Sargsyan Expressed Serious Concerns Over Russia’s Arms Sale of Azerbaijan

In an interview with Argentina’s leading newspaper La Nacion, Armenia’s President Serzh Sargsyan pointed out to Russia’s strategic alliance with Armenia as a major concern against the backdrop of the deal.

The interview took place while President Sargsyan was visiting Argentina. “It is a very sensitive topic for us, so our people are very concerned that our strategic ally sells weapons to Azerbaijan. But I am confident Armenain has enough power and ability to protect its border. Though Russia sells weapons to Baku, I don’t think it will be difficult for the country to fulfill its commitments while we are in a complicated situation,” he said.

Asked whether Armenia’s accession to the Russia led Eurasian Economic Union would complicate further relations with Europe, the president said he hopes for an understanding approach by European partners.

“Europe does not clearly favor Armenia’s membership in the Customs Union, but I am confident our European partners understand why we have taken that step,” he said.

Posted in News

Amb. Tigran Sarkisian Presents Credentials to President Obama

WASHINGTON, D.C — Tigran Sarkisian, who was appointed Armenia’s ambassador to the United States late last month, handed his credentials to President Barack Obama in a ceremony on July 14.

Ambassador Sarkisian noted the “high level and efficient cooperation” that Armenian-American relations are distinguished by and that there is great potential for the development of relations between the two countries and that his mission will be aimed at “broadening the scope of mutually beneficial cooperation and interaction.”

For his part, President Obama expressed confidence that the newly appointed Armenian Ambassador will make the best use of his “vast knowledge and experience” for “deepening the relations between the two friendly nations”, the Armenian Ministry said.

The American leader also reportedly stressed the great importance that Washington attaches to the relations with Armenia that are based on “mutual respect and interests” as well as to “partnership in international peacekeeping missions and cooperation aimed at strengthening democracy and economic growth.” Obama also stressed Washington’s appreciation of Armenia’s commitment to achieving a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and enhancing security in the South Caucasus.

Posted in News

Priests Attacked at Armenian Church in Tblisi

TBLISI — On Saturday July 19, 2014, a pre-planned attack was perpetuated on the representatives of the Armenian Church of Sourp Etchmiadzin located in Tblisi, which was motivated by ethnic and religious hatred, reported the Armenian Church Diocese in Tblisi, Georgia.

At around 4pm, a provocation was organized on a territory adjacent to the yard of the church. After an unsuccessful attempt to drive from the territory adjacent to the yard of the Church, a person got outraged and began to reproach a clergyman, whose car was allegedly blocking her way. Soon, two openly aggressive men arrived on the scene and helped to take out the vehicle. The clergyman entered the administrative building of the Armenian Diocese in Georgia, while young deacons, who stood outside, head the men using foul language against Armenians.

When people began to protest this move, the man got off the vehicle, took a trucheon, continued to use obscene language, picked up a stone, and attempted to hit the representatives of the Armenian Diocese. When the personnel of the Armenian Diocese heard these voices, they rushed outside hoping to calm down the situation. At this time, one of the employees of the Diocese was hit in the back, and a short fight ensued.

About two hours later following this incident, the above mentioned man mobilized a group of about 50 males, some of them equipped with cold arms. These men approached the Church and began to fight with the clergy and the personnel of the Diocese, using obscene language against Armenians.

During this situation, a baptizing ceremony was held in the Church; the ceremony participants ran outside the Church at the screams and were also assaulted by the attackers. Shocked by the situation, women and children sought shelter in the Church. Notably, this situation was supposedly being watched by a group of individuals, who looked well dressed. As a result of this attack, the clergymen and the personnel of the Armenian Diocese were inflicted injuries, while one of the clergymen was ripped off a cross taken by the attackers.

“We urge the Georgian Law Enforcement Authorities to categorize these actions and investigate them as a crime committed based on ethnic and religious hatred”, stated the Diocese.

Some believe that to a certain degree, this incident is a result of anti-Armenian campaign pursued by some of the Media sources, and sadly, by some of the representatives of the Georgian Orthodox Church.

Posted in News

Obama Picks Richard M. Mills Jr. as US Ambassador to Armenia

President Barack Obama nominated Richard M. Mills Jr. as his pick to become the US Ambassador to Armenia, the White House announced on July 10.

The Senate Foreign Relations Committee has to consider the nomination as the next US Ambassador to Armenia, If confirmed by the Senate, Mills will replace current ambassador John Heffern.

“I am grateful that these impressive individuals have chosen to dedicate their talents to serving the American people at this important time for our country. I look forward to working with them in the months and years ahead,” said Obama in referring to Mills and others being nominated for ambassadorial positions.

Mills is currently Deputy Chief of Missions at the U.S Embassy in Beirut, where he began his tour in 2012.

Mills assumed the role of Charge d’ Affaires of the U.S Embassy in Malta, ad interim, in June of 2011. Since August 2010, he had been serving as the Deputy Chief of Mission for the Embassy.

He joined the Foreign Service in 1988, serving at Paris Embassy as a consular officer, then as staff aide to the Ambassador. He returned to Washington to join the Soviet Desk, eventually becoming desk officer for the newly independent Armenia and Azerbaijan, followed by a tour as a political officer at the U.S Consulate in St. Petersburg, Russia.

From 1996-98, Mills served in the Executive Secreteriat, followed by a tour as economic officer at Embassy Dublin from 1998-2001. Subsequent tours included Political Advisor at the U.S Mission to the UN; Deputy Political Counselor at Embassy Islamabad; and Energy Attache and Acting Economic Counselor at Embassy Riyadh. He was Political Counselor at Embassy London from 2006-2009.

Immediately prior to his Valletta assignment, Mills served as the Senior Democracy Advisor at Embassy Baghdad where he managed $325 million in State Department democracy and human right programs.

A graduate of Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, he also holds a law degree from the University of Texas School of Law and received a Master’s Degree in International Security Affairs from the National Defense University in 2005. Prior to joining the Foreign Service, Rick practiced law in Washington, D.C.

Mills is married to Leigh Carter, a retired Foreign Service Officer. He knows French and Russian.

Posted in News

We Do Not Have Much to Discuss with Turkey, Says Armenian President

“We do have much to discuss with Turkey today,” Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said in an interview with Argentine Media. “We have long discussed the two protocols, but the Turkish Parliament has not yet ratified them. So, what should we talk about?”, he said.

Sargsyan received Telam and two other Argentine media in a Buenos Aires hotel after a long day that included a ceremony at the Palacio San Martin with Vice President Amado Boudou, and several government ministers, and a meeting with the mayor of Buenos Aires, Mauricio Macri.

Relaxed, no suit and tie and with a gentle and unalterable tone of voice, the Armenian President does not reflect the image of the “military hero” many of his countrymen know. More than two decades ago, Sargsyan was one of the military leaders in the war against Azerbaijan. That conflict ended with the creation of a pro-Armenian internationally unrecognized republic, which according to Sargsyan, was a springboard for raising the defense and security level of Armenia.

“Away from the drama of war and categorical forms of military life, the 60 year old leader, who has been holding presidency of his for six years avoids resonant statements,” the article reads.

The President argues again and again that they do not choose either Russia or Europe. “We chose the two,” he said. Sargsyan said the would not “reduce or sever the relationship with the European Union,” but made a decision to join the Customs Union “by simple economic calculation.”

“For decades we have had a strong relationship with Russia and we cannot drop it,” the President said.

He explained that is is impossible for Armenia to export agricultural and other products to the EU it now exports to Russia at a competitive price.

He added, his country is dependent on Russia and Iran in energy and gas, and Moscow offers a 30% discount to members of the Customs Union.

The article notes that Armenia’s shared border with Turkey in the west has been closed for more than two decades, and the same is with Azerbaijani border.

The country has open borders with Iran and Georgia, a country that has already bid to join the NATO military alliance, which recently signed a Free Trade Agreeement withe European bloc and proceeds to enter the EU as a full member.

“We’ll continue the negotiations with the EU in a way that will not interfere with our integration with the Customs Union,” the President said, reaffirming his moderate spirit.

Posted in News

Armenia President to Turkey Leadership: We Cannot Accept such a “Just Memory”

YEREVAN — Next year will mark the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide. April 24 is undoubtedly a symbolic day, but it is clear that the genocide did not start and did not end in one day.

Moreover, the genocide is not completed until Turkey’s authorities continue to deny what has been committed, Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said during his meeting with the Armenian community of Argentina.

“However, the day when Turkey will face its history is not far away,” the President said. He is convinced that social consciousness is the face of young, educated generations who believe it is better to apologize than to abandon the past shamefully will contribute to the recognition.

“Yes, thousands of Turks do not accept the official policy of denial and express solidarity with the Armenian people. These processes are evident and they make the Turkish authorities to take certain steps” Sargsyan emphasized.

The Armenian leader recalled that Turkish leadership is speaking of the need for “a just memory” between Armenians and Turks, but by the next step is trying to undermine justice, putting an equality sign between one and a half million innocent victims, mostly elderly, women and children, and the Turkish military who died as a result of adventurous actions orchestrated by the leaders of the Ottoman Empire.

“It is not ‘a just memory’. We cannot accept such ‘just a memory’. In fact, this is an updated, improved, re-packaged version of the policy of denial of the Armenian Genocide,” Sargsyan added.

The President noted that Armenia will continue joint activities in terms of international recognition and condemnation of the Armenian Genocide.

“But we have to ‘respect the memory of our ancestors, not only through bringing our struggle till the end, but also strengthening our homeland using the talent and capabilities of every Armenian for the benefit of the homeland,” he added.

According to him, every Armenian should be proud of the fact that on the eve of the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, we stand with the existence of two independent states – the Republic of Armenia and the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.

“Even under the blockade and situation of ‘no war, no peace’ our homeland is developing,” he added.

Posted in News

$947,277 Bequeathed to AGBU by Centenerian Gladys Ashjian

NEW YORK – Gladys Ashjian, left $947,277 to the Armenian General Benevolent Union (ABGU) in her will, as she was a devout member of the AGBU for years and she believed in the organization’s work and trusted it.

She died at the age of 106 on March 14, 2012 and took some time to process the estate.

Gladys Ashjian was born in Rhode Island in November 1905 and died on March 14, 2012 at the age of 106.

Gladys was the oldest child of Gaspar and Aghavni (nee shahinian) Ashjian, had three brothers, Vahe, Gerard and Paul, and while the brothers used the last name of Ashton, Gladys preferred the Armenian spelling of Ashjian. The family moved to Fowler, California during the Great Depression in the 1930s and farmed in the area.

Ms. Ashjian moved to San Francisco are to Tracy in 1951 and taught Home Economics for 18 years before retiring. Ashjian demonstrated her philanthropic interests by initiating a scholarship program for Tracy High School graduates.

In her retirement, Gladys enjoyed, especially taking cruises, sailing 12 times to exotic locales such as Malaysia, many countries in Africa and Russia.

She was also a great seamstress and she made most of her clothes.

Ms. Ashjian was preceded in death by her late brothers and is survived by two nieces, Gerrilyn Ashton of Soquel, and Diane McKillop of Forestville, California.

She is also survived by cousins Sheri Sharkey Manoogian and Paul DeOrian.

Posted in News

World Bank Approves $120 Million Loans for Armenia for Three Projects

YEREVAN –The World Bank has disbursed more than $120 Million in three new loans to Armenia that are designed to boost Armenia that are designed to boost Armenia export, upgrade the domestic energy infrastructure and support thousands of livestock farmers in impoverished rural communities.

The largest of the loans, worth $50 million, will be used fro export promotion and reform of government licensing agencies dealing with foreign trade.

“The project will transform the investment, export promotion, and quality infrastructure agencies into modern service providers operating in accordance with international best practices,” the World Bank said in a statement issued after a meeting late on Wednesday of its governing board that approved the release of the credit repayable in 25 years.

The statement said these improvements will also make Armenia more attractive for export.

$40 Million to Refurbish Three Stations

Another credit worth $40 million will finance the refurbishment of three key electricity substation which the World Bank believes will “enhance the reliability of the power supply” in Armenia. “This would allow avoiding increased incidence of power supply outages, as well as associated significant social and economic costs,” Jean-Michel Happi, head of the bank’s Yerevan office, was quoted as saying in a separate statement issued after the board meeting in Washington.

“The average age of Armenia’s power transmission assets is around 45 years and most of them rehabilitation or upgrade over the past decades,” explained the statement.”

$33 Million to Support Villages and Agriculture

The release of the third credit worth around $33 million was announced late in the previous month. It marked the launch of the second phase of a project to support dozens of mountainous villages across Armenia that lives off livestock farming. The loan coupled with $10 million in government funding will essentially be channeled into agricultural cooperatives that are due to be created in around 100 such communities. It is expected that each of them will receive $200,000 for gaining better access to remote pastures, opening milk collection facilities or obtaining machinery to harvest fodder.

“At least 50,000 farmers are expected to participate in this project through their membership in Pasture Users’ Cooperatives,” the World Bank said on June 20.

$16 Million Already Provided

The bank already provided $16 million in 2011 for setting up such cooperatives and improving agricultural infrastructure in dozens of other impoverished communities. Then Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian personally promoted the project, inaugurating the first cooperatives. His government hoped that the project will help to revive farming on thousands of hectares of unused land.

Posted in News

President Sarkisian Meets with US Ambassador John Heffern.

On July 4th, President Serzh Sargsyan visited the U.S embassy, met Ambassador John Heffern and hailed the new level of the U.S Armenian relations and increase of American investments in the Armenian economy.

A few days earlier, Ambassador Heffern told the Voice of America that the decision to sell Vorotan Cascade to Contour Global is especially important. It is an important sector — energy. Earlier, the sector was dominated by Russian companies. The deal will signal to investors of the U.S and Western countries and help to prove that Armenia is open to business, Heffern said.

Did Serzh Sargsyan mean the deal of Vorotan when he mentioned American capital? He has not expressed his opinion on the deal yet which is a real test on the U.S- Armenian relations.

Some non-governmental parties of Armenia are against the deal. Former President Robert Kocharyan said the only positive thing about the deal is the appearance of a U.S company in the Armenian energy sector. Meanwhile, the terms and conditions of the deal are not favorable for Armenia.

Indignation with Vorotan is expressed in the context of silent surrender of all the other facilities of the energy sector to Russia. And this is evidence that this indignation has a political ground supported by Russia.

When the American ambassador spoke about signals, he apparently meant the rumors on cancelling the deal. Heffern warns that the United States will perceive it as a lack of will to cooperate, inability to handle autonomously its own energy sector. As soon as that signal is given, the United States may altogether lose interest in Armenia which is now perceived as an important political factor in the region.

On the other hand, the deal may signal that Armenia is open to diversification of its energy sector and the entire economy. Afterwards, the American side may offer to build the new nuclear plant of Armenia. It is known that Armenia is currently negotiating with Russia on a $300 million loan to reconstruct the Nuclear Power Plant. Meanwhile, the United States was ready to award a grant for enhancing the security of the Armenian NPP.

Hence, it is interesting whether Heffern and Serzh Sargsyan spoke about the Armenian energy sector or everything will end up in general statements.

Posted in News

Turkey Lashes Out at Congress Over Christian Churches US Bill

By Julian Pecquet

Legislation requiring the State Department to report on the status of “stolen, confiscated or otherwise unreturned”, churches and other Christian properties in Turkey and northern Cyprus sailed through the House Foreign Affairs Committee on a voice vote June 26.

Turkey wasted no time in denouncing what it called the bill’s “groundless criticism, false information and baseless accusations” and accused lawmakers of caving to ethnic lobbies.

“Attempts by anti-Turkish circles in the U.S Congress, driven by domestic political consideration, to push such unconstructive and baseless initiatives are unacceptable,” the Turkish Foreign Ministry said in a statement carried on the website of the Turkish Embassy in Washington.

The harsh statement raises concerns that the legislation could complicate relations with Turkey at a time when the United States is relying on its NATO ally to defuse the crisis in Syria and contain the Islamic State of Iraq and al-Sham (ISIS).

“Apart from being null and void as far as Turkey is concerned, such initiatives are also incongruous with the existing spirit of partnership and alliance that we enjoy with the United States, with whom we aim to be in even closer cooperation and solidarity, especially in confronting the regional and global challenges we are faced with,” the statement reads. “Those within the US Congress who lead such irresponsible acts and their supporters damage not only the Turkey-US bilateral relationship but also their own country’s interests. It is our strong expectation from the US Administration on this irresponsible act which runs counter to our bonds of alliance. Similarly, we expect from all those who value the Turkish-IS relationship to not remain silent.”

The legislation, sponsored by committee Chairman Ed Royce, (R-CA), and ranking member Elliot Engel (D-NY), would require the State Department to inform Congress of its efforts to persuade Turkey to return Christian sites and objects to their “rightful owners.”

It also requires that information to be made a part of annual reports to Congress on human rights practices and international religious freedom.

“I have long been concerned that Christian heritage sites in Turkey have been deteriorating and disappearing in the face of hostile government policies,” Royce said in a statement after the mark-up. “Despite optimistic claims by Turkish leaders, a majority of religious properties remain unreturned. There is even legislation before the Turkish Parliament to convert the landmark Hagia Sophia in Istanbul from a museum to a mosque. The U.S must hold Turkish leaders to their promises. By passing this legislation, the U.S sends a message to Turkey that it must return church properties to their rightful owners, while providing an objective measure of their progress each year.”

The legislation has the strong support of the Armenian-American diaspora, which is centered around greater Los Angeles and the greater New York metro area. Armenian church leaders from Washington and New York attended the June 26 mark up and the Armenian Bar Association wrote to all 45 members of the committee urging them to vote “yes”.

“Ottoman Turkey’s genocide of the Armenians took a huge and horrific human toll. We know that and you know that. Less known is the fact that there were a few lucky survivors of the Genocide which remain upright today on the land where so many Armenians were felled,” the letter states. “The surviving Armenian and Christian churches are witness to an ancient native civilization, lost for now, but deserving of the dual destinies of recovery and return.”

Two lawmakers — Reps. Gerald Connolly (D-VA), and Greg Meeks (D-NY)—raised concerns with legislation singling out Turkey at a delicate time. Connolly said the effort would “backfire” and predicted anti-American blowback at the ballot box.

“I am fearful that in out haste to make a statement that provides understandable comfort to our constituents, we are going to rupture one of the most important bilateral relationships we have right now,” said Connolly, who co-chairs the Congressional Caucaus on US-Turkish relations and Turkish Americans.

Connolly instead offered a non-binding sense of Congress that Turkey should “continue to make progress” in returning Christian properties. His proposal went nowhere.

Royce said he was “disappointed” not to get unanimous support after rewriting the bill to highlight recent encouraging steps by Turkey, including the creation of a legal process for considering claims, reports that more than 300 properties were returned as of January 2014 and the decision to allow a liturgical celebration at the historic Sumela Monastery in 2010 for the first time since 1922. Royce pointed out that the Barack Obama administration has raised similar concerns at the highest levels and questioned how much blowback there would really be a congressional report.

Posted in News