Monday, 20 February 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Armenia sends aid to Syria

RFE/RL Report
Armenia Sends More Relief Aid To Syria
February 14, 2017

Armenia sent on Tuesday a fresh batch of humanitarian assistance to
civilians in Syria suffering from the country's devastating civil war.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry said a Russian transport plane delivered
the 18 metric tons of relief aid -- mainly canned food -- to a Russian
airbase in Khmeimim in northwestern Syria. Photographs released by the
ministry showed Russian military personnel there unloading it from the
Ilyushin-72 plane in the presence of Armenia's consul general in
Aleppo, Tigran Gevorgian.

The packs of relief supplies bore inscriptions in Armenian and Arabic:
"With warm wishes for peace from Armenia to the brotherly people of

The aircraft was loaded with the cargo at the Erebuni airbase in
Yerevan during a ceremony attended by Armenian Defense Minister Vigen
Sargsian and the Russian ambassador to Armenia, Ivan Volynkin.

Sargsian discussed the aid delivery with Russia's First Deputy Defense
Minister Ruslan Tsalikov when they met in the Armenian capital on
January 28.

The Armenian government already sent two planeloads of similar aid to
Syria in October amid intensifying fighting in Aleppo. The war-ravaged
city, which fell under full Syrian government control in December, was
home to the majority of an estimated 80,000 ethnic Armenians who lived
in Syria before the outbreak of the bloody conflict.

Only several thousand Syrian Armenians are thought to remain in Aleppo
at present. Thousands of others have fled to Armenia during the
Nearly 20,000 Armenians Still Live in Aleppo
14 February 2017 

According to the information of the Diocese of Berio, about 20,000 Armenians are living in Aleppo currently, the deputy minister of foreign affairs Armen Papikyan informed during the meeting of the interagency steering committee for the issues of Armenian Syrians.

According to him, 3000 live in Damask, 3000-3500 live in Latakia, Kessab, 3000 in Kamishli, 3000-4000 in other areas. “These numbers are not stable and may change due to several factors,” Papikyan said, Armenpress reported.

He noted that prior to the war the population of Syria was 24.5 million. Now the population is 17-18 million. “7 million are considered internally displaced, 13.5 million needs humanitarian aid, including 4.5 million live in placed that are difficult to access or in blockade,” he added.

In the places in Syria where the ceasefire is observed there is progress towards improvement of living conditions. Terrorists controlled the water reservoirs supplying Damask and after the government forces took control over them, water supply has improved.

“A greater part of the Syrian population is in an extremely grave situation. According to the UN, 50% of the population has been displaced by force, two thirds are in extreme need. 1000 buildings have been half-destroyed, 100 have been fully destroyed, 800 buildings have been partly ruined, 3000 shops have been looted, burnt or half-destroyed,” the deputy foreign minister said, adding that the migration of Armenian Syrians to Canada, Australia, Armenia continues.

The Armenian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Diaspora continues to assist the Armenian Syrians who want to move to Armenia, and the only consulate in Aleppo continues to work and provides information on daily basis about the situation in and around Aleppo.
ANCA Calls on State Department to Oppose Iron Dome Sale to Azerbaijan
February 15 2017
Marianna Mkrtchyan 

ArmInfo .Citing concerns about risks to U.S. regional interests and the danger of weapons proliferation, the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) has called upon the Department of State to oppose the third-party transfer of sensitive U.S. equipment and technology as part of a reported Israeli Iron Dome anti-missile system sale to Azerbaijan, ANCA reports.

In a February 13th letter sent to the State Department Bureau of Political-Military Affairs, the ANCA asked for formal U.S. opposition to the Iron Dome Sale on the grounds that it would: "undermine U.S. interests by raising the risks of regional conflict, setting back the cause of peace, and potentially allowing advanced weapons technology to fall into the hands of anti-American powers." Separately, the ANCA has, under the Freedom of Information Act, requested any official records related to the Iron Dome sale to Azerbaijan.

"In Ilham Aliyev's hands, Iron Dome is a first strike weapon," said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian, "one that will only embolden him to escalate his aggression." He added: "Green- lighting this sale would undermine all that America and our OSCE partners have done to promote peace and prevent weapons proliferation, raising the very real risk that advanced technology that will both destabilize the Caucasus and potentially end up in the hands of anti-U.S. countries - from Belarus to North Korea."

Reports began to surface regarding an impending sale of the Iron Dome anti-missile system to Azerbaijan shortly following Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's meetings with President Aliyev in December, 2016. Developed by Israel's Rafael Advanced Defense Systems with funding and technology from the United States, the system is designed to intercept and destroy short-range rockets and artillery shells fired from distances of 2.5 to 43 miles away and whose trajectory would take them to a populated area. In 2014, U.S. defense firm Raytheon won a $149.3 million co-production contract to supply Tamir missiles for the Iron Dome system. Under the terms of the May 3, 2014, U.S.-Israel Iron Dome Procurement Agreement as well as relevant provisions of the Foreign Assistance Act, the Arms Export Control Act, and other U.S. laws, the U.S. has the right to block the third-party transfer of U.S. equipment and information included in the Iron Dome system. Foreign airlines to increase the number of flights to Armenia
Foreign airlines to increase the number of flights to Armenia
February 15

The frequency of flights operated by a number of airlines to Armenia will increase due to the growth in passenger traffic, Satenik Hovhannisyan, a spokeswoman for the Chief Civil Aviation Department, said today. 

She said in March, the Russian low-cost airline Pobeda (a division of Aeroflot) will operate four flights a week from Moscow to Armenia’s second-largest town of Gyumri instead of the current three flights.  Qatar Airways will operate daily flights from Doha to Yerevan and back. According to her, in March the Aegean Airlines will operate six flights from Athens to Yerevan.

Iranian airlines will also increase the frequency of flights to Armenia in the summer and especially during the celebration of the Iranian New Year - Novruz in late March, - Hovhannisyan said.
Armentel sponsors festivals of British films in Armenia
February 15

ArmenTel telecommunications company (trading as Beeline), the British embassy in Armenia and the local office of the British Council will jointly conduct the 15th Festival of British Films in Armenia.

The festival will open on February 18 at Moskva cinema by screening  "I, Daniel Blake," directed by Ken Loach, who was awarded the "Palme d'Or" at the Cannes Film Festival for this film.

"Beeline welcomes and attaches great importance to those programs, which help people build a better life. This year’s festival is the 15th. Beeline has been the sponsor of the festival for the fifth consecutive year. We are pleased and proud of the fact that the festival has become a favorite event in the cultural life of Armenia," ArmenTel CEO Andrei Pyatakhin said.

Arevik Saribekyan, the head of the British Council Office in Armenia, said the festival has become the hallmark of the British Council in Armenia and they tried to choose the best works of the contemporary British cinema." she said.

This year’s festival will feature seven films in Yerevan from February 18 to 24 at Moskva cinema house. The films focus on human rights. Admission is free.

ArmenTel is entirely owned by VimpelCom. It provides fixed and mobile telephony services as well as high-speed Internet.

RFE/RL Report
Karapetian Vows Large-Scale Investments In 2017
February 15, 2017
Emil Danielyan

Prime Minister Karen Karapetian reiterated on Wednesday his
government's pledges to help to inject hundreds of millions of dollars
into Armenia's economy and public infrastructure this year.

Karapetian said the recently reshuffled government has received 471
investment proposals from private firms, various government ministries
and local communities across the country. The government considers 345
of those projects worth a combined $3.2 billion to be "realistic" and
thinks that at least $830 million of the required sum can be invested
in 2017, he said.

"Those programs have sources of funding and partners," Karapetian told
students at Yerevan State University. "They will be financed from
different sources, including the Armenian state budget, community
budgets and the private sector."

He did not specify those sources or single out major beneficiaries of
the planned investments.

"I also want to inform you that apart from those [projects worth] $3.2
billion the government is now considering 79 other projects worth $5.3
billion," added the premier. "We are paying special attention to this
issue because there is an impression that it is impossible to invest,
make money, seek profits in Armenia."

With Armenia's entire state budget for 2017 equivalent to less than $3
billion, the bulk of the large-scale investments repeatedly promised
by Karapetian in recent weeks would clearly come from private and
foreign sources.

The issue was apparently high on the agenda of his January 25 talks in
Moscow with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Karapetian said
after the talks that Medvedev backed his proposal to create a
Russian-Armenian "investment fund" that would finance business
projects in Armenia.

Karapetian, 53, lived and worked in Russia from 2011-2016, holding
senior positions in Russian subsidiaries of the Gazprom state-run
energy giant. He had previously managed Armenia's gas distribution
network owned by Gazprom.

During his visit to Moscow, Karapetian also met with more than three
dozen Russian businesspeople of Armenian descent. In an ensuing joint
statement, the entrepreneurs expressed readiness to "participate in
joint initiatives and business projects with the Armenian government."
They also voiced "full support" for "profound reforms" planned by
Karapetian's cabinet.

The signatories included the Armenian-born billionaire Samvel
Karapetian (no relation to the prime minister) who already has
extensive business interests in Armenia.

Foreign direct investment in Armenia has rapidly declined in the last
few years. According to the National Statistical Service, it shrunk by
almost half in January-September 2016, to $93 million. 
Armenia placed 33rd in 2017 Index of Economic Freedom
16 Feb 2017 

Armenia is placed 33rd among 186 countries and is ranked as a “mostly free” country in the 2017 Index of Economic Freedom, an annual guide published by The Heritage Foundation. The Index covers 10 freedoms – from property rights to entrepreneurship.

Other countries in the region are placed as follows: Georgia 13th, Turkey – 60th, Azerbaijan 68th, Iran – 155th.

Armenia’s partners in the Eurasian Economic Union Russia and Kazakhstan are ranked 114 th and 42 nd respectively, Belarus is 104th, Kyrgyzstan is 89th.

Hong Kong tops the list, followed by Singapore and New Zealand.

“Considerable diversification of Armenia’s economic base has increased economic dynamism, and a decade of strong economic growth has reduced poverty and unemployment rates. Broad simplification of business procedures has facilitated regulatory efficiency. After years of expansionary fiscal policies, efforts have been made to limit the cost of government through more prudent management of public finance,” the report reads.

“Armenia performs relatively well in many categories of economic freedom, but more reforms are needed to enhance judicial independence and government transparency. Despite progress in tackling corruption, particularly in the tax and customs administrations, close relationships within political and business circles raise concerns about cronyism and undue influence,” The Heritage Foundation said.

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