Tuesday, 18 June 2019

Armenian News... A Topalian

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VIDEO in English : Christian Minorities, 1894–1924 New Book from Harvard University Press

The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of Its Christian Minorities, 1894–1924 New Book from Harvard University Press

June 14 2019
Armenia begins probe of 2016 war
Ani Mejlumyan  

While there are many unanswered questions about the fighting – the worst since the 1994 ceasefire – some think a new parliament commission is about scoring political points. 
Armenia’s parliament has established a commission to investigate the circumstances of the 2016 “April War” with Azerbaijan. The move comes amid a widening battle against the country’s former authorities and their allies who continue to govern Nagorno-Karabakh. 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan announced the formation of the commission on May 20. “The time has come […] to get answers to a number of questions that are of concern to us all,” he said.
Pashinyan did not specify what questions would be probed. But suspicions have long swirled around the event, a four-day spurt of violence in 2016 that was the worst fighting between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces over Nagorno-Karabakh since a ceasefire was signed in 1994. It was also the first time that the Armenian side lost  territory since the ceasefire, and raised concerns in Yerevan and Stepanakert about the ability of their armed forces to counter an aggressively growing Azerbaijani military. 

After the clashes, there were reports of a lack of weapons and allegations that the political leadership in Yerevan – possibly by request from Moscow – told military commanders to halt their offensive even when they had the advantage. 

“The commission can at least clear up some basic facts, for example how many soldiers were killed and when, but of course I am not sure this is the point of this commission,” Emil Sanamyan, a Washington, D.C.-based Armenia analyst, told Eurasianet. “The point is to discipline Serzh and Bako,” he said, referring to Serzh Sargsyan, the former leader of Armenia whom Pashinyan ousted last year, and Bako Sahakyan, the de facto leader of Nagorno-Karabakh and a Sargsyan political ally. 

Pashinyan announced the commission just after former president Robert Kocharyan – another ally of Sargsyan and Sahakyan – was released on bail while he awaits trial on charges related to the violent suppression of protests in 2008. Sahakyan posted bail for Kocharyan, along with another former Karabakh leader, and Pashinyan reacted with a double-barreled broadside against the country’s judiciary system and the Karabakh leadership, both of which he accused of acting in the interest of the former authorities. Pashinyan’s first mention of the commission was during that speech. 

“This is a pure retaliation,” Sanamyan said.  

The commission will be led by Andranik Kocharyan, a former deputy defense minister and a member of parliament from Pashinyan’s “My Step” alliance, and includes 11 MPs, with some from the opposition. It has held one hearing so far, on June 4, in closed session. “The commission's work will be mainly closed. The commission will decide which part of the materials should be public,” Lilit Makunts, the head of the “My Step” faction in parliament, told RFE/RL. 

At a press conference the day of the first hearing, Andranik Kocharyan said the commission’s work is expected to last about six months, covering a wide range of issues, including whether the armed forces were properly equipped, whether they had sufficient intelligence, and the decisions made by military commanders during the fighting. “The victims’ families should not have any questions,” he told reporters.
The commission will be able to examine classified documents and question witnesses, though it will not have the power to force witnesses to testify, he added. One key witness could be Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan, who was first deputy defense minister during the 2016 war. 

Asked for further comment from members of the commission, Vahan Kostanyan, the press secretary for Pashinyan’s Civil Contract party, told Eurasianet that there was nothing to add about the commission’s work other than what had already been made public.

Members of the former government have complained that they are being unfairly targeted. “Pashinyan will try to corner the [former ruling] Republican Party, Serzh Sargsyan and Bako Sahakyan, in general all those people who can falsely be prosecuted for this,” said Armen Ashotyan, a senior official in the Republican Party, in an interview with the TV station 5th Channel.

The involvement by parliament in military oversight “offers a degree of promise and potential that the Armenian parliament will adopt a more active and assertive role as an institutional counterweight to the executive branch,” Richard Giragosian, head of the Yerevan think tank Regional Studies Center, told Eurasianet. The commission also could determine “critical lessons learned” that could drive future reforms, he said. 

But he cautioned that the makeup of the commission was cause for concern. “Although the process of the investigation is reasonable, the parliamentary committee in charge of the investigation does not have the military experience or even the resources to conduct a comprehensive and impartial investigation,” Giragosian said. He warned against the investigation being used as a “vendetta” against the former authorities. “If that were to happen, it would not only damage the current Defense Ministry but would also diminish trust and confidence in both the military and would weaken parliament itself,” he said. 

By showing a willingness to air its dirty laundry, “there might be an indirect message to Azerbaijan, that in post-revolutionary Armenia sensitive issues pertaining to the military and security sector – usually a taboo in countries at war – can be scrutinized,” said Anahit Shirinyan, a political analyst. It also showed, she told Eurasianet, that “issues of good governance are now of higher priority to Armenia than military-patriotic rhetoric which is often used to conceal mismanagement and corruption.”

Several Defense Ministry officials were fired shortly after the fighting on charges of corruption. 
This is not the first time Pashinyan has addressed the need to investigate the April 2016 fighting. During an October 2017 hearing, when he was an opposition MP, he called for a commission to look into the event. But then he appeared to try to implicate Russia. 

“After joining [in 2014] the Eurasian Economic Union [a Russia-led trade bloc], Armenia lost a significant portion of territory,” Pashinyan said then. He accused the then-ruling Republicans of justifying membership in the EAEU, which Pashinyan’s bloc opposed, by tying it to Russia’s security guarantees for Armenia. “You say there is a security issue involved, then how did it happen that an EAEU member was fighting with weapons from the 1980s?” he asked. 

Ani Mejlumyan is a reporter based in Yerevan.

12 June, 2019
PM Pashinyan hands Armenian passport to former French lawmaker René Rouquet

Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan received former member of the National Assembly of France and former mayor of Alfortville, René Rouquet, the PM’s Office told Armenpress.

Welcoming the guest PM Pashinyan said Mr. Rouquet visited Armenia and Artsakh for over 30 times since 1989. “But this visit is special for you. Today you receive a passport of the citizen of the Republic of Armenia and from now on you are not only our unconditional friend, but also fellow citizen”, the PM said and handed the Armenian passport to René Rouquet. Pashinyan congratulated Rouquet and thanked for his pro-Armenian activities.

In his turn René Rouquet thanked the PM for high appreciation and stated: “It’s a great honor to receive an Armenian passport from your hand. I have started my parliamentary activity at the age of 35 and has been an unconditional advocate of the Armenian Cause because I have always communicated with Armenians in Alfortville and consider the Armenian people as a relative and friend”. He assured that he will continue his pro-Armenian activities in the future and will contribute to raising and solving the issues of the Armenian people.

Pashinyan noted that Armenia highly appreciates Mr. Rouquet’s activities and this passport is the reflection of this appreciation.

At the meeting the sides also exchanged views on the further development of the Armenian-French brotherly ties.

Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan

ARKA, Armenia
June 14 2019
Survey: some 22 percent of Russian citizens look at Armenia as a friendly country

Only 22 percent of Russian citizens look at Armenia as a friendly country, according to the findings of a survey, conducted by Russian Levada Polling Center.

The respondents were asked to name five countries which they would call as closest friends and allies of Russia. Incidentally, a similar survey conducted in 2018, showed that only 11% of respondents expressed their sympathy for Armenia.

Armenia was fourth in the list of the friendliest countries, coming after Belarus (62%), China (42%) and Kazakhstan (38%).  Only 16% of respondents considered Armenia’s neighbors Azerbaijan as a friendly nation and 8% thought the same of Georgia.

“The attitude to the CIS countries is primarily explained by the fact that the lack of hostility, including in the media, is already seen as friendship. For example, negotiations with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan create the illusion that Armenia is a friendly country,” commented the results of the poll head of Levada Center Lev Gudkov, Vedomosti reported.

At the same time, when asked to name the five countries which they would call the most unfriendly and hostile towards Russia, the respondents did not include Armenia in that list. The most unfriendly nation is the United States (67%), followed by Ukraine (40%) and the United Kingdom (38%).

The survey conducted May 24-29, 2019 embraced 1,616 urban and rural residents aged 18 and older in 137 communities across 50 provinces of Russia. -0-

Panorama, Armenia
June 13 2019
Artsakh president receives Baroness Caroline Cox

Artsakh Republic President Bako Sahakyan received Baroness Caroline Cox and accompanying her individuals, Information department at the President’s Office reported.
According to the source, issues related to the Azerbaijani-Karabagh conflict settlement, Artsakh's domestic and foreign policy and regional processes were discussed during the meeting.
The Head of the State rated high the assistance of the Baroness to Artsakh considering it an exemplary demonstration of impartial friendship and sincere humanity.

Anadolu Agency. Turkey
June 13 2019
First Turkish-Armenian TV station launched in Turkey
Channel chief Aram Kuran thanks Turkish President Erdogan, Anadolu Agency, and TRT for supporting new venture
Murat Paksoy  

Turkey’s first Turkish-Armenian television station has hit the airwaves, according to the journalist spearheading the project.

“Every Friday night, for the first time in Turkey we’re broadcasting news in Western Armenian,” said Aram Kuran, the station’s chief, referring to one of the two branches of the Armenian language.

“We also have live broadcasts two days a week,” he told Anadolu Agency, adding that they hope to expand the program schedule.

Turkish, a multiethnic, multicultural society, has a sizeable population of ethnic Armenians.
The station’s team started work on Luys TV -- meaning "light" in Armenian -- nearly two years ago, Kuran explained.

Kuran thanked Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan for his support during the setup process, even as they faced some difficulties.

The station will include news items from Anadolu Agency as translated into Armenian, as well as spotlights on politics, fashion, culture, contemporary issues, and music and programs for children, he added.

Most of the programs will be in Armenian, he explained, but some will be in Turkish as well.
National Turkish broadcaster TRT has also given the station access to its archive, including documentaries on minorities, he said.

* Writing by Burak Bir

PanArmenian, Armenia
June 13 2019
Lawyer had to defend Armenian fictional characters in Turkish court 

Turkish-British novelist Elif Shafak has revealed that her lawyer had to defend her Armenian fictional characters when the author landed in court over her bestselling novel "The Bastard of Istanbul", Buziness Live says.

The book delves into the Genocide of Armenians, which Turkey has long been denying.
She was acquitted (and the penal code on which her case was based has been amended since, though not sufficiently).

But she had to listen to people she had made up in her book being quoted in court. “My Turkish lawyer had to defend my Armenian fictional characters,” she has said.

There is no suggestion that her most recent novel will face an official probe — at least not yet. But 10 Minutes 38 Seconds in this Strange World is already being attacked by (apparently organised) trolls and bots. All the messages accuse the writer of indecency and obscenity.

Turkish right-wing nationalists have been harassing fiction writers for decades. In 2006, they took aim at Orhan Pamuk, Turkey’s most celebrated novelist. He was accused of “insulting Turkishness” in a newspaper interview in which he spoke of the 1.5 million of Armenians who died.

In May, novelist Abdullah Sevki was briefly arrested for his graphic depiction of a paedophile sex abuse scene. He is now under investigation.

Public Radio of Armenia
June 13 2019
Zarni-Parni: Medieval cave castle complex in Armenia's Lori restored
The medieval Zarni-Parni cave castle complex near the village of Haghpat, Armenia, has been restored thanks to efforts of Ruben Mesrobyan from Alaverdi, the Armenian government informs in a Facebook post.
Located in a picturesque forest canyon with a delightful panorama view of the Kayan fortress, the historical complex consists of the ‘’Zarni er’’ and‘’Parni er’’ castles embodying the strong will and persistence of the participants of the Armenian national liberation struggle, as well as the ‘’Tsak er’’ cave. According to some historical records the XI-XIIc. great scholar and philosopher Hovhannes Imastaser lived and worked in this cave.
These historical monuments had been buried under thick layers of soil and dense forest vegetation. After restoring the road leading to the cave, the area was cleaned up and stone steps were carved up to the ‘’Parni er’’ castle.
The completely restored area was made into a historical museum that features hundreds of unique exhibits, agricultural tools and equipment, including wooden ploughs, yokes, household items, kitchenware, pitchers, large wine jars and a great number of other articles representing the culture and daily life of the local people.
The area of the complex has been made into an exceptional cultural setting tastefully combining the old with the new. The complex houses traditional vineyards, a winery and a tavern. Visitors can enjoy Armenian national dishes and world famous as well as local wines, try out archery and crossbow shooting, play darts and chess, watch national games and buy souvenirs.

RFE/RL Report
EU Boosts Aid To Armenia
June 13, 2019

The European Union on Thursday announced 25 million euros ($28 million) in additional assistance to Armenia and expressed its readiness to finance large-scale infrastructure projects proposed by the Armenian government.

The EU foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, hailed “democratic reforms” implemented in Armenia after chairing, together with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian, a second session of the EU-Armenia Partnership Council.

The council is tasked with overseeing the implementation of the landmark Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) signed by the two sides in 2017.

The CEPA offers the South Caucasus state the prospect of a closer relationship with the EU in return for major political and economic reforms. It commits Yerevan to gradually “approximating” Armenian economic laws and regulations to the EU’s legal framework.

“The implementation of our agreement is roceeding well,” Mogherini told a joint news conference with Mnatsakanian in Brussels. “The dialogue, ooperation 
and partnership we have on different issues … i  excellent, and we also have good plans for the future.”

“Based on the country’s performance, democratic reforms during the last year, the EU will allocate an additional 25 million euros this year, bringing the 
total allocation for this year to 65 million euros, to support Armenia in its reforms and in implementing effectively our agreement,” Mogherini said.

She said the EU is also “identifying funding ossibilities for the priority projects that Armenia has recently presented to the European Commission.” They relate to not only public infrastructures but also energy efficiency, police reform and women’s rights, she added.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian requested EU funding for his “mega projects” when he visited Brussels in March. Pashinian said after that trip that the EU is ready to support them provided that they are co-financed by the Armenian government.

The head of the EU Delegation in Yerevan, Piotr Switalski, said last month that some of these projects are “very costly and very complicated.” “But we are very seriously considering how best to implement them,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service.

According to Mogherini, the EU is also ready to provide “substantial support” for sweeping judicial reforms planned by the Pashinian administration. “We support the ongoing work aimed at a comprehensive judicial reform in Armenia in line with the Armenian constitution and with international standards,” she said. “An independent, efficient and accountable judiciary benefits all.”

Mnatsakanian described the Partnership Council meeting as “very productive.” He reaffirmed Yerevan’s commitment to closer ties with the EU, saying that Armenia and the 28-nation bloc share a “common civilizational heritage” and commitment 
to democracy.

Pashinian has also repeatedly stressed the importance of closer ties with the EU for Armenia. He has made clear at the same time that his country will remain part of the Russian-led alliances of former Soviet republics.

Financial Times, FT
June 14 2019
Armen Sarkissian: ‘The moment you stop learning, you die’
 John Thornhill
The Armenian president and physicist on Byron, Kim Kardashian — and the new ‘quantum politics’
  Having Lunch with the FT with the president of Armenia proves as diplomatically ticklish as it is gastronomically sensatio­nal. True to the traditions of lavish hospitality in his tiny Caucasian country, Armen Sarkissian refuses to accept that any visitor could ever treat him to lunch in his home city of Yerevan. But when I tell him of the FT’s rigid rules, he suggests a generous compromise: we should have a second lunch two days later which, he reluctantly concedes, the FT may be allowed to cover. So precedent is breached, but honour satisfied.

The first of our two girth-busting and brain-bursting lunches takes place in Ankyun, an Italian-Armenian fusion restaurant in the centre of Yerevan, a quirky urban hybrid of slab-faced Soviet architecture and grandiose Caucasian style. When Sarkissian arrives, preceded by a posse of leather-jacketed, earpiece-wearing bodyguards, we are soon drawn into a discussion of the drama of last year’s “velvet revolution” and the stand-off between the then prime minister, Serzh Sargsyan, and mass opposition on the street. “It was very, very, very tense. There was no dialogue between those on the street and the government and we were heading towards a confrontation,” he says.

Sarkissian’s instinct, which his advisers thought “mad”, was simply to walk into the crowd of protesters gathered in Republic Square to meet the opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan and hear what he had to say. “I just had the feeling that was the right thing to do,” he says.

But our conversation rapidly sweeps over a broad range of subjects, from theoretical physics, Margaret Thatcher, Lord Byron and Kim Kardashian to Sarkissian’s theory of “quantum politics”, all sprinkled with a fair dose of Caucasian culture, cuisine and intrigue.

Sarkissian has, after all, lived many lives during his 65 years. “Life is always preparing you for something, you just never know for what,” says Sarkissian, whose broad face can switch from censorious frown to avuncular grin as fast as the clouds scud across Yerevan’s skyline towards Mount Ararat.

Determined to show off the wonders of the local cuisine, Sarkissian dispenses with the menu and orders a broad sample of the restaurant’s offerings. We start by sharing three salads, beetroot and cheese, broccoli, and an olive oil-drenched tarragon creation bursting with freshness and flavour. That is quickly followed by a tagliatelle with lemon and pine kernels that is deliciously zingy. I am keen to try some local wine, given that Armenia is renowned as one of the oldest wine-producing regions in the world — as noted by Herodotus. So we taste some Koor Voskehat dry white that in its rich colour and resiny taste resembles, to my limited palate at least, a vin jaune from the Jura.

During our conversation, Sarkissian frequently harks back to Armenia’s rich and troubled past but has his eyes fixed firmly on the future. I ask him about the recent speech in which he said that if the 20th century had been the century of natural resources, then the 21st century would be that of human resources. He explains that we are living through a period of extraordinary technological change, which he describes as an era of rapid evolution, or “r-evolution”, as he has dubbed it. The ability to learn and adapt is what will differentiate the winners from losers in this century.

This explosion of knowledge is partly a numbers game. In Isaac Newton’s day, there were perhaps 1,000 people in the world studying advanced mechanics. In Albert Einstein’s day, there were perhaps 10,000 scientists worldwide researching quantum physics. But today, he estimates, there are hundreds of millions of people engaged in scientific research and technological development, not just in the famous universities and multinational companies but in thousands of innovative start-ups.“

If you can find Newton in 1,000 and Einstein in 10,000, imagine how many talented people can you find in hundreds of millions? This new world is a world of innovation and start-ups.”

Sarkissian is keen to seize the opportunities of this new revolution, and argues that the power of innovation does not only apply to science, technology and business but also to the way that countries run themselves. Governments must become a lot more agile and education systems need to be reimagined. “Armenia is one of the new start-ups of the 21st century,” he says.

The first of Sarkissian’s lives was as a theoretical physicist in the Soviet Union, winning the prestigious Lenin prize and the rare opportunity in 1984 to pursue research at the University of Cambridge alongside, among others, Stephen Hawking.

On the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, Sarkissian was asked to become independent Armenia’s first ambassador to London, a post he filled again on two later occasions — a record, he believes, at the Court of St James’s. For good measure, he also opened embassies and missions in Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, the EU, Nato and the Vatican. “I dreamt that I could do both science and diplomacy. But being a research physicist is like being a concert pianist. Unless you practise every day, it is gone. It becomes a hobby,” he says, regretfully.

His third life began in 1996 when he became Armenia’s prime minister, a demanding job cut short the following year when he was diagnosed with cancer. On his recovery, he returned to London to pursue a lucrative career as a business adviser to some of the world’s biggest multinationals, interspersed with further ambassadorial spells.

But in 2018 he was once again lured back into Armenian politics after being elected by parliament to serve as president. Almost immediately, he walked into a raging political crisis. Sargsyan, who had been president for the previous 10 years, had tried to retain power by rewriting the constitution and assuming the newly beefed-up role of prime minister. But this had triggered mass protests and fears that the country might spiral into violent confrontation.

Putting his extensive diplomatic wiles to good use, Sarkissian shuttled between the two sides and consulted Russian, US and EU representatives to broker a settlement. He urged all parties to come together on the eve of the anniversary of the Armenian genocide of 1915, commemorated each year on April 24. Sargsyan’s dramatic resignation soon followed, paving the way for fresh elections. Mercifully, Armenia avoided the conflict that disfigured the so-called colour revolutions in several other former Soviet republics. Sarkissian is full of praise for the restraint shown by all sides, including Russian president Vladimir Putin. “I think everyone behaved properly,” he says.

Sarkissian is now basking in the afterglow, acting as a father figure to a young, reform-minded government led by the former opposition leader Pashinyan. Hope has finally broken out in a country more familiar with tragedy.

He notices that a song by Charles Aznavour, that late, great Armenian-French singer, is playing in the background. Sarkissian reminisces that when he was ambassador to the EU, he would invite Aznavour to Brussels twice a year, guaranteeing that pretty much the entire European Commission queued up to come to dinner.

As we fold thin slices of pancetta and pepperoni pizza and munch away, Sarkissian tells me about some of the leaders he has known best and most admired, including Israel’s Shimon Peres and Britain’s Margaret Thatcher.

In particular, he remembers a trip that Thatcher made to Armenia in 1990 following the devastating earthquake of 1988, which killed some 45,000 people. Thatcher had flown in from Moscow, where she had held important talks with the then Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev. What struck Sarkissian was her “discipline and sharpness of her mind”, as well as her memory for detail. He was most impressed by her ability to listen and learn, human skills that Sarkissian ranks highly. “Those people who know how to listen are also people who learn,” he says. “The moment you stop learning, you die. Age is not the number of years that you have been living. Age is the condition of your soul.”

While in Armenia, Thatcher opened a school in Gyumri, rebuilt with British aid money and named in honour of Lord Byron, whom I learn is something of a national hero in Armenia. Sarkissian explains that in 1816 Byron spent several months living with the Mekhitarist Order of the Armenian Catholic Church in Venice, where he learnt the language and wrote about Armenia’s struggle for liberation from Turkish pashas and Persian satraps. Armenian monks live in the same monastery on the beautiful Isla San Lazzaro to this day, serving up fine food and immersing themselves in a library of ancient manuscripts. “I would love to live there, it’s a fantastic life,” says Sarkissian a little wistfully.

I am certainly not grumbling about our own enclave of Italian-Armenian cuisine. Our pizza plates are whisked away and the main course arrives: steak for the president, and salmon for me. Afterwards, the owner insists that we try a pleasingly bitter hazelnut cake with our coffee. “If you ate like this every day, you would be 200 kilogrammes,” the president jokes.

Two days later, we meet again at Dolmama, an apartment block converted into an Armenian restaurant run by Jirair Avanian, a former New York art dealer and one of Sarkissian’s oldest friends. They both studied at School No 114 back in Soviet times. “He was always the brightest kid in school,” the debonair Avanian tells me. With dark wood furniture, deep red tablecloths and flowers on every table, Dolmama has the feel of a family dining room.

When Sarkissian arrives, dressed in a grey pinstriped suit and a black V-neck jumper, he says he is fighting off a cold and orders a little cherry-flavoured vodka and a Coca-Cola. We order a tantalising array of cold starters and salads, trout and cheese parcels, aubergine rolls stuffed with walnuts and fennel, and chicken liver salad, as well as the restaurant’s signature dolma, vine leaves filled with lamb and beef. They are all prepared and presented to perfection.

Dolmama10 Pushkin St, Yerevan(In Armenian drams)Tjvjik (fried beef liver) 6,000Cured Ishkhan trout 4,500Eggplant rolls 3,500Dolma 3,500Black trout 18,000Pork steak 12,500Water 4,000White wine 4,000Cherry vodka and cola 2,800Coffee 5,000Total inc service 70,180 (£115)

Quickly picking up on our previous conversation, Sarkissian delivers a spirited explanation of why small countries such as Armenia, Israel, Singapore and Ireland, often the victims of bigger powers in previous centuries, are well positioned to thrive in our own times because they are so adaptable. Throughout its own 3,000-year history, Armenia has been at the crossroads of different civilisations, cultures and ideologies, European and Asian, Christian and Muslim, communist and capitalist. Over the past few centuries, that has resulted in several eruptions of violence between the world’s oldest Christian state and its Islamic neighbours, most recently Turkey and Azerbaijan. Armenia is still locked in a frozen conflict with Azerbaijan over the disputed territory of Nagorno-Karabakh. “We are survivors,” Sarkissian says.

That tumultuous history caused millions of Armenians to flee abroad. Although the population of Armenia numbers only 3m, there are an estimated 8m diaspora Armenians scattered around the world: “Armenia is a small country, but a global nation,” Sarkissian says.

That global network of engaged Armenians, including the reality TV star Kim Kardashian with her 141m Instagram followers, will be an important asset in today’s interconnected world, he argues. Sarkissian is determined to deepen the diaspora’s involvement with its historic homeland. “They have to believe they are part of a bigger family,” he says. “We have to become a hub of new ideas and technologies and do business in many places.”

Sarkissian tucks his napkin into the top of his jumper as a giant pork steak arrives. I have ordered a trout from Armenia’s Lake Sevan, a place of legendary beauty — and fine fish. The enormous, delicate trout is meatier than any other I have tasted but still flakes off the bone at the slightest prodding.
           By the quantum, I mean the individual particle. The individual person becomes powerful because they have a tool of connectivity in the world wide web    
  One of the aspects of our modern world that most intrigues Sarkissian is how the latest technological revolution is changing the dynamics of politics. One of the very few heads of state who is a scientist, he argues that just as we moved from a world of classical to quantum mechanics, we are now moving from a world of classical to quantum politics. In the classical political world, what matters are organised forms of connectivity: tribes, nations, religions, ideologies, parties, political institutions. Change tends to be slow and relatively predictable. But the quantum political world moves in faster, unpredictable and seemingly random ways: every connected individual can produce an effect by expressing their opinion on social media.“

By the quantum, I mean the individual particle. The individual person becomes powerful because they have a tool of connectivity in the world wide web,” he says. “Heisenberg’s uncertainty principle could be used to describe events that are happening in social life.”

Sarkissian says that many aspects of our contemporary world exhibit quantum behaviour: the spread of pandemics or the impact of terrorist acts. He saw its effects first-hand, too, during Armenia’s soft revolution, when the classical institutions of government and parliament were overwhelmed by mass mobilisation in the virtual world. Power seeped into the streets.

But did not something similar take place in the pre-internet era in October 1917 during the Russian Revolution? Yes, Sarkissian concedes. Such events used to happen once every 80 years; nowadays they can happen every year. He cites the example of Emmanuel Macron, who proved a master of quantum politics in winning the French presidency in 2017 by unconventional means, but is now its victim as the gilets jaunes have mobilised online and taken to the streets.

Despite the uncertainties created by this new world, Sarkissian is exhilarated by its possibilities. He suggests that we are living through a new renaissance as research boundaries dissolve, for example, between physics and biology, between DNA and data-processing. “I would love to come back in 50 years to see what has happened,” he says. 

Affairs of state are pressing but I have time to ask him which of his many lives he has most enjoyed. Typically, he gives an answer that is both mathematical and diplomatic. “Each of them. They were all mine. When I was living life number n, I was not thinking about life number n+1,” he says. “I was just trying to live a full life when I was living it.”

John Thornhill is the FT’s innovation editor

Armenian News... A Topalian

11 June 2019
Defense Forces Retaliate for Killing of Artsakh Soldier

In a military operation over the weekend, Armenian Defense Forces successfully retaliated for the June 1 killing of Artsakh Soldier Sipan Melkonyan by Azerbaijani forces.

Armenia’s Defense Ministry spokesperson Artsrun Hovanhanniyan took to social media in a rare post announcing that Defense Minister David Tonoyan has bestowed the highest honors on the soldiers who were involved in the retaliatory operation to “avenge the death of Sipan Melkonyan” and praised their conduct.

Ignoring the role that Azerbaijani soldiers played in the 19-year-old Melkonyan’s killing, official Baku issued an announcement through the foreign ministry that acknowledged the death of one Azerbaijani soldier as a result of “diversion operations by the Armenian side.”

The Azerbaijani foreign ministry said in its announcement that on the eve of planned meeting by the top diplomats from Armenia and Azerbaijan, mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen, the Armenian side undertook “a regular bloody operation,” in an effort to thwart the Karabakh peace process. Official Baku also placed the so-called blame on Armenia and its authorities.

I should worth noting that the retaliatory operation took place following last week’s meeting between Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and President Vladimir Putin of Russia in St. Petersburg.

 news.am, Armenia
June 12 2019
Artsakh MFA: Restoration of Artsakh's territorial integrity still
needs to be resolved

Twenty-seven years ago, the Azerbaijani armed formations with the support of the units of the 23rd division of the former Soviet Army occupied the Shahumyan region of Artsakh, Artsakh Foreign Ministry said in a statement.

“For the subsequent period a large part of the Martakert region was captured: in total, around 50% of the territory of Artsakh wasoccupied.

To date, the Shahumyan region and part of the Martakert and Martuni regions are under the occupation of Azerbaijan where the authorities
of this country are pursuing a policy of illegal settlement.

The issue of restoration of the territorial integrity of the Republic of Artsakh and return of the indigenous Armenian inhabitants to theplaces of their residence still needs to be resolved, which is one ofthe key elements of the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict settlement,” the statement reads.

PanArmenian, Armenia
June 11 2019
Dutch parliament slams Erdogan’s comments on Armenian Genocide

The Dutch House of Representatives on Tuesday, June 11 adopted a resolution condemning Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s April 24 comments concerning the victims of the Armenian Genocide, lawmaker Alen Simonyan said in a Facebook post.

Erdogan said back then that the deportation of Armenians by the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century was “appropriate at the time.”

The “deportation of Armenian gangs who were massacring Muslims including women, children and elderly people in the Eastern Anatolia region was the most appropriate act at that time,” Erdogan said. “No group or state has been able to prove their claims on the Armenian issue with archive documents.”

The document adopted by the parliament of the Netherlands obliges the government to inform the Turkish authorities on the lawmakers stance.

April 24, 1915 is the day when a group of Armenian intellectuals was rounded up and assassinated in Constantinople by the Ottoman government. On April 24, Armenians worldwide commemorated the 104th anniversary of the Genocide which continued until 1923. Some three dozen countries, including the Netherlands, hundreds of local government bodies and international organizations have so far recognized the killings of 1.5 million Armenians as Genocide. Turkey denies to this day.

AHVAL, Armenia
June 12 2019
Pro-Kurdish HDP submits queries to interior minister on Armenian woman attacked in Istanbul

Turkey’s pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) have submitted written queries to the interior minister after an Armenian woman was stabbed in İstanbul last month, left-wing news site Gazete Duvar reported on Wednesday.

HDP lawmaker Hüda Kaya submitted a series of written inquiries in parliament to Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu in connection with the woman from Armenia, who was attacked on May 31 in the Samatya district of Istanbul.

Fellow HDP deputy Garo Paylan also brought up the attack in parliament on Wednesday, asking why the assailants, who had committed a hate crime, had not been caught.

The woman, identified as Arpine T., was hospitalised after masked men stabbed her at the entrance to her house in Samatya. The two men told the woman the attack was only the beginning, according to reports. Arpine T., who had moved to Istanbul from Armenia, is relocating back to Armenia, the newspaper said.

The written queries included questions whether work had been done to identify the attackers and to prevent similar attacks, and how many people who targeted Armenians’ homes have been arrested, Gazete Duvar said.

Historically one of the most significant ethnic minorities in Turkey, the current Armenian population of 50,000 to 70,000 is a fraction of the number that lived in the Ottoman Empire before expulsions and mass killings began in 1915. The fate of the country’s Armenians is still one of the most controversial topics in Turkey, whose government denies that a genocide took place.

Kensington Chelsea & Westminster Today, UK
June 11 2019
The Summit of Minds – Armenia June 2019

Only the sharpest minds and their cooperation are capable of addressing the global issues we face today. War, money, technology, so many things created by humans to control our world have also managed to become what appear to be insurmountable obstacles to building a clearer and brighter future. While many international conferences meet to address such dilemmas, one conference in particular looks to address these issues directly. The Summit of Minds is an annual conference which features thematic discussions on topics such as: geopolitical developments in Eurasia and the Middle East, high technologies and management, artificial intelligence, digital economy, and other contemporary fields of interest. It boasts a vast and diverse array of attendees, from private investors to generals, current and past country prime ministers and Presidents, economists to entrepreneurs, scholars, politicians, the list goes on.The conference is typically held in Chamonix, France but for the first time in the history of the conference the venue has changed.

This year’s Summit of Mind’s takes place in the historic city of Yerevan in the beautiful country of Armenia. Why Armenia? The country is currently in the middle of a radical change, both politically and economically. After decades of corruption Armenia is now headed by a Prime Minister and President who have nothing but the people’s interest and the prosperity of their country at heart. If this sounds implausible, a look at the two leaders’ backgrounds will settle any doubts. President Armen Sarkissian has a doctorate in theoretical physics and was longtime Armenian ambassador to the UK and the EU. He also studied at Cambridge alongside Stephen Hawking and was one of the original authors of TETRIS. The Prime Minister is a great favourite of the Armenian people.  After holding protests calling for political fairness for over a decade culminating with the 2018 democratic revolution, Prime Minister NikolPashinyanentered office with the people of Armenia behind him. Speaking at the Summit of Minds, PM Pashinyan focused mainly on the future of humanity and how very bright it could be. Here is an excerpt from his speech:

An ancient Indian parable asks, ‘what is more than the stars?’ The answer is: ideas. Only one person’s ideas are taken into consideration in this answer though. The idea is the most important variable and the turning point for shaping and creating our reality. The whole of civilization, in fact, is based on a single factor, the human mind. Generally speaking, there are only two key factors affecting the planet: the cosmic factors and human mind. As we talk about the main topic of today’s debate on economic, investment and geopolitical trends worldwide and in the region, we can see that the greatest investment in the modern world is already being done by the human mind.

Today, the idea is the main driving power behind the economy. The point here is that the human mind is no longer limited to itself, and a global industry of using artificial thinking, artificial intelligence is thriving all over the world. This is the main trend in the 21st century, in the modern world. When we look at the structure of the global economy established just over the past 20-30 years, we will see that the most dramatic change is thought and new ways of thinking. The forces that stem from human thought, talent and intellect, have become economic locomotives in the modern world.

 11 June, 2019
First Armenian Diaspora Opinion Survey results released

The Armenian Diaspora Survey (ADS) published the results of the first ever survey which presents the issues, attitudes and trends shaping the Armenian world in the 21st century, Massis Post reported.

The 150-page Pilot Project includes six thematic chapters – identity, language and culture, religion, community, policy and relations with Armenia, as well as the full results of the pilot survey conducted in May and June 2018 in Boston, Cairo, Marseille and Pasadena. 

Реклама 14
Hratch Tchilingirian, a scholar at University of Oxford, says the main goal of this research project is to understand the multilateral and various aspects of the life of the Armenian Diaspora.

According to him, the information and all responses of the survey can be useful for the leaders of communities and institutions of the Armenian Diaspora and policy-makers in Armenia, especially when they make decisions on the priorities and programs of the communities.

Over 1000 Armenians in four cities in the Diaspora took part in this survey, which was led by a team of academics, researchers and experts. In May and June 2018 four teams conducted the survey and interviews in Boston, Cairo, Marseille and Pasadena.  These cities were chosen to provide variety for the initial phase, as well as for their community history and characteristics. 

The overwhelming majority of the respondents consider the continuation of the Armenian Diaspora as important and meaningful space—94% marked as “fairly” to “very” important. Along these lines, 84% of respondents felt it was important to help Diaspora communities in the Middle East. This is significant as traditionally the Genocide and the Republic of Armenia have been the focus of funding, study or discourse in the Diaspora.  The respondents showed interest in all of these, but considered the Diaspora equally important.  Armenia is “fairly” and “very” important to 90% of respondents and 75% have visited the country at least once, while 93% intend to visit. 

Respondents said that Armenian language, history and religion were important to themselves and to Armenian identity generally—but variations appeared between the cities and further questions revealed broad variations in practice.   

Even as ADS respondents in the four cities seem to be more active than perhaps a broader population of Armenians, 73% claimed no active affiliation with any Armenian political organization. However a majority said they were active in other Armenian organizations such as the AGBU, Hamazkain and others.  

Predictably, Christianity is considered an important part of Armenian identity—for Apostolic, Evangelical and Catholic respondents across the four communities. While only 14-16% attended church weekly or monthly, 70% felt it is important to be married in an Armenian church.

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Government Pushing Through Major Tax Cuts
June 10, 2019
Nane Sahakian

Pashinian holds a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, 
February 21, 2019.

The National Assembly has approved wide-ranging tax cuts which Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government says will stimulate economic growth in Armenia.

A government bill passed by the parliament in the first reading on Friday will introduce a flat personal income tax, cut the corporate profit tax rate from 20 
to 18 percent and make more small businesses eligible for preferential taxation. These measures are due to take effect on January 1, 2020.

Presenting the bill to lawmakers, Deputy Finance Minister Arman Poghosian said that it is designed to make the Armenian economy and especially its 
export-oriented sectors more competitive. He also stressed the importance of shoring up small and medium-sized enterprises.

The upcoming change of the existing income tax rates, which had been rendered more progressive by the former Armenian government, will primarily benefit relative high earners. The rates are currently set at 28 percent for monthly wages ranging from 150,000 drams to 2 million drams ($310-$4,150) and at 36 percent for higher incomes.

Armenians earning up to 150,000 drams per month now pay 23 percent of their income to the state. They make up around two-thirds of the country’s workforce, according to tax authorities.

The government bill will set a 23 percent tax rate for all individuals. What is more, that rate will be gradually cut to 20 percent over the next three years.

Government officials and Pashinian in particular have said that this will discourage employers from underreporting their workers’ wages for tax evasion 
purposes and spur broader economic activity. Artak Manukian, one of the 72 pro-government deputies who backed the bill, said on Monday that the uniform rate will also “simplify things” for businesses.

Critics, among them some of the 32 opposition lawmakers who voted against the tax cuts, dismiss these arguments. They say that the flat tax is unfair and would only widen the already serious income inequality in Armenia.

In another significant change, the government wants to increase from 58.3 million drams to 115 million drams the annual revenue ceiling for businesses 
that are exempt from profit and value-added taxes and pay a much lower “turnover tax” instead. Small businesses outside Yerevan earning up to 24 million drams annually will pay no taxes at all.

At the same time, the bill calls for significant increases in excise taxes collected from tobacco and alcohol. This is meant to partly make up for a short-term loss of the government’s budgetary revenues that will inevitably result from the tax cuts.

Visiting Yerevan in February, a senior official from the International Monetary Fund, Hossein Samiei, said the government should also offset those losses with a further improvement in tax administration. Samiei also cautioned that the tax cuts could have positive effects on the Armenian economy only in the medium term.

Iran Front Page
June 11 2019
Handicrafts of Isfahan’s Jolfa: Epitome of Iranian-Armenian Art
By Fatemeh Askarieh

Jolfa, an ancient neighbourhood of Isfahan, is known for its traditional arts which make up an important part of the history of handicrafts in Isfahan province. 
Those arts were produced in line with models of medieval Armenian art and in conformity with Ancient Iranian arts.

June 10th marks World Handicraft Day. Some 600 handicrafts have been registered on the list of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). Of that figure, 450 belong to Iran. Interestingly, 287 handicrafts out of 450 belong to Isfahan.

Around 300 years ago during King Abbas Safavid, Armenians migrated from the banks of the Aras river to the banks of Zayandehrood in Isfahan to remain immune to the mass killing of Armenians. After the threat was removed, they stayed there.

Little by little, Armenians in Isfahan managed to spread their traditional and native arts and produced works of art using gold and tile as well as works of miniature and Qalamkari, part of which is on show at Isfahan’s Vank church.

The following are images of handicrafts produced in Isfahan and its Jolfa neighbourhood.

* After the second World War, handicrafts with an artistic and cultural touch drew the attention of many countries. On that day, the first international conference was held in New York, bringing together university professors, artists  and industrialists from more than 40 countries. The day when the conference was held was named as International Handicraft Day.

 10 June, 2019
Armenia’s exports to EAEU states grow by over 20%

The trade turnover between Armenia and the Eurasian Economic Union (EAEU) has greatly increased since the country’s membership to the Union, Armenian economy minister Tigran Khachatryan said during parliamentary hearings on Armenia’s chairmanship year in the EAEU. The minister said the export of final consumer goods from Armenia to the EAEU states has also increased. 

Overall, last year the export grew by 20.7%.
“EAEU has opened great opportunities for Armenia’s economy. We have made some comparisons as of late 2014 (before Armenia’s membership) the quantitative figure of our relations with the member states. And we can state that the trade turnover volumes between Armenia and the other EAEU states has increased by 34.5%. Moreover, in the same period the exports from Armenia to the EAEU states has grown 2.1 times. In 2018 the exports from Armenia to the EAEU states has increased by 20.7%. These exports include final consumption goods”, the minister said.

1.1% in the overall export comprised mining goods. Only 99% comprised goods of reprocessing industry and agriculture. The minister attached importance to these figures which show that goods of Armenian production are competitive and demanded for the consumers of the EAEU member states.
In 2018 alcoholic drinks, diamond, fresh and frozen vegetables, fruits, tobacco, jewelry, pharmaceutics and construction stones have been exported to the EAEU states.

Armenia assumed the EAEU chairmanship on January 1, 2019.

Edited and translated by Aneta Harutyunyan

AM News
June 11 2019
Armenia stands to benefit from Eurasian Economic Union, Iran trade deal

JIran has ratified an agreement on a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union, which includes Armenia

The Iranian Parliament ratified an agreement on the creation of a free trade zone with the Eurasian Economic Union on 10 June.

Negotiations on behalf of the union were led Armenia.  As a result, all its members, including Armenia, will pay lower duties when importing and exporting more than 500 goods from Iran.

The countries of the Eurasian Economic Union have already ratified this agreement in their parliaments. However, this is still a temporary agreement.  Negotiations around the main agreement will begin in a year.

The Eurasian Economic Union is an international economic integration organization that operates under the auspices of Russia and includes Armenia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, and Kyrgyzstan.  The organization provides its members with the freedom of movement of labor, goods, services and capital.

Details of the agreement

The agreement between Iran and the Eurasian Economic Union provides for a reduction in customs fees for all participants.

This will concern more than 500 goods, for which customs fees will be reduced or entirely removed.

The agreement hopes to boost trade between the EEU and Iran.

The countries of the EAEU will export meat products, sweets, cosmetics, machinery and technical equipment to Iran, while Iran will export vegetables and fruits, building materials and carpets to the countries of the EAEU.

The agreement will involve a particular reduction on duties for industrial goods:

– Iran will reduce them from 22.4 percent to 15.4,

– While the EAEU will reduce duties from 8 percent to 4.7.

The reduction of duties will also affect agricultural products.  In Iran, border payments for agricultural products are quite high – more than 32 percent.  The agreement will reduce them more than half – to 13.2%.

In the EAEU zone, duties on agricultural products will also be significantly reduced – from 9.6% to 4.6%.

What does this mean for Armenia?

The simplification of the customs regime will allow Armenia and the members of the EAEU to export more products to the Islamic Republic.  The market of this country for many years was unavailable due to high customs duties.

“It is worth noting that Iran continues to remain inaccessible to many foreign exporters. Duties on industrial products in this country are 4.5 times higher than in the EAEU.  The reduction of duties will affect almost half of the  goods that form the trade turnover between Armenia and Iran”, said economist Atom Margaryan. 

Iran’s economy is closed.  The country resorts to serious protectionist measures to protect the local producer. Iranian scholar Vardan Voskanyan says Armenia should make the most of new opportunities:

“Armenia is the only EAEU country that has a land border with Iran. And in Iran there is a point of view that Armenia should become a gate for them that goes to the countries of the EAEU, and  a gate to Iran for the countries of the EAEU. So we must try to fully take on the functions of this gate for two parties.”

Voskanyan says there are necessary prerequisites for this, in particular, a zone of free economic trade on the Armenian-Iranian border.

The Meghri Free Economic Zone on the Armenian-Iranian border officially opened in December 2017.  Here, goods are sold at cost price – in duty free mode.  Entrepreneurs working in the free economic zone “Megri” are exempt from income tax, value added tax, excise tax and customs duties. They are charged only income tax. 

Voskayan says that thanks to this agreement, Armenia can receive not only economic dividends, but also political ones: in the region there is a struggle for Iran between Armenia and Azerbaijan.  Each country is trying to attract Tehran with large projects, in particular in the field of transport and energy.  This agreement will allow Armenia to significantly strengthen its position.

Greek Reporter
June 12 2019
Greece Sinks to New Low in Shocking Defeat to Armenia (video)
By Tasos Kokkinidis
Greece slipped to a new low on Tuesday, conceding a shock 2-3 loss to Armenia in Group J of the European Championship qualification process.

It was a humiliating defeat as Armenia ranks 106th in the world according to FIFA.

As a result, Greece now trail second-placed Finland by five points, with the team’s hopes of finally qualifying for a major tournament again rapidly diminishing.

First-half goals from Aleksandre Karapetyan and Gevorg Ghazaryan put Armen Gyulbudaghyants’ men in firm control of this Group J clash, and although Zeca pulled a goal back for Greece, Tigran Barseghyan struck a third after 74 minutes to restore the two-goal lead.

There was still time for Kostas Fortounis to pull another goal back with just three minutes left, but the home side could not find a dramatic late equalizer to salvage a point.