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Tbilisi Church Cleaner: ‘Armenians Have Lost Their Former Position in This City’

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15:04, May 22, 2015

It’s early Sunday morning, not yet ten. Children are seen filing into the St Gevorg Armenian Apostolic Church in Tbilisi.

Most of the pews are already filled. An elderly man is sitting on one of the pews. From a white satchel placed on the floor he removes bags of candy and distributes them to the children.

He’s no longer following the church service. The old man lights a bunch of candles and walks around the church, muttering something under his breath.

I spot a petit woman wearing a blue headscarf periodically shuffling to and fro in the church. She’s spot checking the church for litter. The woman then approaches one of the kids and softly asks that he remove his hat. He immediately obeys. As the service ends, the children begin to pray out loud.

Sarkisian To Attend EU Summit In Riga

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President Serzh Sarkisian on Wednesday confirmed his participation in this week’s European Union summit in Latvia’s capital Riga which could shed more light on the future of the EU’s relations with Armenia.

In a statement, Sarkisian’s office said he will also hold bilateral meetings with unnamed European leaders on the sidelines of the gathering scheduled for May 21-22.

The main focus of the summit will be on the EU’s Eastern Partnership program offering six ex-Soviet states, including Armenia, privileged partnership in return for political and economic reforms. Three of them — Georgia, Moldova and Ukraine — have already signed far-reaching “association agreements” with the 28-nation union in line with that program.

EU Moves To Open Talks On New Deal With Armenia

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The European Union’s executive body has asked the EU member states to authorize it to open official negotiations on a new agreement to deepen political and economic ties with Armenia, a senior official in Brussels said on Tuesday.

The deal would serve as a less ambitious substitute for an EU-Armenia Association Agreement which was all but finalized almost two years ago. The Armenian government precluded its signing after unexpectedly deciding in August 2013 to join the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU).

Yerevan has since been trying to work out a different legal framework for closer ties with the EU that would not run counter to its membership in the Russian-led bloc. Earlier this year Armenian and EU officials identified concrete areas to be covered by it. The executive European Commission now needs a “mandate” from the EU’s member states for the start of official negotiations on the new accord.

Armenian, Georgian PMs Meet After South Ossetia Controversy

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Prime Ministers Hovik Abrahamian of Armenia and Irakli Gharibashvili of Georgia met in Batumi over the weekend for talks which their offices said focused on bilateral economic ties.

Abrahamian travelled to the Georgian Black Sea city two weeks after official Tbilisi protested against Armenian parliament speaker Galust Sahakian’s meeting with a leader of South Ossetia, a breakaway Georgian region.

Sahakian and Anatoly Bibilov met early this month during their separate visits to Nagorno-Karabakh. Sahakian downplayed their short conversation as “private” and impromptu.

The explanation did not satisfy the Georgian government, which condemned the contact with the representative of what it regards as an “occupational regime” installed by Russia. The Armenian ambassador in Tbilisi was summoned to the Georgian Foreign Ministry and warned of “damage to bilateral relations” on May 4.

Sweden Hopes For Armenian Mediation Role With Russia

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A senior Swedish diplomat expressed hope on Tuesday that Armenia will help allay Russia’s concerns about the European Union’s Eastern Partnership program now that it is a member of a Russian-led alliance of ex-Soviet republics.

Marten Ehnberg, Sweden’s charge d’affaires in Yerevan, was present at talks which Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian held with the visiting political directors of the Swedish and Polish foreign ministries on Monday.

The talks focused on Armenia’s continuing participation in the Eastern Partnership, a program designed to significantly deepen the EU’s ties with six ex-Soviet states, including Ukraine and Georgia. Russia has been highly critical of the program championed by Poland and Sweden, saying that it is aimed at undermining Russian influence in the former Soviet Union.

Azeri, Turkish Troops Hold More Drills

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The Turkish and Azerbaijani armies began on Tuesday fresh joint military exercises in Azerbaijan highlighting their growing cooperation.

A statement by the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry cited by local news agencies said the five-day exercises are taking place in Baku and the Nakhichevan exclave surrounded by Armenia, Iran and Turkey. It said they will be watched later this week by Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and General Umit Dundar, the commander of the Turkish Third Army deployed near Turkey’s borders with Armenia and Georgia.

The statement added that the drills are aimed at boosting “friendship, cooperation and coordination” between the armed forces of the two allied countries. It said nothing about the number of troops and military hardware involved in them.

Opinion: Foundation and Collapse of the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU)

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12:13, May 12, 2015

Ashot Yeghiazaryan,Doctor in Economics

From the viewpoint of political realism, the Eurasian Economic Union is a project by which Russia tries to raise its power and influence in the post-Soviet area. But it’s already a dead project, yet not born, which proves that all Moscow’s efforts towards reintegration of the post-Soviet area are doomed to fail.

Factual Failure of the EEU at Astana Summit

There is no doubt, that foundation of more or less serious integration unite in the post-Soviet space is only effective if the Ukraine, along with Russia, takes part in it. But the Ukraine has chosen the way of integration with the EU: Moldova and Georgia also signed an Association Agreement with the EU. As a result, even the free trade regime has been put under doubt in the CIS area.

World Bank Responds: ‘People Not Displaced Due to Our Projects’

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14:00, May 12, 2015

The World Bank yesterday rejected the findings of a recent International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) that projects funded by the World Bank have physically or economically displaced an estimated 3.4 million people over the last decade.

On April 17, Hetq covered the main findings of the ICIJ investigation (Evicted and Abandoned), in an article entitled, “World Bank Project Displaces 440 People in Armenia According to ICIJ Investigation.”

The investigation claimed that an estimated 440people in Armenia have been physically or economically displaced by the World Bank’s “Electricity Supply Reliability Project”. In addition to the above project, the ICIJ claims that another three World Bank (WB) projects in Armenia have been cited as having confirmed or possible displacement between 2004 and 2013.

Azerbaijan: Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty Baku Bureau Finally Closed

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21:02, May 11, 2015

Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty’s Baku office has officially closed.

Azeri authorities raided the bureau in December 2014,interrogatingemployees and seizing computer equipment.

The premises were sealed off to staff, although the media service continued working from outside that office.

The owners of the office space, which formed part of a business center, reportedly asked RFE/RL not to return. RFE/RL had operated from the premises since 2006.

Prosecution investigator Sanan Pashayev allowed staff to enter the office on May 6 to clear out their possessions, according toPanorama.

The RFE/RL Baku team will continue its work in Prague, according to recentreports.

The closure is part of a wider trend of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and media outlets finding themselves unable to continue operating in Azerbaijan.

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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.

Commentary

Capitalism Run Amok Is Just Plain Capitalism

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16:37, January 17, 2015

By Markar Melkonian

The source of Armenia’s misery and humiliation, we often hear, is not capitalism per se, but rather “gangster capitalism,” “a broken system,” “capitalism run amok.”

The goal for the future, then, is to “fix the system,” to reform capitalism, to make it more like regular, pure, genuine Free Enterprise, the kind of capitalism that works. But what if Armenia’s actually existing capitalism already is genuine capitalism?

An economist once observed that the only existential meaning of “enterprise” in the term free enterprise is “whatever capitalists happen to be doing at the time”–and “free” is the accompanying demand that they be allowed to do it.

Ukraine: Cops Go After Casinos, Suggest Yanukovych Connection

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21:45, December 15, 2014

Ukraine’s ministry of internal affairs has launched a campaign against illegal casinos amid fears that a large network of underground gambling dens could be providing an income source for the son of the country’s disgraced former president Viktor Yanukovych.

The new crackdown on unlawful casinos – an ongoing scourge for law enforcement agencies in Ukraine since regulation was made stiffer with a 2009 law – was launched on Dec. 8 after an announcement on Minister of Internal Affairs Arsen Avakov’s official Facebook page.

Avakov, who keeps a lively and occasionally angry Facebook commentary on current affairs, pledged to put a complete stop to the establishments within ten days; first in the capital of Kyiv, then the rest of the nation.

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.