Wednesday, 28 June 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Ceasefire violation by Azerbaijan!...

June 24, 2017
Armenia’s Defense Ministry reports Azerbaijan violates ceasefire in Karabakh

Armenia’s Defense Ministry reported that between June 18 and 24
Azerbaijan about 400 times violated ceasefire at the line of
engagement with Nagorno-Karabakh.

The ministry said, the Azerbaijani side used small arms of various
calibers, including "60 and 82mm mortars and grenade launchers."

"Besides the said violations of ceasefire, at night to June 22 the
enemy attempted a breakthrough sabotage at the line of engagement,"
the ministry said on Saturday.

Efforts for peace

The situation along the line of engagement in the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict zone deteriorated dramatically overnight to April 2 when
fierce clashes began. The parties to the conflict accused each other
of violating the truce.

On April 5, Azerbaijan’s Chief of Staff Nadjmeddin Sadykov and his
Armenian counterpart Yury Khachaturov met in Moscow with Russia’s
mediation. At the talks the sides came to an agreement on cessation of
hostilities at the line of engagement between Azerbaijani and Armenian
forces. On the same day, the two countries’ defense ministries
announced that the ceasefire regime in Nagorno-Karabakh would start at
12am local time. Since then, the parties to the conflict have been
accusing each other of violating the ceasefire agreement.

The participants of talks on Nagorno-Karabakh in Vienna on May 16
involving the presidents of Azerbaijan and Armenia and mediated by the
foreign ministers from the OSCE Minsk Group co-chair countries agreed
to observe ceasefire in the region in compliance with the 1994-1995
accords. The parties to the conflict also agreed to complete as soon
as possible the work on an OSCE tool on investigating incidents on the
contact line.

In a trilateral statement adopted on June 20 following a summit of
Russian Armenian and Azerbaijani presidents in St. Petersburg, the
sides confirmed their commitment to the normalization of the situation
along the engagement line in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict

The highland region of Nagorno-Karabakh (Mountainous Karabakh) is a
mostly Armenian-populated enclave inside the sovereign territory of
Azerbaijan. It was the first zone of inter-ethnic tensions and
violence to appear on the map of the former USSR.

Even almost a quarter of a century after the breakup of the Soviet
Union, Karabakh remains a so-called 'frozen conflict' on the
post-Soviet space, as the region is the subject of a dispute between
Azerbaijan and the local Armenian population that draws on strong
support from fellow-countrymen in neighboring Armenia.

In 1988, hostilities broke out there between the forces reporting to
the government in Baku and Armenian residents, which resulted in the
region's de facto independence. In 1994, a ceasefire was reached but
the relations between Azerbaijan and Armenia remain strained ever
since then.

Russia, France and the U.S. co-chair the Minsk Group of the
Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, which attempts to
broker an end to hostilities and the conflict. 

APA, Azerbaijan
June 23 2017
Azerbaijan president calls to sanction Armenia

[Groong note: the below is translated from the Russian edition of APA]

 "Azerbaijan's position on regulating the Armenian-Azerbaijani
conflict over [Azerbaijan's breakaway] Nagorno-Karabakh is clear to
society. We have voiced our position on a number of occasions. This
conflict must be solved within the context of territorial integrity
our country on the basis of the norms and principles of international
law. There is no other alternative. Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan's
indigenous territory. Our people have lived on the territory for
centuries. All place-names and historic monuments [there] reflect
Azerbaijan's history."

According to the Apa [news agency], this is what Azerbaijani 
President Ilham Aliyev said at the opening ceremony of the plant 
of revolving grenade fitting elements in [the city of] Shirvan.

The head of state emphasised that international community also
recognised Nagorno-Karabakh as an integral part of Azerbaijan.

"All leading international organisations have made decisions on the
issue, adopting resolutions, according to which the Armenian Armed
Forces ought to immediately and unconditionally leave the occupied
territories. However, Armenia chooses not to implement them.
Regrettably, no serious measures have been used against this country.
International sanctions should have been imposed on Armenia long ago.
The thing is that this country occupied the territory of another
country in the 21st century, carrying out genocide of its people,
destroying all its historic monuments. 
The ruined village of Cocuq
Marcanli is a clear example of this. The situation is similar in all
occupied territories.

"International law strengthens our position, which is historically
correct. The so-called referendum, which was recently held in
Nagorno-Karabakh, failed to receive recognition by any international
structure, neighbour countries, the EU, or the OSCE Minsk Group
co-chair countries. In other words, choosing not to recognise the
referendum, all international structures and countries once again
confirmed that Nagorno-Karabakh is Azerbaijan's territory.
International community does not recognise the fictitious separatist
regime of the junta and it will never do so. Therefore, historic
justice and international law are on our side and our political weight
is certainly incomparably greater than that of Armenia. In other
words, all these factors strengthen our position. Certainly, the
Azerbaijani state should further strengthen its position and it is
strengthening its principled position. Once again, I would like to
reiterate that we live in conditions of war. Our people will never
accept the existing situation.

"We will never al.low the creation of a second Armenian state on our
historic territories We are going to restore our territorial
integrity. Recent developments and strengthening of our country offer
us greater opportunities for settling the issue.

"Indeed, to achieve our goal, we need to become even stronger. At
present, the factor of power is playing a leading role all over the
world, which is unfortunate. Indeed, international law is also
extremely important, as it creates a legal basis for the conflict.
However, it is the factor of power that plays the main role. We see
that in different parts of the world, international law is offended
and treaded down, being interpreted differently. Using the factor of
power makes it possible to change the real situation
. This is not our
choice. However, we, too, live in the real world. We need to be strong
to achieve our goal. Work is being carried out in this direction," the
president emphasised.

RFE/RL Report
More Russian Weapons Supplied To Azerbaijan
June 26, 2017
Sargis Harutyunyan

Russia has delivered a new batch of anti-tank missile systems to
Azerbaijan as part of lucrative arms deals with Baku that have been
strongly criticized by Armenia over the past year.

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry released over the weekend video of
around a dozen self-propelled Khrizantema-S systems unloaded from a
Russian cargo ship that docked at Baku's Caspian Sea port.

Khrizantema-S is designed to detect and destroy tanks, armored
vehicles, field fortifications and even some low-flying aerial targets
with guided missiles. It entered service with the Russian Armed Forces
in 2005.

Azerbaijan is known to have received 10 such systems in 2015. It
reportedly commissioned them in 2014.

Armenia's top military officials on Monday declined to comment on the
latest delivery. Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian said he will comment
at a news conference later this week.

"It's the political leadership that deals with this issue and it will
react," Colonel General Movses Hakobian, the chief of the Armenian
army's General Staff, told RFE/RL's Armenian service (
for his part.

Russia has also sold around $5 billion worth of tanks, artillery
systems and other weapons to Azerbaijan in line with defense contracts
signed in 2009-2011. According to the United Nations Register of
Conventional Arms, it shipped six heavy artillery systems to the
Azerbaijani military last year.

Armenian leaders stepped up their criticism of those arms deals
following Azerbaijan's April 2016 offensive in Nagorno-Karabakh. They
said that the arms supplies run contrary to Russia's military alliance
in Armenia and encourage Baku to attempt a military solution to the
Karabakh conflict.

Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev rejected the Armenian criticism
after visiting Yerevan later in April 2016. He said that that Russia
delivers weapons to both Armenia and Azerbaijan and thereby sustains
the "military balance" in the conflict.

In August, Russian President Vladimir Putin similarly denied that
Moscow has increased the risk of another Karabakh war. Speaking after
talks in the Kremlin with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian,
Putin implied that oil-rich Azerbaijan could have purchased offensive
weapons from other nations. He also argued that Russia has long been
providing substantial military aid to Armenia.

The Armenia army demonstrated new weapons recently acquired from
Russia during a September 2016 military parade in Yerevan. Those
included Iskander ballistic missiles. 

Extract from an article on Baku attempting to reset 
its relationship with the EU 

Negotiations are currently focused on three specific issues, according to one EU diplomat. Two are relatively simple: first, Azerbaijan wants a special mention of Baku’s key role in energy security, in particular highlighting the importance of the Southern Gas Corridor. Second, it wants the working name of the agreement – Partnership for Modernization – to be called instead a Strategic Partnership for Modernization, which Baku sees as necessary to underscore the equal status of the two sides, and Azerbaijan’s importance for the EU.

A more sticky issue promises to be the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and how it is described in the agreement. Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov has said that the agreement needs to demonstrate “a unified approach to the issue of territorial integrity and sovereignty of countries within their internationally recognized borders.” The EU, however, wants to frame the conflict within the context of the Helsinki Accords , which privilege equally territorial integrity (which favors Azerbaijan’s case) and national self-determination (which favors Armenia). 

Baku is hoping that the Russian annexation of Crimea will bolster its case, given that the EU has repeatedly condemned it as a violation of Ukraine’s territorial integrity. One European Parliament resolution noted that “the occupation by one country of the Eastern Partnership of the territory of another violates the fundamental principles and objectives of the EaP.”

Azerbaijani negotiators hope that the agreement might mention the Helsinki Accords with a highlight of the territorial integrity principle, as the EU has done in its Association Agreement with Georgia. 

RFE/RL Report
Minister Unfazed By Increased Debt Burden
June 26, 2017
Ruzanna Stepanian
Despite a significant increase in Armenia's foreign debt, the
authorities in Yerevan will not struggle to repay it in the years
ahead, Finance Minister Vartan Aramian insisted on Monday.

"We have not even passed the threshold for moderately indebted
countries yet," he told lawmakers during a parliamentary discussion on
the Armenian government's execution of the 2016 state budget.

Armenia's public debt is on course to pass the $6 billion mark later
this year. The figure is equivalent to more than 55 percent of the
country's Gross Domestic Product.

The debt stood at less than $2 billion before the 2008-2009 global
financial crisis plunged the country into a severe recession. The
authorities have since borrowed heavily from the World Bank, the
International Monetary Fund and other external sources to prevent
massive spending cuts and finance infrastructure projects.

Aramian made clear that the government will continue to resort to
external borrowing in order to finance its budget deficit, which
widened to 278 billion drams ($580) in 2016. The government plans to
cut it to 150 billion drams this year.

David Lipton, the IMF's first deputy managing director, said in
December that the Armenian authorities intend to "ensure that debt
remains below 60 percent of GDP over the medium term."

Some parliamentarians expressed concern at the authorities' ability to
meet the mounting debt service commitments, which are projected to
reach $1 billion in 2020. The country's entire state budget is
currently worth around $3 billion.

In Aramian's words, Eurobonds issued by the government in 2013 will
account for half of the 2020 repayment.The minister revealed that the
government plans to buy back that $500 million debt through another
Eurobond issue. He said his ministry is already "working very
actively" with Western investment banks like JP Morgan and HSBC for
that purpose.

Prime Minister Karen Karapetian's cabinet expects that economic growth
in Armenia will accelerate to more than 3 percent this year. In its
five-year policy program approved by the National Assembly last week,
the government pledged to help ensure an average annual growth rate of
around 5 percent. 

June 26 2017
Syria’s Armenians are fleeing to their ancestral homeland
The war may bring an end to a Christian minority’s century-long story 

WHEN war broke out in Syria in 2011, some of the wealthier families from the country’s Christian Armenian minority decamped to Yerevan, the Armenian capital, where they rented luxury flats on the city’s Northern Avenue. It felt, some would later say, as though they were on holiday. The government allotted them space in a local school, where Syrian teachers who had fled as refugees continued to instruct their children using the Syrian curriculum. It took some time for it to dawn on them that they might never go home.

Syria’s six-year-old civil war has forced more than 5m of its citizens to seek refuge outside their country. In 2015-16 hundreds of thousands trekked through the Balkans, seeking safety in Europe. But hardly any of Syria’s Armenian minority took this route. Instead, many went to Armenia. With its own population shrunken by emigration (falling from 3.6m in 1991 to 3m today), Armenia was happy to welcome as many Syrian Armenians—most of them educated, middle class and entrepreneurial—as would come.

Before the war some 90,000 ethnic Armenians lived in Syria, two-thirds of them in Aleppo. Many were descended from ancestors who had fled their homeland in 1915, escaping systematic Ottoman massacres and ethnic cleansing. For most of them, the civil war has put an end to a century-long story. Hrair Aguilan, a 61-year-old businessman, invested his life savings in a furniture factory in Aleppo just before the war, only to see it destroyed. Now he is in Yerevan to stay. ���It lasted a hundred years. It is finished,” says Mr Aguilan. “There is no future for Christians in the Middle East.”

No more than 30,000 Syrian Armenians are believed to remain in Syria. Many dispersed to Lebanon, Canada, Turkey, the Persian Gulf states and elsewhere. The rest, up to 30,000, went to what they regard as the motherland. (Some have since moved on to other countries.) The wealthy, who found it easy to move, came first. Others tried to wait out the war in Syria, fleeing only once their means were exhausted. They arrived in Armenia with nothing.

Vartan Oskanian, a former foreign minister of Armenia who was born in Aleppo, says many of the refugees have started small businesses. In Syria, members of the Armenian minority tended to be skilled professionals or artisans; they were known as jewellers, doctors, engineers and industrialists. Native Armenians are delighted by the restaurants opened by the newcomers, who have brought their much spicier cuisine to a country where food (and almost everything else) has long been influenced by the bland flavours of Russia.

Almost all of the refugees have ended up in Yerevan, apart from some 30 families from a farming area, who were resettled in Nagorno-Karabakh, an Armenian-held territory that is disputed with Azerbaijan. Some young men who had fought in the Syrian army have volunteered to serve on the front lines of that conflict, but many more young Syrian Armenians hold off on asking for Armenian citizenship so that they do not have to do military service.

Vasken Yacoubian, who once ran a construction company in Damascus, now heads the Armenian branch of the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU), a global charity. He says refugees are still arriving from Syria, if no longer in large numbers. A few have even gone back, especially those with property (if only to try to sell it). Some Syrian Armenians argue that they have a duty to return: their diaspora forms an important branch of Armenian civilisation, and must be preserved.

Yet Mr Oskanian says those who have returned to Syria see little future for the community there. In Syria, Armenians have staunchly backed the regime of Bashar al-Assad, which has protected them from persecution by Muslim extremists. But that government controls only a portion of Syria’s territory, and Mr Assad’s fate in any peace deal is uncertain. Meanwhile officials at Armenia’s Ministry of the Diaspora, which was caught unprepared by the influx of Syrians, are taking no chances. They are making contingency plans in case a new conflict erupts in Lebanon, sending thousands of Lebanese Armenians their way.

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