Production Halted at Armenian Copper Mine Because of Toxic Leaks from Dump

Amid continuing criticism from environmentalists, a leading Armenian mining company has suspended production operations at a massive copper deposit in Lori province, citing the need to repair its waste disposal facilities, reports Radio Liberty/Radio Free Europe.

The company, Vallex Group, confirmed on Tuesday, January 30th, that some of its 1215 employees working at the Teghut deposit were sent on an indefinite leave on January 12. A Vallex spokeswoman said more of them will be told not to report for work until further notice. She gave no numbers. In a separate written statement to Radio Free Europe, Vallex attributed the measure to the need to conduct “planned prophylactic repairs.” It said it will specifically bring “technological parameters” of industrial waste flowing into a dump near the mine into conformity with “new standards” for environmental protection.

In recent months, environment protection groups have repeatedly reported toxic leaks from the dump contaminating a nearby river. They have accused Vallex of operating with disregard for environmental standards. The Vallex statement dismissed those reports as “lies”, denying any problems at the waste dump. It also said that the suspension of mining and ore enrichment at Teghut will last for “two months or longer”.

Some of the workers sent home said the company management gave them no dates for the resumption of production operations. They were worried that they will not be properly compensated for the hiatus. Some also feared that the mine would close and they would lose their jobs.

The Teghut operator sought to allay those fears, saying that it is actually planning to significantly increase copper ore extraction. These plans met with strong resistance from some residents of two villages close to the mining site during a mandatory public discussion organized by Vallex in August. The villagers said that higher pollution levels have already had negative effects on their fruit orchards.

One local farmer, Levon Alikhanian, has been locked in a court battle with Vallex for nearly 10 years. “We are going to collect signatures and send them to the prime minister so that they revoke [the company's mining] license,” he said. “That company got the license by fooling the government.” Vallex has also face strong opposition from the Yerevan based environmentalists. They argue, among other things, that open-pit mining at Teghut will lead to the destruction of hundreds of hectares of rich forest.

The Liechtenstein-registered company pledged to plant a new and bigger forest in adjacent areas before launching mining operations there in 2014. It also promised to create 1300 new jobs, build new schools and upgrade other infrastructure in the villages. Vallex, which also owns a copper smelter in the nearby town of Alaverdi and metal mines in Nagorno-Karabakh, defended its track record in a five page report released last week. It said its combined operating revenue rose by about 32 percent to $358 million last year thanks to increased international prices of copper and other non-ferrous metals.

The Teghut mine generated over 42 percent of that revenue. The company employing about 3500 people in Armenia and Karabakh also claimed to have paid $52 million in various taxes, up from $41 million in 2016.

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Garo Paylan Awarded France’s Grand Vermeil Medal

French President Emmanuel Macron and Turkish Deputy of Parliament Garo Paylan met at the annual banquet of the Coordinating Council of Armenian Organizations of France in Paris. During the event, the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, presented Garo Paylan with the Grand Vermeil Medal.

The Armenian-Turkish deputy was applauded by 500 people who were present at the event. Anne Hidalgo thanked Paylan for what his endeavors calling him a hero of democracy, a hero who defends human rights. Every time he needs them, the Armenians will be by his side, and Paris will be next to him, she assured.

Representatives of the Jewish community, a French lawyer, historian and a fighter for exposing and punishing Nazi criminals Serge Klarsfeld and his wife Beate were also present at the meeting. In his speech, Klarsfeld said they have always been close to the Armenian people and they are fighting for Israel’s recognition of the Armenian Genocide. He expressed hope that the law criminalizing the denial of the Armenian Genocide will also be adopted in France.

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Iran Wants to Boost Trade With Armenia

Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Kazem Sajjiadi said last Friday, February 2nd, that his country will prepare the grounds for encouraging non-oil exports to Armenia.

“Iranian Embassy will spare no efforts in facilitating trade between Tehran and Yerevan,” Sajjiadi said, in a meeting with Iranian manufacturers and business people in Armenia.

“Developing ties in all fields is of importance for Iran”, he added.

During the meeting, ways to promote economic and trade relations between Iran and Armenia especially the road blocks were discussed.

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Mike Sarian of Glendale Donates $10 Million Medical Equipment to Armenian Defense Ministry

Armenian Defense Minister Vigen Sargsyan visited the Central base of medicines and medical property of Defense Ministry on January 25. The minister got acquainted with the medical equipment donated to Armenian Armed Forces by American Armenian benefactor Mike Sarian.

The donation which included 100 items of medical equipment, was transferred through the scientific and educational and cultural foundation “Luys”.

The total value of transferred equipment, property, hygiene items and medical products is $10 million.

Michael Sarian is the President of Hospital Operations at Prime Healthcare Management Inc., in Los Angeles. He has made several other donations, including $1.8 million medical equipment to Artsakh and Armenia in 2016, $250,000 to Sahag Mesrob Armenian Christian School a few years ago as wells as to several Armenian and American organizations. Sarian was awarded the prestigious Ellis Island Medal of Honor in New York in 2015.

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French President Emmanuel Macron Vows Continued Support for Armenia

France will continue to maintain warm relations with Armenia and support it in the international arena. French President Emmanuel Macron id after holding talks with his Armenian counterpart Serzh Sargsyan in Paris on Tuesday January 23. Macron also described as “encouraging” recent Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks and urged the parties to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict to “go farther” in trying to resolve it. “France will always be alongside Armenia,” he said in a statement to the press made at the presidential Elysee Palace. “France will accompany you in a troubled regional environment so that your country can conquer its future as it has always done in its history,” he added. Macron cited “profound links” between the two nations cemented by the existence of a sizable and influential Armenian Diaspora in France for the memory of the [1915] genocide and I have the deepest respect for this fight,” he said.

Macron was endorsed by leading French-Armenian organizations ahead of a second round of voting in France’s April-May 2017 presidential election. Four ethnic Armenians were subsequently elected to the French parliament on the ticket of his Republic on the Move party. Macron announced after the talks with Sarkisian that he will travel to Armenia in October on a state visit timed to coincide with a summit in Yerevan of Francophonie, a grouping of over 70 mainly French-speaking nations. He expressed hope that the summit will give “new impetus” to the spread of the French language in Armenia.

The 40 year old French leader also stressed the “necessity to impart more dynamism to our economic cooperation.” He said he specifically discussed with Sarkisian ways of boosting French investments in the Armenian economy, “I am thinking of sectors such as tourism, renewable energy, agriculture, logistics and retail,” he said.

For hist part, Sarkisian reaffirmed his administration’s commitment to deepen Armenia’s “privileged” relationship with France. “We sincerely love and respect France and its talented people,” he declared at the joint news briefing. “We have practically identical views on all vital issues…I mean both bilateral and international agenda. We espouse the same principles and are guided by the same value system,” he said. Sarkisian went on to thank France for helping Armenia negotiate and sign in November the Comprehensive Partnership Agreement (CEPA) with the European Union. In Macron’s words, the landmark agreement reflects a “special formula” for Armenia-EU ties that was advocated by the French government.

Unresolved Karabakh Conflict Was Discussed

The unresolved Karabakh conflict also apparently featured large during the first-ever meeting of the two presidents. France has been spearheading, together with the United States and Russia, international efforts to broker an Armenian-Azerbaijani peace accord.

Macron said that a long-awaited peaceful resolution of the conflict requires “courageous decisions and compromises” by both conflicting sides. In that regard, he hailed progress reportedly made during Sarkisian’s October 2017 meeting with Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev and follow-up talks between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers. “We know how fragile the process still is and how volatile the situation on the ground often is,” said Macron. “It is therefore absolutely essential that this renewed dialogue leads to concrete progress. We will continue to closely monitor this situation and we will take, in concert with our Russian and American partners, any initiative that could advance the settlement process,” he added.

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Matt Vasgersian Joins ESPN’s New Sunday Night Baseball Broadcast Team

By Jeff Sanders

Former Padres TV play-by-play voice Matt Vasgersian will join 14-time All-Star Alex Rodriguez and analyst Jessica Mendoza to form ESPN’s new Sunday Night Baseball broadcast team.

Currently a studio host and announcer for MLB Network, Vasgersian will continue in those roles. The 50-year old broadcaster previously worked as the Padres lead play-by-play announcer for seven years before joining MLB Network for its debut on Jan 1, 2009.

Vasgersian signed a multi-year deal to be the third-ever voice of Sunday Night Baseball, following Jon Miller and Dan Shulman. Sunday Night Baseball will begin its 29th season in 2018. “Jon and Dan set the bar super high for Sunday Night Baseball play-by-play, so it’s a real thrill for someone who still remembers his first minor league bus trip in 1991 to have a chair like this one,” Vasgersian said in a release. “I know firsthand how passionate both Alex and Jessica are about baseball, and I can’t wait to get started with them.”

Rodriguez, who retired after the 2016 season with 696 career home runs, joined Fox Sports full time as a studio analyst in 2017. He will continue to serve in that role while working as analyst in his multi-year deal with Sunday Night Baseball, the exclusive national MLB game of the week. Mendoza originally joined the Sunday Night Baseball booth late in the 2015 season. Buster Olney, a former Padres beat writer for the San Diego Union-Tribune, is also part of the team as an on-field reporter.

“I am incredibly excited to work with both Alex and Matt,” Mendoza said. “Matt has been a friend for a long time and someone whose work I’ve long admired. Alex’s achievements as a player speak for themselves, and I’ve been greatly impressed by the passion and dedication he has put into his broadcasting career. We’re going to have a lot of fun.” Said Rodriguez: “I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my broadcasting career. It’s an exciting time in baseball and now I get that front row seat to tell that story every Sunday night on ESPN as well as calling my fourth post-season on Fox, where I started this journey.”

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Armen Sargsyan Named as RPA Candidate for the Fourth President of Armenia

Former Prime Minister of Armenia, Ambassador to the United Kingdom, Armen Sargsyan was named the ruling Republican Party’s (RPA) candidate for Armenia’s next president. As the press department at the President’s Office reported, President Serzh Sargsyan held last Friday, a meeting with Armen Sargsyan, informing him about the Board decision to nominate his candidacy for the presidency.

The President noted that the fourth President should be elected amid a broad parliamentary agreement which is why recommending candidate Sargsyan to hold meetings not only with RPA coalition Partner ARF Dashnaktsutyun but other political forces represented in the parliament.

Armen Sargsyan thanked the President for the honor to nominate him as a candidate for President and agreed to hold meetings with political forces as well as discussions with representatives of broad strata of the society before making his final decision.

Armenia will transfer to the parliamentary system of government in April, according to the new constitution adopted in referendum held in 2015. According to the new constitution the president with mostly ceremonial role is going to be elected for 7 years by the National Assembly, and that person cannot be elected for more than one consecutive term. It is expected, that the National Assembly where RPA holds majority will elect the fourth president by March 9th.

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Historian Taner Akcam’s New Book Includes ‘Smoking Gun’ of Armenian Genocide

By Siranush Ghazanchyan

In his groundbreaking new book “Killing Orders: Talat Pasha’s Telegrams and the Armenian Genocide,” due out March 2018, Clark University historian Taner Akcam destroys the Turkish government’s denial strategy, according to an article by Angele Bazydio, the Clark University posted on their website.

Akcam includes a recently recovered document—a “smoking gun”—that points to the Ottoman government’s central role in planning the elimination of its Armenian population. Furthermore, he successfully demonstrates that the killing orders signed by Ottoman Interior Minister Talat Pasha, which the Turkish government has long discredited, are authentic.

Akcam, described as “the Sherlock Holmes of Armenian Genocide” in a New York Times article in April 2017, made these landmark discoveries in a private archive. He argues that the documents he uncovered from the denialist edifice and definitely prove the historicity of the Armenian Genocide.

“Successive Turkish governments have gone to great lengths to ensure that evidence of the intent to extinguish the Armenian people could not be located,” Akcam says, “These findings are ‘an earthquake’ in the field of genocide studies’. They will make it impossible for the Turkish government to continue to deny the Armenian Genocide.”

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Armenia Needs $2.5 Billion for Modernization of Sewage and Sanitation Systems

The full modernization of Armenia’s sewage and waste water sanitation systems, including the construction of new stations, will cost some $2.5 billion, the country’s nature protection minister Artsvik Minasyan said today when presenting a string of amendments to the Water Code. He said with the current price of water supply and waste water removal about $100 million should be channeled into the modernization of the drainage system until the 2030. However, as the minister noted, these funds are not enough to solve the problem, and therefore the government provides for legislative changes, according to which all communities across the country should be provided with accessible water drainage services by 2030.

“The financial burden for the implementation of the program will be borne by private investors and charitable organizations. In particular, the communities, will have to attract private investments and donor organizations to solve the issue,” Minasyan said. “For example, if several organizations unite and build their own waste water treatment plant, they will be exempted from paying for drainage,” the Minister said. The Minister also said that with the assistance of international donors, several pilot projects envisaging the construction of waste water purification stations are to be carried out in the Lake Sevan area.

According to Minasyan, this approach does not envisage the rise in the drainage tariff, moreover, it will create a competitive environment and, as a result, the possibility of reducing water tariffs. “All over the world, used water is considered as a resource that can contain certain useful elements after a treatment. To do this, after the adoption of the law, certain norms will be approved that will provide for components and minimum indicators of purified water for reuse,” Mr. Minasyan said.

According to the nature protection ministry there are 18 licensed companies for providing drainage services, but many of them are engaged in other activities, and are forced to receive this type of license, because drainage service goes together with othe non-related services.

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Armenia Supported by IMF Over Three Years in Resisting Outside Shocks

The International Monetary Fund’s program for 2014-2017 has supported the Armenian authorities’ policy aimed at warding off consequence of outside shocks – decline in Russia’s economy and devaluation of the Russian national currency, Yulia Ustyugova, IMF Resident Representative in Armenia, said in an exclusive interview with ARKA News Agency. “Today we see that economic situation in Armenia has stabilized,” she said. “There was a period of a sluggish growth (0.2%) in 2016, but already the year 2017 was marked with a fast growth. Inflation is under control. Financial sector is stable.”

Armenia became an IMF member in 1992. Since then, the IMF has provided financial assistance to the country under nine programs.

In her interview, Ustyugova said that the IMF’s key mission is to support the global economic and financial stability, and the organization provides financial assistance to its members for maintaining economic stability and overcoming payment balance problems.

She said that the IMF will continue its close cooperation with the Armenian authorities in macroeconomic policy, technical assistance and stimulation of global and regional cooperation. “We are always ready to consider a new IMF program, if necessary,” she said.

The IMF has provided $100-110 million over three years of the implementation of the Extended Fund Facility (EFF) program.

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