Sunday, 8 July 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... HAAF embezzlement, Catholicos Speech!!!

[how the HAAF embezzlement news was reported in Armenia - now looking into potential corruption charges]


Catholicos Speech before the 30 June demonstration in Echmiadzin

Arminfo, Armenia
July 6 2018
Participants of protest against Catholicos of all Armenians broke into Catholicosate
Tatevik Shahunyan. 

Members of the initiative group, demanding the resignation of the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, broke into the Catholicosate today.

As the press secretary of the Catholicos, Vahram Melikyan, participants of the rally broke into his residence, "showing inappropriate behavior, delivering ultimatums and sabotaging the situation." According to him, the protesters do not intend to listen to the calls of the Church and stop their "improper actions."

It should be noted that in recent months there have been permanent actions demanding the resignation of Garegin II. It is noteworthy that the organizers of the shares include the novices of the Armenian Apostolic Church.

RFE/RL Report
EU-Armenia Accord Endorsed By European Parliament
July 04, 2018

The European Parliament voted overwhelmingly on Wednesday to ratify a landmark agreement aimed at deepening the European Union’s political and economic 
relations with Armenia.

It also adopted a separate resolution welcoming the recent peaceful transition of power in Armenia and calling on the new authorities in Yerevan to implement 
wide-ranging reforms promised by them.

“This final vote in the European Parliament sends a strong message of support to the Armenian citizens,” said Laszlo Tokes, a rapporteur for the EU’s legislative body.

“The EU is ready to support the reform efforts to which the new government has committed,” he added. “We encourage them to continue combating corruption and 
reforming the electoral framework.”

The Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was backed by 573 votes to 50, with 45 abstentions.

The 350-page agreement signed last November commits the Armenian authorities to carrying out political reforms that will democratize the country’s political system and boost human rights protection. They must also gradually “approximate” Armenian economic laws and regulations to those of the EU.

The CEPA is a less ambitious substitute for an Association Agreement which Armenian and EU negotiators nearly finalized in 2013. Then Armenian President Serzh Sarkisian scuttled the signing of that agreement with his unexpected decision to seek his country’s membership in a Russian-led trade bloc.

The EU’s foreign policy chief, Federica Mogherini, stressed the importance of the “historic” CEPA when she addressed the European Parliament on Tuesday. She 
described it as one of the EU “instruments” for supporting the new Armenian government’s “very ambitious reform agenda.”

“Our first contacts with the new government have been really very productive,” Mogherini said. “The atmosphere at our first meeting could not have been more positive and friendly and constructive.”

Mogherini referred to the first session of the EU-Armenia Partnership Council, a body tasked with overseeing the CEPA’s implementation, held in Brussels on June 21. She chaired the meeting together with Armenian Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanian.

“I really personally believe that all Armenian parties understand very well that a partnership with the European Union is something vital for the country,” 
Mogherini told EU lawmakers.

“It is not about geopolitics, it is not about spheres of influence, it is not a partnership against somebody else, it is a partnership for, first of all, our citizens – the citizens of Armenia, our own citizens in the European Union,” she said.

The Armenian parliament ratified the CEPA in April, paving the way for the deal’s provisional entry into force last month. Speaking in Brussels, Mnatsakanian called on EU member states to also quickly endorse it. Several of 
them have already done so.

EU to invest €160 million in Armenia over the next four years

The European Union will invest €160 million in Armenia over the next four years, EU High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy Federica Mogherini said. Mogherini made the announcement at a debate on EU-Armenia relations during the European Parliament’s plenary session on July 4.

“We are ready to support many different fields of action, and just to name a few examples, from Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), to helping to improve the business environment or investing in energy efficiency, and the list could continue,” Mogherini said.

“We are ready to use our new External Investment Plan to incentivize private investment in strategic sectors for the Armenian economy,” she added.

Mogherini said it was a great pleasure to welcome the new Foreign Minister of Armenia Zohrab Mnatsakanyan to Brussels for the first Partnership Council with Armenia. She noted that this was very soon after the new government took office in what was a smooth, democratic, peaceful transition.

“Let me say that we could not have chosen a better moment to have this first meeting and it was indeed for me a pleasure to conclude, in one way, a long journey, and at the same time, to begin a new journey together,” Mogherini said. “As you all know, last November we signed a Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement with Armenia. Last April, the Armenian Parliament ratified the Agreement unanimously, with the then-government and the opposition voting together.”

“I can say, having worked both with the previous government and now the new one, I really personally believe that all Armenian parties understand very well that a partnership with the European Union is something vital for the country,” she said.

“It is not about geopolitics, it is not about spheres of influence, it is not a partnership against somebody else, it is a partnership for, first of all, our citizens — the citizens of Armenia, our own citizens in the European Union — for economic growth, for job creation and for better and stronger democracies. It is a partnership that can help advance the demands raised by the Armenian people, also in this latest month,” Mogherini added.

“The Foreign Minister informed me of the ambitious — very ambitious — reform agenda of the new government, and the first concrete action it has already taken in the fight against corruption. During the Partnership Council, we also agreed on the importance of an effective and independent judicial system, also as a precondition for economic and social development. This is the right time for Armenia to work on a new Criminal Code and a new Criminal Procedural Code,” Mogherini said.

“These are important reforms – not because the European Union asks for them, but because the people of Armenia ask for them. They have been asking for these reforms for long and now, I think, we have the instruments — including this agreement — to accompany and encourage a government that is putting these reforms at the core of their action,” she said.

Arminfo, Armenia
July 3 2018
USAID, in general, will provide Armenia with $ 73.2 million for agricultural, infrastructure programs, as well as tourism projects
Naira Badalyan. 

To implement agricultural and infrastructure programs, as well as to finance tourism projects, the US Agency for International Development (USAID) will additionally grant Armenia $ 10.7 million (10,677,328.00). This is stated in the draft government decision, which will be submitted for approval by the Cabinet on July 4 at a regular meeting of the executive body.

According to the document justification, the Armenian government will submit a proposal to the president for signing the "Agreement between the Armenian and US government on April 26, 2018 on the introduction of the 11th amendment in the grant agreement on "A more competitive and diversified private sector." It is noted that the USAID will additionally provide Armenia with a grant of $ 10.7 million for the implementation of agricultural and infrastructure programs, as well as for the financing of projects in the field of tourism.

On August 26, 2010, a grant agreement was signed to assist Armenia through the USAID. During the period 2010-2017 the agreement was amended about 10 times. The financing was aimed at developing the private sector, promoting the financial sector and infrastructure programs. As a result, the minister said, today the US side allocated a grant to Armenia in the amount of $ 62.6 million. Following the results of the new - 11th amendment, the US government will additionally grant the RA with $ 10.7 million, and the total financial assistance to the Armenian government will be $ 73,2 million.

Congestion in Lars caused by sharp increase in tourist flows
July 3,2018
The Ministry of Transport, Communications and Information Technologies of the Republic of Armenia informs that at the Ninotsminda-Lars checkpoint, based on the overload caused by the sharp increase in tourist flows and the throughout of border checkpoints, there are of various types of vehicles.

The ministry’s staff is constantly in touch with Georgian and Russian colleagues and receive operational information.

Employees of the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia in Georgia, who conduct research and help our citizens, are also actively involved in the work on the settlement of the problem.

We inform that for convenience of our citizens a round-the-clock “hot line” (010-59-01-04) was created, which will give an opportunity before leaving the road to make the right planning and get information from reliable sources, Information Service of the Ministry of Transport, Communication and Information Technologies of the Republic of Armenia reports.

Arabia Business
July 4 2018
Unit of Saudi energy firm wins Armenia solar project contract
By Sam Bridge

Fotowatio Renewable Ventures (FRV), part of Saudi-based Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, has been awarded a solar project in Armenia that will power more than 21,400 homes. 

Expanding the company’s global footprint, FRV has been awarded the competitive tender by the Armenia Renewable Resources and Energy Efficiency Fund, a statement said. 

It added that the project will generate enough green electricity to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by approximately 54,000 tonnes of CO2 per year. This is the same as reducing the number of cars on the road in the country by more than 23,400. 

Masrik-1 Solar PV plant is planned to be constructed in the Mets Masrik community of Gegharkunik province of Armenia. The plant will cover a land area of approximately 100 hectares and construction will begin in early 2019 and be operational towards the end of 2020.

Approximately 300 jobs will be created as part of the construction phase. 

Roberto de Diego Arozamena, CEO of Abdul Latif Jameel Energy, said: “Armenia’s growing focus on renewable energy presents numerous opportunities for Abdul Latif Jameel Energy. It further expands our global footprint, and shows that more and more countries around the world are rightly focusing on clean energy. 

“With countries such as Saudi Arabia putting in place initiatives such as the National Renewable Energy Program, under which the country plans to build a solar project that can supply 9.5 gigawatts of energy, there remains huge potential in renewable energy globally.” 

This year, Abdul Latif Jameel Energy has also announced a hybrid solar-wind project in Chile, secured financing for a Mexican solar farm that will power 150,000 homes, and announced it is supporting the launch of Jordan’s first nanosatellite. 

Tehran Times, Iran
July 5 2018
Christian worshippers to make annual pilgrimage to St. Thaddeus
By Afshin Majlesi

TEHRAN – Hundreds of Christian worshippers from Iran, Armenia and other countries are heading for St. Thaddeus to observe an annual ritual and pilgrimage in the northwestern church from July 27 to 29.

Also known as the Qareh Klise (“the Black Church”), the place of worship is one of the oldest surviving Christian monuments in Iran and is located in West Azarbaijan province, some 20 kilometers form Maku, adjacent to the borders of Armenia, Azerbaijan and Turkey.

People will come together to commemorate the martyrdom of St. Thaddeus, one of the twelve disciples killed while he was preaching the Gospel. The legend says, a church dedicated to him was first built in 68 CE where Qareh Klise is standing.

The festivity is of high importance for Iranian-Armenians who mostly come from the cities of Tabriz, Urmia, Tehran, Isfahan and Qazvin, to stage the reunion in groups and families. It also provides them opportunity to go on holiday and visit distant relatives.
Baptism of children and youngsters and having traditional songs and dances are amongst other rituals of the event.

The Qareh Klise shows off elaborate bas-reliefs of flowers, animals and human figures on its façade and exterior walls. It bears verses of Old and New Testament in Armenian calligraphy as well.

Together with St. Stepanos Monastery and the Chapel of Dzordzor, Qareh Klise was placed on the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2008 under the name “Armenian Monastic Ensembles of Iran”.

All the three sites are located in West Azarbaijan and are of high significance from historical and cultural perspectives. They bear credible testimony to interchanges with the ancient regional societies in particular the Byzantine, Orthodox and Persian.
UNESCO says that they are examples of outstanding universal value of the Armenian architectural and decorative traditions.

Panorama, Armenia
July 6 2018
Akhtamar's Armenian Holy Cross Church to serve Divine Liturgy after three-year break

The Armenian Holy Cross Church on Akhtamar Island in Lake Van will celebrate a Divine Liturgy after a break of three years, Governor of Turkey's Van Province Murat Zorluoglu has said. 

According to the official, they have held discussions with the Armenian community and are currently negotiating with the relevant ministry on the issue, Ermenihaber reports. 

"We aim to hold this ceremony after a three-year break," the governor said.

The source says that the Armenian Patriarchate of Constantinople is expected to issue an official statement in the next few days over a liturgy to be offered on September 9 and urge people to take part in it.

The Armenian Holy Cross Church was renovated by the Turkish government in 2010 to serve as a museum. The Armenian community, however, has been allowed to hold religious services there once a year. 

ARKA, Armenia
July 6 2018
Armenian cabinet members switch from Apple to ArmTab laptops

Members of the Armenian government have switched from Apple laptops to Armenia-manufactured ArmTabs.  The news was announced by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan at today’s cabinet meeting.

Pashinyan recalled that the development of information technology is one of the priorities of the government. The Prime Minister expressed hope that other government agencies and the National Assembly will follow suit.

"It is very important for our country to develop domestic production. We should all give preference to Armenia-made products. As you see, there are such opportunities," Pashinyan said. He also urged citizens to give preference to goods of Armenian origin when making purchases.

"This is both pleasant and profitable, and increases the possibilities of local production and producers," Pashinyan said.

ArmTabs are manufactured by Technology and Science Dynamics (TSD) company that entered the Armenian market in 2013 with the first Armenian tablet ArmTab and the first Armenian smartphone ArmPhone. Later, the company registered with the Free Economic Zone and started production of devices not only for local but also foreign markets. According to preliminary data, investments in the production of Armenian tablets amounted to more than $3 million. -0-

Smithsonian Magazine
July 6 2018
The Age-Old Tradition of Armenian Carpet Making Refuses to Be Swept Under the Rug
A new generation is emerging to craft the ancient rugs
By  Glenn Dixon 

Twin sisters Sahkanush and Haykanush Stepanyan learned rugmaking while still teenagers at a craft center in Gyumri, Armenia’s second-largest city. Today at 23, they work for Tufenkian, a company that specializes in carpets made of hand-carded, -spun, -dyed, and -knotted wool. Under a hot July sun on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., they are stretching warp threads vertically over the timbers of a large loom, entwining the horizontal weft thread between them, over and under in a basket-like pattern.

Perhaps the most renowned of the Armenian arts is carpet making, a domestic craft that women took up at home in the late hours of the day as a quiet reprieve from cooking, cleaning and childcare. For the Stepanyan sisters, who are participants at the Smithsonian Folklife Festival this summer, once each row is completed, individual strands of thread will be knotted around pairs of warp threads, varying the colors to make intricate patterns.

At her loom, the weaver makes the patterns her own, placing motifs in endless combinations, organizing them into grand tableaux, then most importantly, breaking the dominant symmetries with unique variations of form and color, making the patterns flow and breathe. Over countless hours, the vision she holds in her mind emerges, in row upon row of brilliant thread. She is the architect of a vast garden, choosing and planting each tiny strand.

“These rugs were mainly used for personal reasons, such as dowry pieces, gifts, commemorative pieces,” explains Hratch Kozibeyokian, who is a master weaver and scholar on the history of the craft, and serves as president of the Armenian Rugs Society, located in Glendale, California. Eventually the work was commercialized, he says, during the 19th century and merchants began paying women by the square inch.
But today, Kozibeyokian says that Armenian rugmaking is healthier than it has been in a long time: “There is this huge revival.” Across the country, traveling teachers are introducing the art to young women who didn’t learn it at home. Where the strands of tradition were broken, they are now being retied.

The Armenian communities, he says, are now rediscovering their histories through the stories that these rugs tell. Kozibeyokian says he relies on a knowledge that has been handed down through the years one generation to another, and cultivated through experience and ongoing study. “I come from a family that has been in this trade, in this craft for at least the four generations that I know of.” And untold generations before that, he says. “[A rug] is still produced the same way as it was a thousand years ago.” Although occasionally the weaver will be a man, today just as in ages past, it is usually women who take responsibility for maintaining and extending the art, training the weavers who will carry it forward.

Despite a long and rich history of carpet making, Armenians have had to battle to maintain a hold over their own tradition. The work of the Armenian weavers was so prized that it was praised by observers from Herodotus (“brilliant colors”) to Marco Polo (“the choicest and most beautiful”). During the Middle Ages, Armenians rugs were traded and dispersed throughout the Middle East and Europe so that by the time of the Renaissance, Armenian rugs appeared under the feet of saints in altarpieces by painters as renowned as Hans Memling, Hans Holbein and Lorenzo Lotto. But unfortunately, as these woven masterpieces were swept up into a global trade and appreciation, their provenance was lost and many Armenian rugs and their styles have been either appropriated by, or attributed to, other cultures.

Take for example, the oldest carpet known is the Pazyryk, which dates from the 5th century B.C.E. Although found in Siberia and now housed in the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg. It is now claimed to be both Persian and Armenian. Levon Abrahamian, one of the Folklife Festival curators, takes pains to note the “rather complicated and delicate situation” when scholarly and political interests overlap. Referring to contested areas in the south and east of Armenia, he notes that “Karabagh and Syunik regional carpets are claimed by Azerbaijanis to be Azerbaijani as a result of territorial claims.”

The geometric motifs found on Armenian rugs date back millennia. Long before the pinwheel symbol was corrupted by the Nazis to become the swastika, many ancient cultures saw it as a symbol of life, luck and well-being. In Armenian hands, it flowered into a form with anywhere from two arms to more than 12, eventually becoming the wheel of eternity, a symbol of eternal life. In carpets, the symbol takes on many guises—stars, medallions, jagged S-shapes. During the Christian era—Armenia officially adopted the religion at the beginning of the fourth century C.E.—crosses and angels began to appear.

But even today, it is the pre-Christian iconography that predominates: strong, jagged geometries and sometimes flora and fauna—drawn in deep rich colors that make liberal use of a red made from the Armenian cochineal, a scale insect native to the Armenian highlands. Scholars continue to pursue research that links the iconography of Armenian rugs to both pagan and Christian symbols, including those literally carved in stone, either as architectural elements or on khachkars, memorial “cross stones” that combine both cross and wheel.

It takes time and care to perfect the famed Armenian (or Ghiordez) double knot that makes the colorful patterned pile of a carpet, but it’s worth the effort. The knot makes for a sturdier, more durable weave. (Today, the Armenian knot is now also widely known in the business as a Turkish knot.)

One of the most prized items in the White House collection is an 11- by 18-foot rug, crafted by Armenian girls living at an orphanage in Ghazir, Lebanon. It took the girls, 10 months to complete, tracing out a veritable Garden of Eden in more than 4 million individually tied knots. Birds perch amid twining greenery. Proud beasts circle one another. Holding in the great profusion of nature is complex geometry, unfolding like the symmetries of a kaleidoscope.

After Armenia was invaded by the Red Army in 1920 and swallowed by the Soviet Union, rugmaking was brought into factories and became forbidden in the home. Soviet-era carpets often featured portraits of Lenin and Stalin; and at times, the image of Mount Ararat, the symbol of the Armenian Soviet Socialist Republic. Still, the tradition was handed down and continued to survive behind closed doors. “Those women who inherited this skill, some of them still have it and they still weave it,” Kozibeyokian says. “Although  it was illegal during the Soviet era, it was done in homes in a secret way, like many other things.”

The 1980s saw a resurgence of interest in Armenian carpets in the United States, largely due to the efforts of the Armenian Rugs Society, which was founded in Washington, D.C., at the start of the decade. In 1984, a milestone exhibition of rugs that bore inscriptions of Armenian text as part of their designs opened at the Kimbell Art Museum in Fort Worth, Texas. Made possible by the database of rugs maintained by the Society, it was the first major exhibition to focus on Near Eastern rugs that carried inscriptions. The texts often contained a Bible verse, or honored an esteemed guest, or simply noted where and when the rug was made. The Gohar Carpet, whose Armenian date translates to 1700, is poignantly inscribed: “I, Gohar, full of sin and weak of soul, with my newly learned hands wove this rug. Whosoever reads this say a word of mercy to God for me.
Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, traditional Armenian rugmaking is once again thriving. Kozibeyokian notes that the Armenian Rugs Society has teamed with another nonprofit to teach the art to more than 400 students in nine different villages. And that is but one initiative. Other organizations are pursuing their own.
At the Folklife Festival, Dianna Hovhannisyan is weaving rugs of silk. The finer thread makes for a doubly dense weave, says Kozibeyokian, with as many as 144 knots per square inch. It is exacting work. “Also, what makes it difficult is the silk shines and reflects the light on the weaver’s eyes,” he explains. “The weaver cannot sit and weave as long as they do on the other non-silk rugs. They have to take a break and rest.”
The work of this new generation is a testament to the resilience of Armenian people and Armenian culture. In many ways, this enduring tradition of rugmaking recalls the age-old hand-tied double knot. Attempts to unravel it by brute force are bound to fail. “The harder you pull on the pile,” Kozibeyokian explains, “the tighter the knot gets.”
The Folklife Festival will conclude after a final run from July 4 through July 8, 2018.

Smithsonian Magazine
July 6 2018
How a Record-Breaking Aerial Tramway Helped Save a Centuries-Old Armenian Monastery
The world’s longest reversible cableway now carries an unprecedented number of visitors to this historic site 
By  Jennifer Billock 

n the years prior to 2010, the historic Tatev Monastery in Armenia’s Syunik province was struggling. Visitor numbers were dwindling and the medieval building complex itself was in desperate need of restoration. At its prime, the 9th-century monastery was a thriving medieval university focused on both scholastic and spiritual studies, but at the turn of the millennium, the historic site, which sits perched on a plateau at the edge of the dramatic Vorotan Gorge, was very much up in the air. Few at the time anticipated the path to restoring the site’s ancient frescos and hand-cut stonework would be built first with 18,871 feet of ultra-modern steal wire and a Guinness World Records certificate.

Though visually stunning, the monastery’s secluded setting posed challenges for its upkeep. “In the early 2000s, this part of Syunik, where the monastery is located, was one of the most deprived and difficult to access regions, with high unemployment and minimal opportunities to attract investment,” Ruben Vardanyan, a social entrepreneur and co-founder of the IDEA Foundation, told in a statement. “In theory at least, Tatev had potential to become a key point on a tourist route that would connect Yerevan with Artsakh and South Armenia—but because of its remote location, there was little likelihood of it being included in organized tourism drives. Local authorities did not have the funds to reconstruct the road to the monastery and, given the harsh winters and sparsely populated surrounding villages, did not consider it worthy of being earmarked.”

In an effort to revitalize the monastery and the surrounding areas, Vardanyan, together with his partners and friends, launched the Tatev Revival project. Part of which was working with the Austrian-Swiss company Doppelmayr/Garaventa to build the cutting-edge Wings of Tatev tramway, the longest reversible cableway in the world. It stretches more than three and a half miles from Syunik to Tatev and floats about 1,000 feet above the Vorotan River Gorge. Visitors can now reach the medieval site in about 12 minutes, and with the tram’s introduction, tourism numbers have skyrocketed.
Wings of Tatev during the flight.  (Yana Nagoga)

“Before the construction of the Tatev cableway, only a smattering of people would have braved the broken and rather dangerous mountain hairpin road,” Vardanyan noted. “For example, during 2009, about five thousand tourists visited the monastery, [whereas] today it attracts about 20 percent of the total tourist flow going to Armenia. Wings of Tatev [has] in itself become a new attraction. More than 640,000 tourists, not only from Armenia, but also from Russia, the USA, Europe and Asia, have used the cableway since its launch.”

A roundtrip ride costs about $10 dollars in the summer months, and proceeds go, in large part, toward helping the monastery’s ongoing renovations. As the monastery’s popularity has grown, it has also attracted new public funding, and as a result, the IDEA Foundation now funds additional projects in the community as well. Since the cableway opened, locals have begun training in the hospitality industry to accommodate the 20-plus new bed and breakfasts that have opened in the surrounding town. IDEA helps those same locals prepare business plans and apply for loans. And the Wings of Tatev itself employs 50 local villagers.”

“Along with the various stakeholders,” Vardanyan explained, “we are developing logistical, technical and educational infrastructure in the nearby villages: improving the water supply and street lighting system, improving road safety, building children’s playgrounds, repairing schools and pre-schools, opening engineering laboratories in local schools, etc. The thrust of our commitment is also environmental conservation: planting trees, rubbish collection and installing litterbins in settlements, and general upkeep of natural monuments.”

As a result of the Tatev Revival project, the monastery has been able to reopen its doors as a cultural center in the community, as well as a tourism destination. Church holidays are once again celebrated within its walls, and the Tatev Monastery Choir performs regularly. The facility also hosts theater performances, concerts, festivals and even sporting events.

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