker predictions have created expectations of victory in the Danish capital of Copenhagen where Europe’s biggest pop music contest is due to take place in May.

During Friday’s meeting with media in Yerevan head of Armenia’s Eurovision delegation Gohar Gasparyan said that she had participated in the meeting of Eurovision delegations in Copenhagen and that all reactions to Armenian singer Aram Mp3’s ‘Not Alone’ song were positive there. She even called such overwhelmingly positive response unprecedented for an Armenian entry.

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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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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.