Tuesday, 28 February 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Stepanakert 25.02.2017

Interfax - Russia & CIS General Newswire
Stepanakert reports 5 Azerbaijani servicemen killed on contact line
February 25, 2017 

At least five Azerbaijani Armed Forces servicemen were killed during
the overnight battles in the Karabakh conflict zone, unrecognized
Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's (NKR) National Security Council secretary
Vitaly Balasanyan said on Saturday.

"As a result of the attempt at assault in south-eastern and eastern
sectors of the contact line Azerbaijan has lost at least five
servicemen killed. Five Azerbaijani tanks, four infantry combat
vehicles and other special equipment approached the contact line,"
Balasanyan told local media.

The situation is currently calm, there is no shootout, he said.

On Saturday, the Armenian authorities and the unrecognized NKR
authorities on the one side, and the Azerbaijani authorities on the
other, accused each other of deteriorating the situation on the
contact line.

The Azerbaijani Armed Forces attempted to carry out an assault
overnight into Saturday, the NKR Defense Ministry said.

In turn, Baku accused the Armenian Armed Forces of committing
provocations. The Azerbaijani military sustained certain losses in the
clashes on the contact line, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry press
service said. 

Report Deadly Fighting Reported In Karabakh
February 25, 2017

Ceasefire violations around Nagorno-Karabakh dramatically intensified
early on Saturday, with Karabakh's Armenian-backed military saying
that it repelled major Azerbaijani attacks at two sections of the

Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry confirmed deadly fighting along the
Karabakh "line of contact" but claimed that it is the Armenians who
attacked its frontline positions.

The Karabakh Defense Army said Azerbaijani forces used demining
machines and other "special means" when they attempted to seize its
positions at frontline sections east and southeast of Karabakh early
in the morning. They were pushed back, suffering significant
casualties in the process, the army claimed in a statement.

"Several [Azerbaijani] corpses are lying in no man's land," said the
statement. "Nobody was killed or wounded on the Armenian side."

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry, for its part, said Armenian troops
"tried to penetrate our positions." It reported a "heavy combat clash"
in an area near southeastern Karabakh where "the enemy attempted to
capture beneficial positions" but was forced to retreat.

"As a result of the combat clash, our armed forces suffered
casualties," ministry added, according to the APA news agency. It did
not give any numbers.

The Karabakh Armenian army was quick to deny the Azerbaijani
claims. "How can a defending side suffer casualties in no man's land?"
read an army statement released later in the morning.

Armenia's Defense Ministry similarly accused Baku of seeking to
"mislead its own people and the international community."
"Azerbaijan's military-political leadership has been escalating the
situation along the Line of Contact and spreading disinformation for
several days," the ministry spokesman, Artsrun Hovannisian, wrote on
his Facebook page.

"The Armenian side is observing the ceasefire regime and calling on
the Azerbaijani side to refrain from steps aimed at further escalating
the situation," he added.

Azerbaijan's Defense Minister Zakir Hasanov and army chief of staff,
General Nejmeddin Sadiqov, visited the demarcation line around
Karabakh just two days before the latest escalation. News reports said
they instructed Azerbaijani frontline troops to take "tougher and more
resolute measures" in response to what they called growing Armenian

U.S., Russian and French mediators urged the parties to the Karabakh
conflict to "adhere strictly" to ceasefire agreements immediately
after hosting a meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign
ministers in Munich on February 16. The three co-chairs of the OSCE
Minsk Group warned that "war is not an option."

The mediators also renewed their calls for the warring sides to
implement confidence-building agreements that were reached by the
Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents last year. The agreements envisage
international investigations of truce violations and deployment of
more OSCE observers in the conflict zone. Armenia says that Azerbaijan
has been dragging its feet over these safeguards.

Such violations have steadily intensified in recent weeks after
several months of relative calm that followed four-day hostilities
around Karabakh in April 2016. The two sides have accused each other
of using mortars and rocket-propelled grenades on a virtually daily

On February 18, Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian warned Azerbaijan
against launching large-scale military operations in the run-up to
Armenia's parliamentary elections scheduled for April 2. "Today some
in Azerbaijan still have illusions that an Armenia focused on
elections will be very distracted and therefore vulnerable # Any
[armed] provocation would receive a worthy response," he said.

Interfax - Russia & CIS General Newswire
Yerevan informs Moscow, Washington, Paris about Azerbaijan's offensive
attempt in Karabakh conflict zone
Feb 25

Armenia informed Russia, the United States and France, the co-chairs
of the OSCE Minsk Group on the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement, about the
actions of Azerbaijan in the conflict zone on Saturday.

"#Armenia informed @OSCE #Minskgroup [the Minsk Group's] co-chair
countries on #Azerbaijan offensive attempt," Armenian Foreign Ministry
spokesperson Tigran Balayan said on Twitter.

Earlier, the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh's Republic's (NKR) Defense
Ministry accused the Azerbaijani Armed Forces of attempting an
offensive in the early hours of Saturday.

"Around 3:00 a.m. and 4:00 a.m., Yerevan time, on February 25, the
Azerbaijani Armed Forces attempted an offensive using the relevant
mine clearing vehicles and special equipment in the southeastern
(Martuni) and eastern (Akhna) sectors of the contact line between the
Karabakh and Azerbaijani forces," the press service for the
unrecognized NKR's Defense Ministry said.

"Forward units of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic's Defense Army [...]
noticed the motions of the Azerbaijani special forces promptly and the
enemy was driven back to the initial positions having suffered
losses," the ministry said.

The Armenian side suffered no losses and no one was wounded, the press
service said.

Baku, in turn, accused the Armenian Armed Forces of organizing
provocations on the contact line in Karabakh.

"In the early hours of February 25, the units of the Armenian Armed
Forces attempted to penetrate the Azerbaijani positions in several
directions for the purpose of committing large-scale provocations
along the entire frontline. The Azerbaijani servicemen were constantly
monitoring the enemy's movements and resolutely prevented the Armenian
saboteurs' attempts to go deeper into our positions," the Azerbaijani
Defense Ministry's press service said earlier on Saturday.

"Clashes resulted in losses on our part. The enemy is currently
continuing to shell our positions from heavy artillery," the press
service said.

The most severe armed clashes took place in the Khojavend-Fizuli
section of the frontline, the press service said.

Azerbaijani Deputy Prime Minister Ali Ahmadov said on the account of
the recent exacerbation of the situation in Karabakh that the
Azerbaijani Armed Forces are capable of properly rebuffing the
provocations undertaken by the Armenian Armed Froces.

"I am confident that today, as always, the Azerbaijani Armed Forces,
our heroic soldiers, are capable of properly opposing the provocations
undertaken by the Armenian Armed Forces' units," Ahmadov said.

He said that it is not the first time Armenian side commits
provocations at the contact line between the Armenian and Azerbaijani
armed forces.

"They always resort to provocative actions on various pretexts. It
appears that the Armenian side is not going to forgo them in the
future," the deputy prime minister said.

He said that such actions of the Armenian Armed Forces are not
accidental on the eve of the 25th anniversary of the Khojaly tragedy.

"I am confident that the enemy will also be properly rebuffed this
time and will deeply regret these actions. Our army is not only
capable of opposing such provocations, but participating in
larger-scale combats," Ahmadov said.

Showbiz 411
Christian Bale, Oscar Isaac “The Promise”: Thanks to Late Billionaire Kirk Kerkorian All Proceeds to Charity Starting with Elton John AIDS Foundation
by Roger Friedma
February 23, 2017
The Elton John AIDS Foundation– the best of all these celebrity charities, I think– gets a huge boost this Sunday at their annual Oscar party. They’re the first beneficiaries of late billionaire Kirk Kerkorian’s proceeds from the Terry George directed “The Promise.”

Kerkorian put aside over $100 million for George to make this romance set against the Armenian genocide. Christian Bale and Oscar Isaac vy for the same woman in a film that Open Road will open later this year– and was shown for the first time last fall in Toronto. Indeed, all proceeds from “The Promise” will go to charity. EJAF is just the first non profit organization to participate. More will be announced soon.

This is unprecedented and very cool, and only possible because Kerkorian never planned on making the money back. It’s just a drop in the bucket for his estate. The idea was to tell the story of the tragedy of the Armenian genocide in a pedigreed film. Terry George et al have done that.

Donations to EJAF are also going to be matched the film’s production company, Survivor Films, via text and online pledging during the EJAF Oscar party. And there will be LOTS of celebrities there– David Furnish and Elton John manage to pull this event off every year and it gets better and better.

Also, unlike other charities EJAF is very pro-active and very transparent in their work. They are also not about having parties and wasting sponsors’ money shlepping celebs etc around the world. Their money goes to the real work of stopping AIDS worldwide and aiding those with the illness.

Vogue Magazine 
Feb 25 2017
An Intimate Armenian Wedding in Normandy
Alexandra Macon

Singer-songwriter Tamar Kaprelian and Chris Stang, the co-founder and CEO of the restaurant-rating website and app, The Infatuation , became romantically involved while they both were working in the music industry. “I was out with a friend from Atlantic Records for her birthday,” remembers Chris. “Another one of our friends who worked for Interscope came to meet up with us, and Tamar, then an L.A.-based artist who was signed with them, was with her. From the second she walked into the room, I was enamored with her. We hit it off immediately—and also she had Momofuku Milk Bar cookies in her purse. That’s when I knew we would one day marry.”

In the beginning, the two were just friends, but a work trip sent Chris out to Los Angeles a few months later, and then they started dating. Tamar moved to New York about a year after that. The two had been seeing each other for five years when Chris proposed.

“Just like any healthy marriage, it all started with a lie,” he jokes. “I had been telling Tamar for a few months that I was going to Detroit for a weekend in September to go watch a Denver Broncos/Detroit Lions game with The Infatuation’s Chicago Editor. Once that weekend arrived, I packed a bag and left the apartment early in the morning. But instead of going to Detroit, I went to a coffee shop near the apartment and waited. I was waiting for Tamar’s friend to take her out for coffee, which I had arranged as a diversion. Once Tamar got to the coffee shop, I ran back to the apartment. I had about an hour window to set up the living room—stringing photos from the five years we had spent together across the ceiling and lining the floor with roses. When Tamar got back, I was there, standing in the middle of the room with a ring. Once the shock wore off and she accepted, I helped her quickly pack a bag so we could head for the airport to spend the weekend in Charleston.”

As soon as the two started talking about where they might want to get married, France was at the top of their list. “Chris and I knew that we wanted the focal point of our wedding to be food and wine, and that neither of us wanted a 400 person event,” explains Tamar. “Had we done it in either Los Angles or New York, that would have been the case. Back in 2012, we spent a week in Paris over Christmas and jumped on a train to Normandy for a few days just to get out of the city. That’s how we discovered the town of Honfleur and Ferme Saint Simeon, both of which we fell in love with instantly. The second we got to the property, we knew we had stumbled upon something special. The aesthetic of the space is warm, but regal, and the whole property smells like apples and firewood. Once we realized doing it there, was something we could maybe pull off, we didn’t really consider any other options.”

Tamar did most of the planning herself, but also relied on the staff of the Relais & Chateaux property. “We could never have pulled this wedding off without Ferme Saint Simeon’s event planner, Pauline Parizot,” says Tamar. “She really made sure that everything came together seamlessly and helped so much in dealing with the church, the flowers, the restaurants for the cocktail reception and the rehearsal dinner—basically everything.”

Because she was having a fall wedding, Tamar felt strongly about wearing a dress with long sleeves. “I also wanted something timeless and that had lace,” she says. “The Monique Lhullier gown that I chose was one of the first dresses I saw in a photo. We went to every single bridal boutique you can imagine. I must have tried on every long sleeved dress ever made, but I could never get that Monique gown out of my mind.” Tamar didn’t want anything to take away from the dress, so she kept her jewelry simple and only wore the diamond drop earrings that her mother wore for her own wedding.

The service was an important part of the celebration for Tamar. “I am Armenian and wanted to have a traditional Armenian ceremony,” she says. “But Honfleur did not have an Armenian church. In fact, the nearest Armenian Church was in Paris, which is about 2 hours away. The local Catholic Church, however, was nice enough to let us have an Armenian ceremony, which is very different from the Catholic ceremony. They also let us fly in our own clergy. We flew an incredible Bishop in from Armenia, Bishop Bagrat Galstanyan, who really made our ceremony special with his warmth and humor.”

After the ceremony, there was a cocktail hour that featured fresh oysters from the local harbor. The group then moved into the main dining room, where there was a six-course meal in the property’s Michelin Starred restaurant. The menu included local scallop carpaccio with caviar, hot foie gras and apple, a traditional Norman palate cleanser of apple sorbet and Calvados called Trou Normand, beef filet, a cheese course, and everyone finished the meal with vanilla cake with seasonal fruits and other traditional French pastries.

Throughout dinner, toasts were given by family members and a local jazz band played. “We also wanted our guests to have a unique experience, so we brought two Armenian dancers in from Leon to perform during dinner,” says Tamar. “In full Armenian color and dress, they performed several traditional dances, one of which included Chris and I dancing with them. They taught us moves on the spot, and we got up there and had a great time.” The two kept dancing until around 2:00 A.M. “At that point, we went to our suite and passed out!” laughs Tamar.

Armenian News... A Topalian... How it happened?

How it happened: Video summarizing February 25 developments on NKR-Azerbaijani contact line

YEREVAN. – Armenian News-NEWS.am has prepared a video material for English language readers summarizing the developments on the contact line between the Azerbaijani and NKR armed forces at night of February 25. 

The footage of Azerbaijani aggression has released the NKR Defence Army. 

The statement issued by Karabakh Defense Army said Azerbaijani side made two attempts to attack at 3a.m. and 4 a.m. on February 25 in the south-eastern (Martakert) and eastern (Akna) directions of the line of contact by using mining neutralization system and special equipment. 

Vanguard units of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR) Defense Army, however, detected the advancement and drove them back their starting positions while causing them casualties. The bodies of Azerabijani soldiers were in the neutral zone. According to Karabakh army, movement of troops and equipment was noticed in the eastern direction of the line of contact. 

According to the data gathered from relevant services of the Artsakh Defense Army , the casualties include the head of the 181st intelligence brigade of the Azerbaijani armed forces, Major Abdulayev, commander of the brigade’s intelligence company, Senior Lieutenant Ashimli Shakhlar, intelligence officer Adihusseinov, and two other servicemen, one of whom was a sapper. 


Armenia’s MFA accuses Baku for another blow to the efforts towards the peaceful settlement of the Karabakh conflict

“In defiance to the calls of the international community, the demands of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries to strictly adhere to the 1994-1995 ceasefire agreements and to refrain from the use of force and threat of use of force, last night the incursion attempt by the Azerbaijani side on the Line of Contact between Azerbaijan and Artsakh, is Baku’s another blow to the efforts by Armenia and the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries exerted towards the peaceful settlement,” Armenia’s foreign ministry said in a statement, issued on Saturday. 

To remind, on the night of 25 February, at around 03:00 and 04:00, the Azerbaijani forces made attack attempts at the southeastern (Martuni) and eastern (Akna) directions of the Line of Contact between the Nagorno Karabakh Republic (NKR) and Azerbaijan NKR frontline units timely detected the advancement of the Azerbaijani forces in both directions due to video devices and repelled them to their positions causing losses. Due to the countermeasures taken by the Armenian forces, the adversary suffered casualties and has wounded. Several bodies are in the neutral zone. 

“While continuing attempts to undermine the agreements reached in Vienna and St. Petersburg on creation conducive conditions for the advancement of the negotiation process, Baku intentionally escalates situation, initiates new provocations,” reads the statement that also calls on the international community, and first and foremost, the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries “to the strict necessity to sober up Baku and to bring it to the reality.” 

To add, Defense Ministry of Armenia released a footage proving the Azerbaijani aggression. 

Huffington Post
Feb 23 2017
You Can Visit the Moon, but not Nagorno-Karabakh: the Mind-Boggling Politics of Azerbaijan’s Aliyev Administration
By Christopher Atamian and Haykaram Nahapetyan 

Who’s out there? A bewildered Hamlet queries at the beginning of Shakespeare’s greatest of plays. In the case of Azerbaijan, a dictatorial Caviar Republic on the Caspian, the answer is a particular type of insane unscrupulousness that is perfectly in tune with the new wave of right-wing leaders and human rights violators coming to power and ensconced everywhere from Washington D.C. to Moscow. Journalists facing violence, even death, is nothing new but this particular story takes on unique importance because several governments (Belarus and Azerbaijan) have all collaborated directly or indirectly in order to persecute an innocent man—Aleksander Lapshin—as if he were guilty of murder. 

In the process, all manner of civilized behavior and inter-state norms seem to have been violated. The outline of this political version of Alice looking down the rabbit hole is relatively simple: blogger Lapshin, who was actually born in the Ukraine, visited the Armenian Republic of Nagorno Karabakh (also known simply as NKR or by its historical Armenian name, Artsakh) in 2011 and then blogged about NKR’s free and sovereign statehood. This won him the immediate enmity of Ilham Aliyev and his cronies in Baku. 

In more ways than one (complexity, historical memory, seemingly unending ethnic conflicts) the Caucasus is really a Northern extension of the Middle East, part of what used to be referred to as Asia Minor. For those not well-versed in the history of the region and the conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, the roots of this particular story go back to 1921, when another dictator—Joseph Stalin—officially placed the Armenian enclave within the territory of Soviet Azerbaijan. This in spite of the fact that 95% of Nagorno Karabakh’s population was Armenian and had repeatedly requested to be part of the Armenian SSR. The move belonged to Stalin’s strategy of divide and conquer, wherein he arbitrarily cut up the map of the region to make sure that the different ethnic groups would remain in conflict between themselves Abkhazia, Ossetia and Georgia suffered similar fates, as did ethnic groups within most of the 15 Soviet Republics. The Muslim Tatars in the Crimea faced even worse treatment and were summarily killed and deported to Central Asia. 

Fast-forward some seventy years later to 1991 when, encouraged by the Baltic independence movements to the North and Gorbachev’s policy of perestroika , Nagorno Karabakh voted to reunify with Armenia. Eventually the republic declared outright independence, which led to a bloody war with its neighbor Azerbaijan and a thorough routing of Azeri forces. Although its sovereignty has only been officially recognized by 8 US states and Australia’s New South Wales, Nagorno Karabakh has steadfastly held its ground. Meanwhile, Azerbaijan and the Aliyev clan that has ruled the country with an iron fist for a quarter century, have spent literally billions of dollars to strengthen the country’s army in a futile attempt to regain territory by force of international appeal and military incursions. The US, Russia and France have tried to mediate a peaceful solution, which remains as seemingly intractable as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict to the South. 

Among other ploys, Baku has continued to insist that any foreigner who visits NKR has actually illegally trespassed onto Azeri lands. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Azerbaijan has declared 683 of these unfortunates as personae non grata . When you consider that over 25,000 tourists have actually visited NKR in the last two years alone, you realize how incomplete the list is and how absurd Baku’s persecution of Aleksander Lapshin. Of course, Azeri officials can only blacklist those people whose names come to them through print and social media or other public avenues. The US astronaut Charles Duke, the Spanish opera star Montserrat Caballe and France’s incumbent Minister of the Interior Bruno Le Roux all figure prominently on this list. Duke was the 10th human being to walk on the moon aboard Apollo 16, but after visiting NKR, he may never set foot in Azerbaijan—assuming he’d ever want to. 

Lapshin is a traveling journalist who has visited over 120 countries in his lifetime. In late 2016, in a decision that he must surely now regret, he decided to come to Belarus: the Belarussian police summarily arrested him, as per President Ilham Aliyev’s request, and extradited him to Baku on February 7. The Committee to Protect Journalists has twice demanded his unconditional release. Not surprisingly, both Aliyev and Belarussian President Aleksander Lukashenko are on Reporters Without Borders’ Predators of Press Freedom list. Lukashenko originally cited Lapshin’s supposed presence on Interpol’s database as grounds for his decision to detain him. Interpol headquarters in Lyon, France deny its participation in the blogger’s arrest: “We have checked and confirm that the subject is absent from our databases,” Interpol’s Command and Coordination Center recently stated . 

Why Azeri authorities have decided to persecute Lapshin in particular remains partly a mystery, apart from the fact that Baku seems to be losing all hope of ever regaining NKR—by either violent or legal means. Aliyev even dispatched a special plane in order to fly Lapshin to Baku, although paradoxically he was banned from entering Azerbaijan six years ago. Lapshin has officially been charged with illegally entering Nagorno Karabakh and for “making statements against the Azeri Republic,” which may bring a sentence of up to 8 years eight years in prison. While a state-sponsored lawyer has been appointed for Lapshin, the first charge is somewhat crazy given the fact that NKR is now entirely under Armenian control—it is somewhat akin to Germany asking for someone visiting Alsace-Lorraine (today in France) to be extradited for violating German territorial integrity! The second charge of course smacks of the worst of state fascism and is a clear violation of the right to free speech. As Beatrice Evelyn Hall famously wrote in her 1903 biography of the great French writer, The Friends of Voltaire : “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” For Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) Executive Director Aram Hamparian, the Lapshin case is just another example of Azerbaijan’s attempt isolate NKR internationally, as he recently stated in another publication: “Azerbaijan got Belarus to extradite Lapshin for the ‘crime’ of visiting Artsakh in order to scare others, including journalists, from ever visiting there. That is Baku’s aim. To isolate and undermine Artsakh—on the battlefield, in the media, and in the political world,” Hamparian wrote in a recent Facebook post

Not surprisingly perhaps, strange happenings have occurred on Lapshin’s Live Journal blog since he arrived in Baku: his posts about NKR have disappeared and Nagorno-Karabakh has been removed from the list of countries that he has visited. According to the CPJ, some 259 journalists worldwide currently languish in jail, six in Azerbaijan alone, a remarkable number for the small country of seven million on the Caspian. Reaction around the world in defense of Lapshin has been swift. And in a possibly related answer to Azeri tactics, Russia recently detained 200 Azeri citizens in a sports hall in Dagestan, citing territorial violations as the reason for their actions. 

The question now becomes: who in power will stand up for Lapshin and help to free the unfortunate blogger? Neither Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu nor the respective Presidents of Ukraine or Russia seem in any hurry to come to their citizen’s aide. As this piece goes to press Lapshin’s future—and that of imprisoned journalists everywhere—remains uncertain.

Sunday, 26 February 2017

Armenian Church News ... Volume 3 Issue 5

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["Armenian Diocese of the UK"]
Diocese of the Armenian Church of the United Kingdom and Ireland
Armenian Church News
Dear E-Newsletter subscriber, please find volume 3, issue 5 of the Armenian Church News of the Diocese via the link below. Some subscribers have reported that they have not been receiving our newsletters - firstly, please check your spam folders as sometimes emailing systems erroneously put emails in there. Also in Gmail accounts, check your "Promotions" tab and transfer the newsletter that may be in there into the "Primary" inbox. If someone still cannot find their newsletters, please forward this email on to them so that they can read these instructions.
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Volume 3, Issue 5
24 February 2017
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The Primate's Annual Report 2016
Please click on the button below for the Primate's Report of 2016:
Primate's Report
St. Sarkis Feast Day
Please click on the button below to watch a video highlighting events on 12 February at St. Sarkis Church, London, in celebration of St. Sarkis Feast Day:
YouTube Video St. Sarkis Day
Pilgrimage to Jerusalem, May 2017
Please join us on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land, 2nd - 9th May 2017.  Details of the itinerary can be viewed by clicking on the image (left).
The cost is £1250 per person for a twin room, the single room supplement is £300. 
Flight details: BA167 2nd May from Heathrow at 16:45 arrives Tel Aviv 23:35
BA166 9th May from Tel Aviv at 07:45 arrives Heathrow 11:10
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0208 127 8364
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Armenian News... A Topalian... Azerbaijan to Arrest EU Lawmakers...

RFE/RL Report
Azerbaijan Moves To Arrest EU Lawmakers Over Karabakh Vote
February 23, 2017
Sargis Harutyunyan
Authorities in Azerbaijan have issued international arrest warrants
for three pro-Armenian members of the European Parliament who visited
Nagorno-Karabakh and monitored a constitutional referendum held there
this week.

The APA news agency reported late on Wednesday that Frank Engel of
Luxembourg, Eleni Theocharous of Cyprus and the Czech Republic's
Jaromir Stetina are accused of illegally visiting "occupied lands of

The three politicians representing their countries in the European
Union's legislative body are also facing charges stemming from their
monitoring of Monday's Karabakh referendum strongly condemned by
Baku. They all described the vote as democratic on Tuesday.

The Azerbaijani authorities have asked Interpol, an international
police organization, to help them arrest Engel, Theocharous and
Stetina. A court in Baku has formally authorized their pre-trial
detention, according to APA.

The three European Parliament members, who stand for international
recognition of Karabakh's independence, had already been declared
personae non grata in Azerbaijan because of their previous trips to
the Armenian-populated territory. The Azerbaijani government has also
blacklisted more than 500 other non-Armenian foreigners for the same

Armenia's Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian dismissed Baku's
attempt to arrest Engel, Theocharous and Stetina as "ridiculous."
"This will certainly not affect further visits to Artsakh (Karabakh)
in any way," Kocharian told RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am)
on Thursday.

The arrest warrants came two weeks after Belarus controversially
handed over to Azerbaijan Alexander Lapshin, a Russian-Israeli blogger
detained in Minsk in December. Lapshin visited Karabakh in 2011 and
2012 and gave detailed accounts of those trips on his Russian-language
travel blog.

Armenia strongly condemned Lapshin's extradition. The Belarusian
authorities were also criticized by the Russian Foreign Ministry as
well as the London-based human rights group Amnesty International. 

Zurabyan: 50-60% people in Armenia are ready to sell their votes
February 24, 2017 

 MP from Armenian National Congress (ANC) Levon Zurabyan said today that their alliance with the People’s Party of Armenia will be guided by "calls for peace and neighbourliness”.

According to Levon Zurabyan, other alliances in Armenia have been created to push interests of their candidates, while theirs “is a continuation of years-long cooperation”.

He also shared his opinion on electoral fraud, stating that “50-60% of Armenian citizens are ready to sell their voices”.

According to Levon Zurabyan, installation of technical means in voting stations decreases the volume of fraud that could be witnessed in previous years, but leads to intensification of attempts to buy votes.

“In democratic countries people register progress, while we head towards underdevelopment, corruption, and growth of poverty,” he said.

RFE/RL Report 
Ruling Party MP Admits `Aid' To Voters
February 23, 2017
Tatevik Lazarian
Nane Sahakian

A pro-government lawmaker acknowledged on Thursday that some
candidates of the governing Republican Party (HHK) provide material
assistance to voters in the run-up to Armenia's parliamentary

Lernik Aleksanian insisted, however, that foodstuffs and other types
of aid handed out to impoverished residents do not constitute vote
bribes. He also claimed that election candidates of other parties
running for parliament are also engaged in such "benevolence."

"If a person gives someone something as [an act of] benevolence, it's
very hard to subject him to criminal liability," Aleksanian told
RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am). "It's very hard to call it a
bribe, if you don't call it a bribe at that point. A person helps
another person. Let's prove that it's a bribe on the legal plane."

"It's not just our candidates," who deliver such aid, said the member
of Armenia's outgoing parliament affiliated with the HHK. "The
electoral lists of all parties contain individuals who have helped and
are helping people to a certain extent, whether it's before elections
or after them," added Aleksanian.

Armenian law explicitly bans election candidates from providing any
material aid or services to citizens in return for their votes. The
HHK and its former and current coalition partners have long been
accused by the Armenian opposition and independent media of heavily
relying on vote buying. They have denied these allegations.

Opposition representatives claimed on Thursday that vote buying will
again be widespread in the parliamentary elections slated for April
2. Aram Manukian of the Armenian National Congress (HAK) suggested
that voters should consider accepting cash from pro-government
candidates but still voting for an opposition party or bloc.

But other opposition figures disagreed, saying that selling votes is
wrong in principle. "If you take a vote bribe, then do not demand a
better country from us," said Stepan Safarian, a leading candidate of
the Free Democrats party.

Arayik Harutiunian, a senior member of the opposition Yelk bloc,
claimed that the Armenian authorities remain reluctant to clamp down
on vote buying because it is essential for retaining their control
over the National Assembly.

The chief of the Armenian police, Vladimir Gasparian, promised tougher
action against the illegal practice on Wednesday when he visited the
Armavir province and met with senior officials from the regional
police department to discuss preparations for the upcoming polls.

"I don't think that it's impossible to tackle [vote buying,]" said
Gasparian. "If a police officer in a particular community has good
contacts with his fellow citizens I believe that there will be people
who will report [vote buying] so that we can do our job."

Daniel Ioannisian of the Union of Informed Citizens, a civic group
that has monitored Armenian elections, was skeptical about Gasparian's
assurances. He said that individuals bribing voters have never feared
prosecution."They are sure that law-enforcement bodies won't take any
measures against them," Ioannisian told RFE/RL's Armenian service. 

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Civic Groups Gear Up For Election Monitoring
February 22, 2017
Artak Hambardzumian
A coalition of Armenian civil society groups said on Wednesday that it
plans to deploy about 3,500 monitors, among them prominent Diaspora
Armenians, in polling stations across the country during the upcoming
parliamentary elections.

"As of now, we have already registered 2,800 monitors, and I think
that this number will rise to 3,500," Armen Grigorian, one of the
leaders of the Citizen Observer initiative, told reporters.

Grigorian said they will watch voting in around 1,750 of Armenia's
2,000 polling stations where an estimated 95 percent of all eligible
voters will be able to cast ballots.

According to Citizen Observer, the monitoring mission will include
nearly 250 ethnic Armenian foreign nationals, among them U.S. rock
musician Serj Tankian, Canadian actress Arsinee Khanjian and her
husband and filmmaker Atom Egoyan.

Tankian, Khanjian, Egoyan and several other Diaspora Armenian artists
launched last year a joint campaign called "Justice Within Armenia"
with an online petition that was signed by thousands of people. It
demanded that Armenia's government end widespread corruption, respect
laws and hold democratic elections.

Vartan Marashlian, the director of the non-governmental RepatArmenia
Foundation helping Diaspora Armenians relocate to Armenia, is also
involved in the Citizen Observer mission.

"This is a very important format through which we can connect the
Diaspora to Armenia. This must become a part of our culture,"
Marashlian told a joint news conference with Grigorian and Vahe
Keushguerian, a Lebanese-born businessman based in Yerevan.

Keushguerian emphasized the non-partisan character of what will be the
largest monitoring mission for the April 2 elections. "The most
important thing for us is that every vote is counted correctly," he
said. "The question of who will get elected is secondary."

The elections will pit the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK)
against four other parties and as many alliances. They will also be
monitored by around 300 observers to be deployed by the Organization
for Security and Cooperation in Europe. The OSCE officially launched
its monitoring mission on Tuesday.

Archbishop Aram Atesyan to resign by March 15
24 Feb 2017 

An agreement on the elections of the Patriarch of Istanbul has been reached after two days of discussions at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin.

Bishop Sahak Masalyan, General Vicar of the Patriarch of Istanbul Aram Atesyan and Primate of the Diocese of the Armenian Church of Germany Karekin Bekdjian came together in Yerevan for a meeting chaired by His Holiness Karekin II, Supreme Patriarch and Catholicos of All Armenians.

Thus, the Locum Tenens will be elected by the Clerical Assembly by March 15. The elections will terminate the powers of the General Vicar of the Patriarch Aram Atesyan. The Bishops will have equal rights to participate in the elections of the Locum Tenens.

After the elections, the Clerical Assembly will form a commission comprising clergymen and secular figures to organize the transfer of power from the General Vicar to the Locum Tenens.

The elections of the initiative group will be organized within 10 days after the election of the Locum Tenens. The group will, in turn, organize the elections of the Patriarch of Istanbul within a six-month period.

Specialized company to invest AMD 315 million in production of 
solar trackers in Armenia 
YEREVAN, February 24. /ARKA/. The first solar trackers in the region are expected to be produced in Armenia soon, the press office of the Armenian ministry of energy infrastructures and natural resources reported on Friday.

According to the ministry’s news release, a unique in the region industrial enterprise will be established in the country for that.

Hayk Harutyunyan, deputy minister, is quoted in the press release as saying that the production process will begin already in the second quarter of this year.

The specialized company Profpanel will invest about AMD 315 million (around $649,000) in the project at the first stage and more than 50 jobs will be created here.

The company intends to sell the solar trackers initially inside Armenia, and later to export them to other countries.

On February 23, the Armenian government decided to exempt Profpanel OJSC, which is engaged in producing solar trackers as part of an investment program and which imports technical equipment and raw materials for that, from paying customs duties.

In summer 2015, a 58-million investment program aimed at development of renewable energy, was launched in Armenia. The program is intended for five or six years and is being implemented by the Armenia Renewable Resources and Energy Efficiency Fund under support from Climate Investment Funds, the Armenian ministry of energy infrastructures and natural resources, the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

It is planned to build a 40-to-50-megawatt solar station under this program by 2020.