Sunday, 31 December 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian... Azeri Offer Of `Autonomy'

For those who were in Beirut 

RFE/RL Report
Yerevan Shrugs Off Azeri Offer Of `Autonomy' For Karabakh
December 29, 2017

A se
nior Armenian official has dismissed as unserious Azerbaijan's
latest offer to grant a high degree of autonomy to Nagorno-Karabakh.

A top aide to Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reportedly said this
week that Karabakh could enjoy a greater degree of self-rule than it
had in Soviet times if Azerbaijan regains control over the disputed
territory. Ali Hasanov said Baku would also guarantee the security of
its predominantly Armenian population.

"I think that they know much better in Azerbaijan that such statements
are groundless and ludicrous," Eduard Sharmazanov, the spokesman for
the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK), said late on Thursday.

"How can one state give some status to another?" Sharmazanov told
reporters. "The Nagorno-Karabakh Republic is a de facto independent

He argued that people's right to self-determination is one of the
principles at the heart of international mediators' exiting proposals
to resolve the Karabakh conflict.

A framework peace accord originally drafted by the U.S., Russian and
French co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group a decade ago calls for a
phased settlement of the conflict. It would start from the liberation
of virtually all seven districts around Karabakh that were occupied by
Karabakh Armenian forces during the 1991-1994 war. In return,
Karabakh's population would be able to determine its internationally
recognized status in a future referendum.

Armenia's leadership says that this peace formula is largely
acceptable to it.

President Serzh Sarkisian ruled out Karabakh's return under
Azerbaijani rule immediately his most recent meeting with Aliyev held
in Geneva in October. The two leaders pledged to intensify the peace
process and ease tensions on the frontlines.

The Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers met in Vienna on
December 6 for follow-up negotiations which they both described as
"positive." They are expected to meet again in January. 

PanArmenian, Armenia
Dec 28 2017
Armenia prevents Islamic State member from entering the country 

Armenia’s National Security Service has prevented a foreign citizen identified as an Islamic State member from entering the country.

In response to a media request from the newspaper Aravot , the NSS said that the person was not a citizen of Armenia.

As a result of anti-terrorism measures, a total of 960 people suspected of having terrorist links were prevented from entering Armenia in 2017 alone.

Moreover, 95 foreign citizens are under special investigation.

According to a 2016 report from the Combating Terrorism Center (CTC), one Armenian citizen was among the estimated 15,000 new recruits who joined the Islamic State during 2013 and 2014.

The NSS, however, refuted the report, describing the information as mere provocation and completely false., Armenia
Dec 27 2017
Violetta Mailyan sues Apple demanding almost $1 trillion 

A California woman has filed a lawsuit against Apple following company’s statement that they deliberately slow down iPhones as they get older.

Violetta Mailyan and her lawyers demand the off-the-wall amount of $999,999,999,000, Patently Apple reported.

Last week Apple confirmed that it does deliberately slow down the operation of older iPhones order to avoid the devices from shutting down because of aging batteries. 

ARKA, Armenia
Dec 29 2017
Data Cube to invest $50 million in construction of data center in Armenia 

The Date Cube company will invest $50 million in the construction of a modern Data Center in Armenia, deputy economic development and investments minister Tigran Khachatryan said at a government meeting yesterday.

The government granted the company a permit to operate in the Alliance free economic zone.
"The company plans to build a modern Data Center and create 10 news jobs in the first year of operation with an average salary of 200 thousand drams. In five years their number will grow to 60," Khachatryan said.

According to the company's business plan, the export of services in the first year of activity is to reach $7.5 million, and exceed $25 million in five years.

The minister said the company will sell its services to the United States, Great Britain, Cyprus, Latvia, Georgia, Israel and former Soviet republics. -0-, Armenia
Dec 29 2017
Demographer: More than 35% of Armenia households involved in migration 

YEREVAN. – As of mid-2017, there are about 200,000 Armenians—from Armenia—abroad, and they have left there either to establish permanent residence or to work, demographer Ruben Yeganyan said at a press conference on Friday.

“According to our research data, in the past three to four years, more than 35 percent of households [in Armenia] participated in migration processes,” said Yeganyan. “In the past three to four years, 12 percent of the population [in the country] participated in migration processes.

“In the case when 37,500 people had left Armenia in 2016, according to this year’s data, more than 40,000 people have left [the country].”

Panorama, Armenia
Dec 29 2017
Armenia “Grigor Zohrap” carpet sheltered in its homeland after more than 100 years of alienation
The “Grigor Zohrap” carpet of historical importance, the first and most anticipated exhibit of the carpet museum, was solemnly opened at the National Center of the Armenian Carpet on 27 December.

Grigor Zohrap (1861-1915) was an outstanding writer and publicist, one of the most prominent lawyers of the time, a public and political figure, a member of the Ottoman parliament, Armenian Genocide victim.

Living and working in the Ottoman Empire, the western Armenian writer enjoyed a reputation among both Armenian and Turkish population.

As a member of the Ottoman parliament he actively participated in parliamentary debates, touched upon the most challenging issues and demanded solutions for them.

Zohrap described himself as “the advocate of the Constitution.”

Although Grigor Zohrap enjoyed the close friendship and affection of the Ottoman Empire political elite, he did not escape the fate of his people.

He was brutally murdered by the Ottoman Government decree. On June 2, 1915, the nighgt, when Zohrap was arrested, he was playing card game in the club Cercle d’Orient with Talaat Pasha and Halil Bey. It was already midnight when Zohrab rose to his feet to leave the club. Talaat Pasha also got up, came up to him and kissed him on the cheek. That kiss was to remain in history as “Talaat Pasha’s kiss of death.”

“Grogor Zohrap” carpet is a symbolic achievement for the Armenian carpet museum. It summarizes a whole period of the Armenian people’s history with endless struggle, great losses and the ability to survive.

The Armenian Highland is one of the oldest carpet weaving centers, and although how much Armenian carpets are different in their colors, ornaments, symbols, motives, they still stand out in the original manuscripts.

Portrait carpets are of a great interest in this diversity. The carpet with the portrait of Grigor Zohrap is a unique example of portrait carpets, which, according to the experts, was woven by the Bedoukian family before 1909 in Sebastia (Sebastia province, Ottoman Empire).

The carpet was lost during the Armenian Genocide, then was found in the collection of Jack Kadry, a collectioner of oriental carpets. In the spring of 2017 the carpet appeared in the Autralian auction by “Mossgreen” company. The carpet was of particular interest at the auction, which indicated the number and geography of the buyers. Victor Mnatsakanian, the founder of the Armenian National Carpet Center, succeeded in buying the carpet and donating it to the Armenian Carpet Museum.

The carpet, no doubt, will be included in the permanent exhibition of the Armenian Carpet Museum.

The National Center of the Armenian Carpet will refer to the history of Armenian carpet weaving in Sebastia in its future publications. Those carpets are the choicest and the most beautiful ones in the world according to the famous traveler Marco Polo.

La Croix International, France
December 28, 2017 Thursday
Noose is tightening around Christian minority in Turkey
The Syrian Orthodox Church is condemning the Presidency of Religious Affairs in Turkey for seizing 50 churches and monasteries in the southeast of the country. This is happening in the context of a hardening of the policies of the ruling AKP party and is weakening, even more, the already fragile position of a Christian minority deprived of all legal rights.

The ancient Syrian Orthodox Monastery of Mor Gabriel has been subjected to constant and unfair legal attacks since 2008. It has now fallen under the control of the all-powerful Diyanet, which governs Islamic Turkey (99.8% of the population).

The Mor Gabriel Monastery was founded in 397 by the ascetic Mor Shmu’el (Samuel) on the Tur Abdin plateau, “the mountain of the servants of God”, in southeastern Turkey.

This sacred site of Eastern Christianity is one of the 50 churches and monasteries that have been seized by the Diyanet, according to Kuryakos Ergün, the Chairman of the Mor Gabriel Monastery Foundation.

“We are in the process of identifying the properties that have already been seized,” Ergün told the Turkish-Armenian newspaper, Argos. “We have so far filed lawsuits with regard to twenty property titles, and we’re going to do the same for thirty more.”

A legal marathon

This legal struggle goes back to 2008. In that year, an updating of the land registry requalified 250 hectares within the Monastery’s boundaries as “forests”, on the grounds that they were not “cultivated”.

What followed was a long series of lawsuits, each one lost because of false accusations: Christian proselytism, the supposed existence of a mosque under the monastery’s foundations - even though it was built well before the advent of Islam.

Now, it’s the administrative change of Mardin Province to a “metropolitan municipality” that is serving as the excuse for the seizing of property. The authorities set up a “Committee of Liquidation” in order to redistribute any property that no longer has a legal entity.

Initially transferred to the Treasury, the 50 churches and monasteries are now under the control of the Presidency of Religious Affairs.

The increasing harshness of the Islamic-Conservative authorities.

These developments are occurring in the context of an increasing hardening of the policies of the Islamic-Conservative President Erdogan and his AKP party, in power since 2002.

A law passed in 2002 supposedly opened the way for the recovery of about a hundred properties seized from minorities since the creation of modern Turkey by Mustafa Kemal Atatürk in 1923. This should have allowed the restitution of goods and properties confiscated by the State from non-Muslim minority foundations.

Since then, however, this has come to a dead end. Ever-decreasing Christian communities are increasingly oppressed by the State and by a society that is being re-Islamized.

In its 15 years in power, the AKP has thus ground away at the secular principles that were defended tooth and nail by the Kemalists, such as the prohibition of the veil in universities and government offices.

This year, just before Easter, the Turkish President even planned to pray with members of his Party and Islamic clerics at Saint-Sophia. This great Christian Basilica, built in 537, became a mosque under the Ottoman Empire’s rule. It was transformed into a museum by Ataturk in 1935.

Now, it is a symbol that is increasingly coveted by Erdogan’s Islamist government.

More recently, on Thursday 22 June, Mehmet Görmez, the President of the Diyanet, participated in a Muslim prayer service that was broadcast by State television.

Christians deprived of legal status

Most Christians in Turkey (0.1% of the population) do not have any legal status. The Treaty of Lausanne (1923), which gave rights to non-Muslim minorities, recognized only minority groups of Armenian, Greek Orthodox, and Jewish origin.

Syrian Orthodox Christians (whose numbers have fallen from 70,000 in the 1970s to about 2,000 today) and Roman Catholics (between 10,000 and 15,000) are therefore excluded. They can only battle the courts to try to keep or to recover property confiscated from them by the State.

Similarly, the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, Archbishop of Constantinople and spiritual leader of 300 million Orthodox Christians, has been fighting for the Greek-Orthodox Seminary of Halki to be re-opened, forty years after it was closed.

The collapse of Christianity’s presence in Turkey over the last century

At the beginning of the last century, Turkey itself was home to the largest Christian population in the Middle East: 20% of the population. Now, there are only 80,000 Christians (of all denominations).

The Armenian genocide of 1915 and departure of a huge number of Greek Orthodox Christians in the early 1920s largely account for the collapse of Christianity’s presence in Turkey.

Although the Christian minority in this country is not being subjected to the same degree of violence as in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt, Christians and intellectuals have nonetheless been assassinated during the past few years.

Those killed include the Catholic priest, Andrea Santoro in 2006; the Armenian journalist Hrant Dink in 2007, and the Apostolic Vicar of Anatolia, Mgr Luigi Padovese, in 2010.

Needless to say, investigations into these deaths are going nowhere.
Istanbul Patriarchate Slams False Statements by Ateshian 

ISTANBUL—The Armenian Patriarchate of Istanbul issued an official statement slamming remarks made by the Patriarchate’s former Vicar General, Archbishop Aram Ateshian, who during a recent visit to Yerevan claimed that official Ankara did not recognize the elected Patriarchal deputy—locum tenens—Archbishop Karekin Bekdjian.

Ateshian, who has close ties to the Turkish government and has been going out of his way to ensure that he will become the next Istanbul Patriarch, has been engaged in a smear campaign to derail the upcoming elections of a new church leader in Istanbul.

In its statement, the Istanbul Patriarchate said that Ateshian’s remarks prove that he continues his efforts to distort the truth even outside of Turkey and warned the archbishop of further muddying the waters.

After a tumultuous start earlier this year, the Patriarchate’s religious council finally held elections last spring and chose Archbishop Bekdjian as the locum tenens. Dismayed from the results, Ateshian stormed out of the meeting, only to return minutes later to produce a letter by the Istanbul Governor’s Office, which deemed the entire Patriarchal election process as illegitimate, calling into question the validity of the locum tenens elections.

In response to Ateshian’s latest outbursts, the Patriarchate said that he is obliged to respect the result of the election and to avoid making internal church affairs into public distpute.

“According to the decision passed in the assembly, which he [Ateshian] personally attended, he is bound to step down as General Vicar. On the contrary, he refused to resign, a step which has put us in a precarious situation,” said the Patriarchate’s statement.

“His conduct forces the Church Assembly, which had installed him in this post, to dismiss him, something which is an extremely upsetting fact. In addition, the state hasn’t issued any statement signaling that it doesn’t recognize the elected locum tenens,” added the statements.

“Our desire is that the Archbishop stops looking for faults and avoids clashes,” said the statement.

Officials in Istanbul have continued their intervention into the Patriarchal elections by not responding to official requests from the church body and ignoring deadlines. Ateshian’s public statements and private machinations have also added disrupted the process.

in Chew Jit Poh, Malaysia
Dec 27 2017
Armenia looks to solar energy to move out of Russia's shadow

Yerevan (AFP) -- Landlocked and poor, Armenia has long relied on Russia for its energy needs, but the government is hoping to reduce that dependence by tapping a resource that is plentiful in the region: the sun.

With few fossil fuel resources of its own and its sole nuclear power plant nearing the end of its working life, Armenia is banking on renewable energy to reduce its dependence on its former Soviet master, which accounts for nearly 83 percent of gas imports.

And with Armenia much sunnier than most of Europe -- according to government figures, it receives 1,720 kilowatt hours per square metre of sunlight every year, compared to an average of 1,000 in Europe -- solar energy looks to be the most promising.

"To ensure its energy security and independence, Armenia, like any other country, strives to diversify energy sources," the ex-Soviet republic's Deputy Energy Minister Hayk Harutyunyan told AFP.

Within four years, up to eight percent of the country's energy needs will be covered by renewables, according to the government's policy paper, "Energy Roadmap."

The document estimates the country's potential capacity of solar energy production at up to 3,000 megawatts -- enough to meet domestic demand and even make Armenia a net electricity exporter.

Harutyunyan said that a consortium of investors from 10 countries will soon start building a solar plant capable of producing 55 megawatts of electricity.

One of the backers, the World Bank, has earmarked some $60 million (51 million euros) for the project, as part of its initiative to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions.

So far, three solar power plants with capacity of one megawatt each have been built across the country and seven more will follow by the end of 2018.

Next year, the headquarters of the Armenian cabinet of ministers will fully switch to solar energy, subsequently followed by all governmental buildings.

A pilot project was launched in March to instal rooftop solar panels in remote villages across the country to provide households with electricity and hot water.

In late 2015, an Armenian tycoon with business interests in Russia, Samvel Karapetyan, bought out Armenia's indebted electricity distribution company from a Kremlin-controlled holding, Inter RAO.

Karapetyan's Tashit Group is investing in solar projects and has already spent some $500,000 (425,000 euros) in building a solar power plant in the mountainous tourist town of Tsaghkadzor.

In addition to increasing the share of renewables, the Armenian government is seeking to reduce that of natural gas and oil by more than a third by 2020, compared with 2010 levels.

Russian dependence

Moscow tightened its grip on Armenia's economy and politics in 2006 by taking complete control over Armenia's power plants and distribution companies.

Russia provides more than 80 percent of the natural gas used by the landlocked Caucasus nation and supplies all of the fuel for the country's sole nuclear power plant, the Metsamor.

The European Union has repeatedly called on Armenia to shut down the aging Metsamor -- which produces more than a third of the country's electricity -- for security reasons.

But the Armenian government has decided to extend the plant's operations until its production capacities are fully replaced by alternative energy in 2026.

"We have never had any illusion that the nuclear power plant could work forever. One day, we will have to stop it and we must be ready for this," said Harutyunyan.

"That's why, during the last several years, Armenia has been stepping up efforts to develop all types of renewable energy -- hydro, wind, and solar."

The extent of Russia's influence on the ex-Soviet republic became clear in 2013 when Yerevan made a surprise foreign policy U-turn and joined the Moscow-led Customs Union economic bloc, instead of signing a long-negotiated pact on political association and economic integration with the European Union.

A member of the Collective Security Treaty Organisation -- designed as Russia's counterweight to NATO -- Armenia is also the Kremlin's closest military ally in the Caucasus region, which has historically been an arena of geopolitical rivalry between global powers.

For decades, Armenia has been locked in territorial conflict with Turkey-backed Azerbaijan over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region. And in the face of the perceived threat from its arch-foes in Ankara and Baku, Armenia has been forced into Moscow's orbit.

"Alternative energy may not fully replace conventional energy sources, but it will help reduce Armenia's energy dependence on Russia and, as a result, weaken the Kremlin's political leverage over Yerevan," Armenian energy analyst Alexandre Avanesov told AFP.

Pan Armenian, Armenia
Dec 28 2017
Late Egyptian-Armenian cartoonist's works to go on display in Cairo
An exhibition of late Egyptian-Armenian cartoonist Alexander Saroukhan’s works titled “Echoes of Past Visions” will open at Al Masar Gallery in Zamalek, Cairo on January 10, 2018 through February 19, 2018, Egypt Today says.

This is the second edition in a series of exhibitions on Saroukhan’s legacy. The previous was called “Political Comedy”, which showcased dozens of examples of the artist’s work done between 1930 and 1970.

“Echoes of Past Visions” will collect 35 original drawings of the artist that primarily relate to Egypt’s internal and foreign policies, along with comments on world events from nearly 50 years ago that are still relevant today, such as the Jerusalem conflict.

Born on October 1, 1898 in an Armenian town under the Russian Empire, Saroukhan is considered to be one of Egypt’s first cartoonists, helping to pioneer the art form as a type of important political commentary within the region. He moved with his family to Turkey’s capital of Istanbul in 1909, Saroukhan created a small newspaper with his brother – his first foray into his future career.

Upon going to study at the College of the Mekhitarists with his brother, the Armenian Genocide in 1915 forced them to stay after graduating. After his parents died, the only thing left was his art. Saroukhan focused on drawing until the end of the war, where he worked as a translator for the British Army until 1921.

He then went on to study art in Vienna, before moving to Egypt in 1924, after he already had over 100 completed artworks published.

His cartoons described the political atmosphere leading up to Egypt’s eventual independence in 1953 and were harshly critical of colonial rule.

Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso, Italy
Dec 27 2017
Who owns Armenia's mines?
Hakob Safaryan

Mining is one of the most important sectors of the Armenian economy. Because of the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the country now has to undertake a series of reforms for transparency and accountability
(Originally published by Ampop and OC Medi a )

Armenia is rich in a number of metal ores: iron, copper, molybdenum, lead, zinc, gold, silver, aluminium, and rare metals which naturally occur in the aforementioned ores. Copper and molybdenum are the most significant for the country. The largest mine in Armenia, the Kajaran copper and molybdenum mine, claims reserves of 2.24 billion tonnes of ore — 6 percent of global molybdenum reserves. Kajaran also accounts for 60% of mining turnover in the country. Given its confirmed reserves and the current rate of mining (18 million tonnes per year), the mine could be operational for another 100–120 years.

According to data from the Ministry of Energy Infrastructure and Natural Resources, there are 670 solid mineral mines, 30 out of which are metal mines. On 1 January of 2017, there were 431 mining companies licensed in the country, 28 of which are for metals. Copper, gold, and molybdenum have the largest share of Armenian metal exports. Eighteen of the 28 licensed mines contain polymetals and gold, 9 contain copper and molybdenum, and 1 contains iron.

The mining sector employs around 10,000 people. The nominal monthly salary in the industry is $710, which is double the national average salary (the salary is high because of the high value of the product, the profitability of the sector, and work-related life and health hazards).

According to official data, in 2015 16.4% of the entire industrial output of the country was in mining ($456 million); the following year, the number was 16.7% ($494 million). Mining accounted for 4.4% of GDP in 2015 ; in 2016, this number fell to 2.6% . However, the share of the industry in exports remains over 50%, with copper alone taking up 23–26% of all exports.

As a result, mining and associated industries are an important source of government revenue; companies operating in the sector are large taxpayers. In 2016, 11 of the 1,200 largest tax-paying companies were related to mining, and the taxes paid by these companies (including customs, duties as well as other dues to the state budget) totalled around $80.8 million. Lack of transparency

Despite the sector’s economic importance, transparency of information regarding the owners of the mines is problematic, as the names of companies' shareholders are not publicly available. The companies’ official websites also do not contain any ownership details. There is hope, however, that membership in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative could bring greater transparency.

The second largest copper mine after Kajaran is the Teghut mine in northern Armenia’s Lori Province, which belongs to the Vallex Group. The mine became operational in late 2014. According to the company’s website , the mine contains 454 million tonnes of ore with concentrations of 0.36% of copper and 0.02% molybdenum. The processing plant is expected to have a capacity of 7 million tonnes per year.

Gold mining is primarily from the Sotk mine (Gegharkunik). Gold is also a major product of Dundee Precious Metals’ Shahumyan mine. Lydian International’s Amulsar mine also contains gold ores which are low in concentration but vast in volume. The latter obtained its license in 2012, and construction is planned to be completed by the spring of 2018 . The first gold bar is expected to be molded in March 2018.

According to Lydian International’s website , the mine contains reserves (meaning concentrations of at least 0.2 grammes per tonne) of 67 million tonnes. The actual average concentration of metals in the ore in this mine is, however 0.79 grammes per tonne for gold and 3.68 grammes per tonne for silver. They say they intend to operate the mine for 10 years, producing 5,700 kilogrammes of gold per year. Yearly revenue, calculated from current market prices, will average around $200 million per year. The background

Mining in Armenia goes back to centuries. Copper mining in Alaverdi (Lori Province) started in 1770 and in Kapan in 1840. The Kajaran mine was opened in the mid 20th century.

During Soviet years, the mines and factories of Kapan, Alaverdi and Agarak, Zod (Sotk), and Ararat were the giants of the Armenian mining industry. Armenia played a significant role in the the USSR’s mining sector, and was the third largest mining republic after Russia and Kazakhstan.

After the Soviet collapse, mining companies which were previously state-owned were gradually privatised, up until the mid-2000s, when the state no longer had any share in mining.

The most noteworthy story of privatisation was the one of the largest company, the Zangezur copper-molybdenum factory. In 2004 , 60% of the shares of the company were obtained by the German company Chronimed, 15% by the Armenian company Makur Yerkat, while Armenian Molybdenum Production and Zangezur Mining took 12.5% each. The face value of the shares totalled only $132 million. The argument

In every country, the expansion of the mining industry is usually criticised by a considerable share of society. The main issue is that non-sustainable development of the sector comes with environmental risks and environmental damage to the surrounding areas.

This is the reason why environmental movements protest against unsustainable use of natural resources, and sometimes even demand to stop mining altogether. There have been active environmental movements in Armenia since the mid-2000s, and these gained new momentum when several new mines started to operate. ‘Save Teghut’ was one of the most active civic initiatives in Armenia. Its aim was to prevent the operation of mines in Teghut by Vallex. Vallex obtained a license for the mine in 2007, but it became operational only in 2014. The delay was partly caused by these active civic initiatives.

The result of these movements is that mining companies now see a civic hand over them, and are careful to avoid it. It is no coincidence that membership in the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative will involve active participation from civil society in monitoring and auditing the mining industry.

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