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Syria may recognize Genocide, says Armenian historian

February 8, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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The developments in and around Syria prompt a scenario of a possible recognition of the Armenian Genocide by that country, according to a historian.
At a news conference on Saturday, Gevorg Melkonyan, a history professor at the Yerevan State University, said the country is quite likely to make such a historic move against the backdrop of Turkey’s continuing support to the Syrian opposition.
The expert noted that the Assad regime has always treated the issue with restraint which he said may now be given up in the light of the continuing tensions.
“No measures were allowed in relation to the Armenian Genocide; both countries were urged to establish good-neighborly relations. But after Turkey was involved in the processes in Syria, the Syrian authorities began using the issue as a method of pressure against Turkey,” he added.
Noting that Turkey has problems with all its neighbors (whether territorial or historical), Melkonyan said it is very important for Armenia to get the maximum benefit out of that.
“Turkey has territorial claims to all its neighbors. With Syria weakening a little, it began intervening in domestic policies. Armenia must raise the question of genocides against other nations as well to prove to the the European nations that Turkey does not have the Western European set of values,” he said.

Pan-Armenian Solidarity: Chakhalyan Calls on Turkey to Release Sevan Nishanyan

February 7, 2014 Armenia, Georgia, Turkey No Comments
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18:08, February 7, 2014

Georgian-Armenian activist Vahagn Chakhalyan today issues a statement condemning the two year prison sentenced handed down by a Turkish court to Turkish-Armenian human rights activist and intellectual Sevan Nishanyan.

Chakhalyan, who was found guilty of illegal arms possession and sentenced to ten years in Georgia, labelled the Turkish court’s sentence “contemptible and cynical”. The court found Nishanyan guilty of illegally constructing a small hut on his property outside of Izmir.

“At the same time,” Chakhalyan wrote, “Turkish state companies are carrying out numerous illegal construction programs in the Armenian populated region of Javakhk; in particular the Kars-Akhalkalak railway, hydro power stations, and others.”

Customs Union Consequences: Prices Will Rise in Armenia Absent a Market Reorientation

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18:01, February 6, 2014

When the Customs Union was formed, everyone in Kazakhstan was surprised when prices for foodstuffs, cars and fuel immediately increased. The same situation awaits Armenia.

According to Armenia’s Ministry of the Economy, this situation will push up the overall inflation rate by 1.5%. This might well be the case, but certain commodities will see price rises of between 10 to 15%; these include dairy products, meat and sugar.

Turkish government orders deportation of Azerbaijani journalist

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In a move that is set to place further strain on the already-battered freedom of press, the government has ordered the deportation of Mahir Zeynalov, a Today’s Zaman correspondent and blogger, over tweets that are critical of the government.Zeynalov, a national of Azerbaijan, has been put on a list of foreign individuals who are barred from entering Turkey under Law No. 5683, because of “posting tweets against high-level state officials,” the Turkish publication reports, citing its sources. The decision, dated Feb. 4, is signed by Deputy Police Director Ali Baştürk on behalf of the interior minister.
Article 19 of Law No. 5683, which covers foreigners’ residence in Turkey, allows the deportation of foreigners “whose residence in Turkey is considered detrimental to public security and political and administrative requirements.”
The move comes in an already-troubling atmosphere for media freedom. Late on Wednesday, Parliament passed a controversial bill tightening government control over the Internet in a move that critics say is aimed at silencing dissent.
The decision to authorize the deportation of Zeynalov came after an application to the Prime Ministry’s Coordination Center (BİMER) that “statements contrary to the facts” were being made on the Twitter account @mahirzeynalov. That application was followed by a formal request to police intelligence to identify the owner of the account, and the intelligence unit discovered the account’s owner to be Zeynalov. The decision to deport Zeynalov and ban his entry into Turkey came following the verification that the account in question belongs to Zeynalov.
Zeynalov is already the target of a criminal complaint filed by Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan for some tweets he posted on Dec. 25, 2013 about a graft scandal that shook the government last year, as Erdoğan says the tweets included “heavy insults and swear words in a bid to provoke the nation to hatred and animosity.”
Zeynalov, in formal testimony given about the accusations last week, denied the charges of attempting to “incite hatred and animosity” among the public, noting that he had only tweeted links of two news reports that included no opinion or criticism.
The first tweet contained a link to a news report about the second wave of a massive graft operation and the police’s obstruction of a raid involving more than 40 suspects, including Saudi businessman Yasin al-Qadi — who is on the US’s list of Specially Designated Global Terrorists. Turkish media close to the government immediately launched a smear campaign, accusing Zeynalov of “trying to portray Erdoğan as protecting al-Qaeda members” to the world.
“Turkish prosecutors order police to arrest al-Qaeda affiliates, Erdoğan’s appointed police chiefs refuse to comply,” read the first tweet. In the second tweet, Zeynalov shared a news report detailing al-Qadi’s escape from the country after police chiefs blocked the raid on Dec. 25, 2013. 

Armenian president on normalization with Turkey: Ball in Ankara’s court

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Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan has again stressed that Turkey’s unwillingness to honor earlier arrangements and proceed with unconditional ratification of diplomatic protocols signed in 2009 is the main obstacle to Turkish-Armenian normalization today.

In an interview with the Czech newspaper Lidove noviny that he gave during his state visit to Prague late last week, Sargsyan also stressed that the international community shares Armenia’s position regarding rapprochement without preconditions and deems that “the ball is in Turkey’s court”.

“We are ready to revive the process of normalizing relations if the Turkish side demonstrates the political will and steps off the ineffective path of preconditions,” he said. “The implementation of the signed protocols would also help to bolster stability in the entire region.”

Russian Military Presence In Armenia Attributed To ‘Turkish Threat’

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Armenia hosts Russian troops on its territory primarily because of a perceived security threat from Turkey, rather than Azerbaijan, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanian insisted on Wednesday.

“We have no problem from the Azerbaijani direction,” he said. “With the existing forces at our disposal, we not only can defend ourselves against Azerbaijan but also take, if need be, preemptive, counteroffensive or other measures.”

Speaking at a meeting with members of a pro-government youth organization, Ohanian stressed in that context the importance of a 2010 agreement that extended Russian military presence in Armenia until 2044. The agreement also upgraded the security mission of the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri, an Armenian city close to the Turkish border.

Turkish Internet bill to ‘deepen press freedom crisis,’ CPJ says

February 4, 2014 Armenia, Diaspora, Turkey No Comments
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The Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) has claimed that a new bill on the Internet currently being debated in the Turkish Parliament will further undermine press freedoms if it passes into law, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.“Parliament is on the verge of voting on radical censorship measures that, if approved, would allow the government to block individual URLs without prior judicial review, mandate Internet data retention for periods of up to two years, and consolidate Internet Service Providers (ISPs) into a single association, among other changes,” the CPJ said in a statement released on Feb. 3.The new arrangements caused serious concerns over the increase of power in the hands of the president of the Directorate of Telecommunication (TİB), who would gain the authority to block access to certain material if he decided that it breached the right to private life. A court ruling would not be necessary for such a decision to be taken.“Although URL blocking is arguably more targeted than an order blocking an entire website, it is also far less transparent, which enables more insidious control of free expression. Under the proposed amendments, social media accounts or Web pages could even be blocked without judicial review under some circumstances. In the absence of a court order, it is unclear what public record will exist that censorship has occurred,” the CPJ said.The press freedom association also stressed that the new amendments would mandate “data retention of between one and two years.”“Though far worse than existing law, the proposed amendments are in some ways unsurprising; Internet freedom has been deteriorating steadily in Turkey for some time,” the report stated.The government, nonetheless, maintains that the draft bill is designed to “protect the family, children and youth from items on the Internet that encourage drug addiction, sexual abuse and suicide.” It also says that similar laws exist in Western countries and rejects comparisons to China, notorious for its drastic censorship of the Internet.The bill comes as the government also faces massive graft allegations and strong criticism for having undertaken works on a judicial bill that increased the executive’s grasp over the judiciary.
 

Sarkisian Urges Turkey To Revive Normalization Deal With Armenia

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President Serzh Sarkisian has urged Turkey to unconditionally honor landmark 2009 agreements to normalize its relations with Armenia and accused NATO of doing little to end what he sees as a Turkish threat to his country’s security.

In an interview with the Czech newspaper “Lidove noviny” circulated by his office on Tuesday, Sarkisian complained about Ankara’s preconditions for implementing the two protocols that were signed in Zurich, Switzerland during an unprecedented rapprochement between the two neighboring nations.

“We are ready to revive the process of normalizing relations if the Turkish side demonstrates the political will and steps off the ineffective path of preconditions,” he said. “The implementation of the signed protocols would also help to bolster stability in the entire region.”

15 per cent increase in passenger flow was observed at the “Zvartnots” International Airport of Yerevan

February 4, 2014 Armenia, Middle East No Comments
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15:26, February 4, 2014

As compared to January 2013, a 15% increase in passenger flow was observed at the “Zvartnots” International Airport of Yerevan in the first month of 2014. In January 2014 the Airport served 128 919 passengers against 112 443 of the past year. The number of flights in the same period rose by 11%. Instead of the 1344 flights in past January the number of flights operated in January 2014 was 1492.

The largest number of passengers was observed in flights to the CIS countries and the Middle East, thanks to the entry of new airlines into the Armenian market in the second half of 2013. If 27 airlines operated regular flights to Zvartnots in January 2013, now their number is 32. Also  most of the airlines are increasing frequencies to all destinations which results in the reduction of the air ticket prices.

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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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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.