Friday, 25 October 2019

Armenian News,,, A Topalian 5 editorials

MediaMax, Armenia
Oct 22 2019
EU to assist Armenia with education reforms
Ambassador Wiktorin has remarked that education is a priority sector for EU and the union is ready to assist Armenia with implementation of relevant reforms.
The parties have agreed that the EU will help the government to complete the drafting of the reform strategy.
Arayik Harutyunyan and Andrea Wiktorin have also discussed the need to create mechanisms for strengthening cooperation in higher education and establish ties between universities, form a network of Erasmus+ alumni and the possibility of expanding the program into the public education system. 

Oct 22 2019
Armenian government gathers forces against senior judge

The chair of the constitutional court has become a primary target of the new authorities, and is now facing two separate criminal cases.

Ani Mejlumian
The Armenian government’s campaign against a senior judge connected to the former regime is accelerating, with two criminal cases opened against him and one of his former associates arrested. The moves have further heightened the rift in Armenia between those who believe the new government needs to remake the judiciary at any cost, and those who believe the new government is effectively repoliticizing the court. 

At the center of the battle is Hrair Tovmasyan, the chairman of the constitutional court. Tovmasyan is the last remaining senior member of the formerly ruling Republican Party of Armenia to hold power in the country; he was a former member of parliament and played a key role in rewriting the constitution that allowed Serzh Sargsyan to stay in office indefinitely by sliding from the president’s chair to that of the prime minister. That effort ultimately backfired, leading to mass protests that brought the current authorities to power. 

On October 4, the Armenian parliament voted overwhelmingly to call on the constitutional court to remove Tovmasyan. Parliament itself has no authority to remove a judge from the constitutional court; only other judges on the court can do it. But 10 days later, the court rejected parliament’s motion. 

Along with the political effort to oust him, Armenia’s law enforcement agencies have been pursuing legal cases against him. On October 17, the Special Investigative Service (SIS) launched a case investigating “usurpation of power” related to Tovmasyan’s appointment to the court in March 2018. 

The SIS said it was responding to a criminal report 
filed by Arman Babajanyan, an independent member of parliament formerly of the opposition Bright Armenia faction. Babajanyan alleged that Tovmasyan worked together with the Republican Party to ensure that he would take the judicial position just ahead of the new constitution coming into effect; the new constitution instituted stricter term limits for judges. 
Arsen Babayan, a former parliamentary staff member, was arrested on October 21, accused of aiding Tovmasyan in that scheme. 

The second investigation against Tovmasyan was launched by the National Security Service (NSS) into the judge’s personal wealth. The case has to do with renovations done on state properties carried out between 2012 and 2014, when he was justice minister, and allegations that state funds were stolen. 
In the course of that investigation Tovmasyan’s daughters were called in to the NSS for questioning and his father was visited by officers who wanted to ask about how his roof was repaired. 

A small group of Republican Party officials and loyalists protested in front of the NSS building while Tovmasyan’s daughters were being questioned on October 18. "It's a bogus political order,” the party’s deputy president, Eduard Sharmazanov, told reporters. 

Those claims were met with mockery by MPs of the new ruling party. 

“It turns out that the relatives of the officials also have immunity, that is, they cannot be invited for questioning, law enforcement officials should not approach them,” Vahagn Hovakimyan told RFE/RL.
“One day I will probably tell you what my family, father, mother, and wife went through as a result of my work in 2010-2018,” said Aren Mkrtchyan, another My Step MP and former activist, in a Facebook post. “Small- and medium-sized remnants of Serzh, let's remember who you were, with all the details. Just sit and don’t make a sound.” 

The campaign to dethrone Tovmasyan began in July when the government appointed to the constitutional court Vahe Grigoryan, an ally of the government and former prominent advocate in the fight for justice for protesters killed in 2008, in what became known as the “March 1” events. 

During Grigoryan’s confirmation in parliament he indicated that he did not accept Tovmasyan’s authority and attempted to displace him using a technicality based on a small difference in wordings in the old and new constitutions. 

The Venice Commission, a Council of Europe body advising members on legal issues, openly criticized Grigoryan’s bid and the parliament’s apparent support of it. 

“It was disturbing that this statement by the judge has been applauded in parliament and there might be a risk of interference with the mandates of the sitting judges,” the commission said in a statement. 
The issue of overthrowing Tovmasyan took a backseat for a few months but then seemed to be reactivated by a September 4 court ruling in favor of former president Robert Kocharyan, who is facing trial related to the March 1 events.  

Edmon Marukyan, the leader of the opposition Bright Armenia faction in parliament, criticized the campaign against Tovmasyan, arguing that it was a sideshow distracting from reforms that the country should be implementing. He further suggested that it appeared to be aimed at letting Grigoryan replace Tovmasyan. 

“For handling Tovmasyan’s case this way, Armenia will have to answer to the international community in Strasburg and so on,” he said on October 21, referring to the home of the European Court of Human Rights. “The chain of events related to this case as a whole will be seen as unlawful investigations against Tovmasyan and will be a weapon in the hands of other side,” the former government. Marukyan continued. “The involvement of NSS is unnecessary attention drawn on this case.”

Ani Mejlumyan is a reporter based in Yerevan.

JAM news
Oct 22 2019
Armenian PM ‘secretly doubles’ ministerial salaries

The government says “the process was a secret, therefore, this information is not subject to disclosure”

In July 2019, the Prime Minister of Armenia secretly ordered the salaries of ministers, deputy ministers and senior secretaries of the ministries to be raised.
Information about this appeared on the website of the online newspaper Hetq.

The administration of PM Nikol Pashinyan says they have already commented on the situation and stated that all “the processes were secret, therefore, this information is not subject to disclosure”.
Salary raises 

To verify the information about PM Nikol Pashinyan’s secret raise, Hetq sent written inquiries to some ministries about the number of employees and the salary fund from May to August.

It turned out that the Minister of Emergency Situations Felix Tsolakyan and the Minister of the Environment Eric Grigoryan received 6 million drams (about $12,630) over four months.

That is, their monthly salaries amounted to 1.5 million drams (approximately $3,157).

However, per the law “On Remuneration of Persons Holding State Positions”, the ministerial salary index is 12. That is, a minister’s salary is rated at the base salary amount – 66,140 drams ($139.54), multiplied by 12. Which is 793,680 AMD, or $1,670, including taxes.

Thus, the publication found that without amending the law on remuneration, by secret decision of the Prime Minister, the salary of ministers had doubled.
This also applies to the salaries of deputy ministers.

According to the index established by the law, the deputy minister’s salary is 562,160 drams (approximately $1,185).  However, after Pashinyan’s order, it grew to 1,062,000 AMD – about $2,230.

As for the senior secretaries of the ministries, they are now receiving 870,000 drams (approximately $1,835) instead of 595,260 ($1,255).

 Comments from the PM’s administration 
The situation concerning the pay raise has has already been commented on by the Prime Minister’s administration.

The acting head of the public relations department of the administration, Prime Minister Armen Khachatryan stated:
“We consider it necessary to note that these … officials provide information on income, expenses and property, which implies: this process was completely transparent.”

Political scientists and politicians sound off
Political analyst Gagik Hambaryan made a harsh statement:
“For one year, the unprofessional ministers of Pashinyan have not carried out such a volume of work for which they need to be paid 1,500,000 drams … Why did the salaries increase, what kind of professional personnel were included in the government, who … put their skills into the state system  management?”

Hambaryan accused the current authorities betraying their principles:
“The most heinous thing in Pashinyan’s act is that all this was done secretly.  What accountability can be spoken of here? What open and transparent work style is there to speak of? Compared to their predecessors, they are doing everything in a much more impudent manner.”

Political scientist Grant Melik-Shahnazaryan also believes that the prime minister’s statements and his actions diverge:
“In fact, Nikol Pashinyan is guided not by transparency and full responsibility to society, but by political expediency and his political plans.  That is, priority is not given to his declared values and approaches, but to what best suits the interests of Pashinyan’s political team.”

The head of the Prosperous Armenia parliamentary faction, oligarch Gagik Tsarukyan, stated that raising ministers’ salaries secretly from the people was an unacceptable step:
“If people see that such and such a minister is doing their job well, they feel the results of their work in their daily lives, and they can increase it by 10 times.  But to do it secretly is insulting both for deputies and for the people.  The word ‘secret’ after the revolution is unacceptable for us”, said Gagik Tsarukyan.

Reaction on social media 
Armenian Facebook users are avidly discussing the news – here are some of their comments:

“Please tell me how many years it will take older people who receive a pension to receive the amount of the monthly salary of one so-called minister? Or how about teachers? If you divide one minister’s salary by a teacher’s salary, how much will it be?”

“Let them also check how premiums were paid to the Ministry of Economy during the period From May-September!  There is a group of privileged people who receive bonuses more than their salary!”

“It’s a shame that they did it secretly.  After all, this was not a matter of state security.  Such things should be public, because we changed the last government because of this behavior.  People need to know how budget money is Being spent.”

“If in the end it turns out that this is all true, then it will be a terrible shame!  We fought for a transparent and honest government.”

Public Radio of Armenia
Oct 23 2019
Samuel Moorat Armenian College in Sevres attacked

The Samuel Moorat Armenian College in Sevres, France, has once again been attacked. 

Armenia’s Ambassador to France Hasmik Tolmajian has condemned this act of vandalism.
“We are gravely concerned about repeated vandalism against the Armenian Samuel College Moorat of Sèvres. These acts must not go unpunished,” the Ambassador said in a Twitter post.

The College in Sevres was once again attacked by an organized gang on January 2nd, 2019. 

The gang broke into the three central buildings of the college and smashed the doors and windows of the 24 rooms of the building with metal rods and stones.

Public Radio of Armenia
Oct 22 2019
Mastermind behind 1999 attack on Armenian Parliament applies for parole
Nairi Hunanyan, the man who led the terror attack on the Armenian parliament on October 27, 1999 and who has been serving a life-sentence since being convicted in 2003, has applied for parole, Arpenpress quotes Department of Corrections spokesperson Nona Navikyan as saying.
Hunanyan’s application requesting early release is being processed, she said. “That’s all I can say at this moment,” Navikyan said.
On October 27, 1999 five armed gunmen led by Hunanyan stormed into the parliament, while it was holding a session and assassinated Prime Minister Vazgen Sargsyan, Speaker Karen Demirchyan, Deputy Speakers Yuri Bakhshyan and Ruben Miroyan, as well as three lawmakers and a Cabinet member. The gunmen held the remaining MPs in parliament hostage until surrendering to authorities the next day.
The five perpetrators, which include Hunanyan’s younger brother and uncle, were sentenced to life in prison in 2003.

Wednesday, 23 October 2019

Armenian News... A Topalian 11 editorials

Etchmiadzin Mother Church Restoration Appeal

Click to see the huge amount of essential work needed to address the impact centuries of weathering and general deterioration over time:
(in Armenian)

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OC Media
Oct 15 2019
Armenia offers assistance to refugees as thousands flee Turkish offensive

A sizeable community of ethnic Armenians has found itself under fire in north­east­ern Syria in the wake of Turkey’s offensive. Armenian author­i­ties have stated that they are willing to help them relocate. 

Thousands of civilians have fled in the wake of the Turkish bom­bard­ment and incursion into north­east­ern Syria that began on 9 October.

 The Turkish gov­ern­ment claims it is seeking to establish a buffer zone along the border in order to secure the country against Kurdish ‘terror groups’ and to resettle Syrian refugees.

However, a rash of civilian deaths and recent videos showing apparent war crimes committed by Turkey-backed forces, including the summary execution of Kurdish political leader Hevrin Khalaf, have raised worries about the impact the Turkish offensive will have on civilians, espe­cial­ly the region’s ethnic and religious minori­ties.

It is estimated that around 400–420 Armenian families, roughly 4,000 people, reside in Qamishli, while roughly 16 families live in the town of Tel Abyad. Both cities have been hit by shelling and airstrikes.In an interview with Azatutyun TV, 
Armen Melkonyan, the head of the Middle East and Africa Depart­ment at the Foreign Ministry of Armenia stated that 13 families from Tell Abyad have already left the town and have tem­porar­i­ly resettled in other parts of Syria. All of the families report­ed­ly
 left of their own accord and without any official assis­tance.

On 10 October, the Armenian Embassy in Syria also announced on Facebook that ‘Armenian diplo­mat­ic rep­re­sen­ta­tives are con­stant­ly in touch with Armenian community organ­i­sa­tions in Qamishli and other Armenian com­mu­ni­ties in the northern part of Syria.’ 
‘Possible steps are being coor­di­nat­ed for relo­cat­ing our com­pa­tri­ots who wish to do so and providing them with temporary shelters and first aid’, the statement  read.

The Embassy also noted that, for the moment, there was no need for immediate relo­ca­tions.

The Foreign Ministry of Armenia condemned Turkey’s
 military oper­a­tions.
‘Armenia condemns the military invasion by Turkey in north-east Syria, which would lead to dete­ri­o­ra­tion of regional security, losses among civilians, mass dis­place­ment and even­tu­al­ly to a new human­i­tar­i­an crisis. The plight of ethnic and religious minori­ties is of par­tic­u­lar concern’, the statement read.
The Syrian Civil War has left millions of people as refugees, among them thousands of ethnic Armenians. Syrian-Armenians are primarily descen­dants of Armenian Genocide survivors who were deported from what is now Turkey to Ottoman-run con­cen­tra­tion camps in the Syrian desert from 1915–1918.

According to  the Migration Service of Armenia, 22,000 Syrian-Armenian refugees have resettled to Armenia since the outbreak of the war in 2011.

On 11 October, Secretary of the National Security Council Armen Grigoryan told reporters that the Armenian author­i­ties had been in touch with the Armenian embassy and consular officials in Syria and were open to the pos­si­bil­i­ty of sending human­i­tar­i­an aid.

‘If there is a need for aid we will naturally make a decision. However, we have to under­stand that sending aid to the region will be difficult because it is under Turkish super­vi­sion’, he said.

In an interview with OC Media, Zareh Sinanyan, High Com­mis­sion­er of Diaspora Affairs of Armenia, said that offi­cial­ly Armenia is not, as of yet, ini­ti­at­ing a reset­tle­ment process.

‘There hasn’t been a request on the community level’, he said. ‘There have been indi­vid­ual requests to be removed from the region to other parts of Syria, for example, Aleppo. However, they have been retracted’, explained Sinanyan.

On 12 October, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan spoke by phone with Russian President Vladimir Putin as a follow-up to the Com­mon­wealth of Inde­pen­dent States (CIS) Summit which took place in Ashgabat, Turk­menistan on 10 October. During the call, they also discussed the situation in north­east­ern Syria. 
However, no other  details were given.

In February 2019, with Russian backing, the Armenian Gov­ern­ment deployed an 83 person con­tin­gent of military deminers and medical personnel to Syria. The Ministry of Defense stated that the mission was purely human­i­tar­i­an and carried out activ­i­ties connected with demining, anti-mine education, and providing medical assis­tance in Aleppo.

Arminfo, Armenia
Oct 15 2019
Another group of Armenian specialists left for Syria

According to the press service of the Center for Humanitarian  Demining and Expertise, on October 14, the second group of the third  shift of the humanitarian mission, consisting of sappers, doctors and  specialists ensuring their immediate safety, with the support of  Russian partners, left for by airplanes of the Russian armed forces  to the Syrian Arab Republic to provide humanitarian aid to the Syrian  people. 

To recall, the first group of the Armenian humanitarian mission  consisting of more than 80 people left for Syria on February 8 this  year. The first rotation occurred in June of this year.

JAM News
Oct 18 2019
Almost a quarter of Armenian economy remains untaxed

Most of the hidden income comes from small and medium-sized businesses; large businesses generally pay taxes regularly.

The share of the Armenian economy remaining outside taxation is 22 percent, head of the State Revenue Committee of Armenia David Ananyan said earlier today, noting that businesses engaged in trade most often avoid paying taxes.

What other areas do not pay taxes
In Armenia, a significant part of the shadow economy consists of small and medium-sized businesses.  Big business after the “velvet revolution” that took place in the spring of 2018 have begun paying taxes more regularly because it is difficult to hide large financial flows.

“It is difficult to engage in the withdrawal of money into the shadows at large enterprises and to work that way for years.  If only because our tax department works with such enterprises on a daily basis,” said David Ananyan, head of the State Revenue Committee.

According to him, the biggest contributor to the ‘shadow economy’ is trade, in addition to agriculture. The revenue service is trying to deal with violators by making more rigorous checks.

Expert opinion
The 22 percent announced by the State Revenue Committee is pretty close to reality, economist Hrant Mikayelyan believes.

He conducts his own research on the share of the shadow economy and claims that in August, 24 percent of the Armenian economy was ‘in the shadows.’

The expert agrees that large business generally pays taxes.  This is evidenced by the large number of new, officially registered workers and the amount of taxes paid.

And in the case of small business, according to the economist, it is difficult, and in some cases useless, to fight the shadow economy:

“Take, for example, people who rent out apartments.  To date, a tax of 10 percent has been established.  Only one percent of this is recorded. Now we could bring the tax down to two percent for all transactions to be recorded.  Theoretically, we can do this.  However, it will be difficult to ensure that everyone records their transactions, it is simply unprofitable.”
 In an interview with JAMnews, the expert confirmed the statement of the state structure on which areas have more “shadows”:

“The ratio of spheres shows that a large share of the shadow is in trade and services. For example, there is not much an issue in the production industry.”
Hrant Mikaelyan also said that before the revolution, the share of the shadow economy reached 26 percent of the total.  And the current figure of 22 percent may actually be reduced to 12 percent.
14 October, 2019
Armenia tourism grows

The number of tourists who visited Armenia in the first half of 2019 grew nearly 12,3%, Minister of Economy Tigran Khachatryan told a news conference.
He said that they’ve initiated marketing campaigns for the country’s promotion and as a result a number of foreign journalists and bloggers arrived to Armenia.

“The number of tourists who visited Armenia is recapped only for the semester yet. It amounted 770,000 people, which is 12,3% more compared to last year,” the minister said.

He said that 17 reporters from the Association of Journalists of Switzerland arrived to Armenia on introductory visits, and as a result more than 30 articles about Armenia were published.

Khachatryan also mentioned the Armenian-Chinese joint conference on commercial-economic matters. He pointed out an important circumstance. “That’s the creation of sufficient conditions for the use of the UnionPay

 payment system in Armenia. When we do this we will significantly increase Chinese tourists’ convenience on being in Armenia. It is the most popular one in China, and practically the only one which Chinese tourists can use while being abroad,” he said.
Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan

[interesting that the only Azeri press articles banging on about the destruction of their monuments within Artsakh with no mention of how they have treated Armenian ones in their territory, some of which has been filmed from across the border]
14 October, 2019
Gohar Agha Upper Mosque restored, inaugurated as Armenian-Iranian Cultural Center in Artsakh

A solemn event dedicated to the completion of Gohar Agha Upper Mosque’s restoration in Shushi took place on October 14th at the initiative of the Revival of Oriental Historical Heritage Foundation within the framework of the Aurora Forum.

Supporting the initiative of the Government of Artsakh, Revival of Oriental Historical Heritage Foundation started the program of the Upper Mosque restoration in 2014. The project was carried out as part of Initiatives for Development of Armenia (IDeA) Foundation’s Artsakh development program.
Artsakh’s Minister of Culture, Youth Affairs and Tourism Lernik Hovhannisyan delivered opening remarks at the event. He said that yet another monument has been restored in Artsakh, the purpose of which is to provide cultural diversity.

“Our monasteries and churches are being restored in the Islamic Republic of Iran. The monuments of Iranian culture which are located in Artsakh’s territory, particularly in Shushi, have also gotten our care because the Armenian-Iranian friendship has deep roots. The mosque will function as an Armenian-Iranian Scientific Cultural Center. This complex will contribute to the strengthening of the Armenian-Iranian ties,” Hovhannisyan said.

Armenia’s Minister of Education, Science, Cuture and Sports Arayik Harutyunyan said in remarks that the significance of the opening of the center is that it can become one of the important centers of studying Islamic culture.

He said the Armenian ministry is carrying out an initiative in this direction aimed at inventorizing existing samples of Shia culture in Armenia, which can be regularly displayed at the territory of the Shishi mosque.

IDeA Artsakh Development Program head Suren Amirbekyan thanked the Government of Artsakh and the philanthropists whose joint forces made the project a success.

“The restoration of the mosque is meaningful: it is a way of paying homage to another culture. I hope this will become a tourism site. Let me inform that we have a great number of tourists impatiently waiting to
 see the Iranian mosque in Artsakh,” he said.

IDeA co-founder, businessman Ruben Vardanyan, who was also in attendance, told ARTSAKHPRESS that he is very happy and grateful to all those who were involved in this project.

“The idea of carrying out this project emerged when we visited Shushi with friends. Shushi is Artsakh’s important cultural center which must be preserved and developed. We must preserve what we have and respect our history. If we want other countries to preserve our culture we must preserve theirs too. Our foundation is working to preserve Armenian values and culture all over the world,” he said, adding that they have other upcoming projects.

Archbishop Pargev Martirosyan, the Primate of the Diocese of Artsakh of the Armenian Apostolic Church, said he highly appreciated the restoration of the Iranian mosque in Shushi.  “On May 9, 1992, I said that no one must touch any of the mosques in Shushi and Akna. This is an integral part of our history and we are facing our history with love, unlike the neighboring two other nations who are erasing the traces of other religion or culture. This mosque is a religious cultural monument which our friendly Iranian people have built. They are preserving and restoring our monasteries, and we must do the same. We are not a nation who is breaking down monuments,” he said.

Artsakh’s President Bako Sahakyan, Speaker of Parliament Ashot Ghulyan and other government officials were in attendance.

Edited and translated by Stepan Kocharyan

Mining Journal
Oct 18 2019
Some Armenia reprieve for Lydian 
Armenia's Administrative Court has upheld an appeal by Canadian mine builder Lydian International against a directive of the country’s Environmental and Inspection Body last year that prevents mining at its flagship Amsular project. 

The court found the former head of the government inspection body had been actively involved in anti-Amulsar activities prior to his federal appointment which raised reasonable doubts about his objectivity. The court ruled Artur Grigoryan failed to recuse himself from considering the matter when required to do so and declared his directive invalid.
"This ruling is yet another confirmation that unlawful attempts have been made to interfere with Lydian's legal right to develop and operate the Amulsar project," said CEO Edward Sellers.

"It is regrettable that illegality of action against Lydian has now been found to extend to an official of the government of Armenia."Prime minister Nikol Pashinyan publicly acknowledged in August there was no legal basis on which the government could prevent Lydian from advancing the Amulsar project, stating it was in the national interest that Amulsar proceeded.

However, the company cannot resume construction activities while an illegal blockade of the Amulsar access road is in place.

"The government of Armenia has allowed continuous illegal blockades of the Amulsar project since June 2018 and failed since then to enforce court orders upholding Lydian's legal rights of access. When will the PM identify who the supporters of illegality against Lydian are, and when will the PM take steps to enforce the rule of law?" Seller asked.

The company has previously stated it would not be able to restart material construction on site until next April or May. It said there would be some rehabilitation and earthmoving associated with site recovery and remediation in the interim, and did not expect to start production until late 2020 or early 2021, "depending on how construction advances".
Amulsar is expected to be a large-scale, low-cost operation with production targeted to average about 204,000ozpa over a 12-year mine life. The deposit hosts 3.65Moz in the measured and indicated categories.

Lydian's Toronto-quoted shares (TSX:LYD) are tracking 50% lower year-on-year at C11c, which gives it a market value of $83.6 million.

RFE/RL Report
October 16, 2019
Ryanair To Launch Flights To Armenia
Artak Khulian

After months of negotiations with the Armenian government, the Irish budget airline Ryanair announced on Wednesday that it will launch flights between Europe and Armenia in January.

The company said it will initially fly from Yerevan to Milan and Rome four times a week. It pledged to open two more routes next summer: from Yerevan to 
Berlin and from Gyumri to the southern German city of Memmingen.

“These four new routes will further promote Armenian tourism, and will deliver over 130,000 customers annually to/from two European countries to one of Europe’s fastest-growing tourism destinations,” said David O’Brien, Ryanair’s 
chief commercial officer.

“We can service from 86 different cities and airports, whereas our competitors offer far less opportunity for Armenia,” O’Brien told a joint news conference with Tatevik Revazian, the head of the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation Committee, held at Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport.

Revazian negotiated with Ryanair representatives in Dublin early this year before announcing in March that Ryanair is considering becoming the world’s 
first budget airline to fly to Armenia. She said in July that the Irish carrier is seeking financial concessions from the Armenian side for that purpose.

Revazian said on Wednesday that the Civil Aviation Committee has drafted a bill that would exempt Ryanair from a fixed $21 tax levied from every air ticket sold in the country. She was confident that the government will approve the bill and send it to the Armenian parliament next month.

The government hopes that Ryanair’s entry into the Armenian civil aviation market will cut the cost of air travel and attract more tourists to Armenia.

Armenia’s international air traffic has already grown rapidly since the liberalization of its civil aviation sector in 2013. The former Armenian government decided to switch to the so-called “open skies” policy following the bankruptcy of the Armavia national airline. The liberalization has led to lower ticket prices, giving a strong boost to the country’s growing tourism industry.

Ryanair’s ticket prices are expected to be significantly lower than those of airlines already flying to Armenia.

“Ryanair’s average fare for all routes across the year is something like 35 euros ($38.5),” noted O’Brien. But he gave no concrete figures for its upcoming flights to Armenia.

“To celebrate the launch of its first Armenian airports, Ryanair has launched a seat sale with fares from just €29.99, for travel until May 2020, which must be 
booked by midnight Friday,” read a statement released by the company. It did not specify how much Ryanair customers will be charged after October 18.

Panorama, Armenia
Oct 17 2019
Armenian lavash on CNN’s list of world’s best breads

CNN has listed traditional Armenian bread lavash among the 50 best breads around the world.

The Armenian flatbread comes second on the CNN list.

"When your Armenian mother-in-law comes towards you wielding a hula hoop-sized flatbread, don't duck: Lavash is draped over the country's newlyweds to ensure a life of abundance and prosperity," CNN said in an article.

"Maybe that's because making lavash takes friends."

"To shape the traditional breads, groups of women gather to roll and stretch dough across a cushion padded with hay or wool. It takes a practiced hand to slap the enormous sheets onto the inside of conical clay ovens, where they bake quickly in the intense heat," it noted.

The article also reminds that the bread is so central to Armenia's culture it's been designated UNESCO Intangible Heritage.

CNN's top 50 list also includes the traditional breads of Afghanistan, Brazil, Egypt, Australia, Bangladesh, Canada, Chile, China, Ethiopia to name a few. 

Panorama, Armenia
Oct 15 2019
UNICEF: 3% of children are underweight in Armenia

An alarmingly high number of children are suffering the consequences of poor diets and a food system that is failing them, UNICEF warned today in a new report on children, food and nutrition.

The State of the World’s Children 2019: Children, food and nutrition finds that at least 1 in 3 children under five – or over 200 million – is either undernourished or overweight. Almost 2 in 3 children between six months and two years of age are not fed food that supports their rapidly growing bodies and brains. This puts them at risk of poor brain development, weak learning, low immunity, increased infections and, in many cases, death.

“Despite all the technological, cultural and social advances of the last few decades, we have lost sight of this most basic fact: If children eat poorly, they live poorly,” said Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director.

 “Millions of children subsist on an unhealthy diet because they simply do not have a better choice. The way we understand and respond to malnutrition needs to change: It is not just about getting children enough to eat; it is above all about getting them the
 right food to eat. That is our common challenge today.”

The report provides the most comprehensive assessment yet of 21st century child malnutrition in all its forms. It describes a triple burden of malnutrition: Undernutrition, hidden hunger caused by a lack of essential nutrients, and overweight among children under the age of five, noting that around the world:

• 149 million children are stunted, or too short for their age,

• 50 million children are wasted, or too thin for their height,

• 340 million children – or 1 in 2 – suffer from deficiencies in essential vitamins and nutrients such as vitamin A and iron,

• 40 million children are overweight or obese.

The report warns that poor eating and feeding practices start from the earliest days of a child’s life. Though breastfeeding can save lives, for example, only 42 per cent of children under six months of age are exclusively breastfed and an increasing number of children are fed infant formula. Sales of milk-based formula grew by 72 per cent between 2008 and 2013 in upper middle-income countries such as Brazil, China and Turkey, largely due to inappropriate marketing and weak policies and programmes to protect, promote and support breastfeeding.

As children begin transitioning to soft or solid foods around the six-month mark, too many are introduced to the wrong kind of diet, according to the report. Worldwide, close to 45 per cent of children between six months and two years of age are not fed any fruits or vegetables. Nearly 60 per cent do not eat any eggs, dairy, fish or meat.

As children grow older, their exposure to unhealthy food becomes alarming, driven largely by inappropriate marketing and advertising, the abundance of ultra-processed foods in cities but also in remote areas, and increasing access to fast food and highly sweetened beverages.

For example, the report shows that 42 per cent of school-going adolescents in low- and middle-income countries consume carbonated sugary soft drinks at least once a day and 46 per cent eat fast food at least once a week. Those rates go up to 62 per cent and 49 per cent, respectively, for adolescents in high-income countries.
As a result, overweight and obesity levels in childhood and adolescence are increasing worldwide. From 2000 to 2016, the proportion of overweight children between 5 and 19 years of age doubled from 1 in 10 to almost 1 in 5. Ten times more girls and 12 times more boys in this age group suffer from obesity today than in 1975.

The greatest burden of malnutrition in all its forms is shouldered by children and adolescents from the poorest and most marginalized communities, the report notes. Only 1 in 5 children aged six months to two years from the poorest households eats a sufficiently diverse diet for healthy growth. Even in high-income countries such as the UK, the prevalence of overweight is more than twice as high in the poorest areas as in the richest areas.

The report also notes that climate-related disasters cause severe food crises. Drought, for example, is responsible for 80 per cent of damage and losses in agriculture, dramatically altering what food is available to children and families, as well as the quality and price of that food.

To address this growing malnutrition crisis in all its forms, UNICEF is issuing an urgent appeal to governments, the private sector, donors, parents, families and businesses to help children grow healthy by:

1. Empowering families, children and young people to demand nutritious food, including by improving nutrition education and using proven legislation – such as sugar taxes – to reduce demand for unhealthy foods.

2. Driving food suppliers to do the right thing for children, by incentivizing the provision of healthy, convenient and affordable foods.

3. Building healthy food environments for children and adolescents by using proven approaches, such as accurate and easy-to-understand labelling and stronger controls on the marketing of unhealthy foods.

4. Mobilizing supportive systems – health, water and sanitation, education and social protection – to scale up nutrition results for all children.

5. Collecting, analyzing and using good-quality data and evidence to guide action and track progress.
Situation in Armenia

3% of Armenian children are underweight. 4 percent of children are undernourished and 2 percent are severely undernourished. According to the regions, malnutrition ranges from 0% in Tavush to 23% in Aragatsotn.

14% of children under the age of 5 are overweight. This means that being overweight is a much bigger issue among Armenian children than being underweight. Although the differences are not big, the overweight prevalence is higher among boys (15%) than among girls (13%). If we compare the regional indices, we will see that children living in Ararat are more likely to be overweight (36 percent) than children in other provinces (5-19 percent).

Another talking point is the nutrition of only 24% of 6-23-month-old babies in Armenia meet the minimum acceptable diet. 

A Declassified Top Secret CIA Report On
the Nagorno-Karabakh Conflict
By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

A 48-page Central Intelligence Agency Top Secret Report, prepared in August 1988 and made public in 2012 with some deletions, is titled “Unrest in the Caucasus and the Challenge of Nationalism.”

 Despite the passage of time, the Report includes an interesting analysis of the Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) conflict from the perspective of U.S. intelligence services.

The CIA analyst, in the introduction of his Report, traced the origins of the Artsakh conflict: “Enmity between Armenian and Azeri factions has existed for hundreds of years, and the 1920s settlement subordinating Nagorno-Karabakh -- Armenia’s cultural and religious center -- to the Azerbaijan Republic has been a continual, albeit long-muted, source of Armenian frustration and concern. Azeri animosity toward the Armenians has been intensified
 by political, economic, and demographic trends that have adversely affected the political status of Azeris and increased the gap in living standards between Azerbaijan and Armenia. In particular, the rapid expansion of Azerbaijan’s young adult population has
 put enormous strain on the Republic’s capacity to provide adequate jobs, housing, and education. Azeri frustration has found an outlet in attacks on Armenians.”

The unnamed CIA analyst reported that a split within the Politburo on how to handle the Artsakh crisis made the situation worse. Second Secretary Ligachev and KGB Chief Chebrikov were the hardliners who vehemently opposed the separation of Artsakh from Azerbaijan. They disagreed with Gorbachev’s reforms and blamed foreign powers for inciting unrest inside the Soviet Union.

When two prominent Armenian writers, Silva Kaputikyan and Zori Balayan, met with Gorbachev in Moscow in February 1988, they reported that he was well briefed and assured them that he wanted
 a “just solution.” He acknowledged “the peaceful nature of the [Armenian] demonstrations and emphasized his personal sympathy with the desire to reunite Nagorno-Karabakh with Armenia….”

Upon the return of the Armenian envoys to Yerevan, in a radio broadcast on February 27, 1988, Kaputikyan called for Armenians to trust Gorbachev. “He knows about and understands our problem and wants to resolve it personally…. We must do our utmost to ensure that no harm” is done to him, Kaputikyan announced.

Regarding Soviet concerns about foreign, particularly Armenian-American interference in domestic Soviet turmoil, the CIA analyst reported: “The recent unrest appears to have made Soviet officials more fearful about the role of foreign actors in the Nagorno-Karabakh problem. Of the approximately 5.5 million people in the world today who speak Armenian, about 60% live outside the Soviet Armenian republic, about 1.4 million elsewhere in the USSR, and 2 million abroad. So far, Armenian emigres -- most of whom see Turkey much more than Russia as the historic oppressor of their nation -- have not been actively involved in pushing for change in the Soviet system or in Soviet policies. Moscow worries that diaspora attitudes could turn sharply critical of the USSR and that Armenians in the United States, particularly, could grow into a powerful anti-Soviet pressure group. Soviet officials are wary of the large concentration of Armenians in California and
 New York, states with large electoral votes that have been closely contested in previous presidential elections.”

In a footnote at the end of the previous paragraph, the CIA analyst specified that “the United States hosts at least 600,000 Armenians. About 90 percent of America’s Soviet Armenian immigrants came to California. Los Angeles -- with 100,000 -- has the largest community of Armenians outside Yerevan. The New York City region has about 70,000 Armenians, mostly from Lebanon and Iran.”

The CIA analyst added: “Moscow may be concerned that foreign Armenian terrorist groups like the Armenian Secret Army for the Liberation of Armenia (ASALA) could turn against Soviet targets -- although we have no evidence that this is the case. Hitherto, the USSR has figured very little in ASALA’s blending of armed struggle with Marxist ideology; the dominant faction of ASALA considers Soviet Armenia as liberated territory and the group concentrates
 its attacks exclusively on Turkish officials. In fact, ASALA eventually would like to see ‘the Armenian provinces’ now located in Turkey and possibly Iraq [?] reattach themselves to the Soviet Armenian core. Furthermore, ASALA is now in a quiet phase, and
 its leader was assassinated on 28 April [1988]. Nevertheless, ASALA in early April did send a moderately worded appeal to Gorbachev supporting the reunification of Karabakh with Armenia, while characteristically stressing that Armenia is an integral part of the USSR and seeks only to rectify the border, not to pursue claims against Moscow.”

Finally, the CIA analyst explained the position of Turkey on the Karabakh conflict: “Although the Turkish Government has not explicitly sided with Azerbaijan, Turkey’s fear of resurgent Armenian nationalism makes Ankara sympathetic to Baku. 

When the crisis broke in February [1988], Turkish Government spokesmen indicated publicly that international agreements entitle Ankara to a voice in the crisis, an apparent reference to the 1921 treaty
 between the USSR and Turkey that led to the shift of Nagorno-Karabakh and Nakhichevan to Azerbaijan. Turkey no doubt especially feared that transferring Nagorno-Karabakh to Armenia would whet Armenian appetites and would lead to increased pressure to change the status of Nakhichevan and to acquire former Armenian regions in Turkey. Turkish officials probably also noted that some Armenian expansionist demands for a ‘Greater Armenia’ were based on historic claims rather than on the ethnic composition of the affected territories. Thus, some Armenians have demanded the return of Nakhichevan, even though Azeris now greatly outnumber Armenians in this region. Using such historical criteria, could give Armenians a claim even on some border parts of Turkey where only 50,000
 Armenians now live.”

The CIA analyst concluded his Report by outlining five options the USSR had for the resolution of the Artsakh conflict:

1)  “Sticking with the Status Quo”

2)  “Making Further Economic Concessions” to Armenians

3)  “Enhancing Autonomy of Nagorno-Karabakh Within Azerbaijan”

4)  Expanding “Extraterritorial Native Cultural Institutions”

5)  “Reconfiguration of Nagorno-Karabakh” by splitting it between Armenia and Azerbaijan.

EVN Report
Oct 15 2019
 Turkey, the Kurds and the Generational Trauma of the Armenians
 By Maria Titizian
Operation Peace Spring, a military offensive launched by Turkey in northeastern Syria on October 9, promises to create yet another humanitarian crisis. This Turkish military operation against the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), composed primarily of Kurdish, Arab and Assyrian militias, came on the heels of the United States announcing the withdrawal of American troops in the region. The SDF is led by the People’s Protection Units, a Kurdish militia abbreviated as YPG. The U.S. considered the SDF as its key ally in the fight against ISIS. Turkey, on the other hand, considers the group a terrorist organization with links to the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), with whom it has a troubled and bloody past. 
The Trump administration’s October 6 decision to withdraw its troops was seen as a “green light” for Turkey’s operation to expel the SDF from the Syria-Turkey border region, creating a 30 km-deep safe zone inside northern Syria, where it plans to resettle the 3 million Syrian refugees it is currently hosting.
A day after announcing his decision to withdraw American troops, U.S. President Donald Trump on October 7 tweeted: “As I have stated strongly before, and just to reiterate, if Turkey does anything that I, in my great and unmatched wisdom, consider to be off limits, I will totally destroy and obliterate the Economy of Turkey (I’ve done before!). They must, with Europe and others, watch over the captured ISIS fighters and families. The U.S. has done far more than anyone could have ever expected, including the capture of 100% of the ISIS Caliphate. It is time now for others in the region, some of great wealth, to protect their own territory...”
On October 14, the U.S. did impose sanctions against Turkish officials and institutions over the country's incursion into Syria. Trump has also spoken to Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, calling for an immediate ceasefire as Turkish troops move further into Syria. 
Now in its sixth day, heavy fighting continues, with reports of dozens of military and civilian deaths and over 100,000 displaced. According to numerous reports, because of Turkish airstrikes, SDF fighters have had to abandon positions guarding prison camps, where ISIS fighters were being detained. Many have reportedly since been able to escape. SDF forces were also forced to leave posts at a refugee camp from which an estimated 800 ISIS brides and children have fled. Iraq has sent troops to fortify its border with Syria under fears it could be subjected to an ISIS resurgence.
The SDF, which had been administering the region without Damascus’ involvement, struck a deal with the Assad government to hand over the border towns of Manbij and Kobane. The deal was brokered by Russia, which has an interest in Assad reconsolidating his grip on the country, and will ultimately end several years of semi-autonomy for the Kurds of northeastern Syria.
It’s a complicated geopolitical battleground where many international and regional players, with varying interests and means, clash violently. Sadly, ordinary civilians pay the ultimate price. We see this same scenario being played out over and over again, from Yemen to Myanmar and beyond.
The overriding majority of Armenians, both in the Republic of Armenia and dispersed throughout the Diaspora are closely following the Turkish offensive in Syria, as they did when the Syrian conflict first began. Aside from the uprooting of strong, vibrant Armenian communities from Aleppo to Latakia to Damascus and many places in-between, there is something that cuts much deeper.
During the Armenian Genocide, 1.5 million Armenians were killed, many during a forced exile into the deserts of Syria by Ottoman Turkey. They perished, wiping away several millennia of existence on their ancestral homeland. Some of the survivors stayed in Syria, many in orphanages, and many more left to go on to other countries on other continents. They took a piece of their historic homeland with them and memories of Syria were embedded in their consciousness.
The human cost of the Syrian war has been great for both the Syrian people themselves and the ethnic and religious minorities who lived alongside them. Armenians, who remained in Syria after having found refuge there following the Genocide, were forced into exile again, for a second time within 100 years. Armenia and Armenian communities everywhere opened their hearts and homes to the Syrian Armenians, most of whom had lost everything.
This latest offensive by Turkey has rattled us once again. When the perpetrator of our calamitous loss is granted permission to secure “safe zones” - the depressingly-ironic Orwellian term itself is chilling - by removing the majority Kurdish population of northeastern Syria from their ancestral homeland, it strikes a deep nerve in a still-open wound that sets off alarms in our consciousness.
The deeply-rooted generational trauma that silently seeps through our veins is not something we acknowledge or confront on a daily basis. We carry on with our lives, we raise families, we build careers, we travel the world and we try and create a new Armenia wherever we go. For those of us in the Republic of Armenia, this very small piece of the homeland that has survived, we work hard to rebuild, to recreate, to innovate and, by doing so, honor the memory of everything and everyone that was taken from us.
Many people often ask us, “Why do you insist on holding on to the past? You have an independent country now, move on, get busy building.” We don’t hold on to the past because we want to. The past won’t let go of us.
Generations later, we experience trauma on top of trauma because the original crime was never acknowledged by the perpetrator. It is also not lost on us that the country that gave its tacit consent to this latest episode has been dragging its heels on recognizing the Genocide for decades. We were right not to let go because we knew that history would repeat itself.
And yet, that is no consolation. Although Armenians across the world participated in Kurdish solidarity protests this past weekend, feelings of helplessness and futility are crippling. When our forefathers were being slaughtered, we wanted the world to stand up and stop it. But weary from war, no Great Power was willing to put troops on the line to take the Armenian Mandate, to protect the survivors in a new country that the Paris Peace Conference had promised them. Turkey consolidated its gains in a land emptied of Armenians. Is that the legacy we want to leave to the grandchildren of today's Kurdish survivors?