Sunday, 21 May 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Stepanakert mortar attack

Interfax - Russia & CIS Military Newswire
May 17, 2017
Baku, Stepanakert trade mortar attack accusations

The Armenian army breached the truce over 100 times on the contact
line in the past 24 hours, the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a
report on Wednesday.

"Armenian army units breached the truce 110 times in various sectors
of the frontline over the past day, using 82mm mortars (28 shells),"
the report said.

The gunfire was coming from the territory of Armenia and the 'occupied
Azerbaijani lands', it said.

"The Armenian army was conducting intense fire from various types of
mortars on the positions of the Azerbaijani Armed Forces in the Agdam
sector of the frontline and populated localities behind the frontline
in the evening of May 16 and during the night," the ministry said

According to it, the Armenian army was using drones.

"The hostiles were suppressed as a result of urgent measures; no
damage was incurred by combat vehicles of the Azerbaijani army and
there were no casualties amongst troops. Shells fired by the enemy
mostly fell on vacant cropland and areas near populated localities,"
it said.

The Defense Ministry of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic
(NKR) said, for its part, that Nagorno-Karabakh forces returned fire
after enemy mortar attacks.

The Azerbaijani army breached the truce about 60 times on the line of
contact with Nagorno-Karabakh forces and fired over 900 shots on the
Armenian positions on May 16 and during the night into May 17, the
report said.

"In addition to small arms, the Azerbaijani army used 82mm and 120mm
mortars (4 and 17 shells, respectively) in the eastern sector of the
frontline, as well as 60mm and 82mm mortars (15 and 5 shells,
respectively) in the northeastern sector. Forward units of the NKR
Defense Army returned fire in order to suppress the hostile activity,"
it said.

All is relatively quiet on the frontline for now, the ministry said. 

RFE/RL Report 
Armenia Reiterates Readiness For Compromise Solution In Karabakh
May 18, 2017
Suren Musayelyan

A change of the status quo in the protracted Nagorno-Karabakh conflict
is acceptable to Armenia, "but only if there is a comprehensive
solution to the problem."

This was stated by President Serzh Sarkisian in his address to the
Armenian parliament today.

According to Sarkisian, Armenia has repeatedly pronounced in favor of
resolving the conflict with Azerbaijan on the basis of "mutual
concessions whose essence is the recognition and exercise by Artsakh
(ed: Nagorno-Karabakh) of its right to self-determination."

"Yes, on the basis of a compromise, and not unilateral concessions,
yielding to Azerbaijani threats that otherwise a war is inevitable. We
don't want to maintain the status quo for a single day if we don't
have to. We don't want to put the burden of resolving the problem on
the shoulders of the generations to come, and this is what our common
efforts with the mediating countries are aimed at," the Armenian
leader emphasized.

Sarkisian warned, at the same time, that while being ready for a
peaceful solution to the problem, "we are also ready and will be ready
to defend our homeland, our dignity and our freedom at any cost."

Sarkisian's statement comes amid heightened tensions in the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict zone where in recent days the Armenian and
Azerbaijani armed forces claimed to have destroyed enemy defense
facilities and inflicted casualties on each other.

As recently as Monday Azerbaijan's Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov
stated that after the Moscow meeting with his Armenian counterpart
Edward Nalbandian hosted by Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov he
"got the impression that peace in exchange for an Armenian withdrawal,
in other words, according to the `territories for peace' principle,
was possible."

He said that this was "the logic of the whole negotiating process
during the past 12 years." "Today it is evident to all that Armenia
must withdraw its troops from the occupied territories of Azerbaijan,"
the top Azerbaijani diplomat said.

Armenia's Ministry of Foreign Affairs quickly reacted to the remarks
as its spokesperson Tigran Balayan implied this was not what was
discussed during the Lavrov-Nalbandian-Mammadyarov meeting in late

The American, Russian and French co-chairs of the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe's Minsk Group, which has an
international mandate to broker a peaceful solution to the
Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, are expected to pay their next visit to the
region in June or July.

Nagorno-Karabakh broke free from Baku's control in the early 1990s,
triggering a three-year war that killed an estimated 30,000 people and
left ethnic Armenians in control of the region.

The Armenia-backed Karabakh military and Azerbaijani armed forces
clashed in April 2016 in what was later dubbed as a four-day war that
killed dozens on both sides.

International diplomatic efforts to resolve the conflict during the
last 25 years have brought little progress.

ARKA, Armenia
May 18 2017
Armenian Tsakhkadzor among top 3 CIS mountain resorts
The Russian TurStat agency has included the Armenian resort town of Tsakhkadzor in the list of the top three most popular mountain summer resorts across the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), a loose union of several former Soviet republics. 

The top five popular mountain resorts are in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan. They are Chimbulak (Kazakhstan), Shahdag (Azerbaijan), Tsakhkadzor (Armenia), Chimgan (Uzbekistan) and Karakol (Kyrgyzstan). 

The rating is based on the data of online hotel reservation systems. According to TurStat, tourists plan an active holiday in mountain resorts on average for 7 days. 

The least expensive rest, including accommodation and meals, is offered by Karakol and Chimgan (less than $70 per day), while the most expensive one is in Chimbulak (more than $ 100 per day). In Shahdag – it is $90, and in Tsakhkadzor it is $80 per day. 

Activities in the mountains include mountain trekking, mountain biking and quad biking, horseback riding and fitness. -0- 

Straits Times, Singapore
May 18 2017
Church rich in Armenian history
Camillia Deborah Dass 

In a small sanctuary in Singapore's oldest church, the Very Reverend Father Zaven Yazichyan conducts a traditional Armenian Divine Liturgy service, or Sourp Badarak, for around 20 people. 

Though he lives in Myanmar, Father Zaven, 36, travels here about five or six times a year to conduct a Divine Liturgy at the 182-year-old Armenian Apostolic Church of St Gregory the Illuminator in Hill Street. 

With only an estimated 80 to 100 Armenians living in Singapore, there is no resident priest for the tiny community here, and there has not been one since the 1930s. But its loyal worshippers are not about to let this pillar of Armenian identity, formally recognised as a national monument in 1973, fade away. 

Ms Ani Umedyan, 35, a volunteer at the church who has worshipped there for nine years, moved to Singapore with her husband from Armenia in 2008 and speaks passionately about seeing it grow. 
"When I first started worshipping here, there were only about 20 or so people. Now that more expats have come, there are more people and we are happy to see the church crowded with about 40 to 50 people at each service," said the musician. 

When asked what keeps him motivated to keep flying back to conduct services for such a small crowd, Father Zaven said: "Every soul is important. Even if there are only a few people, it is my duty and honour to minister to them." 

The church was built in 1835 and was officially opened and consecrated in 1836. It was dedicated to St Gregory the Illuminator, who was the first head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. The church, designed by architect George D. Coleman, was given a colonial design on the exterior, with a notably Armenian interior. It has since gone through a number of refurbishments. 

Another draw for the Armenian community here is music. The Armenian Heritage Ensemble was established in 2009 to encourage learning of the history and culture of Armenians. The small group of three permanent musicians performs traditional Armenian music as well as other classical pieces for about 50 Armenians and Singaporeans each time. 

"The aim is to expose people to the church, to our culture and our heritage through music," said one of the church's four trustees, Mr Pierre Hennes, 44. 

Another trustee, Mr Gevorg Sargsyan, 35, added that the concerts bring life to the church. 

The building of the church was commissioned by a group of Armenian families who arrived here on a trade route from Iran and started worshipping in a small space behind John Little & Company, located in modern-day Raffles Place. 

When they requested a permanent worship location, they were given a plot of land in Hill Street by Queen Victoria. 

Contributions from each family raised about half the building costs, with the rest of it coming from overseas Armenian communities. 

The church was built in 1835 and was officially opened and consecrated in 1836. It was dedicated to St Gregory the Illuminator, who was the first head of the Armenian Apostolic Church. 

The church, designed by architect George D. Coleman, was given a colonial design on the exterior, with a notably Armenian interior. It has since gone through a number of refurbishments. 

However, air-conditioning was installed in the building only last year. 

"We had to discuss the plans for air-conditioning with the National Heritage Board for a long time before they agreed to let us do it," said Ms Umedyan, explaining it was crucial they did not disturb the overall look of the sanctuary. 

Even the pews in the sanctuary remain as they originally were when they first arrived, though the rattan has since been replaced. 

In the early 1970s, tombstones of Armenians who died in Singapore were taken to the church grounds from Bukit Timah Cemetery and placed in what is now known as the Memorial Garden. 

Though the community is small, some of its members played a prominent role in Singapore's history. 

People of note in repose in the garden include Mr Catchick Moses, who was the co-founder of The Straits Times; Miss Agnes Joaquim, who bred Singapore's national flower, the Vanda Miss Joaquim; and the Sarkies brothers, who founded Raffles Hotel. 

There are other plans to commemorate the history of the church and the local Armenian community. The first floor of the parsonage is being turned into a museum containing maps, religious relics and Armenian literary works. 

Its deep history makes the Armenian church a favourite stop for tourists. About 100 visitors come every day, many of them Armenian. 

"Based on our guest book, we know that not a single day goes by without an Armenian visitor stopping by," said Mr Sargsyan. 

Currently, the church holds between 30 to 40 Orthodox weddings a year, and couples are simply asked to make a donation. 

[Armenians will see a parallel story to the Armenian Genocide]

The Economist
Salt in old wounds What Germany owes Namibia
Saying sorry for atrocities a century ago has so far made matters worse
May 11th 2017

ON OCTOBER 2nd 1904 General Lothar von Trotha issued what is now notorious as “the extermination order” to wipe out the Herero tribe in what was then German South West Africa, now Namibia. “Within the German borders every Herero, with or without a gun, with or without cattle, will be shot,” his edict read. During the next few months it was just about carried out. Probably four-fifths of the Herero people, women and children included, perished one way or another, though the survivors’ descendants now number 200,000-plus in a total Namibian population, scattered across a vast and mainly arid land, of 2.3m. The smaller Nama tribe, which also rose up against the Germans, was sorely afflicted too, losing perhaps a third of its people, in prison camps or in the desert into which they had been chased.

A variety of German politicians have since acknowledged their country’s burden of guilt, even uttering the dread word “genocide”, especially in the wake of the centenary in 2004. But recent negotiations between the two countries’ governments over how to settle the matter, the wording of an apology and material compensation are becoming fraught. Namibia’s 16,000 or so ethnic Germans, still prominent if not as dominant as they once were in business and farming, are twitchy.

The matter is becoming even more messy because, while the German and Namibian governments set about negotiation, some prominent Herero and Nama figures say they should be directly and separately involved and have embarked on a class-action case in New York under the Alien Tort Statute, which lets a person of any nationality sue in an American court for violations of international law, such as genocide and expropriation of property without compensation.

The main force behind the New York case, Vekuii Rukoro, a former Namibian attorney-general, demands that any compensation should go directly to the Herero and Nama peoples, whereas the Namibian government, dominated by the far more numerous Ovambo people in northern Namibia, who were barely touched by the wars of 1904-07 and lost no land, says it should be handled by the government on behalf of all Namibians. The Namibian government’s amiable chief negotiator, Zedekia Ngavirue, himself a Nama, has been castigated by some of Mr Rukoro’s team as a sell-out. “Tribalism is rearing its ugly head,” says the finance minister, who happens to be an ethnic German.

The German government says it cannot be sued in court for crimes committed more than a century ago because the UN’s genocide convention was signed only in 1948. “Bullshit,” says J├╝rgen Zimmerer, a Hamburg historian who backs the genocide claim and says the German government is making a mess of things. “They think only like lawyers, not about the moral and political question.” 
“None of the then existing laws was broken,” says a senior German official. “Maybe that’s morally unsatisfactory but it’s the legal position,” he adds. Indeed, German officialdom still makes elaborate semantic contortions to avoid a flat-out acceptance of the G-word, presumably pending a final accord between the two governments. Above all, Germany is determined to avert legal liability for reparations of the sort it accepted for the Jewish Holocaust in an agreement in 1952, while stressing that it is ready to raise the level of every sort of development aid to Namibia, to which it already gives far more per head than it does to any other country in the world. 

Our African Heimat

Meanwhile, Namibia’s ethnic Germans are keeping their heads down, wary of recrimination over the distant past. “The German government does not represent us; we are Namibians,” says a local businessman. Very few of today’s German-speakers are, in any event, descended from the Schutztruppe (literally, “protection force”), the colonial soldiers who slaughtered the Herero and Nama in 1904-07.

All the same, few are happy to use the G-word, let alone accept its accuracy. “We grew up with talk of the colonial wars, the Herero uprising,” says a veteran writer on the Allgemeine Zeitung , Namibia’s German-language daily. “We don’t use the blanket term genocide.”

Namibian Germans often echo Hinrich Schneider-Waterberg, an 85-year-old farmer who has made a second career as a historian bent on rejecting the genocide charge (and who owns the land where a crucial battle between the Germans and the Herero took place). He contends that the Herero started the killing; that German civilians suffered atrocities, too; that the extermination order was soon rescinded in Berlin; that the number of Herero deaths is exaggerated; and that those of the Nama in prison camps were not intentional, thus not genocidal. These points are dismissed by most historians in Germany as “denialist”. 

Burgert Brand, the jovial bishop of the branch of the Lutheran church to which most white Namibian German-speakers belong, acknowledges a German burden of guilt but shrinks at comparison with the Holocaust; some historians in Mr Zimmerer’s camp trace a direct link back to the earlier crimes and racial attitudes of 1904. “It is very frustrating for us bridge-builders, who must start again from scratch,” says the bishop.

Many Namibian Germans are nervous lest the argument over reparations spill over into calls for their farms to be confiscated, as Robert Mugabe has done in Zimbabwe. Werner von Maltzahn, a 69-year-old farmer, recalls how his grandfather, a Prussian baron who settled in the same arid spot in 1913, had to start all over again when the British army requisitioned his cattle in 1915. “Maybe I should ask the English for compensation,” he jokes.

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