Monday, 14 May 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Turkey quake felt in Armenia

ArmenPress, Armenia
May 7 2018
Earthquake in Turkey felt in Yerevan

On May 6, at 22:18 local time, the Seismic Protection Survey Seismological Network of Armenia’s emergency situations ministry registered an earthquake at the northern latitude 39.810and eastern longitude 43.170 geographic coordinates (Turkey, 18 km north-east from the city of Aghri) with 4.1 magnitude and 10 km depth, the ministry told Armenpress.

The tremor measured magnitude 5-6 points at the epicenter area.The epicenter of the earthquake was 80-85 km away from the state border of Armenia.

The earthquake was felt in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, with 2-3 magnitude.

English –translator/editor: Aneta Harutyunyan

Panorama, Armenia
May 8 2018
Today marks the 26th anniversary of Shushi liberation

May 8 - 9 marks the 25th anniversary one of the most significant victories and excellent operations in the history of the Armenian military art – liberation of Shushi. The military operation was organized and directed by the Armenian talented commanders and the heroes of liberation struggle led by legendary general Arkady Ter-Tadevosyan (Commandos), Commander of the self-defense forces of Artsakh in 1992.

The implementation of the heroic step was carried out by the commanders of the 4 fronts who put the glorious end to the military operation named “Wedding in the Mountains”, and at dawn of May 9 entered Shushi, with Arkady Ter-Tadevosyan declaring all adversary units had abandoned Shush and the town is liberated.

The victory at Shushi had a crucial importance in the Karabakh war first to end the relentless bombing of the capital city Stepanakert and the suffering of its population, living in the conditions of the total blockade. The imperative was to silence the Azerbaijani intensive and constant shelling, break the imposed blockade and save the starving the city population from annihilation.

The Shushi liberation was preceded by the operation of Khojalu village (Ivanyan), while the Lachin (Berdzor) corridor was ultimately opened in May 18.

RFE/RL Report
Pashinian Visits Karabakh
May 09, 2018
Karlen Aslanian

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian called for Nagorno-Karabakh’s direct involvement in Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks when he visited Stepanakert on Wednesday one day after being elected to Armenia’s top government post.

He met with Karabakh’s political and military leaders and attended official ceremonies to mark the 26th anniversary of a key Armenian military victory during the 1991-1994 war with Azerbaijan.

Joined by hundreds of local residents, Pashinian and Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh president, marched to a war memorial in Stepanakert. The two men laid flowers there before meeting with the top brass of Karabakh’s Armenian-backed army.

The army commander, Lieutenant General Levon Mnatsakanian, briefed Pashinian on the situation along the heavily militarized “line of contact” around Karabakh. Participants of the meeting also discussed ways of “improving mechanisms for deterring the enemy,” reported the Armenian premier’s press office. Pashinian praised the combat readiness of the Karabakh Defense Army, it said.

Pashinian went on to hold separate talks with Sahakian, voicing “full and unconditional support” for the Karabakh leader.

“I am ready to negotiate with Azerbaijan’s president within framework of the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmanship,” he said in his opening remarks at the talks. 

“But I also think that that negotiation format cannot be considered full-fledged until one of the parties to the conflict, the leadership of Artsakh (Karabakh), participates in it.

“I will dare to say that this is probably one of the reasons why negotiations on resolving the conflict have still not had desired results. It’s hard to imagine that any negotiation held in an incomplete format can yield results.”

“Therefore, our efforts must be aimed at ensuring that the Republic of Artsakh and its government are internationally recognized as soon as possible,” added 

For more than two decades Azerbaijan has refused to directly negotiate with the Karabakh Armenians, saying that Karabakh is an Azerbaijani territory occupied by Armenia. Consequently, peace talks mediated by the Minsk Group’s U.S., Russian and French co-chairs have involved the presidents and foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

Over the past decade, the three mediating powers have advanced a framework peace accord calling for a gradual solution to the Karabakh dispute. It would 
start with Armenian withdrawal from virtually all seven districts around Karabakh that were fully or partly occupied by Karabakh Armenian forces in 1992-1994. That would be followed by a future referendum on Karabakh’s internationally recognized status.

The administration of former President Serzh Sarkisian said throughout his decade-long rule that this peace formula is largely acceptable to Yerevan. 
Sarkisian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Ilham Aliyev pledged to revive the peace process at their last meeting held in October 2017. Their foreign ministers subsequently held two rounds of follow-up negotiations.

Pashinian has yet to say publicly whether he is ready to seek a Karabakh settlement based on the mediators’ existing peace proposals. Speaking in the Armenian parliament on Tuesday, he said only that the Karabakh Armenians’ right to self-determination must be at the heart of any peace deal.

Panorama, Armenia
May 9 2018
Foreigners detained when attempting to cross the Armenian-Azerbaijani border are Bangladeshi citizens

Six people that were caught by border guards on Tuesday when trying to cross the Armenian-Azerbaijani border are citizens of Bangladesh, acting Minister of defense Vigen Sargsyan told reporters today at a press conference.

“The members of the group that was attempting to illegally cross the Armenian-Azerbaijani state borders are citizens of Bangladesh. The border guards handed them over to the National Security Service,” the acting minister added.

Reports about the detention of six foreigners were released yesterday by the spokesperson of the defense ministry Artsrun Hovhannisyan.

RFE/RL Report
Major Job Growth Reported By Outgoing Armenian Government
May 08, 2018

The number of people officially employed by private firms and public entities in Armenia has increased by more than 18,000 in the past year, according to the national tax service.

Data released by the State Revenue Committee (SRC) on Monday shows that it totalled around 505,000 in the first quarter of this year, up by 3.7 percent from the same period in 2017.The SRC did not specify whether the increased payrolls mostly resulted from new jobs created in the country or its efforts to reduce the informal sector of the Armenian economy.

The government agency said only that its first-quarter proceeds from personal income tax collection rose by 7 percent. It also reported a more than 4 percent rise in the average monthly salary which reached 176,000 drams ($365).

Speaking on April 11, Minister for Economic Development Suren Karayan said investment projects supported by the government through tax breaks alone 
translated into 5,700 new jobs in the private sector last year.

Armenia has long been beset by double-digit unemployment. Its unemployment rate was estimated at around 20 percent a year ago.

According to the National Statistical Service (NSS), the Armenian economy grew by 7.5 percent in 2017. The NSS recorded a 7.2 percent growth rate in the first quarter of 2018.

In recent days, acting Prime Minister Karen Karapetian, who was replaced by opposition leader Nikol Pashinian on Tuesday, has publicized a raft of macroeconomic data showing continuing rapid gains in Armenia’s industrial 
output, retail trade and especially exports. The official figures posted on his Facebook page were clearly meant to defend his and his cabinet’s 20-month track record.

“I want to thank our government team,” Karapetian wrote on Tuesday. “It was a team of highly honest and patriotic individuals.”

Karapetian also congratulated Pashinian on becoming prime minister and wished him “many successes.”

Two members of Karapetian’s economic team, acting Finance Minister Vartan Aramian and SRC chief Vartan Harutiunian, met with the new prime minister later in the day. According to the premier’s office, Pashinian told them to continue to perform their duties until the formation of his cabinet.

Speaking in the Armenian parliament earlier on Tuesday, Pashinian dismissed the official statistics indicating robust economic growth. He said it has had 
little impact on the lives of most Armenians.

[the following article uses hopefully reliable statistics to feed into prejudiced propaganda. At what point does dislike of aspects of a race become actively anti-semitic? At once according to this author who reveals his sympathies at the end. Even the denial of the local Jewish community is ignored. See the transformation should Israel and the diasporic Jews recognise the Armenian Genocide.]

Arutz Sheva, Israel
May 7 2018
Armenian anti-Semitism rears its ugly head
Textbook Jew-hatred straight out of the arsenal of the most virulently anti-Semitic countries of the Middle East.
Fern Sidman 

In a key symptom inherent in oppressed, closed and wholly mono-ethnic societies, Armenia is cited as the least tolerant towards Jews among 18 countries in Central and Eastern Europe in data published by the Pew Research Center on March 28. Fully, 32 percent of Armenian survey respondents said they would not even accept Jews as fellow citizens. That figure is jarring, but actually, not surprising.

The Pew data, which was based on a survey conducted from June 2015 to July 2016, affirms previous polling by the Anti-Defamation League in 2014, which showed a majority of Armenians believe that a host of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories are “probably true,” including that Jews have too much power in the business world (72 percent) and in international financial markets (68 percent), Jews are more loyal to Israel than to the country they live in. (68 percent), people hate Jews because of the way Jews behave (63 percent), Jews don’t care what happens to anyone but their own kind (60 percent), Jews think they are better than other people (53 percent), Jews have too much power over global affairs (51 percent), and Jews have too much control over the United States government (51 percent). 

This is textbook Jew-hatred is straight out of the arsenal of the most virulently anti-Semitic countries of the Middle East.

The typical official response to anti-Semitism in Armenia is to deny its existence. The Holocaust memorial in Armenia’s capital of Yerevan was vandalized multiple times in 2004 and 2005, but police reportedly concluded that the monument “had just fallen on its own,” and no officials publicly condemned the incidents.

In an article for the Armenian newspaper 168 Hours, journalist Emil Danielyan wrote that the roots of Armenian anti-Semitism can be traced to the 1960s and 1970s, when some Soviet historians claimed that the Young Turks were guided by “Zionists” when carrying out the Armenian genocide.

“Many Armenian nationalists adopted this ridiculous theory,” wrote Danielyan. “Those nationalist forces became more active during the past couple of years by spreading their Anti-Jew[ish] comments in the press. The most influential representative of the ‘Tribe Worshippers,’ Armen Avetisyan, was the most talked about figure in the [Armenian] media throughout 2003-2004. In one of the interviews, Avetisyan threatened to exile all Jews from Armenia. Even owner of the ALM television network Tigran Karapetyan enjoyed cursing the Jews.”

Danielyan also noted that in 2006, the local Jewish community invited various Armenian government officials and public figures to an International Holocaust Remembrance Day event at Yerevan’s Holocaust memorial, but “only one of them, National Assembly MP Mkrtich Minasyan, decided to be present at the ceremony.”

In Armenia, even the “Jewishness” of the head of the Jewish community seems to be somewhat in dispute. Various experts have cited evidence and others have pondered whether the purported President of the Jewish community of Armenia, Rima Varzhapetyan, is even Jewish. Many believe she is a shill for the pervasively anti-Semitic government. To the Pew data, Varzhapetyan responded, “I’ve read it and I was genuinely surprised. Certainly, there can be cases based on household issues, but in general this can’t be true. I believe this is a provocation. I’ve been in numerous countries and I’ve never felt anti-Semitism from Armenians. On the contrary, the Jewish community of Armenia has worked with Armenians, has always been part of joint projects. We are living here for many years and no problems have ever happened.”

In either case, it is doubtful that Varzhapetyan is “surprised” by the well-documented anti-Semitism problem in Armenia. More likely, she is intentionally denying it, in line with Armenia’s modus operandi and the government talking points charged to her on the anti-Semitism issue.

There is denial, and then there is ignorance. In its website post revealing the data on Central and Eastern European countries’ rates of rejection of Jews as fellow citizens, Pew focused almost entirely on Poland and did not even mention Armenia, the survey’s least tolerant nation towards Jews. Readers can only find the figure on Armenian anti-Semitism within an interactive map. Why does Pew not consider Armenia, which produced the highest rate of intolerance among the 18 countries studied, worthy of any further analysis? It is puzzling that this well-respected research institute would seemingly ignore its own data.

The numbers don’t lie: Armenian anti-Semitism is a serious problem, and the issue must not be denied, whitewashed, or ignored. Perhaps, this is why Israel shows so little interest in closer bilateral relations with Armenia yet embraces its neighbor, Muslim-majority and eminently tolerant Azerbaijan?
[What a joke! From now on, there can be no accusation that Armenia is an autocratic state.]

Fern Sidman, the news editor of The Jewish Voice newspaper in New York and former NY correspondent of Arutz Sheva, is a veteran investigative journalist and editor with more than 25 years of experience. Her reporting and expert commentary on the geopolitics of the Middle East and issues affecting world Jewry have been published in a wide cross-section of Jewish and secular publications.

How Not to Run a Government, And Get Dethroned by the People
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier
The recent events in Armenia surprised and impressed both Armenians and non-Armenians worldwide because a leader thought to be irreplaceable by his supporters was replaced by a newcomer without any violence or bloodshed. Furthermore, what is taking place in Armenia is much more than unseating a particular leader. A regime entrenched for two decades was overthrown almost overnight!
To understand what took place in the last few weeks in Armenia we need to go back to 1991, the date of Armenia’s independence from the Soviet Union. Since then, Armenia has had three presidents, none of whom cared about the people and ruled the nation democratically. Power was concentrated in their hands as well as the military leadership and oligarchic clans.
While a handful of autocrats sat at the top of the pyramid of power, the overwhelming majority of the people were deprived of the basic necessities of survival, such as food, clothing, medicine, and of course, money. In the past quarter of a century, over a million Armenians left the homeland and resettled wherever they could find a job and feed their families. Many of those who could not leave, barely survived on funds sent by relatives and friends overseas.
Under these pitiful circumstances, the anger and resentment of the population against the authorities, particularly the head of state, kept on rising. In addition to abject poverty, people suffered because of corruption, fraudulent elections, unfair courts, unemployment, censorship and periodic police brutality. While those who had the means to get a visa and purchase airline tickets emigrated from Armenia, the rest were forced to keep their mouth shut and put up with the difficult conditions.
Every now and then there were public protests either challenging fraudulent elections or unbearable living conditions, but the police were able to quell the unrest by beating and arresting the demonstrators. The most violent incident took place in April 2008 when 10 people were shot and killed for challenging the election of Pres. Serzh Sargsyan.
While Pres. Sargsyan and his predecessor, Pres. Robert Kocharyan, remained oblivious to the deplorable conditions of the public, their dissatisfaction, resentment and anger against the authorities kept growing. These heads of state, surrounded by aides who kept heaping praise on them and reassuring them that everything was marvelous in the country, remained unaware of the public’s miserable situation.
Over the past 27 years, during hundreds of hours I spent privately in meetings with the three successive Presidents of Armenia, I brought to their attention the various problems existing in the country, from corrupt aides and government ministers to unfair court judgments based on bribery, fraudulent elections, etc. These Presidents told me that they were hearing about these issues for the first time. Very few people had the courage to bring them to their attention.
I dared to tell Pres. Kocharyan to his face that Armenia’s population hated him. He disagreed with me, but I insisted, challenging him to stand one night in a street corner disguised in a hat and overcoat and ask passers by what they thought of the President. I warned him that he would hear very abusive comments.
I also recall telling Pres. Sargsyan on the eve of his first election not to ignore the common people and not to appear on TV at weddings of wealthy oligarchs and the ribbon-cutting of their businesses. I suggested that he make a surprise visit once a month to the home of a poor family without his aides and bodyguards, and inquire about the family’s employment, income, and health; to show that he cared about the poor people who were the majority of the country. Unfortunately, he did not once make such a visit.
I also told Pres. Sargsyan that he should appoint an independent group of advisers from wise and experienced individuals who were not government employees. They would be able to give him their honest advice without any fear of getting fired. Regrettably, this suggestion was also ignored!
To make matters worse, the public never forgot or forgave Pres. Sargsyan for the killing by the Police of 10 protesters in 2008, and with each fraudulent election and continuing economic misery, their frustration increased. When the constitution was being modified in 2015, Pres. Sargsyan reassured the people that he had no intention of staying in power in 2018 when his second term of the presidency would be over. Most people did not believe him and suspected that he would remain in office, switching from the ceremonial President’s chair to become the all-powerful Prime Minister, under the new constitution. During a private meeting in 2016, I remember asking Pres. Sargsyan if he planned to go home at the end of his term, as he had promised. I was alarmed when he said that he would make a decision based on the results of the 2017 parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, the overwhelming majority of the people, despite their suspicions, were counting the days and hours for the end of Pres. Sargsyan’s term in office. When the Republican Party’s majority in Parliament elected him to become the new Prime Minister last month, the citizens could no longer control their anger. Tens of thousands of people came out in the streets, led by opposition Parliament member Nikol Pashinyan to vent their frustration.
Fortunately, the massive outpouring of anger was kept in check by Pashinyan’s constant exhortation not to commit any violence and to respect the Police forces. A series of blunders by Prime Minister Sargsyan and his Republican Party members in Parliament followed, when Sargsyan met with Pashinyan and walked out after three minutes. In a few hours, despite his Parliamentary immunity, Pashinyan was arrested and kept in an undisclosed location by the Police, turning him into a greater hero. Due to escalating protests, Pashinyan was released from incarceration, and unexpectedly, Prime Minister Sargsyan announced his resignation, confessing: “I was wrong, Nikol was right.”
On May 1, the Parliament met to elect a new Prime Minister. After a lengthy deliberation, the Republican Party majority almost unanimously voted against Pashinyan’s candidacy. On May 2, the crowds blocked all major streets, highways, and paralyzed the trains, subways and the road to and from the Yerevan airport. The following day, the Republican Party officially announced that it will not block Pashinyan’s planned election on May 8 as Prime Minister. At the time of writing this column on May 7, barring any surprising developments, Pashinyan is expected to be elected Prime Minister by the Parliament.
Pashinyan’s election probably would not resolve Armenia’s multiple problems. In the following 15 days, he will select his Cabinet of Ministers and present his government’s agenda to the Parliament for approval. There will be then a lengthy debate on amending the election laws, followed by new Parliamentary elections in several months. Despite the transformation in leadership, Armenia will continue to suffer from blockades by Turkey and Azerbaijan and the military conflict involving Artsakh.
We have to wait and see whom Pashinyan will appoint to key ministerial posts as Foreign and Defense Ministers. What kind of compromises will be made between Pashinyan’s minority members and the Republican Party’s majority in the Parliament while changing the election laws? Only then new parliamentary elections will be held. Assuming the new elections will be fair and properly supervised by the new government, it remains to be seen if Pashinyan’s party and his supporting parties will gain the majority in Parliament. The good news is that all of these developments have been taking place in line with the constitution, under pressure from the newly-awakened Armenian public-at-large.
Finally, the most important issue now is that the thousands of newly-empowered young people, who came out to the streets demanding a more democratic state with a great degree of enthusiasm and emotion, should not be disappointed. Armenia cannot afford to lose its youth which are the future of the country!
Everyone in Armenia and the Diaspora should do everything in their power to ensure stability, peace and prosperity in Armenia under its new leadership.

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