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Turkish PM wants Eurasia tunnel ‘marvel’ finished ahead of deadline

September 14, 2014 Armenia, Asia, Diaspora, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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Turkish Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has convinced the contractors of a roadway tunnel connecting Istanbul’s two sides to speed up construction and complete the project earlier than planned, amid growing concerns over safety weaknesses in the sector, the Hurriyet Daily News report.Istanbul’s Eurasia Tunnel and roadway pass began construction January 2014 and was planned to be completed in August 2017. However, the construction will reportedly be completed by December 2016, following negotiations with the contractor company’s representatives.“Completing the project in the shortest period of time, but in the safest way, will give us great happiness in terms of the reduction of time costs, as well as from a humanitarian perspective…” Davutoğlu said while visiting the project site on Sept. 13.The repercussions of the elevator collapse that cost the lives of 10 workers at a central Istanbul construction site last weekend have shifted focus to the general safety problems in the sector.Labor Minister Faruk Çelik, who has come under fire for government negligence regarding labor safety, acknowledged chronic problems in the sector and admitted companies sacrifice safety measures to reduce costs.“There is pressure regarding costs. If you enslave people to make work cheaper, this understanding leaves safety as the second priority,” Çelik has said.Meanwhile, Davutoğlu’s visit to the project, which he refers to as an “extraordinary engineering marvel,” came as the length of the constructed tunnel reached 920 meters.The prime minister was proud to be personally visiting the project – the Eurasia Tunnel – which he said is of historical importance, not only for Istanbul and Turkey, but also for the world.“An underwater pass at such a depth, pressure and intensity – to be completed in about four years – is an extraordinary engineering marvel that will not only provide comfort to our fellow citizens of Istanbul, but to all travelers from Asia to Europe and from Europe to Asia and humanity,” he said.“This project will make important contributions to Istanbul’s natural and environmental security. I am sure it will take its place as a golden signature in the name of the state of the Republic of Turkey,” he added.Davutoğlu said the 14.5-kilometer pass will be crossed by vehicles in less than 15 minutes thanks to the tunnel.The depth of the tunnel reaches 106 meters underwater at some points, while the total length of the tunnel is 5.4 km and the length of the transit pass is 9.2 kilometers.The Eurasia Tunnel is Turkey’s second underwater project in Istanbul after the Marmaray railway.

Turks warming to EU as concerns related to refugee flow skyrocket: Survey

September 11, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Turkey No Comments
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Turks have grown warmer to the European Union over the past year, while concerns about refugees and the government’s migration policy have sharply soared against the backdrop of rising tensions between Syrian refugees and locals, Hurriyet Daily News reports, citing the latest Transatlantic Trends survey by the German Marshall Fund.
The annual study shows that the EU’s approval rates have registered a slight but significant rise, after a chilly period that reached its pinnacle last year.
The proportion of the Turkish public with a positive opinion of the European bloc saw a 10 percent increase over the year, but at 45 percent remains lower than the proportion with an unfavorable opinion (51 percent). Meanwhile, the percentage of respondents who responded that accession would “benefit the country” (53 percent) topped the 50 percent threshold for the first time in many years.
Those who described their opinion about the EU as being “somewhat favorable” rose from 23 percent in 2013 to 36 percent this year, in addition to the 10 percent of respondents who said they have a “very favorable” opinion (a decline of 2 percent compared to 2013). However, the proportion of respondents with a “very unfavorable” opinion of the EU remains strong (30 percent) and is the highest among the sampled countries, including Greece, where the far-right has become a visceral political force, and Russia.
The new approval rates come after a turbulent year, when the EU has repeatedly condemned restrictive moves in terms of freedom of assembly and in the access to the Internet in Turkey. The Turkish government has attracted international uproar after blocking first Twitter and then YouTube, in the shadow of huge corruption allegations involving many top officials including President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who was prime minister at the time.
The survey also revealed that Turks’ positive views of NATO had seen an uptick, though the alliance remained unpopular among the majority of the population. Some 49 percent of respondents said NATO was essential to their security — a 10 percent increase from 2013.

Yerevan Hails Greek Genocide Bill

September 10, 2014 Armenia, Europe, Top News, Turkey No Comments

Armenia on Wednesday praised the Greek parliament for passing a law that makes it a crime to deny the Jewish Holocaust, the Armenian genocide in Ottoman Turkey and other crimes against humanity recognized by Greece.

“With this move Greece once again proved its commitment to universal values and took an important step towards preventing genocides and other crimes against humanity,” Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian said in a statement.

For his part, deputy parliament speaker Eduard Sharmazanov, an ethnic Greek, hailed the development in a phone call with a pro-Armenian member of Greece’s parliament, Apostolos Kaklamanis. Sharmazanov is also the chief spokesman for the ruling Republican Party of Armenia.

Davutoğlu eyes long-term premiership

September 8, 2014 Diaspora, Turkey No Comments
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Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu has indicated he hopes that his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) will remain in power under his leadership until the centennial celebration for the foundation of the Republic of Turkey, the Hurriyet Daily News reports.
“I promise on behalf of our government, before you and having history as a witness, that we will work hard to make our country one of the most prestigious and strongest countries in the world; so our people can have human rights and freedoms with a full democracy; and have justice for all citizens of the Republic of Turkey without any exceptions on the 100th year of our Republic,” Davutoğlu wrote on Sept. 8, as he signed the Special Book at Anıtkabir, the tomb of the founder of Republic of Turkey, Mustafa Kemal Atatrk.
Davutoğlu and his Cabinet paid homage to Atatrk, with the former laying a wreath at his mausoleum.
They visited Anıtkabir on the day they were set to hold their first meeting at the Council of Ministers later on Sept. 8, after winning a vote of confidence at Parliament on Sept. 6.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) have been in power since 2002, winning three consecutive parliamentary elections in 2002, 2007 and 2011.
Davutoğlu, the former foreign minister since 2009, succeeded now-President Recep Erdoğan as both the AKP leader and prime minister after the latter was elected as the head of the state in a popular vote on Aug. 10.

Baku Pleased With NATO ‘Support’ On Karabakh


The Azerbaijani government has commended NATO for reaffirming its declared support for Azerbaijan’s territorial integrity in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict at its latest summit held in Wales.

“Allies also remain committed in their support to the territorial integrity, independence, and sovereignty of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia and the Republic of Moldova,” U.S. President Barack Obama and the leaders of NATO’s 27 other member states said in a joint declaration adopted on Friday.

“In this context, we will continue to support efforts towards a peaceful settlement of the conflicts in the south Caucasus, as well as in the Republic of Moldova, based upon these principles and the norms of international law, the UN Charter, and the Helsinki Final Act,” read the declaration.

NATO will hopefully adopt positive stance on Karabakh, says Armenian analyst

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The new document on Nagorno-Karabakh, which NATO will probably adopt at its summit in Wales, will not hopefully repeat its previous statements, a political analyst said today, commenting on Armenia’s participation in the alliance’s international event.
“If the document bears the same dogmatic character that we saw at the previous summit, both the meeting and the promise [US Secretary of State] John Kerry gave will lose their value, making Azerbaijan more aggressive,” Karen Bekaryan, the president of the European Integration NGO, told a news conference in Yerevan.
The analyst said he believes that a possible change would signal the positive results of President Serzh Sargsyan meetings in Wales, adding that the contrary scenario would push Azerbaijan to further cynicism.
Bekaryan noted that the event in Wales is of special importance to Armenia, as the country is having its first ever participation in a NATO summit on the level of its top leader. He remembered that the previous two summits, held in Lisbon (Madrid) and Chicago (US), adopted documents implicitly conflicting with the country’s interests in reaching a pro-Armenian solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict (NATO expressed support to the principle of territorial integrity).
Bekaryan said he thinks that the president’s participation this time will help push for progress in the peace process over Karabakh. “I think the decision which Armenia’s top leadership made is that expressing a tacit or partial disagreement to the wording would not be as effective as being physically present and expressing [the country’s] position right there. Despite the fact that we are a small country and there are partners and countries we are not quite friendly with (especially Turkey), it is important for us to openly and straightforwardly express and defend our position there to attain a result,” he added.
Addressing President Serzh Sargsyan’s speech at the summit, Bekaryan said he finds that it was extremely important, given the high organizational level of the event and the number of the participants.
The analyst said he has always believed that the OSCE Minsk Group has its share of guilt for Azerbaijan’s somewhat cynical behavior. “We know what share of responsibility the United States and France have when they turn a blind eye to Azerbaijan’s problematic conduct as though giving it a pat on the back. And that makes Azerbaijan think that it can do anything, applying [its policies] to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and adopting the language of blackmail. If we look upon the peaceful principles declared by NATO, then the Azerbaijani president should not have been even invited to NATO, ” he said.
As for Russia’s share of responsibility, Bekaryan criticized the country’s weapons sale to Azerbaijan.
“Now at the summit in Wales, we see the same share of responsibility. By inviting Azerbaijan, Turkey, a member state of NATO, is trying to lobby for Azerbaijan’s interests in the frameworks of alliance. So if the document contains the same dogmatic provision, it will naturally encourage Azerbaijan, making it tougher and more cynical,” Bekaryan added.
He said it is important for the international community to realize that confidence-building requires translating words into deeds (withdrawing snipers and preparing people for peace, as well as considering the possibility of flights between Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia).
Bekaryan added nonetheless that he does not rule out the possibility of the previous document’s repetition. “I would like it to change a little bit but I do not rule out the possibility that it will not happen,” he added.  

Russian-Armenian War Games Target ‘Ottomania’


Russian and Armenian troops simulated on Friday a joint operation against an imaginary enemy dubbed “Ottomania” by their commanders on the third day of their joint exercises held in central Armenia.

Practicing what was clearly a joint response to possible Turkish invasion, they pounded “enemy positions” with heavy fire from tanks, self-propelled artillery and multiple-launch rocket systems. The infantry participating in the exercises was also backed up by unmanned aircraft belonging to the Russian military base headquartered in Gyumri, Armenia’s second largest city close to the Turkish border.

Mikael Grigorian, an Armenian army general commanding the drills, stressed that drones have never been used in Russian-Armenian war games held in the past. “There were many novelties today and you probably saw them,” told reporters at the vast Alagyaz shooting range near the northern slopes of Mount Aragats.

U.S. Mediates More Aliyev-Sarkisian Talks


Seeking to break the deadlock in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry organized a fresh meeting of the presidents of Armenia and Azerbaijan on the sidelines of a NATO summit late on Thursday.

The three men spoke for about two hours in the presence of the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers and senior U.S. diplomats in a gold resort in Wales. No concrete agreements were announced after the talks.

“The parties presented their positions in the negotiating process,” President Serzh Sarkisian’s office said in a statement. It said Kerry urged the two sides to reduce tensions in the Karabakh conflict zone, take confidence-building measures and demonstrate “the political will” to reach a compromise settlement.

Erdogan trying to poke nose into Armenia-Azerbaijan relations

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Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s decision to conduct his first visit to Azerbaijan as the president of Turkey was not absolutely a random choice, says a spokesperson for the Nagorno-Karabakh president.
Speaking to Tert.am, David Babayan described the Turkish leader’s trip, as well as his statements made in Baku as a manifestation of pan-Turkist policies.
“This reflects the true situation. It is good in a way that Turkey makes statements of the kind, unmasking its own goals and the basic concepts of its policies. I see nothing bad about this. It was predictable and did not come as a surprise. Statements of the kind have always been made,” he noted.
At a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev, Erdogan said his country’s relations with Armenia will remain frozen as long as the Armenian-Azerbaijan conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh does not find a solution.
“Turkey and Azerbaijan act as the closest allies. What’s even more, Azerbaijan is trying to become part of Turkey. This is a reflection of pan-Turkist policies. Turkey has always made statements of the kind, so this isn’t anything new. Turkey won’t recognize the Genocide; it keeps denying the fact. This too, is a continuation of genocidal policies. They are doing everything possible to destabilize the situation,” Babayan said, adding that Erdogan is trying to kind of poke his nose into the Armenian-Azerbaijani relations.
Commenting on Erdogan’s statement, Vahan Badasyan, a member of the Nagorno-Karabakh National Assembly, said he believes that it is time for Armenia to announce officially that its relations with Turkey will remain frozen as long the country refuses to accept and recognize the Armenian Genocide.
“Hence the Armenian side should make haste to make such a statement, as Turkey may begin mixing up the Genocide with the Karabakh issue. I think our diplomacy is slowing its efforts from that point of view. It is important for us to state that Turkey has nothing to do with Karabakh. If it has to, why doesn’t it then share an equal responsibility with Azerbaijan?” he said.
Describing the Azerbaijani policies against Karabakh as aggression, Badasyan noted that the country has lost lands that belonged to it during the Soviet years (not historically). “And the Karabakh side stood up for the defense of those lands, justifiably protecting itself from aggression. We do not absolutely care of what Erdogan will do or say; we just have to be ready for everything,” said the lawmaker.

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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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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.

2013 in Civil Society: Protests and more protests


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.