“CSTO Calls Azerbaijani Diversionary Incursion Against Armenia “Provocation

The Russia controlled Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) expressed on December 29, its deepest concern over an armed incident reported near the Armenian village of Chinari on the border with Azerbaijan on the morning of December 29.

CSTO Secretary General Nikolai Bordyuzha said in a statement that the organization considers these actions on the territory of CSTO member state as a provocative, especially against the background of an unprecedented upsurge of violence in Karabakh in April when given the efforts that have been made on both sides as well as weapons and armored vehicles were used.
However, the reports from the region about regular violations of the ceasefire ad especially the incident on the 29th of December, resulting in death of servicemen, are causing serious concern, the statement said.

Armenian defense minister reported earlier that Azerbaijani troops attempted a diversionary incursion in the early hours of December 29 southeast of the village of Chinari in Tavush province. It said Armenian armed forces neutralized the aggressive action of Azerbaijani troops, driving them back into Azerbaijani territory.

According to Artsrun Hovhannisyan, a spokesman for Armenian defense ministry, Azerbaijan troops, driving them back into Azerbaijani territory. During the fighting, three Armenian soldiers were also killers.

The Azerbaijani attempted attack made Armenia’s foreign ministry call on the international community asking it to condemn with Armenia, which resulted in human loses. “We express our deepest condolences to the relatives and fellow servicemen of the fallen soldiers”, the statement reads. “While the most serious damage caused to the settlement process i the result of the Azerbaijani aggression against Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) this April has not been overcome yet, Baku embarks on a new adventurism grossly violating the agreements reached at the Vienna and St. Petersburg summits and the commitment to settle the issue through peaceful means. This is how Baku responds to the Foreign Ministers of the OSCE Minks Group Co-Chair countries who urged in Hamburg to adhere strictly to the 1994 / 95 ceasefire agreements.

On numerous occasions, the international community, via the Co-Chairs, has called to maintain the ceasefire, especially during the holidays. By undertaking military diversionary incursion on Christmas and New Year’s Eve, Baku acts against the universal human values.

The international community, first and foremost the OSCE Minks Group Co-Chair countries should take immediate steps to sober up the Azerbaijani leadership, who has lost the sense of reality, ignores and opposes with defiance to their calls and demands, ” the statement reads.

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Armenian Civil Aviation Sends Cooperation Proposals to More than 40 Airline Companies

Sergey Avetisyan, the head of Armenia’s Civil Aviation Department, said that his agency has sent cooperation proposals to more than 40 airlines, mostly in Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.

Speaking to reporters, Avetisyan said the agency has received answers from 3-4 airlines, which said they plan to send their representatives to Armenia soon “to conduct more serious negotiations,” including on technical matters.

Avetisyan said the agency plans also a modernization of the system next year and introduction of an electronic procedure for awarding flight permissions. This will cut the list of required documents for operation of flights and simplify the procedure for issuing flight permits. All this is supposed to help avoid delays and increase the transparency of the sector, he said.

In October 2013, the Armenian government introduced the open sky policy “to ensure competitive conditions for air service providers in the Armenian market.” The policy is based on the results of a joint study by McKinsey and Company and the National Competitiveness Foundation of Armenia.

Since then, the Aegean Airways, Iraqi Airways, Georgian Airways, Czech and LOT began operating flights to Armenia. In June 2016, Russia’s Saratov Airlines and Ural Airlines started operating flights to Armenia. Pobeda, a Russian low cost airline, began operating flights to Armenia from Moscow. Russia’s Rosavation gave its permission to Ikar (PEGAS FLY brand) Nordwind Airlines and Izhavia to operate flights to Armenia.

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Close to $200 Million Direct Investments Expectede to Come to Armenia in 2017

Suren Karayan, Armenian economic development and investments minister, speaking at a news conference, said that $150 to $200 million is expected to come to Armenia in 2017 as direct foreign investments.

He said that direct foreign investments in Armenia totaled $92 million in Jan-Sept 2016. “This is too little – only 1% of the country’s GDP, while for development and economic growth we should increase it at least five times to 5% of GDP as soon as possible,” he said.

In his words, some steps will be taken to achieve this indicator. First, taking into account that Armenian market is too small, investors will get an opportunity to enter bigger markets, and second, business and investment environment will be improved.

In particular, a package of legislative changes implying simplification of some procedures and introduction of the foreign investment protection institute is ready.

Besides “one window” scheme is created to serve investors. These steps give grounds for thinking that investments totaling $150 to $200 million will come to Armenia in 2017 also thanks to the expansion of the geography if investments.

As a successful investment-attracting project, Karayan point out the expected appearance of a German company at Armenia’s market.

A territory is already allocated, and the construction of the building for production of medical equipment and solutions for diagnostics is expected to be launched already in the first quarter of the next year.

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Justice Minister Hovhannisyan: Illegally Enriched Officials in Armenia will be Jailed if Proven Guilty

YEREVAN — Armenia’s National Assembly passed at the first reading amendments to the criminal code. The amendments propose criminalization of illicit enrichment of officials implying AMD 5 million (around $10,000).

Presenting the amendments to lawmakers, Arpine Hovhannisyan, Justice Minister, said that this AMD 5 million is the averaged ceiling. It means that enrichment by more than 5 million will attract attention. “Enrichment that considerably exceeds legal income and that is not justified properly will be considered illegal,” she said. Besides, all the receipt and lending transactions exceeding AMD 2 million will be made through non-cash settlement.

In her opinion, this will enhance transparency of high ranking officials. Offenders will be prosecuted and jailed for three to six years with seizure of their property and prohibition to hold particular positions.

Hovhanisyan said that the most disputable aspect is presumption of innocence. The fact of illicit enrichment must be proven and the official will have a chance to present his arguments.

The amendments come into force on July 1st 2017. Remarkable is that they don’t apply to those persons who scraped up their fortune before that, since this would contradict the Constitution, as the minister said.

The amended criminal code will oblige all officials to declare their income. Edward Sharmazanov, Vice Speaker, hailing these amendments, noted that the necessity of such legislative changes has already come to a head and declared that the Armenian authorities “have a good will to combat illicit enrichment.” In his words, he find it important to prevent all possible abuses.

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Mayor Garcetti Appoints George Kivork as Press Secretary

LOS ANGELES — Mayor Eric Garcetti announced his appointment of Geroge Kivork to serve as Press Secretary for his administration, replacing outgoing spokesperson Connie Llanos.

Kivork has served for the past three years as the Mayor’s chief advocate in Washington D.C. where he managed federal affairs for the City of Los Angeles, Kivork will now work alongside current Press Secretary Carl Marziali to communicate Mayor Garcetti’s agenda for a more prosperous, safe, livable, and well-run city.

“George has been a very effective advocate for L.A’s goals in Washington,” said Mayor Garcetti. “His understanding of complex federal matters and citywide issues makes his extraordinary asset to my administration, and I look forward to him joining my team at City Hall.”

During his tenure in the nation’s capital, Kivork helped secure Congressional legislation to revitalize the L.A River, expand housing and services at the V.A West Los Angeles Medical Center, support LA’s bid to host the 2024 Olympics, and fund the construction of Metro transit lines. As the City’s Chief liaison in Washington, Kivork also communicated daily with the White House, Congress, federal agencies to address the City’s needs on issues ranging from criminal justice and housing to immigration, labor, and sustainability.

“It has been an honor to serve as the voice of L.A in D.C, and I’m excited to return home as Press Secretary for Mayor Garcetti,” Kivork said. “I am eager to communicate the Mayor’s work to make Los Angeles a safe, unified, and prosperous city that is a model for the nation.”

Kivork brings a unique wealth of experience in media, politics, and law to his new post. He helped lead rapid media response efforts at the National Security Network from 2005 to 2007, and managed media and voter outreach to American Muslin and Arab as well as Central and Easter European American communities for the presidential campaigns of Gen. Wesley Clark and John Kerry. Kivork was on the transition team of Antonio Villaraigosa when he was first elected Mayor in 2005, and has also served as counsel to the Assistant Secretary of the International Trade Administration at the U.S Department of Commerce, and practiced law at O’Melveny & Meyers in Century City.

Connie Llanos is stepping down from her post at the end of the year and is joining Airbnb, where she will serve as Southern California Deputy Manager. “We will miss her dedication to sharing this administration’s policies and priorities, and I wish her continued success,” Mayor Garcetti said.

“Mayor Garcetti is spearheading progressive change to ensure Los Angeles remains a place of opportunity for all —from championing investments to better serve homeless Angelenos, immigrants and our young people, to leading America’s largest local infrastructure investment efforts,” Llanos said. “It has been an honor and a priviledge to be a part of this incredible team.”

Kivork starts his new position on January 3rd.

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Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus Announces Leadership Team for the 115th Congress

Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) Joins as VP

WASHINGTON, DC — The Congressional Armenian Caucus announced its leadership team for the 115th Congress. They are two Democrats and two Republicans.

Congressman Frank Palllone, Jr. (D-NJ), Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Congressman David G. Valadao (R-MI) to serve as the four co-chairs of the Caucus.

The Caucus is also please to announce that Congressman Gus Bilirakis (R-FL) will be joining as a vice-chair, serving alongside current vice-chair, Congressman Adam Schiff (D-CA).

The Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus also wishes to thank Congressman Robert Dold (R-IL), for his incredible service and leadership on the Caucus and wish him well on his future endeavors.

In the 115th Congress, the Congressional Armenian Issues Caucus will continue to work to strengthen the ties between the Untied States and Armenia and keep members engaged on Armenia-related issues. The caucus continues to advocate for increased economic ties and assistance to Armenia, self-determination and a peaceful resolution for Nagorno-Karabakh and supporting U.S recognition of the Armenian Genocide.

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$110,000 Raised for “Field of Dreams”

Mr. Antranig Baghdasarian Donates $50,000

During a fundraising dinner on Sunday December 11th, the American Armenian Rose Float Association (AARFA) raised $110,000 toward the construction of the third Armenian Rose Float and its participation in the 128th Pasadena Tournament of Roses, which will be held on January 2nd, 2017.

Close to 200 supporters attended the fundraising events, which was held at the Phoenix Decorating Company in Pasadena. Throughout the evening, guests had the opportunity to take a first-hand look at the newest Armenian float, which is kept and being worked on inside the Rose Palace of the Phoenix Decorating Company.

The first Armenian rose float, which carried the theme “Cradle of Civilization” went on to earn the Pasadena Tournament of Roses prestigious President’s Award for “most effective floral use and presentation.” the second Armenian rose float, which carried the theme “Discover Armenia” presented our treasured heritage and architecture of our homeland. “On New Year’s Day 2016 and 2016, as the Armenian Rose Float rolled down Colorado Boulevard, it promoted Armenian culture and identity in Los Angeles and across the world,” AARFA Treasurer Stepan Partamian said as he addressed the guests. “The float was seen by about 700,000 people spectators to Pasadena and a global audience of 1.5 billion in 115 countries. The forthcoming Tournament of Roses will be seen by an even great number of people. I can’t imagine a better or more cost-effective conduit for familiarizing the world with Armenian civilization. Think about it as a community, we;ll be spending a mere $300,000 on the third Armenian rose float, yet achieve the type of global exposure that would require millions of dollars.”

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Armenia and World Bank Sign $50 Million Agreement to Support Government’s Reforms Program

Armenia and the World Bank signed on December 8th, a $50 million development policy finance operation to support the Government’s reforms programs across key economic areas, the WB reported. The Fourth Development Policy Financing (DPY-4) for Armenia support a wide range of reforms promoting fiscal, social and environmental sustainability and strengthening competitiveness.

This is the last operation in a programmatic series of four DPFs spanning 2012-2016. “We are to support macroeconomic stability in Armenia. This operation will help to improve the country’s competitiveness and business environment and enhance employment opportunities”, said Laura E. Bailey, World Bank Country Manager for Armenia. “The DPF series are based on a long lasting partnership between the Bank and Armenia and builds on previous operations. The current series is focused on supporting the Government in addressing challenges faced by the country wu=ith high external vulnerability and persistent unemployment.”

The first pillar of this operation includes measures for improving the financial sustainability of key sectors and the efficiency of social protection programs while enhancing environmental safeguards in the mining industry, which accounts for over half of Armenia’s exports. The second pillar, on improving competitiveness focuses on strengthening the business environment and improving trade facilitation and connectivity, as well as access to credit.

Key milestones supported by this operation include the enactment of the Unified Tax Code, which will address shortcomings in the tax system, and increase the fiscal space for growth enhancing capital investment and social spending. It includes measures to enhance revenues, improve the efficiency, transparency and equity of the tax administration. “The new code is a major step forward in the tax policy reform, as it unifies and harmonizes what were previously two different set of tax laws, bringing them together into a single code. The code will reduce the risk of rule duplication and more importantly, of inconsistencies across different tax laws. By revisiting the level and structure of income taxes, reducing the number of exemptions and tax gaps, increasing excise taxes and strengthening coverage of high-wealth individuals and large companies, the code will lead to higher revenue mobilization in the medium-term,” said Gohar Gyulumyan, World Bank Co-Task Team Leader of the Project.

The program supports several reforms aimed at enhancing environmental safeguard legislation. In particular, the amendments to the Mining Code to align with the Law on Waste Management will reduce the negative environmental impact on mining operations and preserve the asset endowment for households in rural areas, which often depend on income from agricultural activity.

Another focus area of this operation is improvement in the business environment through enactment of the amendments to the Law on Bankruptcy, which strikes a better balance between creditors and debtors rights. The operation also supports increasing transparency and reliability of the financial sector by enacting regulations to ensure disclosure of beneficial institutions and groups. The Fourth DPF, totaling $50 million, is an IBRD loan with a fixed spread with a 14.5 year grace period and repayment of 25 years.

Since joining the World Bank in 1992 and IDA in 1993, total IDA and IBRD commitments to Armenia amount to $2.3 billion.

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$3,860,000 Raised in Paris for Armenian National Committee Activities

Community and religious leaders, government officials, and beneficiaries gathered in Paris on October 10th–the International Day of Human Rights–at a fundraiser dinner organized by the Armenian Revolutionary Foundation (ARF) Bureau in support of the worldwide Armenian National Committee.

Honorary dignitaries included Catholicos Aram I of the Great House of Cilicia, Armenian Foreign Affairs Minister Edward Nalbandian, Armenian Ambassador to the Holy See Mikael Minasyan, Armenian Ambassador to France Vigen Chitechyan, Pyunik Human Resources Development Foundation President Levon Sargsyan and Honorary President Gabriel Djambardji and others,

Catholics Aram I then addressed the efforts of all the volunteers and individuals who serve the ANC.

ARF Bureau member and ANC International Chairman Hagop Der Khatchadourian then presented a report that summarized the work of the committees.

Throughout the event, the Master of Ceremonies Stepan Der Bedrossian announced the donations made that day and in the weeks prior. Contributions were made from Europe, the Middle East, Russia, and Armenia. Several major donations included two donations of $250,000 by Gagik Tsarukyan and Samvel Aleksanyan; and four donations of $100,000 by Mikael Vardanyan, Karen Vardanyan, Michael Saryan, and the Pyunik Human Resources Development Foundation.

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EBRD Investments in Armenia in 153 Project Exceed $1 Billion

Karen Karapetyan, Armenian Prime Minister, received a delegation headed by European Bank for Reconstruction headed by European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) Coordinating Director for Eastern Europe and Caucasus Francis Malizh.

The premier praised the cooperation with the EBRD, the effectiveness is clearly evidenced by the following figures: the Armenia-EBRD cooperation portfolio is comprised of 153 programs, of which 56 in process, with a total investment of 1 billion Euros contributed by the EBRD. “Highly appreciative of EBRD-supported projects in both private and public sectors (solid waste management, improvement of water supply, modernization of border checkpoints, etc.) Prime Minister Karapetyan particularly welcomed the fact that 83% of Armenia’s current portfolio (305 million Euros) accounted for the direct financing of the private sector,” the press release says. “As to the development of financial markets, Karapetyan prioritized the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding in March 2016 between the EBRD on the one hand, and the Ministry of Finance and the Central Bank of Armenia on the other.”

Thanking Karapetyan for the words of high appreciation, Francis Malizh emphasized that the EBRD is keen to expand cooperation with Armenia and step up the amount of investment consistently.

Welcoming the Government’s initiative to establish a center for strategic initiatives in Armenia, as well as the efforts aimed at improving the business climate and providing a competitive field, he noted that the EBRD is ready to work closely with the Center on the joint projects, as well as to be useful to the Government in engineering a favorable competitive field.

Speaking about the priorities of bilateral cooperation, Mr. Malizh reaffirmed the Bank’s readiness to proceed from the government’s priorities in structuring the cooperation with our country in the three main areas outlined in the strategy for Armenia, which was approved in 2015, namely enhancement of private sector competitiveness, development of local capital market and market for public services.

As formation of a self-sufficient they discussed the prospects of bilateral cooperation, the parties touched upon the energy sector, looked at ways of amending the legal framework for public-private sector partnership, improving “the business environment, setting up investment funds and so on.

Mr. Malizh also welcomed the introduction of the Extracting Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI) in Armenia and the willingness to submit and EITI candidacy application in 2017. Karapetyan said his government is open and ready for cooperation in all possible areas. The premier instructed the heads of the agencies concerned to discuss with the bank’s representatives the details of the ongoing and projected joint programs

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