Friday, 27 July 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... Likely War!...

ARKA, Armenia
July 26 2018
War with Azerbaijan is highly likely – Armenian premier

Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said in an interview with Echo of Moscow that a war with Azerbaijan is highly likely.

“Things are very tense now in our region,” he said commenting on the statement he made recently at a news conference. “I mean Azerbaijan’s aggressive policy. There is a very high probability of war. And I said that we should be ready for a war, But I also said that I, all Armenians and everybody in Armenia are sure that Russia has every means to prevent a new round of escalation in our region and to deter Azerbaijan from assaulting Armenia and Karabakh.”

Pashinyan repeated what he said then: “I can’t believe that Russians will not use these means to  a war.”

The Armenian premier said that Russia has every lever and every opportunity to prevent war.;

However, he refrained from revealing details of his talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin over sale of armaments to Azerbaijan.

“Arms embargo is a different talk and we will continue this talk not only with Russia, but also with Belarus and our other partners in the Collective Security Treaty Organization, since we are members of the same security organization,” he said. “But, speaking at my press conference, I meant political, geopolitical, economic and direct influence of Russia, possible influence of Russia on our region.”

Pashinyan also confirmed the fact that his son is in the military service on the Karabakh frontline.

“He went there as a volunteer,” he said in his interview. “This is very important, and many interpret this as an aggressive gesture. This is a peaceable gesture, since, I think, all of us understand that when I send my son to Karabakh I don’t want war resumption there. God keep my son, sons of my compatriots and sons of Azerbaijan, sons of ordinary Azerbaijani citizens from getting killed!”

He said he would be glad if Ilham Aliyev could send his son there for military service. 

“I would take that as a peaceful gesture, and if so, all of us will be sure that Mr. Aliyev wouldn’t want to have his son killed.”

Karabakh conflict broke out in 1988 when Karabakh, mainly populated by Armenians, declared its independence from Azerbaijan.

On December 10, 1991, a few days after the collapse of the Soviet Union, a referendum took place in Nagorno-Karabakh, and the majority of the population (99.89%) voted for secession from Azerbaijan.

Afterwards, large-scale military operations began. As a result, Azerbaijan lost control over Nagorno-Karabakh and the seven regions adjacent to it.

Some 30,000 people were killed in this war and about one million people fled their homes.

On May 12, 1994, the Bishkek cease-fire agreement put an end to the military operations.

Тalks brokered by OSCE Minsk Group are being held over peaceful settlement of the conflict. The group is co-chaired by USA, Russia and France. 

PanArmenian, Armenia
July 25 2018
Azerbaijan continues engineering work in Nakhijevan posts: Armenia 

JThe situation on Armenian-Azerbaijani border near Nakhijevan is under control, Armenian Defense Minister David Tonoyan said on Wednesday, July 25, according to

“The Azerbaijani Armed Forces continue the engineering work to strengthen their positions. We take appropriate measures to ensure that these actions are neutralized,” the Minister said. .
According to Tonoyan, the Armenian Armed Forces take measures to "neutralize the reduction of the territory" between positions.

Tonoyan said earlier on Wednesday that the Armenian side is always expecting the resumption of hostilities.

PanArmenian, Armenia
July 25 2018
Azerbaijan hints could strike nuclear power plant in Armenia

The Azerbaijani Defense Ministry has declared that there are certain targets on the territory of Armenia whose destruction will lead to "human extinction for centuries.”

The statement came after Nagorno Karabakh Defense Minister Levon Mnatsakanyan said that the Defense Army will immediately strike the Mingachevir Hydro Power Station in Azerbaijan in the event of necessity.

The Ministry of Defense of Azerbaijan did not specifically mention the Metsamor nuclear power plant in Armenia, but the NPP is theoretically the only facility whose destruction could lead to "human extinction for centuries” in the area. However, any catastrophe at the plant would endanger not only Armenia, but also Turkey, Iran, Georgia and Azerbaijan.

"The most modern weapon systems of our armed forces, possessing destructive power are capable of destroying all important military facilities and strategic communication lines of the rival in a short period of time," the Azerbaijani Defense Ministry said in a statement, reports.

At a meeting with reporters, Mnatsakanyan said that Mingachevir HPP is included in the tactical plans of the Karabakh Defense Army as a target.

RFE/RL Report
Armenia Not Eligible For U.S. Aid Scheme
July 26, 2018
Nane Sahakian

Armenia can no longer qualify for a multimillion-dollar U.S. aid program because of what the World Bank regards as growth in living standards in the 
country, according to First Deputy Prime Minister Ararat Mirzoyan.

The administration of former U.S. President George W. Bush launched the Millennium Challenge Account (MCA) program in 2006 in an effort to reward developing nations committed to major reforms. Shortly afterwards Armenia received $177 million in MCA funding for the rehabilitation of its rural 
irrigation networks.

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), a U.S. government agency running the aid scheme, also planned to allocate $60 million for the reconstruction of the country’s rural roads. But it scrapped that allocation shortly after a disputed 2008 presidential election that was followed by a government rackdown on the Armenian opposition.

Former President Serzh Sarkisian’s government tried unsuccessfully to get the MCA to unfreeze aid to Armenia. U.S. officials said, among other things, that 
it is not doing enough to combat widespread corruption.

The United States signaled its readiness to boost its economic assistance to Armenia following a democratic revolution that swept Nikol Pashinian and his allies to power in early May. U.S. Ambassador Richard Mills said in late May that Washington is now exploring possibilities of doing that, including the MCA.

Mirzoyan discussed the issue with U.S. officials when he visited Washington last week. He said he was told thatArmenia is not eligible for MCA funding anymore because the World Bank recently upgraded its status from a “lower middle income” to an “upper middle income” country.

Mirzoyan said he suggested that the U.S. government consider other channels of 
financial support for the new authorities in Yerevan. “If we no longer meet MCA criteria, then I think it’s definitely possible to think about a new mechanism 
whereby the U.S. would provide assistance to democracy in Armenia,” he told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (

Ambassador Mills said last week that Washington is still considering increasing assistance to Armenia. “We are looking at what is possible, including changes in levels of our funding through the USAID and other U.S. government agencies,” he told reporters.

Suren Sargsian, an Armenian political analyst, was skeptical about the Pashinian government’s chances of securing greater U.S. aid. “I consider that unlikely at least at this stage, under the Trump administration, because the Trump administration’s [international] priorities are a bit different,” he said.

Sargsian suggested that the situation might change if the Democratic Party gains control over the U.S. Congress in the November mid-term elections. 
Democratic lawmakers have traditionally been more supportive of causes championed by the Armenian-American lobby groups than their Republican 

ArmenPress, Armenia
July 24 2018
Lydian Armenia fires back at investigative bodies, news media for intentional defamation

Lydian Armenia has expressed “confusion and anger” over the manipulation of its name in the official statement of the Investigative Committee on launching a criminal case on “intentional concealing of environmental pollution”, as well as the distortion of the information by certain media outlets.

“We hereby announce that Lydian Armenia has nothing to do with the criminal case and the individuals involved in it and it will seek that the people who are defaming the company’s name and business reputation are held accountable for under the law,” Lydian Armenia said in a statement.

It said that it views the Investigative Committee’s mentioning of its name in the statement to be an intentional black PR campaign. It says that it views the reports of certain media outlets who “presented the criminal case against officials of the nature protection ministry to be a criminal case against Lydian” to be also intentional, black PR.

“Lydian Armenia has never concealed any information from authorized bodies, and individuals involved in the management bodies of the company are certain that the company has adhered to all environmental requirements under Armenian ;legislation,” the statement said.

Lydian Armenia demanded news media to refute the inaccurate reporting, since the Investigative Committee has not initiated any such case against them.

“At the same time we expect investigative bodies to avoid unnecessary mentioning the name of the largest investor of the country in criminal cases which are initiated based upon the assumptions of private individuals, taking into account that such misleading reports are negatively impacting the rating of the company and the country in the international investment market,” Lydian Armenia said.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan

The Armenian Weekly
Armenian Apostolic Battle Royale
July 26, 2018 
Raffi Elliott

On the 14th of July,;a video made the rounds online showing Karekin II getting physically blocked and heckled by protesters chanting “Nor Hayastan, Nor Hayrapet”(“New Armenia, New Pontiff”), as he struggled to get back into his SUV.

This unprecedented challenge to the Pontiff’s leadership—in the same vein as a number of other recent direct-action protests—shows that even the Holy See isn’t immune to fallout from the Velvet Revolution. But while clearly inspired the events that propelled Nikol Pashinyan into the Prime Minister’s office, these protests were not led by a crowd of activists of the millennial-hipster variety. The traditional black robes worn by men setting up roadblocks in the road to the monastery and cursing the Catholicos suggest that they were in fact clergy members.

Most would agree that the time has come for the wave of revolutionary change to visit the church. Catholicos Karekin II, the Patriarch of the Armenian Apostolic Church, has caused his fair share of controversy over the last two decades. He has enjoyed warm ties to former-President Serge Sarkisian’s Republican Party (appearing next to the ex-President in official photographs, embodying the close ties between the Armenian State and the Armenian Church). In 2015, an American investigative journalism team identified Karekin II as the owner of a Swiss Bank account containing over a million dollars (ostensibly, as the church spokesman later announced, for charitable purposes). Detractors have long suspected that he secretly fathered children, (some of whom are at the centre of their own controversies). He has also been known to accept fabulously expensive gifts from shady figures over the years, despite the fact that a third of his parishioners live under the poverty line. Some have also criticising his neglect of spiritually and historically significant religious sites in favour of spending more than $50 million on the construction of new churches throughout the country; much of which, used oligarch-sourced funds. The list really does go on.

At the centre of the protest: the mysterious Abbot Koryun Arakelyan. His supporters have compared him to Pashinyan, but the parallels may just be cosmetic. Far from Pashinyan’s brand of liberal reform, Abgha Arakelyan and his supporters have fashioned themselves as flag bearers of religious conservatism, who believe any deviation from scripture is a sin. According to reports, he thinks that the church has been too lenient with sects, and condemned Karekin II meeting with lesbian anglican priests as heretical. Arakelyan’s troupe isn’t just protesting Karekin II’s corrupt and hedonistic behaviour; they also oppose what they see as the Church’s straying from traditional Apostolic doctrine under Karekin II’s leadership. In challenging him, they may be inadvertently setting the stage for a new struggle over the Church’s future. This brings up to questions: what would these competing visions look like? and at what stake?

In countries across the entire former-communist space, churches have wielded a particularly powerful societal weight. The Catholic Church in Poland, for instance, famously helped galvanise public support against communism. In neighboring Georgia, Catholicos Ilia II’s reputation as an incorruptible man of the faith made him the most respected public figure in the country at a time when trust in public institutions was at an all-time low. In most cases, these Churches have then coasted on their association with the revival of post-communist national identity to immunise their actions (and finances) from criticism or public scrutiny.

Armenia, however, has remained curiously unaffected by this trend. Instead of using his authority to influence public policy, as was the case in Poland or Georgia, Karekin II’s role as spiritual leader was instead used to lend legitimacy to the Republican government’s more controversial decisions in the eyes of the faithful.In short: he weighed in on political matters; but only in ways that coincided with the regime’s stance.And even then, he was met with criticism. The Catholicos has frequently been associated with the roster of oligarchs on boycott lists. Flyers depicting his crossed-out face along with Sarkisian’s could be seen throughout the capital during the events of the Velvet Revolution. The backlash against him was so great, that the supermarket chain Nor Zovq even had to publicly dispel rumours that Karekin II was among its shareholders.

So far, Armenia’s religious power struggle has largely avoided spillovers into mainstream Armenian politics, save for the occasional show of support against a very unpopular Catholicos. Despite the country’s population overwhelmingly professing to belong to the Apostolic Church, a long legacy of Soviet-imposed laicity means that most Armenians are, in practice, quite secular. Even Prime Minister Pashinyan, when pressed, cited the official separation of Church and State to avoid stating a stance on the conflict.

But as the tides of change reach the Armenian church, is this precious separation between church and state at stake?

As Armenia rebuilds its national and spiritual identity following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Church has a duty to those who have suffered most from the transition.

The resilience of the Armenian Church over the centuries has transformed it into an inextricable pillar of Armenian national identity. It fulfilled the functions of State when the Armenian people had none to speak of, became a beacon of hope in the darkest of times, and served to preserve language, values and cultural distinctiveness through invasion and Genocide. Yet even the most enduring of ecclesiastical traditions can bow to strain. Old, entrenched institutions are often slow to adapt. When religious elites are accused of straying towards hedonistic lifestyles, detractors always call for a return to values. The question is: just which authentic values are being invoked?

For the most part, despite many faults, Karekin II has always been careful to keep religious matters out of the political sphere. Though they are proponents of much-needed change, it is looking more and more like Arakelyan and his supporters intend to return to a strict canonical orthodoxy ( history tells us that calls for doctrinal purity may not always be tolerant of religious heterogeneity). Abbot Arakelyan may discomfort some with his ambiguous stance on the rights of Armenia’s historic Catholic, Evangelical, and Yazidi religious minorities—not to mention other types of vulnerable groups.

One cause for optimism may lie in another interpretation of the return to traditional values; one where the image of a rolex-wearing Pontiff driving his Bentley through Echmiadzin contrasts with that of a humble parish priest tending to the emotional, financial and spiritual needs of his flock. As Armenia rebuilds its national and spiritual identity following the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Church has a duty to those who have suffered most from the transition. Just like Pashinyan dropped the pomp and circumstance which his predecessor rode to notoriety in favour of a more muted aesthetic, one should welcome the Church’s return to its humble roots. The NEW Armenian Church may need to align its priorities with those of the NEW Armenia. Maybe just a little irreverence towards the sacred might get us there.

Raffi Elliott is a Canadian-born entrepreneur and occasional journalist who likes to ramble on about socioeconomic and political issues in Armenia. He lives in Yerevan with his family. He also holds a masters degree in International Relations.

Smithsonian Magazine
July 26 2018
Get to Know Khorovats, Armenia’s Favorite Grilling Pastime

Sitting on a cliff overlooking the Debed Gorge in northern Armenia, the Haghpat monastery is a stunning Unesco World Heritage Site worth the hair-raising tour bus ride up a mountain road. Yet the monastery’s ancient kitchen has stood empty for years, and the only other food option is a snack bar at the edge of the property.

It’s here that Armen Qefilyan saw an opportunity. Why not entertain these hungry tour groups with khorovats, Armenia’s favorite meat-grilled-on-a-stick tradition?

A Visit to Armen’s
Qefilyan isn’t just another khorovats hobbyist, of which there are countless in Armenia. In 2009, he was crowned champion in a national khorovats competition. After years of running a restaurant in the nearby copper mining town of Alaverdi, the chef’s newfound accolades allowed him to set his sights higher—straight up the mountain.

We paid Haghpat a visit this past May on a research trip across Armenia for our upcoming cookbook, Lavash. For the trip, co-authors Ara Zada, a Los Angeles-based chef; John Lee, a San Francisco-based photographer; and I, a San Francisco-based cookbook writer, teamed up with Christine Goroyan, a translator from Yerevan, and Raffi Youredjian, a childhood friend of Zada who had recently relocated to Armenia.

Youredjian was the one who had told us about Qefilyan—he had met the chef while writing Tour de Armenia, a book chronicling his cycling journey around Armenia. All Youredjian needed to say was “khorovats champion,” and we knew we had to make a stop at Armen’s, Qefilyan’s namesake restaurant.

We drove our dusty rental car down the long driveway and past a couple of tour buses before parking. Sure enough, the Italian tourists we had seen at Haghpat had already taken their seats in a big indoor dining hall. To the right of the entrance lay an open kitchen centered around a large mangal, a khorovats-style grill. The biggest difference between a mangal and an American-style grill is that there are no grates: cooks prop long skewers of meat and vegetables over either side of the grill, suspending the meat and vegetables directly over the embers.

Youredjian had called ahead to ask for a special table set outside for us, since the unpredictable weather of the Lori region seemed to be cooperating. Overlooking the gorge, our table under a tree was covered with linen and lined with plates. Pitchers of kompot and carafes of local vodka were ready for us to start toasting to our luck with lunch spots. Qefilyan joined us, and before the first plates of khorovats could arrive, I began firing questions (translated by Goroyan) to learn about his champion technique.

The Allure of Khorovats
While grilling meat on skewers is common around the world, in Armenia the act is taken on with rare passion.

Part of the reason has to do with scarcity: obtaining enough good-quality meat to grill was never guaranteed during Soviet times. It then became a rarity during the post-Soviet period of the 1990s, when even bread was scarce. These days, inviting people over for khorovats sends out the signal that life is good.

The celebratory nature of khorovats was on full display on May 8 when Nikol Pashinyan was elected prime minister. Traffic stopped in Yerevan to make room for one big street party. And the food that fueled the celebration? Khorovats. Partiers dragged their charcoal-fueled mangals into the streets and danced with skewers of meat in their hands.
That’s what makes khorovats easy to like: the equipment is low-tech, the preparation simple, and the char-grilled results a dependable way to soak up all that celebratory vodka.

How to Win a Khorovats Championship
There is a big gap between dragging a mangal into the street and cooking meat on it and becoming a khorovats champion.

Like barbecue enthusiasts across America, khorovats competitors take their technique seriously. Monitoring heat is crucial. While it’s not quite the low-and-slow technique favored in American barbecue, Qefilyan stressed the importance of a gentle fire. He said he holds his hand over the mangal and counts to twelve—if the fire is too hot for his hand, it’s too hot for the meat. This was unusual compared with khorovats we saw prepared elsewhere with flames licking the meat and charring the outsides.

We asked Qefilyan what he prepared for the competition. While pork is the most common meat for khorovats in Armenia (an influence carried over from Soviet times), he chose lamb, simply seasoning the chunks of meat with salt, paprika, black pepper, and thyme and threading a little lamb fat on the skewers between the meat for richness.

For nearly forty minutes, he cooked the meat, turning it frequently to cook evenly. To perfume the smoke, he went untraditional, spearing quince halves seasoned with allspice and clove onto rose hip branches. As the quince juice dripped into the coals, he explained, the smoke seasoned the meat.

When it came to presentation, he stuck with tradition, laying out a sheet of lavash and arranging the meat on top, then decorating with pomegranate seeds. It wasn’t the decoration that won him the top prize, though—it was the flavor.

By then, platters of khorovats had started to arrive at our table, and we turned our attention to the chunks of pork mixed with sliced onion, the sides of salads and cheese, and the basket of lavash. It was time to dig in—after we toasted our champion host.

Kate Leahy is a freelance journalist, cookbook author, and recipe developer. Her next book, Lavash, created with fellow Armenian food enthusiasts John Lee and Ara Zada, will be released by Chronicle Books in fall 2019. This story originally appeared on the Smithsonian Folklife Festival blog.

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