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EU Seeking ‘More Clarity’ From Armenia

September 24, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe, Top News No Comments
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Armenia has to specify the implications of its upcoming accession to a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet states before it can negotiate new major agreements with the European Union, a senior official in Brussels said on Wednesday.

A spokesman for the EU’s Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said the Armenian government has yet to detail its “new obligations stemming from membership in the Customs Union” of Russia, Belarus and Kazakhstan. The EU needs to see to what extent those obligations can “influence or limit our cooperation in certain areas where there might be issues of legal compatibility,” he said.

Ex-Russian Envoy Again Warns Armenia

September 23, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe, Top News, Video No Comments
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Armenia will put its national security and independence at serious risk unless rejects “Western values” to fully align itself with Russia, a former Russian ambassador in Yerevan warned on Tuesday.

Vyacheslav Kovalenko claimed that failure to make a “final” geopolitical choice in favor of Russia could thrust the country into the kind of crisis that has plagued Ukraine since the overthrow of a pro-Russian government in Kiev.

“Armenia must make a choice because in order for the economy of a small country like Armenia to develop, it has to integrate, it has to join some integration structures,” Kovalenko told Armenian journalists in a video conference from Moscow. “And the choice here is stark. I think the situation will develop in such a way that we will require Armenia to make that choice.

Obama Praises ‘Strong’ Ties With Armenia

September 22, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe, Top News, Turkey No Comments
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U.S. President Barack Obama has described U.S.-Armenian relations as “strong” and pledged to deepen them despite Armenia’s upcoming accession to a new Russia-led alliance of ex-Soviet states.

“Armenia and the United States have a strong history rooted in partnership and friendship. The people-to-people, cultural and economic ties that bind our countries are impressive and inspiring,” Obama said in a weekend letter to President Serzh Sarkisian that congratulated him on Armenia’s Independence Day.

“The U.S.-Armenia relationship remains strong, and we look forward to continuing and deepening our cooperation for many years to come,” read the letter publicized by Sarkisian’s office.

Armenia unconditionally heading to Eurasian Union – ex-parliamentarian

September 22, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe, Karabakh No Comments
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Armenia is making confident strides towards the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) while the other members of the bloc are looking for ways to separate from Russia, says a former parliament member.
“The Customs Union and the Eurasian Union can be considered a single political bloc built on economic foundations,” Hovhannes Igityan, the former head of the National Assembly’s Standing Committee on Foreign Relations, told a debate in Yerevan, commenting on the advantages and disadvantages of Armenia’s Eurasian integration.
Addressing the western powers’ sanctions against Russia, the former parliamentarian said he believes that the country seeks to foster cooperation with allies – Belarus and Kazakhstan – in an attempt to demonstrate that it isn’t alone in the current battle. He described Kazakh President Norsultan Nazarbaev’s recent statement (saying that the country will leave the bloc should the membership turn out to fly in the face of its interests) as a good proof that the country will not interfere in the developments in Russia and Ukraine, being more concerned of the sanctions’ impact on its own economy.
Commenting on possible impacts on Armenia, Igityan said he finds that the authorities themselves have to seek an answer to that question given the country’s dependence on Russia in energy and investment projects, and natural gas services.
Asked how the EEU membership will influence Armenia’s future cooperation with the World Bank or European states (with which there are agreements), Igityan said he sees that the country has already made considerable concessions, with the unsettled Nagorno-Karabakh conflict still standing high on the political agenda. “Did Serzh Sargsyan resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh security issue with his September 3 [2013] decision or did the issue switch over to another sphere from the [OSCE] Minsk Group to become a concern for Russia?” he asked.
Speaking further, the Civil Society Institute’s board chairman, Artak Kirakosyan, said he doesn’t think the EEU membership is an economic process for an idea-centered country like Russia.
“Our judiciary suffers from the same ailments as does Russia’s, with convictions targeting the phenomenon rather than the human being,” he noted.
Kirakosyan said he is concerned that decisions in Armenia are often made without wide debates. “Economically, Armenia is of no interest to either Russia nor Europe,” he said.

Pope Francis Visits Albania

September 21, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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Pope Francis is in Albania for his first visit to a European country outside of Italy, Voice of America reports.The leader of the world’s one billion Roman Catholics will celebrate Mass in Mother Teresa square in Tirana, the capital, during his day-long trip Sunday. He will also meet with Albanian President Bujar Nishani and is scheduled to visit orphans.Francis said on the plane to Albania that the tiny nation has “succeeded in finding peace” between different religions.Albania is a former communist state and is now a model of Christian-Muslim co-existence.Large portraits of Catholic priests and nuns who were persecuted under communism have been hung on the boulevards leading to Mother Teresa Square.The revival of Catholicism in Albania is due in part to the popularity of Mother Teresa, who was born in what is now Macedonia, but had Albanian origins. 

Southern Gas Corridor strategic energy avenue for 21st century – Barroso

September 20, 2014 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Europe, Turkey, Video No Comments
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The Southern Gas Corridor will be a strategic energy avenue for 21st century, according to Jose Manuel Barroso, President of the European Commission.“The Corridor is more than a pipeline. It will be a strategic energy avenue for the 21st century, a true geostrategic project,” the European official said at a groundbreaking ceremony marking the 20th anniversary of the Contract of the Century and the Southern Gas Corridor.“The Corridor is more than a pipeline. It will be a strategic energy avenue for the 21st century, a true geostrategic project,” he said in video message, according to Trend.az.Mr Barroso added Azerbaijan makes an important contribution to Europe’s oil imports today.“At the same time we are celebrating the progress made regarding the Southern Gas Corridor,” he noted.He added that the corridor, once completed, would stretch over 2,000 kilometers along the Caucasus and across Turkey – through Greece and Albania – and across the Adriatic, to connect the Caspian with the heart of EU. 

Saakashvili plots return to Brooklyn – NY Times

September 20, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Georgia No Comments
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By Jason HorowitzAt the Smorgasburg food fair in Williamsburg, Brooklyn, Mikheil Saakashvili motored in fluorescent green sneakers among bearded men with tattoos and women in revealing overalls. They lined up for Cheese Pops,Dun-Well Doughnuts and other local delicacies.He ordered a fresh coconut.“My friend, one of the biggest sheikhs of the United Arab Emirates, gaveGeorgia 20,000 palm trees,” Mr Saakashvili, the former president of Georgia, said as he dropped a straw in the machete-opened fruit and emptied its water with a few deep pulls. “As a personal gift.”Mr Saakashvili is in self-imposed exile on North Seventh Street — plotting a triumphant return, even as his steep fall from grace serves as a cautionary tale to the many American government officials who had hoped he would be a model exporter of democracy to former Soviet republics.Since leaving office last November, this George W Bush favorite — whose confrontation with President Vladimir V Putin of Russia led to a disastrous war in 2008 — has commandeered his uncle’s apartment in a tower on the Williamsburg waterfront, where he luxuriates in the neighborhood’s time-honored tradition of mysteriously sourced wealth. When not lingering in cafes, riding his bike across the bridge or spending stag evenings with friends on the Wythe Hotel rooftop, Mr Saakashvili seizes on the Ukrainian conflict and his experience with Mr Putin’s wrath as a lifeline back to political relevance.“It’s the end of Putin,” Mr. Saakashvili, 46, said of Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, the topic of discussion on Thursday as its president, Petro O. Poroshenko, met in Washington with President Obama and congressional leaders. Mr. Saakashvili called Mr. Putin’s actions “very, very similar” to those in Georgia. “I think he walked into trap.”But Mr Saakashvili, considerably plumper than when he was in power, argues that the conflict should also mark a reappraisal of his own reputation as a reckless leader whose peaceful Rose Revolution and commitment to reform were eclipsed by years of riding roughshod over opponents, bending the rule of law and provoking Mr Putin into a war that resulted in the death, displacement and impoverishment of thousands of Georgians. “It should be revisited,” he said.Mr Saakashvili said that while he had a “normal life” in Brooklyn, he considered himself a big deal in Eastern Europe, pointing out that on a recent trip to Albania “they shut down traffic for us and our 20-car escort.”Mr Saakashvili’s personal rehabilitation project is complicated by his eroded popularity back home and charges filed against him by Georgian prosecutors of human rights violations and embezzlement of government funds. He shrugs off the prosecutors as politically motivated puppets of his nemesis, the billionaire and former Prime Minister Bidzina Ivanishvili. Some of Mr Saakashvili’s critics agree that the charges say as much about the current Georgian government’s hunger for revenge as they do about him.For now Mr Saakashvili is writing a memoir, delivering “very well-paid” speeches, helping start up a Washington-based think tank and visiting old boosters like Senator John McCain and Victoria Nuland, the assistant secretary of state. He said he was in the process of changing his tourist status here to a work visa and in the meantime is enjoying the bars and cafes of his adopted homeland. On his roof deck, with sweeping views of Manhattan, he has entertained David H Petraeus, the former director of the Central Intelligence Agency, and is expecting Nicolas Sarkozy, the former French president, at the end of the month. Usually, a cousin mans the grill, along with the chef from Fabbrica, the neighboring Italian restaurant opposite a CVS. Like those chain drugstores, glassy high-rises and Eurocentric nightclubs, Mr. Saakashvili is evidence of Williamsburg’s steady transition to a playground for moneyed out-of-towners.“I used to look at this place from Manhattan, it was such a pity, it was mafia, a place where hit men dump bodies,” he said, recalling his time in the 1990s as a Columbia University Law School student. Now he sees “a jazzy atmosphere” rife with energy and new construction.“Williamsburg is part of the democratic transformation,” he said. 
Read more on The New York Times website.

Eurasian integration impact depends on economic policies – Armenian official

September 20, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Europe No Comments
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In an interview with Tert.am, the head of the Economy Ministry’s Industry Policy Department elaborated on the economic impact of Armenia’s Eurasian integration.
Commenting on the possible advantages and disadvantages of the country’s membership in the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) and the western powers’ sanctions against Russia, Armen Yeganyan said he believes that all future developments will depend on the kind of economic policies pursued.
The Central Bank has revised its forecasts in the industry sector, reducing particularly the expected growth in mining and metallurgy. What are the trends in this conection?
The Central Bank may have made its forecasts and analyses and envisioned the reduction trends, but I would like to elaborate on the statistics. Though it reflected a decline in the industry sector at the beginning of the year, those paces were reduced every other month. Back in June, we had a 1.5 percent industrial growth. And the growth for August too, will be higher I think, and the trend will be maintained.
Given that the EEU membership is an accomplished process, with the treaty expected to be signed on October 10, what reflection do you think it will have on Armenia’s economy? What negotiations have been conducted?
Negotiations were conducted in all directions, focusing, among other things, on the customs duties – including both tariff and non-tariff regulations.
What new opportunities does the EEU membership offer, given especially that many believe that we had those advantages before?
Making evaluations on a membership in an organization or union is logical after the that membership is an accomplished deal. A positive or negative result depends on the kind of policies that the sides involved will pursue. If a membership in a union or a relationship with another country enables us to pursue the right economic policies and have a positive result, we will have a positive outcome. If we do not mange that, the outcome will be negative.
But how do we know what is awaiting us and where we are going?
The groups which have worked in that direction naturally have their analyses, but those are only forecasts. A more realistic analysis is possible after the process in question comes to a close. The impact may be both positive and negative depending on the way we guide our policies. Our easier access to the market will be an opportunity, of course, though we have a free trade agreement with those countries, which is already an opportunity in a way.
Many believe that the sanctions against Russia help Armenia increase its export volumes. Are there noticeable results in this respect?
The sanctions were imposed not quite a long time ago, and they mainly apply to agricultural produce. But regardless of everything – whether they are sanctions enforced against or by Russia – it is possible to gain certain advantages. Export-oriented policies have to reflect an action plan aimed at the development of export. And episodes as this should never serve as basis for them.
So we have to think about guiding our policies in a way that would help develop the export regardless of the presence or absence of restrictions in Russia. Export-oriented policies have to be based on the development of export, without ever reflecting episodicactions. We must try to ensure high-quality competitive products that will be possible to export to not only the Russian but also other countries’ markets. If we guide our policies in that way and have “developed exports”, and if our products are recognizable, our export volumes will naturally increase, irrespective of restrictions on any market.
Europe is expanding the list of sanctions against Russia, and many experts believe that it will have a negative impact on Armenia’s economy. Do you think that threat exists?
Armenia is not isolated from the world, after all. We are in an everyday cooperation with different countries, so our economy can be said to be in a kind of dependence upon other countries’ economies. Once a problem emerges in any place, it may have its negative impact on our country. The same can be said about the 2008 global recession, whose wave naturally came to Armenia, producing its influence on our economy.
But when the crisis began, our authorities said it wouldn’t reflect on us; however we overcame it with great difficulty. Can the same scenario apply to the sanctions?
The statements about the recession were forecasts and professional evaluations, and one can always err while making a forecast. I haven’t heard for now that the sanctions will not affect us.
So do you confirm that it will have a negative impact on our economy?
What I say the negative consequences of any country’s economy may have their impact on us. All depends on how we can use the situation while implementing our economic policies. If we are able to use the situation the right way, we can suffer minimum or no negative impact.
Your evaluations are more of a general nature. If possible, say more specifically, what impact will the sanctions have on Armenia?
If I say today that there will have no impact at all, it will not be serious. Therefore, it is necessary to conduct profound professional studies to be able to assess the negative or positive result. But even the forecasts conducted based on those analyses are not expected to be 100 percent accurate. Any situational changes may cause those forecasts to lose their value.

European Parliament Drafts Joint Resolution Condemning Azerbaijan for Persecuting Human Rights Defenders

September 19, 2014 Armenia, Azerbaijan, Europe No Comments
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17:53, September 19, 2014

A number of European Parliament deputies have drafted a joint motion for a resolution condemning the Azerbaijani government for its persecution of human rights defenders and calling on Baku to immediately and unconditionally release all political prisoners and cease politically motivated arrests. In particular, the motion mentions the arrest of LeylaYunus, Director of the Institute for Peace and Democracy in Azerbaijan, and her husband, the historian ArifYunus, on politically motivated charges.

Other human rights defenders recently arrested by the Azerbaijani government cited in the resolution include RasulJafarov, Chair of Azerbaijan’s Human Rights Club, and Chair of Azerbaijan’s Legal Education Society, IntigamAliyev.

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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

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.