Thursday, 30 June 2016

Armenian News... A Topalian... Report Progress [Azerbaijan]


Report Progress Reported In Fresh Aliyev-Sarkisian Talks
Emil Danielyan

Armenia's and Azerbaijan's presidents on Monday again pledged to
prevent ceasefire violations and said they reached an `understanding'
on issues hampering the resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh during
talks mediated by their Russian counterpart, Vladimir Putin.

In a joint statement with Putin, Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev gave
a positive assessment of their meeting, the second in just over a
month, held in the Russian city of Saint Petersburg.

`There was a detailed exchange of views on essential aspects of the
settlement,' read the statement. `The heads of state noted the
reaching of understanding on a number of issues solutions to which
would help to create conditions for progress in the Nagorno-Karabakh

It did not specify what those issues are. None of the three leaders
spoke to the press immediately after the meeting.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov told reporters that they
`mapped out concrete steps to intensify the negotiation process.' But
he too did not elaborate.

`The meeting took place in a constructive atmosphere,' Azerbaijani
Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov said for his part. `Azerbaijan
positively assesses the results of the Saint Petersburg negotiations.'

U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group
joined Putin, Aliyev and Sarkisian at the final session of the
talks. James Warlick, the U.S. negotiator, reported afterwards
`positive steps' taken at the summit.

`We must work towards a negotiated settlement,' Warlick wrote on

Warlick's Russian opposite number, Igor Popov, also spoke of some
progress made at Saint Petersburg in comments to Armenian Public

Putin hosted the summit just over a month after Aliyev and Sarkisian
met in Vienna following the worst escalation of the Karabakh conflict
in more than two decades. They agreed in the Austrian capital to work
out safeguards against ceasefire violations around Karabakh and resume
their search for a compromise peace deal.

Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, who mediated those
talks, said the safeguards include independent investigations of armed
incidents that would be conducted by the OSCE.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders reaffirmed on Monday their
commitment to the Vienna agreements. According to their statement,
they specifically agreed to expand the number of OSCE field
representatives periodically monitoring the ceasefire regime along the
Karabakh `line of contact.'

The statement made no specific mention of the OSCE investigations,

Sarkisian stressed the importance of creating `mechanisms for
investigating truce violations' when he held separate talks with Putin
earlier in the day. `That would create a businesslike atmosphere in
negotiations,' he said in televised remarks.

The situation on the Karabakh frontlines appears to have been
unusually calm since the May 16 summit in Vienna. There have been
fears, however, that tensions there could again rise after the Saint
Petersburg summit.

In their joint statement, Aliyev and Sarkisian noted with
`satisfaction' that the truce has largely held lately. 

RFE/RL Report
Armenian-Azeri Summit `Useful' For Yerevan

Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian has described as "quite useful" the
latest meeting of Armenia's and Azerbaijan's presidents, saying that
it might help to break the deadlock in the Nagorno-Karabakh peace

"With certain caution, I can say that it took place in a constructive
atmosphere," Nalbandian told Armenian reporters shortly after the
summit hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg
on Monday.

"On some issues, the presidents reached an understanding that if there
is agreement on them it will be possible to move the negotiation
process towards the [Nagorno-Karabakh] conflict's resolution," he said
without going into details.

Nalbandian added only that Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev
as well as their foreign ministers will continue to meet on a regular
basis in the months ahead.

Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov similarly described the
talks as "constructive" and "positive."

In a joint statement with Putin, Aliyev and Sarkisian said vaguely
that they reached an "understanding on a number of issues solutions to
which would help to create conditions for progress in the
Nagorno-Karabakh settlement." They also agreed to have more OSCE
observers periodically deployed in the conflict zone with the aim of
preventing ceasefire violations there.

The expansion of the OSCE's small observer mission for Karabakh is one
of the confidence-building measures advocated by Russia, the United
States and France. The three mediating powers also want the
conflicting parties to allow independent investigations of truce
violations that would be conducted by the OSCE.

Aliyev and Sarkisian pledged to accept these safeguards at their
previous meeting held in Vienna on May 16. They reaffirmed those
pledges in Monday's statement.

"Unfortunately, it has to be said that until now Azerbaijan did not
demonstrate a constructive approach to this issue," complained
Nalbandian. He claimed that Aliyev had walked away in the past from
similar agreements designed to strengthen the ceasefire regime on the
Karabakh "line of contact" and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

As recently as in March, Aliyev lambasted the mediators for insisting
on the safeguards against armed incidents, saying that they would only
"freeze the conflict" and thus benefit the Armenian side. 
The conflict in Syria has impacted and still impacts on 
Armenia: UNHCR
20 Jun 2016

Global displacement figures remain at highest levels since the end of
the Second World War, giving an alarming picture on the state of our
world and indicate as to failures in conflict resolution and
prevention efforts and advancing human rights protection. Over 60
million people are presently forcibly displaced. The conflict in
Syria, only one of many present global trouble spots, has impacted and
still impacts on Armenia. It has passed its 5th year and despite
renewed and enhanced efforts of the international community peace is
not in sight. To the contrary recent fighting in Aleppo resulted in
renewed suffering and many victims including among civilians. Flight
from the Syrian conflict zones continue albeit refugees are facing
more and more challenges in accessing safety and a harsher protection
environment.  NGO partners report that about 550 destitute Syrian
Armenians have registered with them seeking support in traveling to
Armenia. UNHCR and its partners are ready and willing to offer initial
humanitarian assistance, including by way of provision of temporary
rental subsidies, upon arrival.

The escalation of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in early April 2016
has also caused renewed destruction, human suffering and displacement,
including into Armenia. The overwhelming majority of the displaced
population consists of women, children and elderly most of whom
originate from the most affected villages close to the line of contact
such as Talish and Mataghis villages of Martakert region and many of
them have specific needs, such as pregnant and lactating women or
persons suffering from sickness or disability. Most of the displaced
families are presently hosted by relatives or family friends often
themselves belonging to the poorer segments of the society. UNHCR was
impressed by the high level of hospitality and support extended to the
displaced by the host communities and likes to expresses its sincere
gratitude to all those who assisted and still continue to help.

UNHCR in close cooperation with the State Migration Service and the
Social Protection Units,  who worked on identification and
registration and also involving local authorities, local NGO-s and
volunteers, quickly developed a small assistance programme, through
which a modest cash assistance was offered to over 400 families (1429
persons) with a view to address their most urgent needs. It is
observed that an increasing number of the displaced have returned or
are considering return, but UNHCR would like to emphasise that the
voluntary nature of return must be respected and returned. UNHCR
closely liaises with our ICRC colleagues as to assistance to be
offered after return to Nagrono-Karabakh.

UNHCR is pleased to note that since WRD 2015 some significant progress
has been made in improving the Armenian refugee legislation. Important
amendments to the Law on Refugees and Asylum entered into force in
January 2016. It is now crucial to move swiftly in adopting the
necessary by-laws. UNHCR is pleased to share with you that the State
Migration Service has engaged in drafting an Integration Strategy. It
is crucial that the draft strategy will be discussed and finalised
with the involvement of all relevant government, international
organisations and civil society stakeholders with a view to ensure
broad ownership for the strategy, harmonise approaches, utilise
synergies and to gain donor support. UNHCR has supported the
initiative from its outset and is ready to support the consultation
and finalisation process. UNHCR notes with concern that understandable
attention to the difficult security environment of the country has led
to case of prolonged detention of asylum-seekers of non-Christian
background. UNHCR calls upon the authorities to address legitimate
security concerns in a manner compatible with international refugee
law and regional and international human rights law.

On the occasion of World Refugee Day the UNHCR Representative in
Armenia, Mr. Christoph Bierwirth emphasised: “Refugees need
understanding for their plight, solidarity and support everywhere in
the world, so in Armenia.”  He noted in particular the integration
challenges faced by refugees of non-Armenian background, in particular
of those of African descent.

This year’s motto of world refugee day brings it well to the point:
“We stand together with Refugees”. He added that: “ways to assist, to
express solidarity ‘to stand together with refugees’ are manifold.
They include: The family who hosts some displaced relatives from
Nagorno-Karabakh, the neighbor who offers a helping hand when a
refugee family from Syria or elsewhere moves in next door, the
philanthropist who offers an apartment for free or at a reduced,
social rent, the student who leads his Syrian Armenian colleague
through the ‘’labyrinth’’ of Armenian academic institutions, NGO
activists, school teachers and directors who accelerate access to
schooling,  all those who offer small or bigger donations to the many
NGOs who care. Mr. Bierwirth thanked those engaged, called for ongoing
humanitarian engagement “by everyone on his own way and with his own
available means”, noting that creativity should not be limited.

The importance of media in creating an environment of understanding,
conducive for integration cannot be underestimated. While laws and
procedures and assistance mechanism are important it is the
receptivity of the host society which makes a refugee feel welcome,
which allows him or her to find a new home. 

Fresh Plaza, Netherlands
June 20 2016
15% of Armenian population eats bread and potato

Such products as fish and meat are unavailable for 33% of country's
population due to high price.

15% of Armenian population mainly eats bread and potato.

The due conclusion was drawn by authors of the study held by the
international organization Oxfam in Armenia and Georgia as part of the
EU-financed program "Raising food security in the South Caucasus
through national strategies and small farms", reports.

According to head of Oxfam's Armenian office Margarita Akopyan, the
study also showed that such products as fish and meat are unavailable
for 33% of country's population due to high price.

The same can be attributed to fruits and vegetables: in line with the
research, 1.8-65.4% of people living in Armenia have no access to
these products, while in winter almost 95% of residents of rural and
mountainous regions and frontline villages have no access to fruits
and vegetables.

According to Margarita Akopyan, two main problems related to nutrition
can be mentioned in Armenia: first, some products are quite expensive
and unavaiable for most, second, most people have no knowledge or
information about right nutrition for both adults and children.

The study conducted in May-September 2014 also showed that 15% of
children in Armenia suffer from overweight or obesity, while according
to Demographic and Health Survey 2010, 19% of children below five are
short due to malnutrition, and 8% fall back in development for the
same reason - the deficit of nutrients in their food.

RFE/RL Report
Putin Hails Surge In Armenian Exports To Russia

Russian President Vladimir Putin touted on Monday a drastic increase
in Armenian exports to Russia registered this year, implicitly
attributing it to Armenia's membership in the Eurasian Economic Union

According to Armenian government data, those exports nearly doubled
year-on-year to $94.5 million in the first four months of this year
after a significant decrease in 2015 resulting from a sharp
depreciation of the Russian ruble and a recession in Russia.

Meeting with President Serzh Sarkisian in Saint Petersburg, Putin said
Armenian agricultural products generated most of that gain. `We are
very happy with that,' he told Sarkisian at the start of their
talks. `I hope that this trend will be reinforced in the development
of the overall commercial exchange and goods that are sensitive for

`It can be noted that within the framework of integration processes
our relations are developing more intensively than they did on a
bilateral basis in the past, and that also makes us happy,' he added.

Putin clearly referred to Armenia's accession to the Russian-led EEU
widely seen as being the result of Russian pressure exerted on Yerevan
in 2013.

Armenian exports to Russia plummeted by nearly 27 percent in 2015
primarily because of the ruble's sharp depreciation caused by the
collapse of world oil prices. Pro-Western Armenian political figures
and commentators have used that sharp drop to back up their assertions
that the EEU membership cannot benefit the Armenian economy.

Putin received Sarkisian ahead of their trilateral meeting with
Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev.

The Armenian leader focused on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in his
opening remarks at the separate meeting with Putin. He did note,
though, that Russian-Armenian relations are developing `in all

Anadolu Agency (AA), Turkey
June 18, 2016 Saturday
Erdogan backs Ottoman replica in Istanbul's Gezi Park

Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan on Saturday gave his backing
to the redevelopment of Istanbul’s Gezi Park - a project that sparked
nationwide protests in 2013.

“One of the issues that we have to be brave [about] is Gezi Park in
Taksim,” Erdogan said at a meeting on Istanbul’s heritage. “We will
construct that historical building there.”

He said the square should house also an opera house.

The Gezi Park protest spread across the country in June 2013, leaving
eight protesters and one police officer dead and dozens injured.
Hundreds were arrested.

The barracks - Topcu Kislasi - were originally built in 1780 and
destroyed in 1940.

Referring to the recent vote by the German parliament to 
recognise the deaths of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as so-called 
genocide, Erdogan suggested creating a museum display of past 
German, French and American misdeeds within the replica of 
barracks which can be called either history museum or city 

On June 2, the Bundestag passed a resolution accusing the Ottoman
government of carrying out so-called genocide against Armenians.

Turkey acknowledges there were casualties on both sides after some
Armenians sided with the invading Russians but refutes allegations
that the Armenian deaths in 1915 amounted to genocide.

Ankara has repeatedly proposed the creation of an international
commission of historians to resolve the issue. 
What Order Was There on April 2?
Naira Hayrumyan, Political Commentator
Politics - 18 June 2016, 17:12

Two and a half months after the April war the question returned to the
public discourse in Armenia who should give orders during war and why
those orders were not given.

The famous recent footage demonstrates that the soldiers on duty at
the border do not get an order to fire and pre-empt the attack.
However, they do not get an order to leave the posts and retreat

Without an order and a clear assignment the Armenian soldiers and the
middle-ranking commanders turn to a hostage in the hands of their
fellows and enemies and have to make decisions on their own.

The Armenian side lost 800 hectares of land after the April war. Serzh
Sargsyan has officially announced that it is not worth risking
innumerable lives to return those lands. What the army is for if it is
not defending the country’s territorial integrity?

Why nobody, including the presidents and prime ministers of Armenia
and Karabakh, gave an order to retreat? Did they know that any lost
territory will remain under the enemy’s control? However, if this is
true, why did nobody give an order to return the lost posts?

The army fails to find out what their assignment is, defending
territorial integrity or carrying out tasks?

In early April the army fulfilled its task – the defense of country’s
integrity within the borders marked by the line of contact. It is not
known how the commanders would have acted on the spot if they had been
ordered to retreat. Would they switch on their phones and radio and
stand till the end? Or would they carry out the order?

The April war demonstrated that the political-military command does
not have people who are able to order to retreat. It was a surprise to
many external actors. Though there was no answer to counterattack
either, it has become clear that in case of reaching a “settlement”
the political leadership would clash into the army which still carries
out its task – the defense of territorial integrity.

On June 20 Sargsyan, Aliyev and Putin will meet in Saint Petersburg.
Will the Russian president try to force Serzh Sargsyan to hand
territories without a war, through peace? Will this be the Russian
plan of normalization which Azerbaijan likes so much, especially now
that Aliyev is said likely to try to reconcile his big brothers Putin
and Erdogan, in which case Karabakh may become a “gift” for

Will Serzh Sargsyan say “no” to this plan and will he insist on his
conditions on OSCE equipment at the line of contact and the
maintenance of the status quo? If Serzh Sargsyan suddenly retreats,
who will carry out the task on retreat in Armenia and Karabakh?

In army, in Karabakh, unlike offices in Yerevan and elsewhere, they
know that “handing part of the territories” is not the solution.
Karabakh is an indivisible defense and strategic unit and giving away
part of it will mean giving away entire Karabakh together with

It is impossible to assign the army to the task to defense of
territorial integrity and agree on violation of integrity behind its
back. Even if Putin is asking for that. 
Ilham Aliyev’s Gift 
Editorial , 18 June 2016 

More than 3,000 years ago the Trojans were duped when they opened their city gate to the wooden horse the Greek invaders had offered as symbol of Greek decision to pull out from the ten-year war. As a result of Trojan naiveté, the city perished. Unlike Trojans, today’s Armenia authorities can’t blame outside enemies for the decline of their country. In the past quarter-century, the RoA elite constructed its home-made Trojan horse which now threatens Armenia’s existence. 

The Armenian Trojan horse is the country’s widespread corruption—a proclivity which takes many guises. Since independence corruption has penetrated every nook and cranny of the government and society: cronyism; government-approved monopolies; “mafia” gangs; nepotism; fraudulent elections; lack of transparency and accountability; harassment of political rivals; looting of Diaspora donations; heavy-handed patronage; cowboy mentality; influence peddling; bribery;  tax evasion; pillaging the treasury; dubious auditing ; under-the-table sweetheart deals; non-transparent application of tax, customs and regulatory rules; weak enforcement of court decisions; close ties between high-ranking government officials and business barons; excessive privilege for the select few; untendered government contracts; venal bureaucracy; ministers owning businesses in blatant conflict of interest… a mayor who is part owner of his city’s bus line; university professors who boost a student’s grades if the student greases the professor’s palm with silver; corrupt judiciary, executive and legislative branches; a culture of impunity for the elite, plus the misdeeds of fellow oligarch-Catholicos Karekin II. 

The above has forced a million Armenians to leave their homeland while 30% of the population who have stayed live in poverty. Meanwhile, oligarchs ride their high-end cars are shadowed by flotillas of Humvees on Yerevan’s Northern Avenue protected by preposterous, 300-lbs hoods in bullet-proof vests, black leather jackets, oversized Rolexes and ferocious aftershave as if looking for walk-on parts in “The Sopranos”. 

On top of this rank heap sits President Serzh Sargsyan--the man who two years ago spent $186,000 for a one-week stem-cell rejuvenation treatment in South Korea. How can he afford the treatment considering his modest salary? Easy. Together with his gangster brother, the president has stashed millions of dollars overseas. His predecessor—Robert  Kocharian aka Great White Hunter—similarly wallows in ill-gained lucre. Sargsyan and Kocharian are the heads of the two major oligarch pyramids dominating Armenia’s economy… pretty good for the two impecunious veterans of the Artsakh War. 

Many Diaspora Armenians, who knew about the corruption-gnawed Armenia, kept their counsel. “Sargsyan might be corrupt, but his tough regime is making Baku think twice about threatening our homeland” was the idée fixe of these Diasporans who believed silence is golden when the subject is Armenia corruption. 

And then surprise: the impious Azeris attacked. How dare the ineffectual foe challenge the jingo pronouncements of the fat-cat Armenian political leaders?  Suddenly, senior military officers’ boast that they would “have tea in Baku” if the Azeris were unwise enough to attack proved to be banal. Did these generals believe snappy military uniforms and salad on their chest equaled military superiority? 

During the brief war some Armenian tanks became sitting ducks because they had fuel for no more than a few kilometers. There were reports that senior officers had sold the fuel. Soldiers had fought with empty stomachs and no water. Others had few bullets and were fighting with ‘80s weapons against a high-tech Azeri arsenal. Some soldiers had no sleeping bags. There was shortage of radio communication devices. The soldiers discovered the Azeri army wasn’t the army their fathers had fought in the first Armenian-Azeri War. In addition to the unsustainable casualties, the Armenian side lost 800 hectares of land which Baku says gives Azeris strategic advantage in several locations. Despite all, the heroism of the junior officers—many in their early twenties—had saved the day. 

Midway the mini-war it became obvious that corruption had spread to Armenia’s vaunted army. People asked how $10 billion could leave the country in the past decade. Azeri President Aliyev gave a credible report that it was the Armenian side which had asked for ceasefire. 

In response to the public outcry for the inexplicable battle losses, Sargsyan and PM Hovik Abrahamian launched an anti-corruption drive. Faster than you could say Vasag Seuni, the pair donned the reformist garb and fired or imprisoned a dozen or so senior military and defense ministry officials. They promised to streamline government expenditure, investigate state procurement processes, improve the domestic business environment, curtail featherbedding, and downsize government agencies. The Republic of Kleptocracy was to be stopped on its tracks. The government would lend an ear to the Anti-Corruption Centre which in 2015 reported the government had awarded 70% of its procurement contracts without competitive tenders.  Abrahamian promised to target conflict of interest among senior government officials,  improve transparency and oversight. Sargsyan and Abrahamian promised a crackdown. 

Were they blind or in denial all these years? Hadn’t the UN Development Programme, among other international agencies, condemned corruption in Armenia concluding it was a “serious challenge to its development”? Didn’t the men who rule Armenia know that Armenia’s corruption index is at par with Mali, Mexico, Gambia, and the Philippines? The miraculous awakening of the pair to the corruption around them reminds one of sly Capt. Renault of “Casablanca” who famously said to Major Strasser: “I’m shocked, shocked to find that gambling is going on here,” as he pocketed the money the croupier handed to him. 

When Sargsyan and Abrahamian are among the beneficiaries of the rotten edifice how could they claim innocence with a straight face? But they did. 

Is Sargsyan serious about reform? Doesn’t he know the problem is not one of individual corruption but of the system? 

Nothing less than re-inventing the state will stave off collapse. For more than a decade citizens had tried to deliver the message to their government only to be met by indifference and repression. 

Is it too late to make meaningful and fundamental change? How can one overhaul the chronic, widespread and systemic corruption within a few months, especially when the “reforming” twins have been at the core of the rotten system for so long? 

Before the Azeri attack the Armenian government, business, intellectual, and media circles lived in a fool’s paradise believing that although the country was mired in corruption it was robust enough to withstand Azeri aggression. 

And then came the Aliyev surprise… or more accurately the Aliyev Gift. 

The Azeri attack was a wake-up call for Armenians. Even the dense and complacent government leaders and oligarchs (often interchangeable) realized it’s impossible to have a strong army when the state is riddled by corruption and the population is demoralized by the crimes of the country’s elite. 

Aliyev’s Gift awakened Armenians that the country can be lost if drastic and swift measures are not taken to overhaul every aspect of its corrupt modus operandi . 

Will Armenia’s leadership understand that it’s almost 11 p.m. and not much time is left before the midnight knell? 

The Armenian leaders who have assumed the stewardship of the country should ask themselves: “Is this the state our people had been praying for since 1375 when the last Armenian kingdom collapsed? Is this why our 1915 martyrs refused to be turkified? Is this what our pitch-fork carrying farmers fought for at Sardarabad?”

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