Wednesday, 27 December 2017

Armenian News... A Topalian...Turkey

The Sunday Telegraph (London), UK
December 24, 2017
It is time to settle this crazy fight over barren mountains

To Western observers, the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has an almost
Gilbert-and-Sullivan quality. Two neighbouring nations have, for
nearly 30 years, poured their energies and their treasure into a scrap
over a sparse upland strip that lacks strategic or economic value.

Last week, I visited the disputed region for the first time. I
travelled with Armenian friends, having obtained a visa from
Azerbaijan, since I did not wish to make any sort of statement about
the eventual status of the territory. I came away shaking my head in
wonderment at the inability of the two sides to reach a settlement.

Flying over the surrounding mountains in a helicopter, I was struck by
their utter barrenness. Tens of thousands of people have been killed,
and hundreds of thousands displaced, in a fight over scenic but
largely unpeopled valleys.

It's like a comic novelist's idea of a war. My former Telegraph
colleague Dean Godson even coined the word "Nagorno-Karabakhery", to
mean "falling out over a preposterously abstruse issue".

The origins of the dispute lie in the break-up of the USSR.
Nagorno-Karabakh was a largely Armenian enclave within Azerbaijan
SSR. As long as both Armenia and Azerbaijan were Soviet, its status
did not much matter.

But, with independence, the Armenians in Karabakh proclaimed their
sovereignty and, in the ensuing war, Armenia ended up capturing not
only most of the enclave but also a chunk of Azerbaijan proper, to
form a consolidated block of land. Both sides lay claim to those stark
mountains. Neither will contemplate concessions.

For Azeris, it is a legal question.

Karabakh, as they see it, is a portion of their territory wrenched
away by force - a view broadly backed by the international community.
For Armenians, the issue is self determination. Karabakh had always
been a largely Armenian territory, that was awarded to Azerbaijan
almost whimsically by the Soviets.

To an outsider, the solution seems obvious: a border readjustment that
would allow a chunk of Karabakh to gain independence or to join
Armenia, possibly with a land corridor, while Azerbaijan recovers most
of its lost territory. The former Armenian leader, Levon
Ter-Petrosyan, argues that some flexibility on land swaps might have
ended the conflict in 1997. But - again, in a slightly Ruritanian,
opéra bouffe way - those seeking peace were howled down on both sides
as traitors.

As we approach the 30th anniversary of the fighting, there are good
reasons to push for a speedy settlement. The status quo, though it
leaves Armenia territorially ascendant, also means that 80 percent of
that country's borders are closed. In consequence, Armenians are
poorer, and more dependent on Vladimir Putin, than they need be.

Azeris, for their part, have used the intervening years to build up
both their oil wealth and their international support. The military
balance, as well as the diplomatic, is shifting. There is, in short,
every incentive to settle the issue bloodlessly while we still can. Armenia
Dec 25 2017
UK ambassador to Armenia: 2018 looks set to be even busier 

The Ambassador of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, Judith Farnworth, has delivered a New Year message. 

“As 2017 draws to a close, I think this is a great time to reflect on what’s been a very busy and successful year in UK-Armenian relations. From my perspective, we’ve achieved a lot in strengthening and deepening our bilateral cooperation in a range of very important areas. 

“One of the highlights of the year has been the celebration of the 25th anniversary of UK-Armenian diplomatic relations. The British Embassy team worked closely with a range of our Armenian partners to showcase our cooperation in education, culture, and business to mark this really important landmark in our relationship. 

“There are two really important developments which underlined the UK’s commitment to supporting Armenia in its efforts to consolidate itself as a resilient and prosperous democratic country. In September, Sir Alan Duncan received a very warm welcome from a range of very high-level interlocutors to have an imporant consultation about our bilateral relationship. Sir Alan, our Minister for Europe and the Americas, took the opportunity during his visit to announce that Armenia will be included in Her Majesty’s Government’s Good Governance Fund from 2018, which will unlock up to £4m a year over the coming years to support a range of projects in Armenia in the fields of governance and economic reform. We intend to use that money to continue our support to government, parliament and civil society in Armenia. 

“And in September it was announced that Mark Pritchard, the member of the British Parliament, had been appointed by the Prime Minister of the UK as her Trade and Investment Envoy in Armenia. His job is to improve trade and investment relations between the UK and Armenia. 

“Another highlight for me was the visit in June of the Salamanca Band. They played for our guests at the Queen’s Birthday Party and they did a fantastic concert in Freedom Square along with the Armenian Military Band. 

“All of this alongside our regular work to promote defense engagement, human rights, education and cultural links. 

“2018 looks set to be even busier so we are delighted to welcome a number of new colleagues to help us with the increased workload. Together, we are looking forward to working closely with our Armenian partners to strengthen and develop our cooperation even further. But before that, I’d like to take this opportunity to wish you all a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year,” Ambassador Farnworth said in her New Year message. 

Subsequently, she switched to Armenian and concluded her message as follows: 

“Dear friends, 

“May 2018 be a successful, joyful, and peaceful year for Armenia. 

“Happy New Year and Merry Christmas!”, Armenia
Dec 25 2017
25 photos discovered depicting evacuation of Armenian participants in heroic battle of Musa Dagh 

YEREVAN. – Owing to the efforts by the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, around 25 yet-unseen photographs have been discovered depicting the evacuation—aboard French warships—of the participants in the heroic battle of Musa Dagh. 

Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute Director Hayk Demoyan informed about the aforementioned on his Facebook page, and he called it a special discovery. 

These original photos were taken in September 1915 by a French Navy officer. 

The photographs show the moving of the peaceful Armenian population to the French warships on boats, their accommodation in the decks of these warships, and some other scenes. 

Demoyan stressed that these newly discovered photos will be presented to the public in April of the coming year. 

The heroic battle of the Armenian people of Musa Dagh—a mountain in today’s Hatay Province of Turkey—had taken place in 1915, when the residents of several Armenian villages around Musa Dagh had refused to obey the Ottoman Empire’s decision to deport them. As a result, these Armenians defended themselves against the Ottoman troops for 53 days, and without any outside help. Ultimately, however, French warships came to the rescue of the Musa Dagh Armenians, and they were taken to Egypt., Armenia
Dec 25 2017
Armenia MOD dismisses Azerbaijan claims on downed drone 

YEREVAN.- The Armenian Ministry of Defense (Artsakh MOD) has refuted the Azerbaijani media’s “reports” on a downed drone. 

"The Armenian side does not use such toys. It is not true. These toys are played by rural Azerbaijani children," Artsrun Hovhannisyan, spokesperson for the Minister of Defense, told Armenian News – on Monday. 

Azerbaijani media had claimed that this drone was allegedly downed in Agdam., Armenia
Dec 25 2017
Iranian president visits families of Armenian martyrs 

Iranian President Hassan Rouhani visited two families of Armenian martyrs of the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) on Sunday, December 24 on the occasion of Christmas, IRNA reported. 

“I hope the character and teachings of Jesus Christ can lead humanity to peace and peaceful coexistence," he said when visiting the family of Armenian martyr George Keshish Harutun after congratulating the family on the birthday of Jesus Christ. 

Also Sunday, President Rouhani visited the family of martyr Edwin Shahmiriyan and said, “The Iranian nation appreciates the devotion and self-sacrifice of the martyrs and their respectful families”. 

"These days are the days of happiness of all Iranian people and the world, especially our Armenian and Christian citizens, and I am happy that this visit is taking place in such a night," the President continued. 

Rouhani also responded to the martyr's mother's happiness over his visit and said: "This is our duty and the least we can do for you dear families of martyrs. You have devoted your son for defending the country and the Iranian nation and definitely have a high place beside the Almighty". 

"The people of Iran are always grateful to their fellow Armenian citizens and consider them trustworthy, hard-working and honest, who love their country," President Rouhani added. 
He also went on to say: "The people of Iran consider Prophet Jesus Christ (PBUH), Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and Prophet Noah (PBUH), Prophet Ibrahim (PBUH) and Prophet Moses (PBUH) as great prophets who have brought blessings and prosperity for the humankind". 
In this visit that Vice-President in Martyrs and Veterans Affairs Hojatoleslam Val-Moslemin Shahidi was attending, a plaque of appreciation was given to the family of the martyr. 

Panorama, Armenia
Dec 25 2017
Armenia Lake Sevan water levels declining – minister 

The water levels of Lake Sevan stood at 1900.42 meters as of December 25 this year, a 0.05m lower compared to the same day of 2016 (1900.47 meters) the Armenian minister of nature protection told reporters on Monday. 

Artsvik Minasyan detailed that the water intake level from the lake for the irrigation purposes was set up to 270 million cum this year. The water intake from the lake totaled to some 266.757 million cubic meters as of 18 December, which is 99.622 million cubic meters higher than last year's figures. 

As of 18 December, over 109.290 million cum water flew into Lake Sevan through Arpa-Sevan tunnel since the beginning of this year, which is 10,559 cum lower against the figure of the same day of 2016. 

According to the minister, the transparency of the lake makes 13 meters this year. 

In 2017, some 78.1 hectares of littoral flooded forests areas of the “Sevan National Park” SNCO have been cleaned in 2017, of which 64 hectares have been cleaned by the SNCO through the state budget funds, and 14.1 hectares – by physical entities under the contracts signed with the “Sevan National Park”. 

Overall 2064.17 hectares of land have been cleaned in the period of 2005-2017. 

Vestnik Kavkaza
Dec 25 2017
The Armenian nation should regain its historical memory 

Turks and Armenians, who lived together for centuries, discover amazing mental closeness. Two nations are extremely close due to their spirit, their traditions, their centuries-old common history. They were a part of one family, part of one state, part of the Ottoman Empire for 400 years. However, the situation has changed. Historian Philip Ekozyants explains what happened between Turks and Armenians by two facts: 

"First of all, we were convinced that we have nothing in common with peoples that were closest to us, with our neighbors and with our blood relatives. 

Second of all, we were persuaded that well-known history of Armenian nation of the last 400 years, in other words, the entire Ottoman period, is not our history. That all these 400 years we weren't really citizens of the great Ottoman Empire, a rich, powerful and enlightened state, that we were powerless slaves... Instead of a true history, we were given virtual ancientry, virtual greatness, which, unfortunately, have nothing to do with reality." 

Ekozyants believes that as a result of this psycho-historical violence against the people, Armenians became their own enemies: "With its surrealistic claims and demands, expressed to neighboring nations, especially Turkish people, we became outcasts in the closest geographical environment. And we just can't understand that creators of the concept of genocide, creators of moral, historical and territorial claims, who also created this sacrificial image of Armenian people, are our underhanded and ruthless enemies. We have become isolated, angry, we're ready to destroy everyone who doesn't like our fictional world, the world in which we're the most ancient, the greatest and the biggest victims. Thank God there are enough people among Armenians who managed to stay reasonable. I'm sure and I know that our people will regain their memory and restore all ties, including with Turkish people, Azerbaijani people and Russian people. I listed them in the same ordred in which they drift away from us." 

Today Turks and Armenians live in different states, all spiritual, cultural and economic ties are cut. However, historical memory is not that short, and people feel the closeness at a genetic, subconscious level. It can be seen in dances, songs. Below you can watch two videos. In the first one dance of Armenian couple is accompanied by Turkish music. In the second one, participant of the Turkish show "The Voice", George Sheker, sings Turkish song in Turkish, and then tells to the jury members in Armenian: "I'm Armenian". 

Jewish community to represent minorities in top Turkish body 
Published December 25, 2017 

Directorate of Foundations President Adnan Ertem said they were working on independent elections at minority foundations.Directorate of Foundations President Adnan Ertem said they were working on independent elections at minority foundations. 

A candidate from the Jewish community was expected to be the new representative for minorities in the Assembly of Foundations, a powerful, state-run body which handles the affairs of foundations, including those belonging to minorities. 

Moris Levi, the deputy leader of the Turkish Jewish community, was expected to be elected as the representative of the seven minority communities in the country, replacing Prof. Toros Alcan, a prominent figure from the Armenian community. 

If confirmed, this will be the first time that Turkey's Jewish community will take part in the body, in which Greeks and Armenians have represented minorities in the past. 

The assembly is dominated by bureaucrats and technocrats and it is the highest body for deciding the status of foundations that belong to minorities. 

Non-Muslim communities in Turkey, which are concentrated in Istanbul, conduct their affairs through officially recognized foundations that represent their respective communities. 

In the past decade, Turkey has moved to reinstate the rights of minorities, creating the post in the assembly amid calls by minorities seeking to have more say in their affairs. 

Long treated as second-class citizens, the Greek, Jewish, Armenian and Chaldean communities have lauded the efforts for the return of their rights, although they have complained about it being a slow process. 

Adnan Ertem, the head of the Directorate of Foundations which the assembly responds to, said in a recent interview that they were working on a set of regulations that would allow independent elections to be held in minority-run foundations. 

If approved, it will mark a milestone for non-Muslim minorities in terms of conducting their daily affairs and preserving their heritage through foundations, giving minority communities broader freedoms. 

The controversial wealth tax that was imposed in 1942 targeted rich non-Muslims, a pogrom in 1955 and the deportation of non-Muslim Turkish citizens in 1964, adding to "a fear of the state" among non-Muslim minorities. 

The "democratization package" announced by the ruling Justice and Development Party (AK Party) government seeks to change the state's view on minorities, restoring their rights through new bills. 

Then-prime minister and current President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced in 2011 that the hundreds of properties that were confiscated from minorities over the years would be returned and compensation would be paid for the properties that were later sold to third parties. 

Although no comprehensive laws exist to restore property rights, Turkish courts are gradually returning properties to minorities who prove ownership. 

The election issue is a matter which overshadows minorities' democratic rights. Although minorities are free to elect their own foundation members, they are still subject to inspection by the state and require the approval of government authorities. 

RFE/RL Report
Sarkisian Chides Protesting Students
December 25, 2017
Sisak Gabrielian

President Serzh Sarkisian criticized on Monday youth activists
protesting against his government's decision to essentially abolish
temporary exemptions from military service that have long been enjoyed
by many students of state-run universities.

Speaking at Yerevan State University, he indicated that the government
will not scrap a corresponding bill passed by the Armenian parliament
last month despite a series of protests staged by several hundred

"No matter how much students tell us to publicly ask citizens of the
Republic of Armenia to take pity on us and defend the homeland, we
will not do such a thing because the homeland is not only ours, the
homeland is everyone's," Sarkisian said in a clear reference to the
organizers of the protests.

"We have no problem with student activism," he went on. "We have no
problem with listening to any proposal. But I believe that now is the
time for each of us to perform their duties first and only then teach
others how they should perform their duties."

One of the protest leaders, Yuri Avagian, rejected the criticism. He
argued in particular that he and some of the other student leaders
have served in the Armenian army. Avagian also said that the
government rejected all major proposals submitted by the protesters
during discussions held last month.

Avagian and another student activist, Davit Petrosian, went on a short
hunger strike last week in a bid to renew their campaign against the
bill. Avagian said on Monday that the campaign will continue. But he
could not say what forms it will take.

Draft-age male students having government scholarships have until now
been allowed to perform the two-year military service after completing
their undergraduate or graduate studies. Under the amended law, draft
deferments will be granted only to those students who will agree to
undergo parallel military training and serve in the Armenian army as
officers for three years after graduation.

Defense Minister Vigen Sargsian, the main author of the controversial
bill, said during parliament debates in October that it will close a
key loophole for evading military service and reduce "corruption
risks" among military and university officials.

The protesting students, backed by the opposition Yelk alliance, say
the new rules will prevent many students from becoming scientists or

JAM News
Dec 25 2017
Discontent in Armenia over new law forbidding right-hand drive cars
The government believes that these vehicles are dangerous for traffic 

Drivers of right-hand drive cars held a demonstration in the form of a motorcade. They are unhappy about the government of Armenia’s intent to temporarily ban the import of similar cars starting on 1 April 2018, after which the sale of such cars will also be forbidden. 

A total of 35 000 such drivers have for a long time now expressed their annoyance at the government over this issue. On 22 December they met with the Ministry of Transport and made their cases. 

Minister Vaan Martirosyan said that the import of such automobiles cannot be allowed because they are dangerous to local traffic and its movement because in Armenia cars drive on the right side. The minister also spoke at length to the drivers arguing that drivers of such cars have less visibility. The participants of the protest did not agree with this argument: 

“There is police data which suggests that cars with steering-wheels on the right-hand side make up 11 percent of all vehicles involved in accidents on the road. You say that this is being done for safety. We want a basis for this argument. If right-hand drive cars were responsible for 11 percent of accidents this doesn’t mean that it was namely the drivers that were guilty,” said a participant of the protest Gevorg Achemyan. 

However, the protesters were unable to convince the minister. Moreover, he refused to ride in such a car with one of the protesters in order to see for himself what it was like. Vaan Martirosyan said that he won’t sit inside a car that has a steering wheel on the right-hand side because he is not a ‘kamikaze’. 

The drivers think that this is not the biggest and most pressing problem in the transport sector which requires immediate attention. They believe that the ministry would do better to take care of inter-province roads, marking of street signs in the capital and installing traffic signs where none exist. 

Participants of the protest underlined the fact that in a country like Armenia where it is difficult to make money you can’t forbid people from selling their property when they need to do so. 

“I don’t think that the social-economic situation in our country will allow them to make such decisions. In Armenia the number of cars with a right-hand steering wheel is large and owners will have problems if this solution is accepted. I saved a long time to buy my car. God forbid that if I have to sell it because of, well, let’s say some problems with my health, that I wouldn’t be able to do that,” said one of the participants of the protest. 

The two sides in the end did not come to an agreement. However, the minister promised to think about their arguments and to present his opinion on Tuesday .

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