Thursday, 8 March 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Deutsche Welle, Germany

Deutsche Welle, Germany
March 2 2018
Armenia: Armen Sargsyan elected into new, less powerful presidential role
Armenian lawmakers have voted in a former Cambridge professor and envoy to the UK as the next head of state. The opposition is worried, however, that the departing president will find a way to stay in power. 

The Armenian parliament elected Armen Sargsyan – the only candidate considered by lawmakers on Friday – as its next president. The 64-year-old diplomat is set to take over after the current president Serzh Sargsyan steps down later this month. 

Armen Sargsyan previously taught physics at Cambridge University, served three terms as Armenia's ambassador to the UK and filled other key diplomatic posts across Europe. 

The president-elect shares a last name with the strongman Serzh Sargsyan, but the two politicians are not related. 

Addressing the lawmakers after the Friday vote, Armen Sargsyan said he would use "all his knowledge and experience" to serve Armenia. 

"I expect your contribution and participation, as well as contribution and participation of all citizens in the import victories of the future," he said. 

Slipping presidential powers 

The new president is set to see his powers severely limited as the country implements a controversial constitutional reform in April. Under the reform initiated in 2015, the nation will transfer key elements of presidential authority to the prime minister, including the command of the army and the oversight of the security apparatus. 

The new president, who is set to stay in office for the next seven years, seems set to be reduced to a figurehead. 

President Serzh Sargsyan is described as pro-Moscow 

The ruling party of Serzh Sargsyan has defended the changes as a way to boost democracy and improve the division of powers among the branches of government. The party says the constitutional amendments will grant more "levers" to the opposition. 

Old leader to stay on? 

The government opponents, however, claim the reform is simply aimed at allowing President Serzh Sargsyan to maintain power by switching to the post of prime minister. They also accuse the government of influencing the outcome of the 2015 referendum that ushered in the reform. 

Serzh Sargsyan has hinted he would "remain active" politically after stepping down. 

The current leader is a former military officer who served as prime minister from 2007-2008, before winning his first term as president. Some of his supporters say he would be the best candidate to return to the post, praising his experience in navigating the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with Azerbaijan. 

RFE/RL Report
President-In-Waiting Vows To Help Unite Armenia
March 01, 2018 Ruzanna Stepanian

Armen Sarkissian, a former prime minister nominated by the ruling
Republican Party (HHK) for president, lamented social divisions,
inequality and corruption in Armenia as he addressed the parliament on

Sarkissian pledged to strive to address these problems, including
through a national "dialogue," if the National Assembly elects him the
country's next president. He would have largely ceremonial powers in
line with controversial constitutional changes enacted by the
President Serzh Sarkisian.

With the HHK controlling the majority of the parliament's 105 seats,
the outcome of the vote is seen as a forgone conclusion. Armen
Sarkissian has also been endorsed by the HHK's junior coalition
partner, the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun), and
businessman Gagik Tsarukian's alliance boasting the second largest
parliamentary faction.

The opposition Yelk alliance is the only parliamentary force which has
made clear that its nine deputies will vote against the outgoing
president's preferred successor on Friday.

"My dream is to see the Republic of Armenia become a dynamically
developing and intellectual country and # further strengthen its
positions as an independent and democratic country," Sarkissian
declared in a speech delivered on the parliament floor.

The candidate, who has been Armenia's ambassador to Britain since
2013, singled out "intolerance" among various sections of the Armenian
society as he listed grave challenges facing the country. "Any new,
constructive idea is rejected out of hand just because it comes from
the opposite side," he said. "The Armenian people cannot afford the
luxury of succumbing to intolerance. The alternative to intolerance is

Sarkissian went on to complain about income inequality which he said
has deepened dramatically since Armenia gained independence in late
1991. "The society was much less polarized between the rich and the
poor. Today our state is stronger, richer but also more polarized," he
said, adding that the resulting poverty fuels popular cynicism and

Sarkissian, who has lived in Britain for nearly three decades, also
mentioned corruption, saying that it has an adverse impact on all
aspects of life in Armenia. He stressed in that regard that a stronger
rule of law and independent courts are essential for attracting
large-scale foreign investment in the Armenian economy.

Sarkissian is thought to have made a big fortune in the United Kingdom
in the 2000s, mainly working as a consultant and middleman for Western
corporations doing business in the former Soviet Union. HHK figures
say the 64-year-old former Cambridge University scholar will use his
business connections to raise Armenia's economic profile in the West.

Sarkissian was put on the defensive by parliament deputies from Yelk
during a question-and-answer session that followed his speech. In
particular, they questioned his eligibility for the post of president.

The Armenian constitution requires presidential candidates to have had
only Armenian citizenship for the last six years. Sarkissian has
admitted receiving British citizenship in 2002. He insists that he
gave it up in 2011.

Sarkissian repeated these assurances on Thursday. Yelk lawmakers
remained unconvinced, however. They cited a 2014 British tax document
referring to him as a British national.

The former Armenian prime minister said that the reference was the
result of a technical error. A Yelk deputy countered that the document
carries his signature. Sarkissian claimed to have signed it without
reading it carefully. It related to a now defunct educational
organization which he set up in London more than a decade ago.

Yelk's parliamentary leader, Nikol Pashinian, decried Sarkissian's
"unserious attitude," saying that it is "depreciating" his public
discourse. "You are preparing to take over as president," Pashinian
told the candidate. "Should we expect that you will be signing more
papers without reading what's written in them?", Armenia 
March 2 2018
What powers does the new Armenian president have?
Armenia will shift to the parliamentary system of government starting April when the powers of the incumbent president will expire, the amended Constitution of Armenia says.

For the first time the president is elected by the National Assembly. The newly elected president of Armenia will have more limited powers and the prime minister in fact will be the first statesman in the country.

What is the status of a new president?

According to Article 123 of the amended Constitution, the President of the Republic shall be the head of the State. The President of the Republic shall observe the compliance with the Constitution. In the course of exercising his or her powers, the President of the Republic shall be impartial and shall be guided exclusively by state-wide and nation-wide interests.

The President of the Republic shall perform his or her functions through the powers prescribed by the Constitution.

Under the previous Constitution, the president had to be the guarantor of the independence, territorial integrity and security of the Republic of Armenia. The new president does not have these powers.

How the president is elected?

According to the new Constitution, the president is elected for a term of seven years, while previously the president was elected for five years. The same person may be elected as a president only once. The new president may not hold any other position, engage in entrepreneurial activities or perform other paid work. He may not hold membership in any political party.

Everyone having attained the age of forty, having held citizenship of only the Republic of Armenia for the preceding six years, having been permanently residing in the Republic of Armenia for the preceding six years, having the right of suffrage and having command of the Armenian language may be elected as President of the Republic.

The candidate having received at least three fourths of votes of the total number of Deputies shall be elected as President of the Republic.

What powers will the new president have?

The President of the Republic shall sign and promulgate a law adopted by the National Assembly within a period of twenty-one days, or shall apply within the same time period to the Constitutional Court for the purpose of determining the compliance of the law with the Constitution. The president has no right to dissolve the National Assembly as well as to appoint early elections.

The President can immediately accept the resignation of the Government and make changes in the composition of the government upon recommendations of the Prime Minister.

Foreign Policy

President can conclude conclude international treaties, upon recommendation of the government. He is authorized to appoint and recall diplomatic representatives to foreign states and international organisations, upon recommendation of the Prime Minister, to receive the letters of credence and letters of recall of diplomatic representatives to foreign states and international organizations, to approve, suspend or revoke international treaties not requiring ratification.

Armed Forces

According to the new Constitution, the president can appoint and dismiss the supreme command of the armed forces and of other troops under recommendation of the Prime Minister. He can confer the highest military ranks.

President is no longer the supreme commander of the Armed Forces and in the event of the war, the Prime Minister will confer the powers.

When will the new president assume the office?

The new president will take office on April 9. The president will take oath of office at a special session of the parliament on the same day.

Public Radio of Armenia
March 2 2018
Turkish Court overturns decision on expropriation of Armenian St. Giragos Church of Diyarbakir 

The Turkish Supreme Administrative Court has overturned the decision on expropriation of the Armenian Saint Giragos Church of Diyarbakir, reported.

After clashes with Kurds in Diyarbakir, on March 21, the Turkish government decided to expropriate part of Diyarbakir’s Sur district where the Armenian St. Giraigos Church, Chaldean Saint Sargis, Assyrian St. Mary and are located.

The Saint Giragos Church Foundation appealed the decision of the Council of Ministers in the Supreme Administrative Court.

The Court has also ruled that the decision of the Government be canceled, referring to the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR).

During the examination of the case, the court sent a request to the Ministry of Environment and Urban Development of Turkey requesting information on the reasons for the church expropriation, the purpose of further exploitation. However, the ministry did not react to the court’s request.

The Independent, UK
March 1 2018
Erdogan has released the genealogy of thousands of Turks – but what is his motive? 
by Robert Fisk 
In 2003, the Armenian newspaper Agos, whose editor Hrant Dink was assassinated outside his office in 2007, reported that the Turkish government was secretly coding minorities in registers 

Only in Turkey is the identity of a citizen a matter of national security. That’s why the population registry in Ankara was until now a closed book, its details a state secret. Mustafa Kemal Ataturk’s definition of “Turkishness” was “anyone who is attached to the Turkish state as a citizen”. Turks came from a clear ethnic identity, untainted by racial minorities or doubtful lineage. That’s one reason why the Nazis lavished praise on Ataturk’s republic, their newspapers mourning his death in black-bordered front pages.

After all, as Hitler was to ask in several newspaper interviews – and to his generals before he invaded Poland – who now remembers the Armenians? Ataturk had supposedly inherited an Armenian-free Turkey, just as Hitler intended to present his followers with a Jew-free Europe. The Armenian genocide of 1915 – denied by the Turkish government today – destroyed a million and a half Christian Ottoman citizens in the first industrial holocaust of the 20th century. Almost the entire Armenian community had been liquidated. Or had it?

For the stunned reaction of Turks to the sudden and unexpected opening of population registers on an online genealogy database three weeks ago was so immediate and so vast that the system crashed within hours. Rather a lot of Turks, it turned out, were actually Armenians – or part-Armenians – or even partly Greek or Jewish. And across the mountains of eastern Anatolia – and around the cities of Istanbul, Izmir, Erzurum, Van and Gaziantep and along the haunted death convoy routes to Syria, ancient ghosts climbed out of century-old graves to reassert their Armenian presence in Turkish history. For the registry proved that many of them – through their families – were still alive.

Until now, for at least two decades – at least before Sultan Erdogan’s post-coup autocracy – thousands of Turks spoke freely, albeit in private, about their ancestry. They knew that amid the mass slaughter and rape of the Armenians, many Christian families sought sanctuary in conversion to Islam, while tens of thousands of young Armenian women were given in marriage to Turkish or Kurdish Muslim men. Their children grew up as Muslims and regarded themselves as Turks but often knew that they were half-Armenian. Tens of thousands of Armenian orphans were placed in Muslim schools, forced to speak Turkish and change their names. One of the largest schools was in Beirut, organised for a time by one of Turkey’s leading feminists who wrote of her experience and was later to die in America.

The Armenian diaspora – the 11 million Armenians living outside Turkey or Armenia itself, and who trace their ancestry back to the survivors of the 1915 genocide – were the first to understand the significance of the newly-opened population registers, noting that some information dated back to the early 1800s. Up to four million Turkish citizens were reported to have sought access to their family tree within 48 hours – which is why the system crashed – and in the days since it was re-established, according to retired statistician and Armenian demographer George Aghjayan, eight million Turks have requested their pedigrees. That’s 10 per cent of the entire Turkish population.

The documents can be vague. And they are not complete. There are examples of known Armenian ancestors listed as Muslim without reference to their origin. The names shown for those known to have converted during the 1915 genocide are Muslim names – but the Christian names of their parents are also shown. There will always be discrepancies and unknown details. Many Ottoman registrars did not give accurate details of birthdays: Turkish officials might travel to a village once a month and simply list its newborn under the date of their visit. There are still centenarians alive in Lebanon and Syria, for example, who all possess the same birth date, whatever their origin.

So why has Turkey released these files now? Erdogan is quoted to have once complained that Turks were “accused of being Jews, Armenians or Greeks”. Tayfun Atay, a columnist for the Turkish newspaper Cumhuriyet , wrote that he was “advised in a friendly matter not to admit that I am a Georgian…What about those who risk learning that they are of Armenian ancestry or a convert? Just think: you think you are a red-blooded Turk but turn out to be a pure-blood Armenian.”

Journalist Serdar Korucu told Al-Monitor that “if they had done this a few years ago when we were [becoming more tolerant], conspiracy theories would not have been as strong as today, when the state believes we are in a struggle for existence. This is how Turkey reinvigorates the spirit of the Independence War” – to inspire patriotism and pro-government thinking.

In 2003, the Armenian newspaper Agos , whose editor Hrant Dink was assassinated outside his office in 2007, reported that the Turkish government was secretly coding minorities in registers: Greeks were one, according to the paper. Armenians were two. Jews were three. Korucu recalled how the director of the Turkish Historical Society threatened minorities in 2007. “Don’t make me angry. I have a list of converts I can reveal down to their streets and homes.” The director later became a politician in the rightist Nationalist Action Party. 

Armenpress News Agency , Armenia
February 28, 2018 Wednesday
Unpunished genocide: Armenians worldwide commemorate 30th anniversary of Sumgait Pogroms

Armenians worldwide commemorate the 30th anniversary of the mass massacres of Armenians in Sumgait during those days, Armenpress reports.

On February 27-29, 1988, the mass massacre and deportation of the
Armenian population of Sumgait was carried out by the leadership of
Soviet Azerbaijan. The massacres were accompanied by looting of the
property of the Armenian population.

The goal of this crime against the Armenian people was to prevent the
Artsakh movement, intimidate Armenians with the prospect of new bloody
actions, prevent the spread of the Artsakh liberation fight. According
to the USSR official data, several dozen people were killed during the
Sumgait massacres, but according to non-official data, more than 1000
people were killed majority of whom were burned after tortures. After
these events nearly 500.000 Armenians left different Azerbaijani
cities. Nearly 400.000 of them were settled in Armenia.

On February 29 the Soviet troops entered Sumgait, but on that day as
well the violence and killings continued. The army didn’t receive an
order to use weapons and didn’t help Armenians. Only in the evening it
took decisive actions and prevented the further massacres.

Only 94 people from massacre perpetrators were held accountable, and
only one of them was sentenced to death. The remaining ones were
charged with murders, rape, massacres, and in all cases the
justification of the crime was called “hooligan motives”. Instead of
involving all crimes in one single case, the Soviet authorities
divided it in several parts conducting the trials in the courts of
different Soviet cities. During the trials gross violations of
judicial procedure and rights of the victims were registered. After
the collapse of the Soviet Union some of the crime perpetrators were
released. The crime has not been officially condemned and no
condolences were extended to the relatives of the victims. Not giving
an adequate political assessment to these events led to resumption of
mass massacres of Armenians in Baku, Kirovabad and other Azerbaijani

Although the international community hasn’t still given an adequate
assessment to the Armenian massacres in Sumgait and didn’t call them
as genocide, the massacres were condemened by the European Parliament
in 1988, the US Senate and the Parliament of Argentina in 1989.

The Armenian Parliament on February 28 will debate the draft statement
on the 30th anniversary of the Sumgait Pogroms. The draft statement
has been approved by the parliamentary standing committee on foreign
affairs. All 4 parliamentary factions – the Republican Party of
Armenia, the ARF, Tsarukyan and Yelk, authored the draft statement.

English – translator/editor: Aneta Harutyunyan

Panorama, Armenia
March 1 2018
Armenia’s Aronian maintains 5th spot in FIDE ratings 

Armenian GM Levon Aronian (2794) maintained the 5th spot in the latest FIDE rating list of the best chess players in the world.

Magnus Carlsen of Norway (2843) continues to lead the FIDE rating list unveiled on 1 March, followed by Azerbaijani Shahriyar Mammadyarov (2809) and Russian Vladimir Kramnik (2800), the National Olympic Committee informed

Standard Top 100 Men March 2018 features three other Armenian chess players. In particular, Gabriel Sargissian (2677) comes the 66th, Vladimir Hakobyan (2667) – the 77th and Hrant Melkumyan (2664) – the 81st.

Armenian chess player Elina Danielian (2413) ranked the 54th and Lilit Mkrtchian (2403) – the 63rd in the Top 100 Women March 2018 list.

PanArmenian, Armenia
March 2 2018
Armenia producing basturma and sujuk from ostrich meat 

Ostrich breeding is developing in Armenia , with a farm in the country’s Armavir province currently producing and selling basturma, sujuk and other products from ostrich meat.

Minister of agriculture Ignati Arakelyan on Thursday, March 1 visited the province where non-traditional agriculture is gathering pace.

The ostrich farm, in particular, was established in 2008 while the birds were imported from Iran. Around 400 ostriches are currently bred in the farm, having already adapted to the climate.

According to farm chief veterinarian Armen Sargsyan, they are now preparing to expand their activity, eying jerky production and processing of leather and feathers.

The meat products may soon reach the Russian market too, a statement from the ministry of agriculture says.

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