Saturday, 29 December 2018

Armenian News... A Topalian... 11 editorials

BBC Radio 4 - Crossing Continents
Armenia: Return to the town that nearly died

From a newspaper clip sent to me but the publication name was not included.

Taleen Mansourian has been promoted to be the director of investments and income department of the IranianOil Institution because of her knowledge an experience.

She graduated as an international lawyer from the university and worked in the oil industry for years amassing great experience. Her appointment to this high profile as a woman and Armenian will serve as an example for others, whether in oil or other industries.

Panorama, Armenia
Dec 26 2018
Parliament receives petition seeking to strip Garo Paylan of parliamentary immunity

The Turkish parliament has received a petition seeking to strip eight deputies, including Turkish lawmaker of Armenian descent Garo Paylan of parliamentary immunity.
Ermenihaber reports, the petition was submitted to the parliamentary constitutional and justice commission on the grounds of "insulting the Turkish nation, the Turkish state, its army and police forces." 

Meanwhile, the summery of the proceedings prepared by the Ankara Chief Prosecutor's office says that Paylan is accused over an interview he gave in Canada in May 2017 for "public humiliation of the Turkish state and its president."

BBC Monitoring Trans Caucasus Unit
Supplied by BBC Worldwide Monitoring
December 24, 2018 Monday
Armenian media, experts mull Putin's remarks

Armenian media outlets and pundits have weighed in on Russian President Vladimir Putin's latest statements about bilateral relations with Yerevan.
Putin called Armenia one of Russia's "closest ally" and praised the two countries' "smooth relations" during his annual marathon press conference on 20 December. He underscored that there are no major problems that need to be resolved between the two countries. Putin also noted that the strong bilateral relations that were established by previous leaders should continue to develop.
Putin also said he will discuss the ties during the visit of acting Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to Moscow next week.
'New-generation relationship'
Putin's comments ushered in a "new-generation relationship" between the two countries despite the fact that the Russian leader had not congratulated Pashinyan on his bloc's victory in the 9 December parliamentary election, website said.
"This is what the Russian president is interested in now, and not [in formation of a new] Armenian parliament. That is to say, [he is interested in] what the first leader of the new generation, Pashinyan, is ready for, and what curve in the Armenian-Russian relations can be expected now and in future," the website said.
Though Putin made it clear that he would not tolerate any radical changes in relations with Armenia, he expressed readiness to take into consideration "the new global and regional realities", the website said.
'Conventional starting point'
Armenian pundits also noted Putin's statement that he will meet with Pashinyan in Moscow the following week.
Zhamanak paper described the expected Putin-Pashinyan meeting as a "conventional starting point" for the two leaders to transform bilateral relations.
The newspaper opined that Putin, when he mentioned "new" realties, he was signalling that Moscow was ready to take into consideration the arguments presented by the new Armenian government.
"The main issue, basically, refers to the boundaries of a compromise between Yerevan and Moscow in this issue. On the other hand, it is beyond doubt that there is no option but to transform relations, and this is accepted by the Russian president when he speaks about new realities. The issue is how does each side view this transformation," the paper said.
'First real test'
Zhoghovurd paper linked the upcoming Pashinyan-Putin meeting to negotiations on the gas price,noting the fact that the agreement on the Russian gas supplies to Armenia expires on 31 December.
"The gas price is the first real test, and based on the outcome, it will become clear in practice how solid the Armenian-Russian relations are," the paper said.
Sputnik Armenia website also noted that Putin and Pashinyan are most likely to discuss the gas price.
Expert in energy security Vahe Davtyan told the website that it is "hardly probable" that the gas price will be reconsidered.
Davtyan said there was a hope "to smooth over the problems" during the Moscow meeting also in relation to the gas price, noting that Putin's rhetoric demonstrated that there are "points of contact" in the gas issue.
Needing each other
Political expert Yervand Bozoyan expressed conviction that the current difficulties in bilateral relations would eventually be eliminated between the allies.
"Yes, there is some negative background in the Armenian-Russian relations. But it takes time for the sides to eliminate these rough edges. ... Both Moscow and Yerevan understand that they need each other. And this understanding will dominate the talks between the leaders," Bozoyan was quoted as saying by Sputnik Armenia.
The website said that the current Armenian authorities' strategy is not quite understandable for Russia. Despite this, Russia is trying to find the "golden mean" to build a dialogue with Yerevan, realising that Armenia is its strategic partner, the website said.

RFE/RL Report 
Pashinian Reaffirms Commitment To Closer Ties With Iran
December 24, 2018
Karine Simonian

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian has reaffirmed his government’s intention to deepen Armenia’s relations with neighboring Iran despite U.S. economic sanctions re-imposed on the Islamic Republic.

“We intend to deepen not only economic but also political relations with Iran. All prerequisites for that exist in Armenia,” he told reporters during a weekend visit to Vanadzor.

Pashinian spoke while attending the official opening of an Armenian-Iranian joint venture that will manufacture pressurized gas cylinders in Armenia’s third largest city.

Top executives of the Iranian company Rad Sane and its Armenian partners that have built the plant also announced other investment projects when they met 
with Pashinian before the ceremony. In particular, they are planning to assemble Iranian-designed cars in Armenia.

“Our cars could enter the Armenian market already in March,” said Arayik Asrian, a co-owner of the new plant.

“I said during our conversation that we are very interested in having new investments flow in from Iran and more Iranian tourists visit Armenia,” stressed Pashinian.

The Armenian leader already pledged last month to “develop relations with Iran very intensively.” He said the United States “understands our situation and policy.”

Earlier in November, a team of officials from the U.S. state and treasury departments visited Yerevan to explain the sanctions Armenia’s government and private sector. Iran was also high on the agenda of U.S. National Security 
Adviser John Bolton’s October trip to Armenia.

Bolton said he hold Pashinian that Washington will enforce the sanctions “very vigorously.” Commercial and other traffic through the Armenian-Iranian border is therefore “going to be a significant issue,” he said.

Pashinian said his government is doing its best to minimize the negative impact of the sanctions on Iranians doing business in Armenia. He again acknowledged 
that in the last few months Armenian commercial banks have closed the accounts of Iranian citizens living in the country.

Pashinian insisted that the U.S. administration “has no problem” with law-abiding Iranian nationals having bank accounts in Armenia. Armenian banks, he said, are simply afraid of being blacklisted by Washington.

“Some banks have already realized that there won’t be problems with the accounts of private individuals [from Iran] who have not been sanctioned,” he went on. “This is not a state problem but we are now very closely cooperating, discussing and talking to solve that problem.”

RFE/RL Report
Armenian Police Corruption ‘Eliminated’
December 25, 2018
Narine Ghalechian

Valeri Osipian, the chief of the Armenian police, on Monday claimed to have eliminated corruption in the police ranks since taking office after this spring’s “velvet revolution” in the country.

Osipian made the statement as he answered questions from Facebook users at the RFE/RL studio in Yerevan. He was asked to comment on critics’ claims that he has been “weak” on crime and traffic rule violations.

“I’m very weak,” Osipian replied with sarcasm. “But I have managed to eliminate corruption in the [police] system.”

He also cited in that regard the recent arrests and prosecutions of prominent individuals connected to Armenia’s former leadership and claimed credit for the 
fact that there were virtually no reports of vote buying or violence in the December 9 parliamentary elections.

Nikol Pashinian named Osipian to run the national police service on May 10 two days after being elected Armenia’s prime minister following weeks of anti-government protests led by him. Osipian was until then a deputy head of Yerevan’s police department responsible for public order and crowd control.

Introducing Osipian to high-ranking police officials on May 11, Pashinian said one of his main tasks will be to crack down on police corruption which has long been endemic. Osipian replaced virtually deputy chiefs of the police in the 
following days.

The police chief admitted on Monday there has been a major increase in the number of officially registered crimes in Armenia since then. But he blamed it on objective factors such as a general amnesty declared by the authorities in late October.

The controversial amnesty led to the release of hundreds of convicts. According to the police, some of them have already been arrested for committing burglaries and other crimes.

Osipian also repeated his recent claims that many crimes were underreported by the police under his predecessors. Besides, he said, victims of petty crimes are now less reluctant to report them because of greater public trust in the police., Armenia
Dec 26 2018
Magnitude 3-4 earthquake hits Armenia 
The “Survey for Seismic Protection” Agency of Armenia on Wednesday recorded a magnitude-2.7 earthquake in the country, at 12:09am local time.

The seismic activity occurred 10 km southeast from Ashotsk village of Shirak Province, and its hypocenter was 10 km beneath the surface.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations informed Armenian that the tremor measured magnitude 3-4 at the epicenter.

The quake was felt in Bavra and Ashotsk villages, with magnitude 3.

ARKA, Armenia
Dec 26 2018
Armenia sees almost 9 percent growth in foreign tourist visits in 9 months 

The number of foreign tourists visiting Armenia in the first  9 months of 2018 grew by  8.8% when compared to the same time span of  2017 amounting to 1,275,209 people, the head of the Tourism Committee Hripsime Grigoryan told reporters on Wednesday.

She said  the main stream of tourists came from Russia (525,423 people),  Georgia (233,125 people), Iran (132,829 people), also USA (46,138 people) and Ukraine (24 308 people). The number of tourists visiting Armenia from India has grown by 31%, from China  by 7% and from Kazakhstan by 83%.

"The main task of the Tourism Committee in 2018 has been to present the changes stemming from the velvet revolution , which have strengthened the country's image of a stable and safe destination for tourism," Grigoryan said.

She also said that 1.5 million people visited the Smithsonian Folklife Festival in Washington, USA earlier this summer that focused on Armenia and several American tour operators included Armenia in their tour packages.

She also reported that tourism in Armenia is getting “younger,” meaning that more young people seeking  extreme, sports and festival tourism are visiting the country. 

FARS News Agency, Iran
December 22, 2018 Saturday
More Iranian Tourists Expected to Visit Armenia
TEHRAN (FNA)- Iran's Ambassador to Armenia Seyed Kazem Sajjadi said on Saturday that the number of Iranian tourists visiting Armenia is expected to rise in the next year, considering the facilitations made and the enactment of visa wavering for the two countries' tourists.
Iran's Ambassador to Armenia, referring to the abolition of the visa system between Tehran and Yerevan since 2015 and the efforts made by the embassy, stated that the tourism industry between the two countries will boom more than ever.
Seyed Kazem Sajjadi spoke in a meeting on the study of ways to develop tourism between the two countries, removing the barriers and restrictions that exist for the development of this industry.
At the meeting, which was attended by representatives of the Armenian Tourist Committee, heads of several tourism agencies and Armenian hotel owners, he added, 'Industrial tourism is important, which in the event of development, will bring other industries along with it.'
The Ambassador of the Islamic Republic of Iran in Armenia emphasizing that developing tourism needs to be planed and prepared for long-term, advised Armenian authorities on providing facilities for Iranian tourists, in particular reducing travel costs to Armenia.
According to Sajjadi, the reduction of airline tickets, halal food and the creation of halal restaurants in Yerevan and border cities, the installation of Persian signs and banners could increase the number of Iranian tourists from Armenia.
Iran and Armenia are two neighboring countries with broad range of areas of cooperation from energy to tourism and culture.
Armenian Ambassador to Tehran Artashes Tumanyan said on Monday that his country is after importing more gas from Iran, voicing Yerevan's readiness to increase electricity export to Iran.
Addressing a meeting themed "Iran-Armenia Ties, Opportunities and Challenges", he added that recent political development in Yerevan have had no impact on the country's foreign policy.
He also voiced his country's readiness for increasing exports of electricity to Iran, hoping that the two countries' exchanges would rise in near future.
As to Washington's pressure on Yerevan to reduce relations with Iran, he said, "The US has talked with Armenia about Tehran-Yerevan ties, as they have understood that Tehran relations are of high significance for us."
Meanwhile, Chairman of Iran-Armenia Friendship Society Mohammad Reza Damavandi complained that despite high historic and political relations in the cultural and media fields, the two countries have failed to widen their relations to desirable levels.
While Tehran and Yerevan have set a target of one billion dollars, they have had only 200 to 250 million dollars in trade exchanges, he said.
Earlier in min-August, Iranian Deputy Energy Minister Homayoun Haeri announced that Tehran and Yerevan are currently working hard to finalize implementation of the third power transmission line from Iran to Armenia.
"Taking timely measures for implementation of the third power transmission line from Iran to Armenia is one of the most important parts of Iran-Armenia bilateral and multilateral cooperation," Haeri said after his meeting with Armenian Minister of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources Artur Grigoryan in Yerevan on Friday.
The Iranian deputy energy minister said that during his meeting with Grigoryan, the Armenian minister underlined that the importance of finalizing the project of construction of the third high-voltage Iran-Armenia power transmission line.
Grigoryan, who serves also as a co-chairman of the Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission, noted that in the context of intensification of economic cooperation between Tehran and Yerevan, construction of a high-voltage power transmission line between Armenia and Georgia can play a serious role.
The sides also exchanged views on the agreements reached at the 15th meeting of the Armenian-Iranian intergovernmental commission held in Yerevan in 2018. It was stressed that the intergovernmental commission has a special mission in deepening and expanding trade and economic relations between the countries.
Both sides stressed the importance of the need to intensify mutual visits, which help find effective solutions to problems arising in the implementation of joint projects.
Iran and Armenia signed four agreements in the fields of economy, customs and sports agreements in February.
The four cooperation agreements in the fields of economy, customs and sports were inked at the closing ceremony of 15th Summit of Joint Commission of Iran and Armenia Cooperation.
Earlier this year, Iranian Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian had placed special emphasis on the necessity of steering public and private sectors to increase transaction volume and joint investment.
"Fortunately, the 15th meeting of Joint Technical, Economic and Cultural Commission between Iran and Armenia was held in an amicable and peaceful environment," he said, adding, "I hope that mutual cooperation would be boosted between the two countries in the best possible form in future."

Lragir, Armenia
Dec 25 2018
Prices for apartments have increased in Yerevan and marzes in November 2018
The average market prices for apartments in multi-apartment buildings with 1m² surface calculation have increased by 0.3 % in November in comparison with October, while by 11.1% in comparison with November 2017 in Yerevan. The average market prices for apartments in multi-apartment buildings with 1m² surface calculation have increased by 0.2% in November 2018 in comparison with October 2018 in the cities of marzes in Armenia.
Information and Public Relations Unit of the Real Estate Cadastre Committee of the Republic of Armenia
23 December 2018
Armenia records highest rise in trade turnover in EAEU

Armenia has recorded the highest rise in trade turnover among the EAEU member states, ARMENPRESS reports member of the Eurasian expert club, economist Ashot Tavadyan said on December 22 during the 5th annual session of the club.

“Starting from 2016 the macroeconomic indexes of EAEU member states has significantly improved. Armenia has recorded the highest rise in trade turnover. In 2016-17 Armenia’s exports nearly doubled. In 2017 Armenia’s exports for the first time exceeded 2 billion USD”, the economist said.

According to him, the EAEU has great development potential and it’s necessary to spare no efforts to fully utilize that potential.

Edited and translated by Tigran Sirekanyan

CNN News
Dec 24 2018
Dutch church clocks up 1,400 hours to prevent family being deported
By Simon Cullen

A non-stop church service in the Netherlands -- aimed at stopping an Armenian family from being deported -- has become so popular it has issued tickets for the Christmas period to control numbers.

The service has been going around the clock since October 26 -- more than 1,400 hours.

Under Dutch law, police officers are not permitted to enter a church while a religious service is taking place. So, church leaders hatched the idea of meeting non-stop to prevent the Tamrazyan's from being removed from the country.

Since then, hundreds of pastors and volunteers have taken part in the service.

Hayarpi Tamrazyan (C) from Armenia attends a service in the Bethel church as it holds round-the-clock religious services to prevent the family from being deported.

Axel Wicke from the Bethel church and community center in The Hague told CNN the service has become something of a "pilgrimage" for people across the Netherlands.

"We have had to account for so many people who want to visit during Christmas," Wicke said, adding that two of the services are being streamed on Christmas eve and Christmas Day.

The Tamrazyans have lived in the Netherlands for almost nine years, but their claim for political asylum was rejected. The Dutch Minister for Migration, Mark Harbers, has so far refused to use his discretionary powers to intervene and allow them to stay. His office declined to specifically discuss the case when contacted by CNN. 

Last week, the church said it was disappointed by the Minister's inaction and vowed to continue the service.

"Just before Christmas, when we celebrate Gods humanity-loving and peaceful deeds, we feel strengthened not to forsake our responsibility for the Tamrazyan family," Rev. Theo Hettema, chair of the Protestant Church The Hague, said in a statement.

He says the church provided an "extensive file with new information" to the Minister to help convince him of the family's case. 

21-year-old Hayarpi -- the oldest daughter in the family of five -- said on Twitter she has been encouraged by the full attendance at the church.

Speaking to Reuters earlier this month, she said: "I really don't know what the outcome will be, but we hope we can stay here (in the Netherlands), because this is our home, this is where we belong. And my brother, my sister and I, we grew up in the Netherlands and we have been living here for almost nine years."

This Christmas season, though, the family will spend time together holed up in a church that has offered them sanctuary, hoping and praying for a Christmas miracle.

Angelus News
Dec 22 2018
Ancient Christian capital rises again in stunning New York exhibit
Mike Aquilina

"Altar Frontal," Gold thread, silver thread, and silk thread on silk, 1741. Used to cover the front of an altar, this work illustrates the founding of the cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin as seen in St. Gregory the Illuminator’s vision. 

The archangel, standing by the saint and the boar-headed King Tridates, reveals the vision. Above is the Trinity, with God presented as an old man, the Holy Spirit as a radiant dove, and Christ as a young man holding the golden hammer, with which he will strike the earth to announce the location of Holy Etchmiadzin, the first Armenian church, which stands across from them. The Cathedral of Holy Etchmiadzin is depicted as it appeared when the frontal was embroidered. (METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ART)

For a moment the Armenians were unforgotten.
Both the Wall Street Journal and The New York Times gave lavish coverage to the “Armenia!” exhibit, which opened at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in September and runs till January 13.

And both noted the importance of Armenia in the story of Christianity. On any map of historic Christian capitals, Armenia — like Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople — merits a star. Armenia’s faith is inextricable from its culture. It is distinctive, defiant, and durable. 

It was the first nation to adopt Christianity as its state religion, and it did so in A.D. 301, when the Roman Empire was still actively persecuting the Faith.

Armenia is today, as it was in ancient times, situated at the convergence of many trade routes. It has served as a land bridge, first between the Persian and Roman Empires, and later between the Islamic world and Christendom. At various times it controlled ports on three major seas: the Mediterranean, Caspian, and Black.

Such a position has been a boon and a bane. Armenian culture is uniquely cosmopolitan, drawing equally from influences in the Far East and Far West. But, like all buffer zones, Armenia has suffered constant suspicion — often escalating to hostility — from the gigantic powers beyond its borders at either side.

The Metropolitan Museum’s exhibit celebrates a deeply religious culture that has endured and triumphed, despite the ravages of conquest, influence, persecution, enforced poverty, and even genocide.

Among the items in “Armenia!” are “stelae,” commemorative stones that date from the earliest years of the nation’s Christianity. Their sculpted symbols testify to a piety that is Christ-centered, Trinitarian, biblical, and Marian. There are frequent allusions to Noah’s Ark, which, according to the Book of Genesis (8:4), came to rest on Mount Ararat, in Armenian territory.

The other star of Armenian art is St. Gregory the Illuminator, the fourth-century monk who converted the pagan King Tiridates in A.D. 301. Tiridates had made the mistake of trying to seduce a Christian nun, and then killing her and her companions when they resisted him. 
His sin earned him madness and bodily afflictions, from which only Gregory could deliver him. The story is told repeatedly in the exhibit, in icons, sculptures, silks, manuscripts, and architectural elements.

Armenian-American scholar Michael Papazian spoke to Angelus News about the significance of the Met exhibit. “This is the first major exhibit in a major Western museum devoted to the medieval art and culture of Armenia. It is a rare opportunity for someone to see so many important works gathered from collections all over the world in one museum gallery,” he said.

“The curator’s aim is to give greater attention to Armenian culture, which for so long has been considered of lesser importance in relation to other Eastern Christian traditions.”

Papazian is a professor of philosophy at Berry College in Rome, Georgia, and has translated the works of another Armenian Gregory — St. Gregory of Narek, an Armenian monk of the 10th century, whom Pope Francis recently named a Doctor of the Church.

For Papazian, visiting the exhibit was a surprisingly emotional moment. “Not only the works of sacred art but also the liturgical music playing in the gallery made it a truly spiritual experience,” he said.

“I had seen the relic of the lance that pierced the side of Christ when I was in Armenia many years ago. At that time I was skeptical that this was a piece of the true lance. But for some reason this time, seeing it at the Met and reading the description, I trembled at the thought that this spear had touched the body of Christ and caused his blood to pour out.”

"The Holy Lance" on display at the Museum of Echmiadzin, Armenia. According to Armenian tradition, the lance used by the Roman centurion Longinus to pierce Christ’s side at the crucifixion was brought to Armenia by St. Thaddeus the apostle. It is currently part of the Armenia! exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

Since the first millennium, Islamic conquests had reduced the territory and stature of the Armenians. It was the Ottoman Turks who sought to deliver a deathblow to the culture. Their systematic genocide of the Armenians (1909–1918) left 1.5 million dead and many more exiled.
Adolf Hitler looked to the Armenian genocide as a model for his campaign against Europe’s Jews. In one address he asked the rhetorical question: “Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?”

In exile, however, the Armenians gathered and reconstituted communities that were distinctively Armenian. The Los Angeles area hosts the world’s largest population of Armenians outside Armenia. Armenians probably make up more than a third of the residents of Glendale. There are Armenian Catholic churches in both Glendale and Los Angeles.

St. Gregory the Illuminator Armenian Catholic Church in Glendale, California. (WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)

These exiles took with them a few family artifacts — and the memory of their people, now told with surprising boldness, and rare Christian spirit, in the Met’s show. 
In the Wall Street Journal, critic Edward Rothstein drew a lesson for all peoples about the relationship between religion and beauty. “It is remarkable,” he wrote, “how deeply rooted our greatest art museums are in the religious realm. Artifacts reflecting profound faith — even those once used in the most sacred rituals — are at the foundation of these institutions. 

“Removed from their origins in worship, these relics, illuminations, reliquaries and statues settle into an afterlife in our secular aesthetic temples, making it clear that for their creators (as for many viewers) the celebration of beauty is also a religious act.”

The beauty of Armenian culture is Christian and distinct from any other culture on earth, drawing from the riches of many and synthesizing styles and ideas in surprising ways. But its beauty is hard won, at the cost of the lives of many martyrs. It is a supreme and sublime beauty made for the glory of God, and it surpasses anything produced merely for art’s sake.

This is one exhibit that has earned its exclamation point.

Mike Aquilina is the author of more than 50 books, including “A  History of the Church in 100 Objects” and “The Fathers of the Church.” He is a contributing editor to Angelus.

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