Four Parties Elected to Parliament

As it was anticipated, the governing Republican Party received 53% of the votes on Sunday, during the Parliamentary elections.

The Tsarulyan bloc received 28%, securing 31 seats out of 101.

Yelk got 9% and the Armenian Revolutionary Federation 8%.

This seems the final results unless something happens, because there were many frauds, vote buying, and other pressures. However, generally speaking, many European observers feel it was better than before. “We have received the confidence and support of 400,000 voters and highly appreciate every vote that obliges us to do everything possible within our power to promote and develop the country. We remain committed to our principles, we remain open and honest to the people. we will do everything possible to solve the serious challenge facing our country,’ it said.

At the same time, the bloc emphasized that they would never suspend their active and direct contacts with the population and would not divide the people into those who voted “for” them and those who voted “against”.

“We have only one homeland, the improvement of which is our common task,” the statement said.

Five parties and four electoral blocs ram with at least 101 parliamentary seats up for grabs under a system of proportional representation. A party needs to clear a five percent threshold to be represented in parliament, while an electoral bloc –an entity made up of several parties–needs to garner at least seven percent of the vote. The voter turnout was 60.96%.

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Barbra Streisand Supports Armenian Genocide Movie

Celebrities continue to express their support to “The Promise”, a movie about The Armenian Genocide, and whose premier is slated for April 21st.

This time, renowned American singer, songwriter, actress, and filmmaker Barbra Streisand has posted an Instagram video regarding this movie.

Also, “We are all children of immigrants, I am joining Esrailian and “The Promise” film to Keep the Promise to never forget,” she commented on Instagram.

As reported earlier, renowned English singer, pianist and composer Elton John also urged, on his Facebook account, to watch this film.

The Promise has been at the focus of world movie lovers, for the past several months.

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Los Angeles County Declares April to be “Armenian History Month”

LOS ANGELES — On March 28, 2017, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors unanimously approved a motion authored by Supervisors Janice Hahn and Kathryn Barger which proclaims the month of April to be “Armenian History Month.”

“During Armenian History Month, L.A County will celebrate the rich culture and heritage of the Armenian people worldwide as well as recognize the dark days of the Armenian Genocide,” said Supervisor Hahn. “Throughout the month of April, we will highlight the accomplishments of local Armenian Americans and what an incredible part of the Los Angeles County fabric the Armenian people have become.”

While Los Angeles County has in the past recognized the Armenian Genocide and proclaimed an annual “Remembrance Day” to honor the lives lost in that genocide, this is the first time the County is declaring an “Armenian History Month” to highlight and celebrate the culture and accomplishments of the Armenian people.

“With this proclamation, the Board of Supervisors recognizes the vast contribution of the Armenian community to out country’s economy and culture,” Supervisor Barger said. “The month of April holds significant meaning for out Armenian friends and neighbors and this resolution acknowledges the challenges and accomplishments of their rich history,”

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Abu Dhabi Investors to Put Up $100 Million in Construction of Solar Power Plant

Investors from Abu Dhabi will put up $100 million in construction of a slar power plaint in Armenia, Viktor Akulyan, KPMG partner in Russia and the Commonwealth of Independent States, told journalists a week earlier.

In his words, an appropriate memorandum was signed in Abu Dhabi after the investment forum attended by Serzh Sargsyan, Armenia’s President. “It is important that investments should be consistent, investors should be happy about their input in the country, and rules of the game should be understandable,” Akulyan said. He also stressed the importance of the government’s support for all large investors.

Conversations on the sidelines of the forum have convinced potential investors that business environment in Armenia is favorable, and they expressed interest in putting up money in Armenia.

Akulyan said that KPMG office in Abu Dhabi expressed willingness to cooperate as well — it will try to attract investments to Armenia. In summer 2015, a $58 million investment program aimed at development of renewable energy and designed for five or six years was launched in Armenia. the program is bring implemented by the Renewable Energy and Energy Saving Fund with support from the Climate Investment Funds, the Armenia energy and natural resources ministry , the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank.

The key round of the program will be launched in 2017. After the completion of the program, 40 to 50 megawatt solar power plants are planned to be built in Armenia and to be commissioned by 2020.

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Armenia, WB Sign $1.8 million Grant to Develop Agriculture

Armenia and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (a member of the World Bank Group) signed Thursday a $1.8 million grant agreement as part of the Agricultural Policy Monitoring and Evaluation Program.

From the Armenian side the agreement was signed by Vardan Aramyan, finance minister, and from the World Bank Country Manager in Armenia.

The grant will be provided by Japan, which is a donor in the Policy and Human Resources Development Fund. Expressing satisfaction with the cooperation with the World Bank’s Armenian Office, Arramyan said that these financial resources will be spent mostly on development of the country’s agriculture sector and on the agriculture ministry’s needs.

Bailey, on he side, stressed the importance of this grant agreement and said it will contribute to solution of problems in the agriculture sector.

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U.S Mediator Richard Hoagland Hopes for Renewed Armenian-Azeri Talks

YEREVAN — International mediators hope that Armenia and Azerbaijan will resume soon their high-level negotiations on a peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, a senior diplomat said. “We hope that in the near future–not months away but in the near future–the two foreign ministers will be able to meet together in Moscow or perhaps elsewhere to prepare the ground for the [Armenian and Azerbaijan] presidents to meet”, Richard Hoagland, the U.S co-chair of the OSCE Minsk Group told reporters in Yerevan. “It is time to begin negotiating again,” he said. “We cannot allow violence to be the solution to this long-standing issue. Violence is not an answer.”

Hoagland arrived in Armenia together with fellow mediators from Russia and France heading the Minsk Group. The held meetings with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian and were due to travel to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Official Armenian sources said both sides agrees on the need to implements last year’s Armenian-Azerbaijani agreements aimed at bolstering the ceasefire regime in the conflict zone. Those call for the deployment of more OSCE observes and international investigations of armed incidents on the front lines.

Azerbaijan formally notified the OSCE headquarters in Vienna earlier this month that it will not agree to such a deployment “in the absence of withdrawal of the Armenian troops from the occupied territories.” Baku has also been reluctant to allow OSCE investigations of truce violations along the Karabakh “line of contact” and the Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

Armenian leaders have repeatedly said that implementation of these confidence-building measures is necessary for renewed negotiations on a peaceful settlement proposed by the U.S, Russian, and French mediators. Their so-called Basic Principles of a Karabakh peace were first out forward in 2007 and have been repeatedly modified since then. Asked to comment on reports that the existing, most recent version of that framework accord was drawn up by Russia, Hoagland said: “That’s a hard question to answer…The plan on the table right now is in no way radically different fro plans in the past. Which specific individual or country sat a the table last at night and wrote this plan? Well, I’m not going to comment on that. But I will say that this is a very good, internationally approved plan. The OSCE supports it and the co-chairs and their governments support it,” added the diplomat.

Russian Foreign Minsitry Sergey Lavrov said on March 6th, that the conflicting parties broadly agree on the proposed settlement envisaging Armenian withdrawal from “districts around Karabakh” and a future decision on Karabakh’s status which would “take into account the opinion of the people living there.” But Lavrov also admitted that htey are still far apart on “two or three” elements of this peace formula. He did not disclose the sticking points.

Hoagland also declined to give key details of the “very comprehensive” peace plan. “In diplomacy, it’s like in a card game,” he explained. “When you’re holding cards you don’t put all the cards on the table for everyone to see.”

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US Secretary of State Tillerson to Visit Turkey on March 30

U.S Secretary of State Rex Tillerson will visit Turkey on March 30, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said.

Tillerson’s visit will be the highest level talks with a senior office from the new U.S Administration since President Donald Trump took office in January. Ankara hopes to have better relations with the white House.

“The U.S Secretary of State said he wanted to come on March 30 and I told him that this would suit us in Ankara. If our prime minister is in Ankara, he will meet him,” Cavusoglu said.

He also said President Recep Tayyip Erdogan will meet U.S President Donald Trump after the April 16 referendum and will meet Tillerson if possible.

U.S Officials have reportedly informed Ankara that there are new conventions such not having private discussions with politicians from countries that are within 60 days of a national election, Erdogan had stated earlier.

CIA chief Mike Pompeo visited Ankara in February in his first foreign visit after Trump’s inaguration in January.

Turkey has greater hopes for Ankara-Washington ties after relations with President Barack Obama strained, especially over Syria.

The Syrian Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) the U.S led coalition’s premier partner in the fight against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in Syria, has been source of tension between Ankara and Washington as the latter considers further cooperation with the Syrian Kurds for a planned Raqqa operation.

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Armenian Assembly Urges Investigation of Azerbaijan’s Ties and Compromising Materials on U.S Officials

WASHINGTON, D.C — the Armenian Assembly of America (Assembly) sent letter to the Senate and House Select Committees on Intelligence expressing concern regarding the undue influence of Azerbaijan on America’s democratic institutions.

In their letter to the Senate Intelligence Chairman Richard Burr (R-NC), Vice Chairman Mark Warner (D-VA), House Intelligence Chairman David Nunes (R-CA), and Ranking Member Adam Schiff (D-CA), Assembly Co-Chairs Anthony Barsamian and Van Krikorian stated: “We are writing to express our concern regarding the undue influence of yet another foreign government on America’s democratic institutions, namely Azerbaijan. We are deeply troubled by recent reports about Azerbaijan’s ties to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corp (IRGC) and its nexus to both the Mammadov family and the highest levels of the Azeri government. We therefore respectfully request that the congressional investigations of Russian influence be expanded to include Azerbaijan’s influence peddling and any materials it may have potentially compromising U.S officials.”

Justice Department Has Brought Cases Before

The Justice Department has previously brought some cases involving Azerbaijan through the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act (FCPA), but much more is needed. According to the “Azeri Oil Money Got a Pass From This Ethics Committee” article in Bloomberg News, Azerbaijan continues to shell out over $45,000 monthly to the Podesta Group, of which the columnist states “It’s hard to tell whether it’s this creativity and generosity or any real U.S strategic interest that makes the U.S overlook the country’s brutal dictatorship. A combination of both is likely: Without the ‘caviar diplomacy’, Azerbaijan might be considered too small to defy declared U.S values and principles for its sake.”

“When it come to the integrity of America’s democracy, the rule of law, and our governance process, we must not turn a blind eye to Azerbaijan’s influence peddling, authoritarian regime and human rights atrocities,” Assembly Co-Chairs Barsamian and Krikorian said. “Further, we must ensure that Azerbaijan’s rampant corrupt practices do not compromise U.S policies and objectives. Additional evidence on Azerbaijani as well as Turkish wrongdoing is available and growing; we would welcome the opportunity to help advance a thorough investigation and United States response.”

In addition to the U.S, Azerbaijan’s caviar diplomacy is also amply documented in the December 2016 European Stability Initiative (ESI) report wherein expensive watches, jewelry, computers, and large sums of money, among other gifts, were provided to several politicians from a number of countries in Europe. ESI states that “the case with which democratic institutions and safeguards can be undermined has emerged as a fundamental threat to European democracy.”

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$120 Million to be Implemented in Armenia’s Agriculture Sector in 2017

Investment programs in agriculture sector were discussed at a meeting convened by Ignati Araqelyan, Armenian agriculture minister, the ministry’s press reported.

The minister said that programs worth $120 million will be implemented in 2017. Of this amount $60 million is the cost of the project’s mentioned recently by Suren Karayan, economic development and investments minister.

Araqelyan said that investments will be used for construction of slaughterhouses and a cannery as well as for expanding greenhouses, gardens and modernizing brandy industry.

The minister instructed appropriate officials to set control over implementation of these programs.

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Dink Murder Case Continues with More Witnesses

ISTANBUL (Agos) —Trials of public officials, including former police chiefs Celalettin Cerrah, Engin Dinc, Ramazan Akuyrek, Ali Fuat Yilmazer, Ahmet Ilhan Guler, continued in Istanbul today.

During the previous round, arrested suspect, Ali Funt Yilmazer, former chief of Office C of Istanbul Directorate of Security Intelligence Branch, completed his defense. In this round, cross examination of Yilmazer was carried out.

The court decided to hear 52 people as witnesses, including Muammer Guler, former Minister of Interior and the Governor of Istanbul at the time of the murder, former police chief Hanefi Avci; former police chief Recep Guven, former deputy police chief Emin Aslan; Huseyin Yavuzdemir, the Governor of Trabzon at the time of the murder; former deputy police chief of Istanbul Hakan Aydin Turkeli; former chief of Istanbul counterterrorism branch selim Kutkan and journalist Nedim Sener.

Ahmet Kurt said that he worked in Office C, they received the information that Dink will be killed, but he doesn’t know what kind of works has been done.

Giving a statement as a witness, Tarkan Gokcen said that Ali Fuat Yilmazer wanted the information concerning Dink ordered after the murder and that’s when he saw the report concerning Hrant Dink. Gokcen said that he was friends with Muhittin Zenit, he called him out of curiosity, but he hadn’t talked to anybody about the incident.

Working in intelligence Department at the time of the murder, Seyfi Inan was also heard as a witness. He said that the documents concerning Dink were important and it is impossible for the branch chief not to see such important documents and information.

Yalcin Kara, a police officer working the Intelligence Department, said: “On the day of the murder, I went to the Department and Yilmazer was yelling, ‘Bring the documents of the team from Trabzon’”.

Ozcan Ozcan said that they investigated Osman Hayal and issued a report about that investigation, but they didn’t do anything else. He said that they hadn’t seen any document.

After the witness statement were read, Yilmazer continued his defense. Yilmazer said that Erhan Tuncel’s phone was wiretapped before the murder, but there is no record: “Who did organize these plots in Trabzon? Either it was known that he wasn’t using that phone or someone told him not to use it. This is no joke. There cannot be such mistakes in intelligence branches. They recorded the informant who hadn’t been recorded for 2 years. Then they wrote a report, telling that they were trying to make him give up through the informant. This is an unprecedented report. Neither the police nor intelligence personnel have such a duty. This is an effort for evading. There is a serious ruse.”

Yilmazer also criticized the prosecutor’s office on the grounds that the prosecutor who issued the indictment concealed the evidences in favor of him.

Friends of Hrant made a statement in front of the courthouse before the hearing. Speaking on behalf of Friends of Hrant, Bulent Aydin said, “we came close to the truth, but the case is still focused on a passive branch. Clarifying the Dink murder would pave the way for clarifying other dark murders.”

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