Saturday, 15 April 2017

Armenian News,,, A Topalian... Armenian party-political landscape

An introduction to the Armenian party-political landscape
11 April 2017 

Institute for War and Peace Reporting, UK
April 12 2017
Karabakh’s April War, One Year Later
Diplomatic efforts have stalled with little progress in sight.
By IWPR team in Armenia
A year after the worst clashes between Azerbaijani forces and the Armenian-backed Karabakh army since the 1994 ceasefire, regional experts warn that any future outbreak of violence is likely to be even deadlier. 

More than a dozen civilians living on the frontline were killed and many more injured after fighting broke out between in the early hours of April 2, 2016. 

Nagorny Karabakh has been internationally referred to as a frozen conflict since war in the early 1990s left a local Armenian administration in control of the enclave of about 150,000 people inside Azerbaijan. Around 30,000 people died before a ceasefire was signed in 1994, but that agreement has frequently been violated. 

Analysts told a March 29, 2017 event held by IWPR, the Public Journalism Club (PJC) and the Media Centre that the latest truce remained equally fragile. 

The leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan have met twice over the last year at summits brokered by the OSCE Minsk Group, which includes Russia, France and the United States. Both presidents reiterated their commitment to ensure compliance with the April 2016 ceasefire and the peaceful resolution of the conflict. 

They also agreed to broaden the mandate of the OSCE’s personal representative, take steps to deploy OSCE mechanisms for the monitoring and investigation of ceasefire violations and increase the number of international observers in the conflict area. 

However, not only have no steps been taken to implement this, but regular ceasefire violations have continued both on the line of contact around Karabakh and along the entire Armenian-Azerbaijani border. 

Richard Giragosian, the director of the Regional Studies Centre, said that this situation was perilous and meant that any new outbreak of violence would be even more serious. 

“This time, for Azerbaijan, in terms of its justified frustration, we see a temptation for a second military victory regarding the territories,” he said. “But this is not a threat of war, rather this is a threat of war based on accident and miscalculations. Despite the increasing risk of renewed hostilities, this time things will be significantly different. Any renewed hostilities will not have the element of surprise from the Azerbaijani side. The Armenian side will be better prepared and therefore the clashes, the skirmishes will be more deadly.” 

Thomas de Waal, a senior fellow with Carnegie Europe and a Caucasus specialist, agreed, emphasising that the conflict could not be resolved by military means. 

“Obviously, last year was extremely dangerous, and I would agree with our speakers that this year could be even more hazardous and the risk of renewal of hostilities is still very high. So, there is no alternative to diplomacy and politics,” he said. 

The regional framework was also important, he continued. 

“Russia is the central player in this context,” de Waal said. “However, it is not trusted by either Armenia, or Azerbaijan. It is a mediator, but it also fuels war, since it sells weapons both to Yerevan and Baku. So, Russia on its own will not solve the problem anyway.” 

The speakers agreed that although there was no alternative to diplomacy in terms of reaching a peaceful resolution, both sides lacked the political will to take real steps in this direction. 

“During my last visits to Yerevan and Baku, I did not see much space for mutual concessions,” said Magdalena Grono, programme director for Europe and Central Asia with the International Crisis Group. 

“I think we see the position entrenchment on both sides, which make any possibility for future negotiations even more difficult. 

“The chances for the potential escalation are very high. And the conflict will be more deadly this time, since both sides know each other’s capabilities,” she concluded. 

Ara Papyan, director of the Modus Vivendi research centre and a former Armenian ambassador to Canada, said the outbreak of violence had been a severe setback to diplomatic progress. 

“We were speaking in favor of concessions, but last year’s war hardened the positions. There were no prisoners of war during the four-day war,” Papyan said. “This speaks for itself and creates distrust in Armenian society towards Azerbaijan.” 

A dozen broadcast media and print publications covered the IWPR event. It was also attended by representatives of international organisations and diplomatic missions in Armenia, including German ambassador Matthias Kiesler and two representatives of the political department of the EU delegation in Armenia. 

RFE/RL Report
Another Armenian IT Startup Attracts U.S. Investments
April 13, 2017
Artur Papyan

Highlighting the rapid growth of Armenia's information technology (IT)
sector, an Armenian software company has attracted $5 million in
funding from private investors in the United States.

Founded by three Armenian IT engineers and an Armenian-American
finance specialist in 2013, the company, Teamable, develops special
software used by businesses for hiring skilled workers. It allows them
to look for and identify potential employees through their social
media accounts.

Teamable currently employs 36 people working at its offices in Yerevan
and San Francisco. Most of them are software engineers based in the
Armenian capital.

The company announced on Wednesday that two U.S venture capital firms,
True Ventures and SaaStr Fund, will invest $5 million in its

Vazgen Hakobjanyan, one of the company's founders, said on Thursday
that the funding will result in "many jobs and new opportunities" in
the sector. "The company has already had stable revenue for the last
two years," he told RFE/RL's Armenian service ( "This
business model has been tested and is working."

Teamable already has over 50 corporate clients, among them the
U.S. taxi network Lyft, the online payments operator Stripe and the
Chinese-American Internet service provider Baidu.

"What sets Teamable apart is that our smart algorithms surface
candidates based on the unique qualities and needs of each company,
rather than keyword searches that yield candidate pools that are too
general to be useful to recruiters," the company's Armenian-American
chief executive and co-founder, Laura Bilazarian, was quoted by as saying.

Hakobjanyan stressed the importance of Diaspora Armenian involvement
in the local tech industry. "Armenia has strong software developers,
an open culture, an energetic generation [of young people] that wants
to achieve big things, and a Diaspora," he said. "We can achieve
wonderful results if we use it correctly."

"This is why we are saying [to the Diaspora] `come here not to give us
money but to do business with us' and it usually works," added

IT is the fastest growing sector of Armenia's economy, having expanded
by over 20 percent annually for over a decade. Around 15,000 people
currently work for 450 or so IT firms operating in the
country. Officials in Yerevan say they generated more than 4 percent
of Gross Domestic Product last year.

The Armenian IT industry is dominated by subsidiaries of U.S. tech
giants like Synopsis, National Instruments, Mentor Graphics and
VMware. The sector's expansion is also increasingly driven by
homegrown Armenian companies like Teamable. More than 300 of them have
reportedly been set up since 2007.

The most successful of these startups is PicsArt, one of the world's
leading mobile photo editing and sharing applications. The company now
employs over 350 people in Armenia and boasts 90 million active
monthly users worldwide.

Like Teamable, PicsArt has an office in San Francisco mainly dealing
with sales, marketing and investor relations. It raised $15 million in
venture capital funding in 2015 and another $20 million in
2016. Another Armenian software firm, CodeFights, attracted $10
million last year.

Industry executives say that the inadequate professional level of many
graduates of IT departments of Armenia universities hampers even
faster growth. According to their estimates, there are between 2,000
and 4,000 job vacancies in the sector at present.

In January this year, a team of government officials and IT executives
proposed a wide-ranging reform of engineering education in Armenia
aimed at addressing this personnel shortage. Prime Minister Karen
Karapetian welcomed their plan.

RFE/RL Report 

Government Sheds More Light On Russian-Armenian Investment Fund
April 13, 2017

An investment fund set up recently by more than three dozen Russian
businesspeople of Armenian descent will finance nearly $300 million
worth of business projects in Armenia this year, officials in Yerevan
said on Thursday.

The Armenian government approved a corresponding "memorandum of
understanding" with the fund called the Investors Club of Armenia
(ICA) at its weekly session chaired by Prime Minister Karen

The wealthy entrepreneurs, among them the Armenian-born billionaire
Samvel Karapetian (no relation to Karen), announced the launch of the
ICA in Yerevan on March 25. The tycoon heaped praise on the prime
minister during that ceremony.

An Armenian government statement said afterwards that the ICA will
invest in new and existing Armenian companies in the form of loans or
equity purchases. It did not give any numbers.

"They will discuss projects deemed of high priority by the government
and make around $300 million worth of investments," Minister for
Economic Development and Investments Suren Karayan told reporters
after Thursday's cabinet meeting.

"After this memorandum of understanding is signed, we will present an
investment package and they will discuss it," he said. He did not
elaborate on the business projects, saying only that the ICA
investments in 2017 will mainly be channeled into the energy, mining
and manufacturing sectors.

Prime Minister Karapetian again stressed the importance of the
investment fund when he spoke at the meeting. "The fund will not only
help to attract investments but will also bring a new business
culture," he told ministers. "The members of the fund are quite
renowned and successful businessmen who have wide connections and many
partners in various countries. They will serve as a bridge between our
country and the business communities of those countries."

Foreign direct investment in the Armenian economy has rapidly declined
in recent years. Government data shows that it stood at a modest $130
million in 2016.

In Karayan's words, the money promised by the ICA is part of some $850
million in investments which the government has pledged to attract
this year. The minister reaffirmed that pledge.

"There are private investors that have shown an interest in investing
here and they have already started investing," Karayan said, adding
that they include businesspeople from Armenia, Diaspora Armenians as
well as non-Armenian foreigners. He did not name any concrete
investment source other than the ICA, however.

Karapetian repeatedly stated earlier that that his government has all
but secured $3.2 billion in funding for around 350 nationwide
investment projects to be implemented in the coming years. Critics of
his government are highly skeptical about that.

Armenia's entire Gross Domestic Product is equivalent to less than $11

Business Recorder
IMF forecasts Armenian GDP growth of 3pc, inflation at 2pc in 2017
Shoaib Ur Rehman Siddiqui
Apr 12th, 2017

YEREVAN: The International Monetary Fund expects Armenia's gross
domestic product to grow by 3 percent and annual inflation to reach 2
percent in 2017, Hossein Samiei, the IMF mission chief, said on

The IMF mission completed its visit to Armenia this week.

Armenia, a country of 3.2 million people, depends heavily on aid and
investment from Russia, whose economic downturn has hit Armenian
exports and much-needed remittances from Armenians working there.

"Foreign capital expenditure could be higher than was expected in
December," Samiei told a news conference.

In December, the IMF forecast 2017 economic growth of 2.7 percent. The
economy grew 6 percent in the first quarter of 2017, IMF data show.

Remittances and copper prices have also picked up and growth in Russia
should improve this year, Samiei said. He cautioned that the recovery
in remittances and copper prices might not last and growth in key
trading partners may be weaker than expected.

He said that the government promised to put effort into diversifying
exports, tackling corruption and implementing structural reforms.
Microsoft to help train Armenian school teachers
April 14

The Armenian ministry of education and science and Microsoft signed on Friday a Memorandum of Understanding, whereby Microsoft will contribute to the improvement of the qualification level of school teachers, as well as participate in a pilot program of the Armenian government to provide schools with computers.

Minister Levon Mkrtchyan noted during the signing ceremony that the world is developing thanks to the efforts of companies, which understand that in addition to business they also have social responsibility mission.

"Microsoft is one of organizations that has been working consistently for over 10 years to help reform our educational environment, offering new technological solutions, new formats of cooperation, which can become an important example of business cooperation between a private company and a government," he said.

According to Mkrtchyan, thanks to the Memorandum, the ministry has great hopes that distance education in Armenia could become as accessible as possible. In turn, the head of the CIS regional office of Microsoft, Ronald Binkovsky, said that he wants to use his 25-year experience with Microsoft in Armenia.

"We are ready to promote the educational system of Armenia and look forward to new results from the unified cooperation," Binkovsky said.
Sting impressed that Man Utd fans used his song for Mkhitaryan chant
April 14, 2017 

Sting has said he was impressed to hear Manchester United fans have used one of his songs for their chant about Henrikh Mkhitaryan , BBC reports.

United fans sing "Whoa Mkhitaryan, Henrikh Mkhitaryan, he's our midfield Armenian" to the tune of Englishman in New York.

"I am very happy about that," Sting said. "I like to see songs repossessed and refitted for different purposes. It is pretty good too."

"As a songwriter I think it is extraordinary the way those chants go around a massive group of people, and suddenly they are all singing the same thing."

BBC Sport's football expert Mark Lawrenson is pitting his wits against a different guest each week this season. Lawro's opponents for this weekend's Premier League fixtures were Sting and his son Joe Sumner, who are both Newcastle fans.

ESC Today
April 14 2017
The Shortlist (6) Armenia
April 14, 2017. 

Who are the big favorites for Kiev? In the next couple of weeks we will highlight some interesting participants, based on the odds they have been given by the bookmakers. This week we are providing a shortlist of countries that lead the board in the first semi final. Today’s report is about Armenia. Artsvik

Born in Kapan, Armenia in 1984, Artsvik Harutyunyan will represent her homeland at the 2017 Eurovision Song Contest. At the age of five, she moved to Moscow, Russia. From there, she joined the ‘Jazz Parking Project’ in 2012, while also auditioning for ‘The Voice of Russia’, which increased her popularity.

After moving back to Armenia in 2016, she decided to audition for the new artist selection format named ‘Depi Evratesil’. Artsvik ultimately won the competition, and her song was released in March, this year.

Furthermore, Artsvik has also recently started a project for this year’s contest, labeled ‘The Celebrate Diversity Challenge’. It involves fellow Eurovision competitors challenging Artsvik to sing a traditional song from their nation, where, in turn, they will sing a tradition Armenian song. This initiative is further highlighting Eurovision 2017’s slogan “Celebrate Diversity”. “Fly With Me”

Following Iveta Mukuchyan’s seventh placed performance in 2016, Artsvik will be aiming high to achieve similar results with her song “Fly With Me”. Lilith and Levon Navasardyan composed the song, with the lyrics written by Avet Barseghyan and David Tserunyan.

The entry is characterised by its ethnic, Armenian feel. It has been labeled as ‘experimental’, ‘unique’ and ‘diverse’.

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