Friday, 20 July 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Armenian soldier taken prisoner!

World Bulletin, Turkey
July 15 2018
Azerbaijan takes Armenian soldier prisoner during clash 

An Armenian soldier was taken prisoner during a cross-border gun battle, Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry said on Sunday.

In a statement, the ministry said that a clash occurred between an Armenian “reconnaissance-sabotage group” and Azerbaijani soldiers early in the morning.

Karen Kazaryan, an Armenian soldier, was taken prisoner, the statement added. The Azerbaijani army did not suffer any losses, according to the statement.
Azerbaijan and Armenia remain in dispute over the occupied Karabakh region. Karabakh broke away from Azerbaijan in 1991 with Armenian military support, and a peace process has yet to be implemented.

Azeri Destruction of Armenian Monuments Featured on UN Website
July 13, 2018

STEPANAKERT—On July 11, a memorandum by the Artsakh Foreign Ministry about the state of the historical and cultural monuments in Artsakh and Azerbaijan was published at the United Nations’ official website. Earlier, the foreign ministry memorandum was circulated in the UN, as well as the OSCE and the Council of Europe.

The document emphasizes that all the architectural monuments in the territory of the Republic of Artsakh are the property and heritage of Artsakh. They are included in the State Register of Immovable Historical and Cultural Monuments and are under the state protection.

Being a responsible member of the international community and attaching great importance to the preservation of cultural and historical monuments, the Republic of Artsakh, on a voluntary basis, undertook commitments stemming from the European Cultural Convention, the European Convention on the Protection of the Archaeological Heritage and the European Convention for the Protection of the Architectural Heritage of Europe. The corresponding instruments of ratification were sent to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 22 December 2014 and 30 June 2015.  In compliance with the undertaken commitments, the Government of the Republic of Artsakh allocates funds annually for the preservation of historical monuments, regardless of their origin.

The document presents facts that refute the false accusations of Azerbaijan on the destruction of Islamic monuments in the territory of Artsakh. The Memorandum notes that besides false allegations, Azerbaijan does not present any evidence and merely attempts to attribute its own approaches and actions to the Armenian side. In this context, it is stressed that during the Soviet period, as well as during the war, Azerbaijan destroyed 167 Armenian churches, 8 monastic complexes, 123 historical cemeteries.

Today, Azerbaijan continues its deliberate policy to destruct the Armenian monuments in the territories under its control. Moreover, during peacetime the Azerbaijani authorities completely or partially destroyed all the Armenian cultural and historical monuments of Nakhichevan, where until the end of the 20th century there were 218 Armenian Christian monasteries, churches and chapels, and more than 4,500 khachkars (cross-stones) and, at the same time, only 6 mosques.

The document expresses concern over Azerbaijani authorities’ attempts to interpret the construction of churches in Artsakh as a violation of international humanitarian law and to attach religious character to the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict.

In this context, the document stresses that there is no single clause in international Humanitarian and Human Rights Law, which restricts freedom of religion, including building of places of worship. Armenians have been building churches for over 1700 years, long before the appearance of Azerbaijan itself. According to the position of Artsakh, the Azerbaijan-Karabakh conflict is not of a religious nature, but it is a clash of two systems of values — an aspiration to freedom and democracy, from the side of Artsakh, and an attempt to suppress by force the inalienable right of the people of Artsakh to decide their own destiny, from the side of Azerbaijan.

The Memorandum also includes numerous visual materials testifying to the deliberate destruction and desecration of the Armenian monuments by Azerbaijan.

PanArmenian, Armenia
July 12 2018
Armenia revolution was “extraordinary and European” - Tusk 

President of the Council of Europe Donald Tusk said at a meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan on Thursday, July 12 that what happened in Armenia was “unique and very European.”

An opposition politician, Pashinyan led peaceful protests for several weeks that toppled then Prime Minister Serzh Sargsyan in April and shortly after became the nation’s leader.

“I have always been a friend for Armenia. What happened in Armenia was extraordinary and, I must say, very European,” Tusk said.

“The example you set was very promising, and you can expect the European Union’s support in the process of implementing reforms.”

At the meeting in Brussels, the two weighed in on issues concerning relations between the EU and Armenia.
Speaking about the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, Pashinyan said Armenia is committed to the process mediated by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairs and stressed that any attempt to resolve the conflict by military means would be an infringement of regional security, democracy and human rights.

“Like any democratic economy, Armenia strives for peace and does its best to ensure regional security and stability,” Pashinyan said.

July 12 2018
Watch: Full interview with Armenia's Prime Minister
By Andrei Beketov 

Euronews "Mr Prime Minister, thank you for talking to Euronews at the NATO headquarters. First the general question: what is the Armenian government planning with NATO and what are your intentions regarding NATO?"

Nikol Pashinyan, Armenian Prime Minister: "You know, Armenia is a partner country for NATO. We are participating in two NATO missions - one in Kosovo, another in Afghanistan. This gives us (the) opportunity to participate in providing the international security. But we are member of the Organization of Collective Security treaty and we see in general Armenia in this organisation and this security system."

Euronews: "Is Armenia going to stay a staunch ally of Russia or are you moving closer to NATO away from Russia?"

Nikol Pashinyan: "We will stay a close ally of Russia and we hope to develop our relations with Russia - but with NATO and Western countries and European Unions and United States  as well. So we aren’t going to make a U-turn in our foreign policy."

Euronews: "Do you think NATO can help Armenia over the Nagorno Karabakh conflict?"

Nikol Pashinyan: "This conflict should be resolved only through (a) peaceful way. Unfortunately from first days of becoming Armenian Prime minister I see that Azerbaijan is increasing its aggressiveness towards Armenia. I thank that now we see the situation changing because this aggressive policy is not only against Armenia, I think it's also against democracy because now Armenia is a really democratic country. 

"And I think that Azerbaijan has a fear that its own people will be inspired from the Armenian processes to initiate in Azerbaijan democratic changes. It would be very useful if NATO will send strong message to Azerbaijan that any attempt to solve (the) Nagorno Karabakh conflict using force will meet strong reaction from the international community."

Euronews: "I heard from the Armenians and we see from outside high profile corruption cases in Armenia. What happens if all corrupt officials would be in prison?"

Nikol Pashinyan: "For us it's very important to fight against corruption but it's very important to do it strongly in the framework of law with protection of human rights. I was a political prisoner in Armenia, and it would be big humiliation for me if in Armenia we would have new political prisoners."

Euronews: "How would you proceed with your reforms?"

Nikol Pashinyan: "We have managed to make big economic changes. We have establish level playing field for all the economy players. We hope to make (the) Armenian economy more attractive for foreign investments. We will make stronger Armenian democracy with help of our international partners or without help of our international partners."

Time Magazine Names Pashinyan ‘Crusader’ for Democracy
13 July 2018
Time Magazine on Thursday listed Armenia’s Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan as one of its four “Crusaders Who Are Keeping the Dream of Democracy Alive.”

“Around the world today, one in three people lives under an authoritarian regime, while many others are experiencing a decline in their democratic freedoms. But the slide towards autocracy has pushed millions to stand up and demand a say in how their lives are governed,” said Time in its introduction.

The magazine spoke to Pashinyan, as well as Togo opposition leader, blogger Farida Nabourema; Nobel Peace Prize laureate Ouided Bouchamaoui; and leader of Nicaragua’s protest movement, Enrieth Martínez, who round out the list.

Read the Time profile of the “4 Crusaders Who Are Keeping the Dream of Democracy Alive.”

ArmenPress, Armenia
July 13 2018
Anti-Garegin II protesters make provocations, insult clergy – says Armenian Church

Protesters demanding the resignation of Catholicos Garegin II have once again attempted to cause disorder and provocations at the Mother See of Holy Etchmiatsin, according to the Armenian Church.

Priest Vahram Melikyan, head of the information department of the Armenian Church, said on Facebook that the demonstrators have addressed insults and provocations to the Catholicos and other clergy.
Earlier on July 10, the Spiritual Council convened a session, where it ruled to defrock the priest who is leading the protests. But the Catholicos himself intervened, asking for a 1-week deadline to be defined for the protesters to halt their actions.

Prior to this the protesters had even breached into the Armenian Church HQ, and only after a few days police intervened and removed them.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan

The Collegian: California State University - Fresno
July 13, 2018 Friday
Fresno home of William Saroyan, Pulitzer Prize playwright and author, to become museum
 by Dan Waterhouse
The west-central Fresno home of prize-winning playwright and author William Saroyan will open to the public and researchers as a cultural site and museum on Friday, Aug. 31 - on his 110th birthday.
Saroyan lived in the house at 2729 W. Griffith Way the last 17 years of his life. He died in May 1981.
To mark the occasion, there will be a grand opening celebration at Fresno State's Satellite Student Union that evening, beginning at 6:30 p.m., according to Liana Nikoghosyan of the Renaissance Cultural and Intellectual Foundation of Armenia. The formal program will start at 7 p.m. with a movie about the project, speakers and several musical performances. The event is free, but attendees are asked to RSVP at
Saroyan was born in Fresno in 1908. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1940 for "The Time of Your Life" and won the 1943 Academy Award for Best Story for the film adaptation of "The Human Comedy." He wrote extensively about Armenian immigrant life in California and Fresno.
Nikoghosyan said Arthur Janibekyan, founder of the Renaissance foundation, bought the house to save it from foreclosure and being sold at auction in 2016. She said the process of establishing the museum began after that. She said there will be interactive and innovative exhibits, including a hologram of Saroyan.
It will also house a large digital archive about Saroyan. A research area will be created in the house to enable students, scholars and other interested people to benefit from what Saroyan left behind, she added.
The house was placed on the local register of historic resources, and a plaque honoring Saroyan was placed on a wall of the home in 1989, eight years after he died. After his death, it was a rental home for many years and attracted squatters, according to a 2016 Fresno Bee story announcing the museum project.

RFE/RL Report
Armenian, Azeri FMs In First Talks On Karabakh (UPDATED)
July 12, 2018

Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov met for the first time late on Wednesday to discuss ways of 
reviving the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process.

The four-hour talks in Brussels began in the presence of the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-chairing the OSCE Minsk Group.

“The meeting had an introductory character and was intended for familiarizing with each other’s views,” the Armenian Foreign Ministry said in a statement released the following morning.

It said Mnatsakanian stressed the importance of respecting the ceasefire regime in the Karabakh conflict zone, creating an “atmosphere conducive to peace” and 
avoiding “aggressive rhetoric.”

“The co-chairs briefed the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers on their upcoming plans. Further steps were discussed,” the statement added without elaborating.

According to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, Mammadyarov and Mnatsakanian discussed the stalled peace process “in detail.” The APA news agency quoted a 
ministry spokesman, Hikmet Hajiyev, saying that the ides agreed on the need to “continue negotiations in the existing format.” The ministers also “exchanged views on steps taken for the purpose of advancing the peace process,” he said.

The mediators reported, for their part, that the two ministers considered “a range of possible confidence-building measures” at their first meeting. “The 
Co-Chairs ‎stressed the importance of reducing tensions and avoiding inflammatory rhetoric,” they said in a joint statement issued on Thursday.

“The Ministers agreed to meet again in the near future under the auspices of the Co-Chairs,” added the statement.

Armenia’s former President Serzh Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev pledged a renewed push for a Karabakh peace at their last face-to-face 
meeting held in Geneva in October 2017. Their foreign ministers held what they described as “positive” follow-up talks in December and January. The mediators said in February that the two sides have pledged to “continue intensive negotiations” after forthcoming electoral processes in Azerbaijan and Armenia.

Aliyev was subsequently reelected for another term in office, while Sarkisian was forced to resign amid mass protests in Armenia against his continued rule.

RFE/RL Report 
Ex-President Sarkisian’s Nephew Charged With Attempted Murder
July 11, 2018
Anush Muradian

A nephew of former President Serzh Sarkisian has been charged with attempting to kill a man in Yerevan more than a decade ago, an Armenian law-enforcement agency said on Wednesday.

The man, Davit Simonian, was shot and wounded in April 2007. Another Yerevan resident claimed at the time to have accidentally fired a bullet at Simonian from a pistol which he allegedly found lying in a street. The criminal case was closed shortly afterwards.

Armenia prosecutors ordered a renewed investigation into the incident earlier this month, citing “new circumstances” that have emerged lately. The 
Investigative Committee claimed on July 3 that in fact Simonian was shot by the ex-president’s nephew, Hayk Sarkisian, at the basement of the latter’s residence in the city center. Sarkisian was detained and held in custody for several hours the following day.

A spokeswoman for the Investigative Committee, Sona Truzian, said he has now been formally charged with attempted murder and illegal arms possession. 
Investigators have asked a court to allow them to keep him under pre-trial arrest, Truzian said.

It was not clear whether Hayk Sarkisian denies the charges. He was first detained immediately after officers of another law-enforcement agency, the National Security Service (NSS), searched his family’s vast apartment in downtown Yerevan.

Following the nine-hour search, the NSS issued an arrest warrant for Hayk’s elder brother Narek, who appears to have fled Armenia. It claimed that the latter asked one of his friends late last month to hide his illegally owned 
guns, cocaine and other drugs in a safer place.

According to the NSS, Narek flew to Moscow on June 22 together with his bodyguard, Artem Petrosian, who was also wanted by the investigators. A spokesman for the security agency told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Petrosian returned to Yerevan and turned himself in on Tuesday.

Erin Hynes
July 13, 2018
Honoring Henry Morgenthau III

With great sadness, the Board of Directors, staff and volunteers of the International Institute for Genocide and Human Rights Studies (IIGHRS), a division of the Zoryan Institute, mourn the loss of Henry Morgenthau III, who passed away on July 11, 2018.

Roger W. Smith, Chairman of the Board of IIGHRS stated, "Henry Morgenthau III was a man of character, who stood up for human rights when others too often were silent or urged caution. He could not have done more to support the Armenian community around the world in overcoming the denial of the Genocide that his own grandfather had witnessed as the Genocide began to unfold in April 1915. He had integrity, was steadfast, and spoke out over and again for the US recognition of the Genocide.  He can be described as a "great friend of the Armenians," and he was, but even more, he was a supporter of the rights of all human beings and a man who recognized that at the root of that was a commitment to truth.”

Henry Morgenthau III recognized the importance of his grandfather’s voice in exposing the atrocities of the Armenian Genocide. He endeavoured to bring visibility to the legacy of his grandfather’s cause through various television appearances, public presentations and written publications. In one interview Morgenthau commented, “[My grandfather] took it upon himself to go completely outside the bounds of diplomacy and perhaps legality and to use his influence and what he thought of as the moral authority of the United States to try to intervene directly in the policy of the Turkish government in exterminating the Armenian people.”

In a telegram sent to the Secretary of State, Washington, dated July 20, 1915, US Ambassador of the Ottoman Empire Henry Morgenthau wrote; “Deportations of and excesses against peaceful Armenians is increasing and from harrowing reports of eye witnesses it appears that a campaign of race extermination is in progress under a pretext of reprisal against rebellion.”

Beyond his advocacy work, Henry Morgenthau III was a talented author and executive television producer, known especially for his family history memoir titled Mostly Morgenthaus which won him the 1992 National Jewish Book Council prize for best memoir. Impressively, he published his first collection of poems in 2016, at the age of 99. Morgenthau’s shows on Boston’s public television earned him wide recognition, including Peabody, Emmy, UPI and Flaherty Festival awards. He updated his father’s memoir, Ambassador Morgenthau’s Story, by adding a postscript about the Ambassador’s life. This postscript was included in the 2003 edition of the book published by Wayne State University Press. 

Henry Morgenthau III understood the importance of raising genocide awareness through education, and the necessity of genocide prevention. IIGHRS praises Henry Morgenthau III for his efforts in maintaining Ambassador Morgenthau’s legacy, promoting genocide awareness, and for his willingness to speak out against past injustices. The Institute wishes to acknowledge and honor his life’s accomplishments and extends sincere condolences to the Morgenthau family in this time of grief.

Freedom House
July 11 2018
Armenia Faces Pitfalls on Its Path to Democracy
by Lauren Hosp, Program Associate, Eurasia

A transition that moves too aggressively, or not aggressively enough, could dash the hopes of the velvet revolution.

In a period dominated by setbacks for global democracy, Armenia emerged as a potential success story just over two months ago, when peaceful protests forced Serzh Sargsyan, who held the presidency for a decade, to step down as prime minister. The demonstrators objected to Sargsyan’s attempt to evade presidential term limits by slipping into a newly empowered premiership. Under enormous public pressure, the ruling Republican Party agreed to confirm protest leader and opposition lawmaker Nikol Pashinyan as the new prime minister in May, allowing him to organize a new government with a mandate for comprehensive reform.

On the one hand, the Republican Party still holds a majority in the parliament, and its cooperation is necessary for any major move that the new government wishes to make, including calling new elections. On the other hand, the power of the street is currently the dominant force in the country, and as long as the new government maintains the public’s support and activism, it can advance its agenda. Balancing these two factors will be extremely challenging, especially concerning demands for justice and real moves against corruption.

The work begins
Shortly after the change in government, the authorities began revealing the extent of the fraud committed by Sargsyan-era elites. The State Revenue Committee accused a company partly owned by Sargsyan’s brother and nephew of evading 300 million drams ($610,000) in taxes. High-profile arrests of notorious officials like Republican Party lawmaker Manvel Grigoryan began in June. Among other abuses, Grigoryan was accused of stealing schoolchildren’s donations to soldiers to feed to his pet tiger and bears. Karen Grigoryan, Manvel’s son, was forced to step down as mayor of Vagharshapat, the fourth largest city in Armenia, due to his own alleged malfeasance.

In addition, law enforcement agents confiscated more than $1,000,000 in cash from Vachagan Ghazaryan, Sargsyan’s former bodyguard. On June 25, police detained another brother of the ousted leader, Aleksander Sargsyan, on suspicion of illegal weapons possession, though he was released later the same day. Meanwhile, about three dozen alleged crime bosses, some of whom have been accused of helping to falsify past election results, were rounded up and interrogated, leading to three arrests.

The shocking images of masked agents raiding mansions and arresting elites surely brought a long-awaited sense of retribution to the average citizen. However, Armenia could be entering troubled waters. The task of exacting justice on a former regime while maintaining due process and transparency can be exceedingly difficult.

Hard lessons learned
To make its revolution stick, Armenia should draw lessons from the experiences of other countries that underwent protest-driven transitions from an old, corrupt elite to a more reform-minded new leadership.

After Georgia’s 2003 Rose Revolution, hopes were high for democratic improvements. Protest leader Mikheil Saakashvili assumed office as president and immediately set about dismantling entrenched corruption, implementing free-market reforms, and expanding economic growth. Despite successes in reducing organized crime and improving state finances, Saakashvili slowly descended into authoritarian habits. By 2006, around 9,000 Georgians were in prison, and accusations of torture in detention were widespread. The incarceration rate was the highest in Europe and fourth at the global level. People felt terrorized by their own justice system. Furthermore, Transparency International and other groups accused Saakashvili of presiding over a new type of kleptocracy,enriching businessmen close to his ruling party. He stepped down after his second term ended in 2013, and the incoming administration—led by the rival Georgian Dream party—began investigating him and his allies for alleged abuses in office. Last month, a Georgian court sentenced Saakashvili in absentia to six years in prison for covering up evidence related to the 2005 beating of opposition lawmaker Valery Gelashvili.

In Ukraine, after the Euromaidan protests brought down authoritarian president Viktor Yanukovych in 2014, the new government vowed to address the corruption that had dominated the former administration. Four years after the revolution, however, many of its lofty goals have only been partially met. The country recently passed legislation to create an anticorruption court, but critics have said it lacks teeth. President Petro Poroshenko had blocked the establishment of the court until recently, when the International Monetary Fund tied further assistance to its successful creation. Meanwhile, oligarchs left over from previous regimes still control the media and economy. Some became even more powerful by organizing and financing volunteer battalions to fight against Russian aggression in the eastern Donbas. Much of the Ukrainian state remains captured by private interests that the Euromaidan failed to dismantle, slowing down the economy and democratic progress.

Measured optimism for Armenia
Clearly, successful revolutions do not always lead to successful long-term reforms. They can go too far in amassing power and clamping down on the former elite, as in Georgia, or make the mistake of leaving too much of the old system in place, as in Ukraine. Armenia will need to find a middle path to ensure lasting gains.
So far, Pashinyan appears to be heading in the right direction. On June 26, during a meeting with the heads of the National Security Service, the police, and other law enforcement bodies, he told them to make sure that “this process continues more effectively” while “strictly” complying with laws and respecting human rights. If Pashinyan’s government holds true to these guidelines, the country has a fighting chance. He also insisted that there will be no political persecution in Armenia, an important pledge in a country hungry for justice.
But arresting corrupt individuals for their crimes is only one step in addressing the larger problem that plagues Armenia. Without serious and thorough reforms to the judiciary, the police, and other state institutions, the recent crackdown will remain superficial.

Foreign actors, notably the United States and the European Union, should continue their support for Armenia’s reform efforts. For many nascent democracies, international support can make or break the long-term success of a transition.

Piotr Switalski, the head of EU delegation in Armenia, has asserted that the EU is ready to assist the new government, while reminding the country that there are “other necessary elements to be successful in the fight against corruption—good laws, legislation, institutions, public support and awareness.” For its part, the United States should continue funding through USAID and other institutions to support democracy work in the country. And both the EU and the United States should demonstrate solidarity with Armenia through public endorsements of any positive changes.

With further support from international partners and a continued adherence to transparency and due process in the battle against corruption, Armenia has a major opportunity to start out on the right foot on its long path to genuine democracy.
Analyses and recommendations offered by the authors do not necessarily reflect those of Freedom House.

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