COAF Raises $3.6 Million at NY Gala

150,000 People will Benefit from the Establishment of SMART Center

NEW YORK, NY — The 14th annual Children of Armenia Fund (COAF) Holiday Gala held on December 16, at New York City’s renowned Cipriani 42nd Street, raised an impressive $3.6 million in support of children of Armenian villages. Among the special guests were art-world legend Tony Shafrazi, Emmy & Tony Award winning actress Andrea Martin, chef Geoffrey Zakarian, and actress, singer, and performer Vanessa Williams.

COAF’s Humanitarian Award was presented to Emmy Award-winning costume designer and fashion icon Patricia Field (Sex and the City, The Devil Wears Prada). Field, who is of Armenian and Greek heritage, has been a longtime supporter of COAF, sharing its vision of empowering people to realize their full potential, embrace originality, and achieve their individual greatness.

Vanessa Williams delivered a special performance of her Golden Globe Award-winning song “Colors of the Wind” and paid tribute to Patricia Field, with whom she worked with on the set of the TV series Ugly Betty.

The evening also featured performances from two of Armenia’s finest young musicians, 14 year old saxophonist Alexandr Avetisyan and 9 year old vocalist Ani Margaryan, who traveled from Armenia for this special event. Gala attendees also heard an inspiring speech from 16 year old Nareh Galstyan, from the village of Lernagog, who spoke eloquently how COAF has transformed her life and provided opportunities that would not have existed otherwise.

World renowned auctioneer and collector Simon de Pury conducted a live auction of uniquely curated art to support COAF’s mission. The auction included works donated by such notable artists as Ed Ruscha, Jeff Koons, Richard Prince, Kenny Schiarf, and Patrick Demarchelier — as well as a rare piece by renowned Armenian-American author and playwright William Saroyan.

One hundred percent of the $3.6 million raised at the Gala will go directly toward COAF’s education, health, and socio-economic programs in the villages of Armenia, with a focus on its novel SMART initiative designed to bring digital technology education, programs in music and art, sustainable agriculture training and more to rural Armenian villages. The construction of COAF’s first SMART Center in the Lori region of Armenia has been completed and will be operational in January 2018.

Close to 150,000 individuals from the city of Vanadzor and 48 surrounding communities will benefit from the establishment of the SMART center.

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President Serzh Sargsyan Said Last Year Export Index was the Highest Ever, About $2 Billion

On the occasion of the New Year and Christmas holidays, a gala reception was held at the Presidential Palace for business community representatives. In his congratulatory address, President Serzh Sargsyan touched upon the results achieved in FY2017 and the expectations of 2018.

After wishing good year ahead, the President said: “I want you to build on the achievements we have in 2017. I expect you to not only carry on your business, but to expand it and become the conceivers of new ideas and new initiatives. On January 1st, 2018, the new Tax Code and EAEU Customs Code will come into effect, and you will all see and probably you have already been convinced that almost all your comments and suggestions, voiced during official or informal meetings have been taken into account.”

The coefficient of economic activity is sufficiently high. Over the past 11 months, Armenia had an unprecedented export index equivalent of $2 billion, which makes 20 percent of GDP. Armenia never had such a high index before.

The trade turnover has overrun the threshold of $6 billion over the past 11 months. Everything is interconnected and the new Constitution will become effective in early 2018. “I suggest that in 2018, we all should make sure that the non-formal, non-documented turnover has been minimized. We have agreed with the Prime Minister and the government that we should do our utmost to have fully streamlined business documentation in 2018. This is int he best interest of all of us, including you, the State, the Army, our teachers, and everyone else,” said the President.

The President concluded: “I call on you to go that way without having to be prompted by others. We, too, will do our utmost to cooperate for good, and not just the way an inspector or an enforcing authority and business people would do.”

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Azerbaijan Threatened With Expulsion from Council of Europe

By Bradley Jardine

The Council of Europe has launched unprecedented legal action against Azerbaijan over an imprisoned opposition politician, raising the possibility of the country being kicked out of the 47 nation council.

On December 5th, the CoE Committee of Ministers announced that it was opening infringement proceedings “due to the authorities’ continuing refusal to ensure the unconditional release of opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov following a judgement from the European Court of Human Rights.”

In May of 2014, the ECHR concluded that Mammadov, a leader of the opposition group REAL, had been falsely imprisoned. The court found that Mammadov’s arrest and pre-trial detention were initiated to silence him for criticizing the government. Since then, the CoE has adopted repeated resolutions stressing the flaws in the criminal proceedings and calling for Mammadov’s immediate and unconditional release. However, in the three years since the judgement was made, Mammadov has remained in prison. “Over three years since the court’s judgement became final, the applicant remains in detention on the basis of the flawed criminal proceedings,” the CoE said in a statement. It noted that this is the council’s first ever use of the infringement proceeding, and that Azerbaijan’s refusal to release Mammadov after the ruling is unprecedented.

Azerbaijan was quick to respond:

Novruz Mammadov (no relation to Ilgar), presidential assistant on foreign affairs, said the CoE’s decision in an example of “European Islamophobia.” And he suggested that Azerbaijan may leave the CoE rather than being kicked out.

“Azerbaijan can take every step within its own interests whenever it needs that.” Novruz Mammadov said: “No one in the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe or in Europe wants Azerbaijan to leave the Council of Europe. The issue cannot be put in the form of Azerbaijan’s removal from the organization.”

He also argued that the body was “sacrificing justice for smaller geopolitical interests,” which he implied were connected to Armenia.

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Armenian FM Says Armenia’s 2028 Spring Will Being Without Armenian-Turkish Protocols

The stance taken by Armenia on normalization of relations with Turkey remains unchanged, Tigran Balayan, the Armenian Foreign Ministry spokesman, told Novosti-Armenia. Edward Nalbandian, Armenian Foreign Minister speaking in Greece as part of his official visit, said that Armenia’s 2018 spring will begin without Armenian-Turkish protocols,since Ankara out forward groundless pre-conditions that contradict these protocols essence.

In response, Turkey’s foreign ministry issued a statement saying that Turkey remains stuck to the protocols and Armenia’s statement doesn’t reflect the reality and is aimed at deluding the international community. “On the last occasion we have voiced our attitude to Armenia-Turkey protocols during the speech of Edward Nalbandian in Athens two days earlier, and it remains in force,” Balayan said. “As for other issues. particularly Karabakh problem, Turkey has nothing to do in this process. The farther Turkey stays from this process, the better for itself.”

Relations between Armenia and Turkey remain tense because of Ankara’s biased stance on Karabakh problem and its painful reaction to Armenia’s efforts to obtain worldwide recognition of the fact of the Armenian Genocide.

In October 10, 2009, Armenia and Turkey signed “Protocol on the Establishment of Diplomatic Relations” and the “Protocol on the Development of Bilateral Relations” in Zurich, which were to be ratified by the parliaments of both countries. However, on April 22, 2010, the President of Armenia signed a decree suspending the ratification of the protocols, stating that Turkey was not ready to continue the process, since it became known that the protocols had been automatically removed from the Turkish Parliament agenda.

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European Investment Bank Stops Financing of Azerbaijani Gas Project

The European Investment Bank has delayed a decision on whether to grant a multi-billion-euro loan to a controversial pipeline, after the bank’s board insisted it needs more time to assess the project.

The Trans-Adriatic Pipeline (TAP) is intended to form a part of the massive Southern Gas Corridor, a network of pipes that will link Europe to the resource-rich shores of Azerbaijan.

As part of the immense costs involved with the project, the authorities in charge are counting on the EIB to grant it the largest loan in the EU bank’s history; some 1.5 billion Euros. But the bank’s board deferred making a decision on the TAP loan, citing a need to look at the project more closely. As such, the loan will not be approved or denied before February next year after already resting on the bank’s books for nearly two years.

Environmental groups welcomed the board’s decision to delay, citing growing civil society action as a prime factor. In recent days, over 4,000 people had contacted high ranking EIB members to express their opposition to the TAP project.

Given the EIB’s high profile attendance at the One Planet Summit in Paris yesterday, many eyebrows were raised that the bank would pledge is long-awaited support for TAP on the second anniversary of the Paris Agreement.

Friends of the Earth France climate campaigner Cecile Marchand said: “Clearly it was too much even for the EIB to fund this fossil fuel mega project on the anniversary of the Paris agreement — now they should make sure that 2018 sees them end support for fossil fuels entirely.”

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Glendale City Council Unanimously Approves Central Park Framework of Armenian American Museum

GLENDALE, CA — The Glendale City Council unanimously approved the design principles for a re-imagined Central Park including the future downtown Glendale site of the Armenian American Museum, marking a major milestone for the historic project.

The City of Glendale’s staff and urban design firm, SWA, presented their approval for the Central Park block at the Glendale City Council meeting, on Tuesday, December 5, 2017, SWA envisions a new prominent gathering space in the heart of Glendale’s Arts and Entertainment District with increased green and open space, vibrant public amenities, and diverse cultural programs. SWA’s proposal call for the creation of a new Central Park Open Space that would connect the Downtown Central Library, Adult Recreation Center, and Armenian American Museum as well as the creation of new Forest Park that would feature a large forested park space and children’s playground.

New and expanded paseos would provide walking paths connecting the Central Park block to Brand Boulevard and The Americana at Brand. Since May 2017, officials from the City, SWA, and Museum have been working collaboratively to develop a unified vision for the downtown Glendale site. Armenian American museum representatives expressed their support for the framework presented during the Council meeting. “Our city will benefit tremendously from creating a space between the Central Library, Armenian American Museum, and Adult Recreational Center that will integrate its civic, cultural, and senior facilities in the Central Park block and create new public spaces and recreational opportunities for our city and its residents,” stated Museum Executive Committee Chairman Berdj Karapetian. “Just imagine what we are creating for the future of Glendale,” stated Armenian American Museum architect Aram Alajajian. “This is going to be a wonderful project for all of us. It is a legacy project to stay.”

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Lavrov: Dialogue Between Parties to NK Conflict Produces No Serious Progress

The dialogue between the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has not yet produced serious progress. Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov said at a press conference, following the third plenary meeting of the OSCE Ministerial Council on December 8. “But the fact that this year’s dialogue was held at the level of the presidents and more than once at the level of the foreign ministers seems to be positive to us. We will continue to work in the direction which the collective approach of the OSCE Minks Group co-chairs follows. It contains the principles of settlement that the parties have adopted, but have not yet translated them to the language of practical steps,” Lavrov said. According to him, this is not simple, but they will continue to deal with it.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict erupted into armed clashes after the collapse of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s as the predominantly Armenian populated enclave of Azerbaijan and declared its independence backed by a successful referendum. On May 12, 1994, the Bishkek cease-fire agreement out an end to military operations.

A truce was brokered by Russia in 1994, although no permanent peace agreement has been signed. Since then, Nagorno-Karabakh and several adjacent regions have been under control of Armenian forces in Karabakh.

Nagorno-Karabakh is the longest-running post Soviet era conflict and has continued to simmer despite the relative peace of the past two decades, with snipers causing tens of deaths a year. On April 2, 2016, Azerbaijan launched military assaults along the entire perimeter of its contact line with Nagorno-Karabakh. Four days later a cease-fire was reached.

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Najarian Named 2017 Top Elected Official by APWA SoCal Chapter

By Kevork Kurdoghlian

GLENDALE — City Council Member Ara Najarian was recently named the 2017 Top Elected Official by the Southern California chapter of the American Public Works Association. He was warded at the APWA Annual Awards Luncheon on Thursday, December 14th.

Najarian was selected for being a champion of public works in Glendale and Los Angeles County. As a council member and three-time mayor of Glendale, Najarian led the way on several major public works projects. he played an instrumental role in bringing to fruition the Fairmont Avenue – flyover bridge project, Doran Street and Broadway/Brazil Grade Separation project, Chevy Chase sewer and reservoir projects,and many others.

He has continued to lead the way by calling for a study to analyze the feasibility of a downtown Glendale streetcar, connection from Glendale to the Metro Gold and Orange Lines via bus rapid transit (BRT), and several other public works projects. As director of the board of the Los Angeles Metropolitan Transit Authority, also known as Metro, representing the northern corridor cities, Najarian voted to advance numerous public works mega projects to include the Gold Line Foothill Extension, the Downtown Regional Connector, obtaining equity funds from Measure R, renovating Union Station, electrifying the Orange Line, “the Northwest 138 Corridor studies, freeway improvement modifications, connection to LAX and more.

On Metrolink Board, He Focuses on Safety

On the Metrolink board where he serves as its second Vice-Chair, Najarian’s focus is on safety. He has advocated for double tracks in rail lines, and championed life-saving technology called Positive Train Control (PTC), a GPS based safety technology that can stop a train in and prevent train-to-train collision over speed derailments, and unauthorized train movement. Najarian has also authorized the procurement of Tier 4 locomotives, improving locomotive reliability and reducing emission. He was also responsible for the additional rail station at Hollywood/Burbank Airport for the Antelope Valley Train, expected to wrap up construction in May 2018. Najarian has continued on his quest for safer transit with his efforts behind a quiet zone in Glendale, quad gates, new rail passenger cars, and crash energy management.

Najarian was first selected to the Glendale City Council in 2005 and first appointed to the Metro Board of Directors in 2006. He is the second longest serving metro board member. Najarian held the position of Chairman of the MTA Board of Directors, a multi-billion dollar agency, in 2008. “I am honored to receive the prestigious award by The American Public Works Association, Southern California Chapter. Seeing as there are so many qualified and talented local public elected officials. It makes this recognition even more significant,” Ara Najarian said.

The American Public Works Association, Southern California Chapter, provides leadership to and serves the public works community by promoting professional excellence and public awareness through education, advocacy, and the exchange of knowledge.

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Michael and Karen Vardanyan Donate $1.7 Million to Improve Yerevan Living Conditions in Shahamiryan Region

In an unprecedented charity move, the owners of Grand Holding Michael and Karen Vardanyan have allocated $1.7 million to the residents of the emergency buildings of Shahamiryan Street to purchase new apartments.

The amount was distributed to families according to their occupied area. From now on, 148 people, 22 of whom are underage children, will now have the opportunity to live in new and bright apartments.

About a year ago, 58 families, who live in extreme difficult living conditions in 4th grade emergency buildings, applied to Vardanyan’s family, who own Grand Candy.

Vardanyan brothers assist Artsakh all the time. They also donated $125,000 to the 2017 Artsakh Telethon this year.

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$12.5 Million Raised During the 2017 Telethon

A total of $12,505,456 has been raised in donations and pledges at the 20th annual Hayastan All-Armenian Fund’s Telethon 2017 held in Los Angeles, California, on Thanksgiving Day, November 23.

The theme was “Fruitful Artsakh” and the result will be very fruitful.

The telethon, which started at 10 am, local time, lasted for 12 hours and was broadcast live on Armenian TV channels, including the Public Television and online on the official website of Armenia Fund. The telethon was aired in Southern, Central and Northern California, Las Vegas, and other areas. The donations will be used to drill deep-water wells, install new irrigation water networks and solar power stations in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh).

Earlier, the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund’s annual Pan-European Phoneton, held by the Fund’s French affiliate on November 15-19, raised 1.23 million Euros in donations and pledges. The large-scale fundraising campaign mobilized the Armenian communities of France, Germany, Switzerland, Greece, Lebanon, Iran and other places. The Phoneton is held traditionally ahead of the Telethon, and this year President of Artsakh Bako Sahakian was in France to participate in the event.

For a quarter of a century, the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund has raised about $350 million, channeled into more than one thousand projects that contributed to contributed to strengthening Armenia’s independence and improving the quality of life of more than ten thousand residents of Armenian and Artsakh.

The first phase of this year’s project will cover 4000 acres and will include 70 pre-selected hardworking farmers who are willing to learn and adopt modern drip irrigation technologies, according to Maria Mihranian, President of Armenia Fund.

If all 250,000 acres of available lands in Artsakh start producing, the country’s economy will add an estimated $300 million to some $600 million annually.

Five master of ceremonies ran the program including Araxia Karapetyan, Paul Chaderjian, Datevik Ekizian, Hrant Tokatian, and Ardak Herikyan. Appearing on the program were Armenia Fund President Maria Mihranian, Board Member Mark Geragos, Executive Director from Armenia Ara Vardanyan, West Coast Director Sarkis Kotanjian, and others.

His Holiness Karekin II, His Holiness Aram, as well as Primate of Artsakh Archbishop Barkev Martirossian, the Primate of the Western Diocese Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Prelate of the Western Prelacy, Archbishop Moushegh Mardirossian, and others, also Armenian Political Parties, and organizations. Almost all the Armenian schools donated money and appeared on television.

Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti, City Councilman Paul Krikorian, Congressman Adam Schiff, Congresswoman Tulsi Hubbard, have all spoken in favor of donating money.

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