ARMENIAN SYRIANS SEEKING SAFETY IN ARMENIA
Xinhua General News Service
June 28, 2012 Thursday 10:55 AM EST
The Armenian community in Syria had been hit hard by the country's
16-month crisis, with many seeking refuge in Armenia, a local police
Hovhannes Kocharyan, head of the Passport and Visa Department of the
Armenian Police, told Armenpress on Thursday that 14,277 applications
for Armenian citizenship, permanent, temporary or special residence
status were received in 2011, 2,983 of which were Armenian Syrians
and that level had almost been reached in only the first five months
of this year.
"This year's January-May number of applicants from Syria is 2,699,"
Up until June 21, 16 Syrian citizens have been given permanent
residence status, 30 temporary status and 47 have been given special
More than 10,000 people have been killed during the Syrian crisis
and the Armenian Syrian community, which has nearly 100,000 members,
has been among those to suffer, with six being killed, including four
soldiers who were soldiers with the Syrian Army.
ARMENIA IN THE VICE: PRISONER OF HISTORY
June 27 2012
..ARMENIA tends to feature in the news because of its problems
(history, geography, demography and economics to name but a few. But
a new report from the International Crisis Group (ICG) says not all is
doom and gloom. The parliamentary elections in May showed significant
improvement. Media coverage was more balanced, and the authorities
permitted greater freedom of assembly, expression and movement than in
previous years. Like Georgia, Armenia has a class of "30-something"
technocrats, whose western education and global outlook means they
are less rooted in the Soviet mentality than their elders. That bodes
well for the future.
The economy is still recovering from the global financial crisis,
which saw GDP contract by 14.2% in 2009. In the same period, the
construction sector contracted by more than 40%. Remittances from the
diaspora dropped by 30%. That led Forbes magazine to label Armenia
the world's second worst performing economy in 2011-much to Yerevan's
irritation. Although official statistics claim 8 percent unemployment,
48% of respondents told a recent survey they were looking for a job.
Over one-third of the country lives below the poverty line. Complaints
of corruption are widespread, and inflation is high.
Low rates of tax collection-19.3% of GDP, compared with a 40% average
in EU countries-limit the government's reach. Cracking down on tax
evasion could increase government revenue by over $400 million, says
the World Bank. A few, high-profile businessmen dominate the economy.
Their monopolies and oligopolies put a significant brake on business
development. Their influence also weakens political will for the kind
of reforms that the country sorely needs.
Armenia's democracy also has lots of room for improvement. Abuse
of administrative resources, inflated voter lists, vote-buying and
pressure on voters were just some of the irregularities that took
place in May. Moreover, the flawed 2008 presidential elections, and
subsequent crackdown on protestors (during which ten people died and
450 were injured) mean the government has lots more to do to restore
its credibility. Public trust in the country's democratic institutions
is low, and cynicism is widespread.
The next big test will be presidential elections in February 2013.
The president, Serzh Sargosyan, has promised "the cleanest elections
in Armenia's history". If so, he has a lot to do. "The country needs
a better future than a stunted economy and dead-end conflicts with
its neighbours", the ICG concludes.
That is putting it mildly. Nagorno-Karabakh, over which Armenia went
to war with Azerbaijan is a "sleeping volcano" according to a 2010
book by Tom de Waal. The main fighting stopped in 1994 but between
April 27th and June 20th this year, at least eight Armenian and seven
Azerbaijani soldiers died. That's by far the worst death toll of any
conflict anywhere in Europe (even including Russia's troubled North
Caucasus). If it were happening in the Balkans, say, the world would
be watching worriedly. But it isn't.
(For a longer report on Armenia, take a look at Tim Judah's piece in
the New York Review of Books).
Doctor Dies After Yerevan Restaurant Assault
One of the three men who were badly beaten up this month at a Yerevan
restaurant belonging to a powerful government-linked businessman died
in hospital on Friday.
Vahe Avetian, 35, and two other military doctors were hospitalized
after being assaulted by restaurant staff in still unclear
circumstances on June 17.
Avetian was hit hardest in the incident, suffering severe head
injuries. He remained in critical condition despite undergoing two
surgeries at a military hospital in the Armenian capital where he
Seven men, most of them security guards, were arrested in an ensuing
police investigation into the violence. One of them was then freed
pending investigation, while the others were remanded in pre-trial
custody on assault charges.
The incident has cast a renewed media spotlight on the notoriously
violent conduct of burly men working for wealthy businessmen close to
the Armenian government, including Ruben Hayrapetian, the owner of the
restaurant in question. Media commentators have attributed the
severity of the assault to what they see as impunity enjoyed by those
men and their powerful employers.
Hayrapetian, who is also a parliament deputy from the ruling
Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), strongly condemned the incident but
denied any responsibility for it last week. He pledged to assist in
the ongoing criminal investigation.
The Armenian Defense Ministry also condemned the violence and
expressed solidarity with its victims and their relatives. Defense
Minister Seyran Ohanian visited Avetian and the two other hospitalized
doctors last week.
Hefty Bonuses Promised To Armenian Olympic Medalists
Armenian athletes winning gold medals in the upcoming Olympic Games in
London would receive $700,000 each from Gagik Tsarukian, an
influential businessman heading the National Olympic Committee, it was
announced on Friday.
Derenik Gabrielian, the deputy chairman of the committee, said the
hefty bonuses would be paid in addition to more modest financial
rewards promised by the Armenian government.
The government has promised to pay Olympic champions 20 million drams
($48,000). Silver and bronze medalists would get 15 million drams and
10 million drams respectively. Their coaching staff and doctors would
also be eligible for financial benefits.
Both the government and Tsarukian, who also leads the country's second
largest parliamentary party, set the same rewards head of the last
Olympic Games held in Beijing in 2008.
Armenian athletes won only six bronze medals in the Chinese
capital. Each of those medalists received a bonus from the state
budget and a car from Tsarukian.
Gabrielian confirmed that the National Olympic Committee is aiming for
a better Armenian performance at the London Olympics. `I think it
would be great to win a gold medal,' he told reporters. `What we need
today is not quantity but quality [of medals,] which needs to be
Armenia has won only one Olympic gold medal since independence. Its
Olympic athletes representing the Soviet Union had been considerably
`Our guys should just demonstrate a strong will and not forget about
patriotism for a second, not get frightened and enter the struggle
because nobody is stronger than they,' said Gabrielian. `And if they
lose, they should lose like real men.'
Armenia will participate in the London games with 25 athletes
competing in ten sports. The country's biggest medal hopes rest on
weightlifting and wrestling, the two Olympic disciplines in which
Armenians have excelled most.
One member of the Armenian team, the 30-year-old judo wrestler Armen
Nazarian, will be trying his Olympic luck for a third time. `Two
Olympics were unsuccessful for me,' Nazarian told RFE/RL's Armenian
service (Azatutyun.am). `I don't want this one to be like that. This
will be my last Olympic Games. So I must do my best to win a medal.'
ARMENIA ADMONISHES AZERBAIJAN AT BSEC SUMMIT
Wednesday, June 27th, 2012
ISTANBUL-Efforts by Azerbaijan to politicize the Black Sea Economic
Cooperation were thwarted when head of the Armenian delegation
admonished Azerbaijan for discussing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
at a forum that "cannot become a platform for political discussions
During a presentation to the summit, Azerbaijan's President Ilham
Aliyev said conflict was a major barrier to the expansion of regional
cooperation and the deepening of economic relations.
"The conflict has not yet been resolved and is a threat not only to
economic cooperation but, in general, to peace and stability in the
region," said Aliyev.
In response Armenia's representative, Deputy Foreign Minister Ashot
Hovakimyan admonished the Azeri leader for his attempts to politicize
the regional economic summit.
"According to the basic documents of the BSEC, the organization should
stay in the limits of its economic mandate and cannot become a platform
for political discussions and accusations. The BSEC summit is not a
proper place to discuss the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The OSCE Minsk
Group is the only agreed format for the negotiations on the Karabakh
issue," said Hovakimyan.
Diplomatic sources told PanArmenian.am that the adoption of a final
declaration, which strengthened the resolve of members to states to
further their cooperation, was marred by efforts by Azerbaijan to add
amendments that would alter the focus and politicize the document in
The same sources told PanArmenian.net that Turkey's high-ranking
officials, under pressure of the European Union, succeeded in
persuading Baku to withdraw its politically motivated provisions,
as the Armenian delegation would never sign the document that would
be detrimental to Yerevan.
The amendments were removed one by one, while the Turkish officials
were negotiatd with both the Armenian and Azerbaijani delegations,
according to the source.
The BSEC was established on June 25, 1992 with Albania, Armenia,
Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Georgia, Greece, Moldova, Romania, Russia,
Turkey and Ukraine as participating countries. In 2004 Serbia and
Montenegro also entered the cooperation group.
President Serzh Sarkisian, who did not attend the summit, issued
a written statement that was read at the gathering. The Armenian
president stressed that economic progress was impeded by closed
"I would like to reiterate that Armenia continues to adhere to the
principles and goals enshrined in the charter of the organization,
and always faithfully implements all decisions adopted by the
organization as well as agreements and memorandums signed by the
member states," said Sarkisian. "I am confident that in the face of
the thorny problems existing in the region, further enhancement of
the multilateral economic cooperation in the framework of the BSEC
will inevitably result in the facilitation of the political dialogue
between the member states and establishment of regional stability."
"There can be no implementation of economic programs in a multilateral
or bilateral format under closed borders. Unimpeded contact and
open borders, free movement of resources and equal conditions for
competition remain the main prerequisites for the development of
contemporary economic relations. Blockades and closed borders are not
only artificial obstacles for bilateral and multilateral cooperation,
but also unacceptable dividing lines on the political map of the 20th
century. The Organization of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation has
adopted all these provisions, and we have to ensure their successful
implementation," explained Sarkisian.
DOLLAR STILL LOSES VALUE IN ARMENIA
June 26, 2012 | 17:06
YEREVAN. - This is the second consecutive day that the US dollar's
exchange rate against the Armenian Dram (AMD) fell in Armenia's
Its average exchange rate comprised AMD 417.25/$1, at NASDAQ OMX
Armenia stock exchange on Tuesday, and this is a 0.17-percent-or a
0.71-point-drop from the previous trading session on Monday.
The total sales were $3 million.
The US currency is bought and sold at the AMD 416-418/$1 range in
Armenia's cash foreign currency market.
And the Central Bank's official exchange rate is set at AMD 418.02/$1.