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Turkey reacts to Swiss appeal of ECHR ruling

March 16, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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The Turkish Foreign Ministry issued a statement in response to Switzerland’s decision earlier this week to appeal a European Court of Human Rights ruling that concluded that the denial of the Armenian Genocide is not a crime and is protected under freedom of speech principles, Asbarez reported.“In a judgment published on December 17, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) had ruled that Switzerland breached Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights on ‘freedom of expression’ in the case of Doğu Perinçek v. Switzerland,” reads the Turkish Foreign Ministry statement.“We have learned through the written statement by the Swiss Federal Office of Justice on March 11 that Switzerland has decided to object to this judgment and refer it to the Grand Chamber of the ECHR,” added the foreign ministry.“Having full confidence in the rule of law, we expect that the Grand Chamber will confirm once more and forcefully that “freedom of expression”, which is the building bloc of democratic societies, is safeguarded,” said the statement.“In this way, we believe that the efforts to politicize the law will be aborted once again,” concluded the statement. 

We are sure ECHR will pass fair ruling on Perinçek case – Serzh Sargsyan

March 14, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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At a meeting with healthcare officials earlier today, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan addressed the Perinek v. Switzerland case, expressing hope for a positive solution.
The president said he is confident that the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) will duly consider the Swiss Government’s December 2013 appeal and pass a final ruling which will be just and acceptable to the civilized mankind.
Sargsyan praised the Swiss Government for the decision to appeal against the ECHR ruling. “It was the Swiss Government’s decision, but we must also praise the contribution or attitude by international organizations and individuals, their appeal to the Swiss Government and the activities by the International Association of Genocide Scholars,” he said.
The president described the Swiss authorities’ move as the beginning of a big process, noting at the same time that the ECHR is yet to consider admissibility criteria before taking the case under proceeding.
“But we are confident that the European Court of Human Rights will pass such a ruling that will not offend the nations which have survived genocide and will not outrage the memories of the millions of people who directly became innocent victims. But any activity requires energy and struggle, and I am confident that the Swiss Government will demonstrate consistent efforts to back its decision. It is clear why the question is of interest to us.
“On the other hand, by passing such a ruling, the European Court is trying somewhat to find faults with the Swiss justice.we all know that it is a country which has passed a long way and which pursues high values. So it is for the Swiss nation to prove the integrity of their judiciary and their state administration system,” the president added.

British Ambassador in Armenia Urges Putin Not to Recognize Sunday Referendum in Crimea

March 14, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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14:40, March 14, 2014

British Ambassador to Armenia Catherine Lich posted the following statement in her blog regarding the crisis in Crimea.

All of us who care about peace in Europe have been shocked by the events in Crimea over the past two weeks. On Sunday a referendum will be held in Crimea in which there is no option for those who wish to keep Crimea’s status as part of Ukraine unchanged. People may only vote to join Russia, or to vote for de-facto independence, by bringing back a defunct 1992 constitution.

‘A Year of Expectations and Surprises’: Yerevan-based think tank publishes report on 2013

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“A Year of Expectations and Surprises” – this is how a leading think tank in Armenia, Civilitas Foundation, has titled its annual report summarizing the crucial events in Armenia in 2013. The report is now being presented in the provinces of Armenia.

Latest events and Armenia’s CU membership bid: Calls to stop accession procedures heard in Yerevan

March 14, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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A political call for halting the procedures connected with joining the Customs Union has for the first time been voiced in Armenia this week. Member of the opposition Free Democrats Party Khachatur Kokobelyan presented reasons why Armenia should not be in a rush to accede to the Russian-led trade bloc but should rather start recovering its lost ties with the European Union.

This concerns both the economic downturn in Russia, the ruble devaluation and economically unfavorable developments awaiting the Customs Union, as well as the events in Ukraine where Russia’s actions have been qualified as annexation.

Trickle Down from Ukraine?: What’s the impact for NKR?

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The “Crimean tangled knot” which followed the Ukrainian crisis will create, analysts say, a new geopolitical situation reshuffling the superpowers’ playing cards, which in turn will impact Armenia and the Karabakh conflict settlement issue.

This week in Moscow, after his meeting with Armenian Minister of Foreign Affairs Edward Nalbandyan, OSCE Minks Group American co-chair James Warlick made a post on his Twitter page about Armenia seeking peaceful settlement of the Karabakh issue and that they [the OSCE MG co-chairs] “will pursue options for dialogue”.

Later Warlick made another post: “Look forward to talks with Russia today on Nagorno Karabakh. We are resolved to work together with France to support the path to peace.”

Still No Agreement On Armenian-Azeri Summit

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International mediators appear to have failed to arrange a fresh meeting of Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s presidents during a series of consultations held with the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in the last three weeks.

The U.S., Russian and French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group have repeatedly met with the foreign ministers of the two warring nations since February 22 in an effort to organize the next Armenian-Azerbaijani summit which they hope will break the current impasse in the Karabakh peace process.

In a joint statement issued in Moscow late on Wednesday, they stressed “the need for further talks at the highest level to advance the peace process” but announced no agreements on the summit’s date and agenda. They said they discussed with the ministers unspecified “issues raised by the Presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan during their November 2013 meeting in Vienna.”

Ukraine, EU to sign association deal next week

March 13, 2014 Diaspora, Europe No Comments
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Ukraine’s Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said Kyiv hopes to sign political chapters of an association agreement with the European Union next week, RIA Novosti reported.
“I am sure that next week Ukraine will sign the political part of the association agreement and take a firm step to make Ukraine part of the European Union,” the UNIAN news agency quoted Yatsenyuk as saying.
Yatsenyuk held a bilateral meeting with US President Barack Obama in the Oval Office of the White House Wednesday to find a peaceful resolution to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.
Mass opposition protests erupted across the country in November after President Viktor Yanukovych rejected an association agreement and trade pact with the EU, opting instead for closer ties with Russia.
Though the demonstrations were mostly peaceful to begin with, clashes between protesters and police intensified in January and peaked on February 18, when dozens of people were killed. Many of them, including some police officers, had been fatally shot.
The Ukrainian parliament impeached Yanukovych in late February and called for an early presidential election in May. The ousted president has called the move an illegal coup and insisted that he remains the country’s lawful head of state.
A group of US senators led by John McCain will travel to Ukraine on Thursday to meet with leaders of its interim government, amid tensions over the southern Ukrainian region of Crimea that pushes for a referendum on joining Russia.
Russian lawmakers adopted a resolution in late January slamming foreign politicians for what they say is interference in Ukraine. Criticism of foreign influence appeared to be a reference to visits to Kiev by a number of top European and US politicians and diplomats.
In December, McCain addressed a crowd of anti-government supporters in Kyiv, pledging broad US support for the pro-European movement. Earlier that same month, US Assistant Secretary of State Victoria Nuland visited the epicenter of the protest movement and handed out bread to demonstrators. 

Court Sentences Man to 15 Years for Gunning Down ‘Beau’ of Gyumri Mayor’s Daughter

March 12, 2014 Armenia, Europe No Comments
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18:28, March 12, 2014

Haroutyun Sargsyan, the man charged with the April 2012 killing of the man who planned to marry the daughter of then Gyumri Mayor Vardan Ghukasyan, was today found guilty and sentenced to 15 years imprisonment.

As the verdict was read out, relatives of the accused voiced   their disapproval, shouting ‘shame, shame’.

27 year-old Karen Yesayan had been found shot to death in his car in Armenia’s second largest city on the very day the couple were to celebrate their engagement.

Yesayan and his parents were natives of Gyumri but had relocated to the United States several years ago. Karen had returned to Gyumri expressly to find a bride.

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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.