Armen Sarkissian Sworn in as President of Armenia

YEREVAN — Armen Sarkissian took the Oath of Office of President of Armenia, midday on Monday April 9th at a special session of the Armenian Parliament held at the Karen Demirdjian Sports and Concerts Complex. He took the oath of office by placing his right hand on the original book of the Constitution of Armenia and a 7th century Bible. “By assuming office of President of Armenia, I swear to be committed to the Constitution of Armenia, I swear to be committed to the Constitution of Armenia, to be impartial during fulfillment of my powers, to be guided solely by state and pan-national interests and to contribute my entire strength for the strengthening of national unity. May God help me”, Sarkissian said.

Sarkissian, 64, is the first Armenian President not elected by popular vote. The change stems from constitutional changes have transformed Armenia into a parliamentary republic. Sarkissian will therefore have largely ceremonial powers.

In an ensuing speech, Sarkissian mentioned challenges facing the country. “We must jointly and consistently fight against negative and vicious practices in the state system, society and our environment: from corruption to social injustice, from indifference to irresponsibility,” he declared. “In this just and uncompromising fight, each of us has a role to play. We will succeed if we not only criticize but also propose, if we join forces and work together, rather than create divisions.”

The new president, who has tried to reach out to various political and civic groups, intellectuals and business circles in recent weeks, went on to stress the need for faster economic development. “No matter how attractive and substantiated promises of the bright future are, people want to feel their fruits now, and they are right,” he said. “The 21st century is a century of thought and rapid scientific progress,” said Sarkissian. “Accordingly, we must build a new Armenia; a young Armenia; a dynamic flexible, and creative Armenia.”

The inauguration was attended by 92 of the 105 members of the parliament. Most of the absent deputies are affiliated with the opposition Yelk bloc, which controls 9 parliament seats. Seven Yelk deputies voted against Sarkissian while the two others did not vote at all on March 2nd.

A physicist and mathematician by education, Sarkissian worked at Cambridge University when he was appointed as newly independent Armenia’s first ambassador to the United Kingdom in 1991. He served as prime minister for four months in 1996-1997 before being again named ambassador in London.

His second ambassadorial stint was cut short in 1999 by then President Robert Kocharian. Sarkissian stayed in Britain and made a fortune there in the following decade, working as an advisor and middleman for Western corporations doing business in the former Soviet Union. He was appointed as Armenian ambassador to Britain for a third time in 2013.

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Zareh Sinanyan Elected Mayor of Glendale for the Second Time

GLENDALE — On Tuesday, April 3rd, Glendale City Council elected Zareh Sinanyan as Glendale City Mayor replacing Vartan Gharpetian. The Mayor is elected by the City Council, which is composed of five members, four of them are Armenians.

This is Sinanyan’s second time elected as Mayor of Glendale, California. He served as Mayor of Glendale in April of 2014 through April of 2015. In April of 2013, Sinanyan was elected to the Glendale City Council. In his inaugural statements, Mayor Sinanyan highlighted some of the key priorities he will be working on throughout the year as, expanding the economy with policies such as the Glendale Tech Initiative; strengthening downtown with an eye towards increasing its stature as a major business center; promoting inclusivity and ensuring the safety of the city.

Sinanyan said that he will work hard on increasing low income and workforce housing by looking for more housing opportunities and cooperating with the state to expand the housing stock and provide shelter to the elderly, as well as the economically disadvantaged and veterans, and other projects like transportation and library for children.

Sinanyan was born in the former Soviet Armenia and moved to Burbank, California in 1988, and received his Juris Doctorate from the University of Southern California Law School. Since 2001, Sinanyan has practiced as a civil litigator and currently has his own law practice in Glendale, California.

Sinanyan has been married to Lori for 18 years, and they have four children, all attending Glendale Unified School District Schools.

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Israeli Minister Gilad Erdan Calls for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide

Public Security Minister Gilad Erdan has slammed Turkish President Erdogan, calling him “an anti-Semite,” and has urged to recognize the Armenian Genocide, the Jerusalem Post reported.

Speaking on Army Radio, Erdan said that “it’s possible Israel should have acted against Turkey in the international arena and recognized the Armenian Genocide committed by the Ottoman Empire.”

Erdan further said that he believes Israel should “present the values held by the Turks around the world, including recognition of the slaughter of the Armenians. We must stand up to the hostility and anti-semitism of Erdogan. A strange thing is taking place here where a country like Turkey, which butchers the Kurds [and] occupies north Cyprus is accepted in the west as a legitimate state.”

Erdan’s comments follow a verbal exchange of fire Sunday, when Erdogan called Israel a terrorist state and occupier,” and Netanyahu a “terrorist.”

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Assembly Offers Condolences to Halo Trust Family Who Lost Their Lives Cleaning Landmines

The Armenian Assembly (Assembly) extends its condolences to The HALO Trust family upon learning the news of the tragic loss of three HALO Trust employees, Pavel Akopov, Samson Avanesyan, and Marat Petrosyan, who died while clearing mines in Artsakh, as well as Gagik Ghahilyan and Aram Mkrtchyan who were seriously injured.

The Assembly also expresses its deep gratitude for the important work and service of The HALO Trust. Armenians will always remember Pavel, Samson, and Marat, whose lives were lost while clearing landmines to keep the people of Armenia and Artsakh safe, and will pray during this Easter Holy Week for the full recovery of Garil and Aram.

Everyday around the world more than 8000 HALO staff go to work in places where no one else can tread and this tragic incident throws into stark relief the dangers that they face and the importance of our work. Our colleagues were killed while working to make the land safe for the people of Nagorno-Karabakh.

Between 2000-2016, The HALO Trust in Artsakh has destroyed 180,858 small arms ammunition, 48,572 units of “other explosive items,” 12,423 cluster bombs, 8,733 anti-personnel landmines, and 2,584 anti-tank landmines. HALO has cleared 88 percent of the territory’s minefields, with the goal to clear all landmines in Artsakh by 2020. According to HALO, Artsakh has “the highest per capita incidence of landmine accidents in the world – a third of the victims are children.”

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“Rectifying Mistakes”: UC Berkeley Reopens Krouzian Seminar Room After Disappearance a Decade Ago

After nearly a decade of absence, the Krouzian Seminar Room reopened Monday, February 12 in Doe Library in honor of the late Krikor Krouzian, a respected member of the Armenian-American community and a survivor of the 1915 Armenian Genocide.

The reception hosted about 30 people and included remarks from Chancellor Carol Christ, Armenian studies program director Stephan Astourian and Armenian studies program advisory committee chair Irina Paperno. Two student speakers, Sevana Nourian and Hakob Mesropian, also gave insight into their experiences with the Armenian studies program. “This room is fundamental for Armenian students,” campus senior and Armenian Students Association president Harout Pomakian said, “it gives us the space we really needed to get together to study, to learn and collaborate for our Armenian studies classes.”

In his speech, Astourian honored the late Krouzian and Krouzian’s sister Zovinar Davidian, and recalled how the UC Berekely Armenian studies program transformed from a semester long visiting professor to “one of the best in the U.S.”

Astourian, who has been a campus professor for two decades, was instrumental in the establishment of the Armenian studies program, which was able to add a second full time faculty member, Myrna Douzjian in 2017.

The original seminar room was established in 1993 and was funded by Krouzian and his sister, Davidian, Christ said she remembered the first talks of establishing the Krouzian Seminar Room back in the 90s.

According to Christ, the room was “displaced” because of renovations to Doe Library, which left the Armenian studies program, Armenian alumni and students without a permanent meeting space for years. “The support from the Armenian community is unique and unprecedented,” Paperno said. “The university is a community of students and faculty, but it cannot exist…without the warmth and trust of the community it serves.

Pomakian said he appreciated how the administration acknowledged its error and amended it in “the greatest way possible.” Before the newly reopened seminar room, the only space for Armenian students on campus was “a desk in Eshleman (Hall).” according to Pomakian. “On behalf of the campus, I regret that (the room’s displacement) happened — but I am glad that we have finally rectified the mistake,” Christ said.

Nourian said she was grateful for the Armenian community on campus, which gave her a sense of belonging. Similarly, Mesropian thanked the Armenian studies program for giving him the opportunity to incorporate Armenian studies into his curriculum as a history major. “As a young kid, I grew up with my parents telling me that no one cares about the Armenians,” Mesropian said, and added that he is now able to discuss the knowledge he has gained in class with family and peers.

The event concluded with a performance from Ardzagank, the Armenian Student choir which sang traditional folk songs.

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U.N Calls for Turkey to End State of Emergency, Halt Violations

By Stephanie Nebehay

GENEVA – (Reuters) – The United Nations called on Turkey to end its 20 month old State of Emergency and accused Ankara of mass arrests, arbitrary sackings and other abuses that in some cases amounted to “collective punishment.”

Turkey’s foreign ministry said the report was filled with unfounded allegations and compared the criticism with propaganda announcements from militant groups.

The U.N human rights office said Turkey had arrested 160,000 people and dismissed nearly the same number of civil servants since a failed coup in July 2016. The crackdown was having a “chilling effect” on Turkish society by showing that any dissent will be punished, the U.N added.

The state of emergency, declared by President Tayyip Erdogan after the coup bid and still in force, has been used to justify the torture of detainees and interference with the judiciary, the U.N human rights office said.

Turkey should “promptly end the state of emergency and restore the normal functioning of institutions and the rule of law,” the U.N report said.

The foreign ministry in Ankara said the report showed prejudice against Turkey and ignored “the severe and multiple terrorist threats” it was facing. The report “contains unfounded allegations matching up perfectly with the propaganda efforts of terrorist organizations,” the ministry added.

“JUST STAGGERING”

The Turkish government blames the network of Fethullah Gulen, a U.S based Muslim cleric, for the failed coup attempt during which 250 people were killed. Gulen has denied any involvement.

Zeig Ra’ad al-Hussein, U.N High Commissioner for Human Rights. said the numbers of people arrested or dismissed are “just staggering”. Nearly 160,000 people have been arrested and 152,000 civil servants sacked, “many totally arbitrarily” in the 18 months through to December 2017, he said in a statement. “Teachers, judges, and lawyers dismissed or prosecuted; journalists arrested, media outlets shut down and websites blocked – clearly the successive states of emergency declared in Turkey have been used to severely and arbitrarily curtail the human rights of a very large number of people,” Zeid said.

The report, based on 104 interviews, describes the use of torture and ill-treatment in custody, including severe beatings, sexual assault, electric shocks, and waterboarding by police, gendarmerie, military policem and security forces. “We have taken into account the fact that Turkey is combating a large number of terrorist attacks,” U.N human rights spokewoman Ravina Shamdasani told a news briefing. She said victims included at least 50 women detained just before or after having given birth, some separated from their babies. One woman had been shackled by her legs immediately after a miscarriage, she added. We have reports that people were being detained and ill-treated without charge by anti-terror police units and security forces at places like sports centers and hospitals, as well as detention facilities,” she added. Shamdasani asked whether the violations constitute collective punishment – illegal under international law – replied: “There clearly are instances where people are being collectively punished.”

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Charges Dropped Against Eleven Members of Turkish President Erdogan’s Security Detail

Charges have been dropped against 11 members of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan’s security detail that were accused of beating protesters in Washington, D.C. The Hill reported.

Federal prosecutors made the decision to drop the charges against 11 of out of 15 security members in connection with the incident.

Police originally announced charges against 16 people in connection with the violent clashes in June of last year. The scuffle took place last May after roughly two dozen protesters gathered outside of the Turkish Embassy to protest Erdogan’s policies during his visit to Washington. Nine people were taken to local hospitals following the incident. The Turkish Embassy said that Erodgan’s bodyguards were acting in “self defense” during the incident and accused the protesters of being affiliated with the terrorist group PKK.

A protest leader denied that anyone involved had any ties or sympathies to the PKK.

The clash was criticized by Washington, D.C, police and local officials who described it as a violent attack on peaceful demonstrators.

The incident came as U.S officials were attempting to improve fragile relations with Turkey, which is a key NATO ally and a partner in the fight against ISIS.

Prosecutors in November requested a judge to drop the charges against four members of Erdogan’s security team, and the charges against seven others were dropped in February before now outgoing Secretary of State Rex Tillerson flew to Turkey to meet with Erdogan.

U.S officials told The Wall Street Journal that the prosecutors were not pressured to drop the charges saying that investigators had misidentified some suspects and did not have enough evidence against others.

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Anne Kiremidjian, Earthquake Engineer, Receives John Fritz Medal

Anne Kiremidjian, earthquake, professor of civil and environmental engineering, has been awarded the 2018 John Fritz Medal. The award, presented by the American Association of Engineering Societies (AAES), recognizes one individual each year for scientific or industrial achievements in the pure or applied sciences.

Kiremidjian received the award for her research in the field of probabilistic seismic risk assessment and for her leadership in the classroom, educating the next generation of earthquake engineers.

Kiremidjian’s research focuses on building resilient, sustainable cities that can withstand short and long term environmental stressors, including earthquakes. Through the design and implementation of wireless sensors systems, the development of robust algorithms for structural damage diagnosis and several other evaluation techniques, Kiremidjian continues to expand conversations around creating strategic civil infrastructure systems, emphasizing the importance of social, political, and economic data in her findings.

Established in 1902, the John Fritz Medal is among the highest honors awarded an engineer, Kiremidjian joins a respected cadre of recipients, including Alexander Graham Bell and David Packard.

Graduating from Queens College of the City University of New York in Physics in 1972, she received her BS in civil engineering from Columbia University and moved to California and received her MS in structural engineering in 1973 from Stanford University and later her PhD from Stanford in 1977. She has been on many boards and committees.

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Congressional Armenian Caucus Hosts Capitol Hill Reception for Artsakh President Sahakyan

Armenian Assembly Discusses U.S-Artsakh Relations with Artsakh President and Delegation in Washington, D.C

WASHINGTON, D.C — Invited by the Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Artsakh President Bako Sahakyan and his delegation are in Washington, D.C for a working visit, which includes Foreign Minister Masis Mayilian, Parliament Member David Ishkhanian, Parliament Member Daivd Melkoumyan, and the President’s Deputy.

The Armenian Assembly (Assembly) joined the Armenian Caucus in welcoming to Washington, D.C, the delegation from the Republic of Artsakh. The March 14 Congressional Reception on Capitol Hill hosted by the Armenian Caucus honored the 30th anniversary of the Artsakh Liberation Movement, Armenian Caucus Co-Chairs Rep. Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Rep. David Valadao (R-CA), and Rep. Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Co-Vice Chair Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Co-Vice Chair Adam Schiff (D-CA) were in attendance, along with Rep. David Cicilline (D-RI), Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA), Rep. Anna Eshoo (D-CA), and Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA). “I was pleased to welcome Bako Sahakyan, President of the Republic of Artsakh, to the U.S Capitol,” House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Ranking Member Congressman Schiff told the Assembly. “Along with my colleague in the Armenian Caucus and throughout the Congress, I stand with the people of Artsakh as they struggle for peace, security and self-determination. After visiting Artsakh many years ago. I know the courage and resilience of its people. The President’s visit was an excellent occasion to reaffirm our strong bonds, and discuss how we can work towards the day when the people of Artsakh can live without feat of provocation and violence across the line of contact,” he added.

In his speech, President Sahakyan highlighted the strong relations between the United States and Artsakh. “I am optimistic — it will end definitely so, for we consider the United States a friendly country, a state which has become second homeland for millions of Armenians. I am optimistic because we have here devoted, sincere and honest friends, who have been standing by Artsakh for many years, supporting our people, providing objective information about our country worldwide. We rate high our friendly ties, considering them precious assets.” He continued: “Cementing and deepening ties with the United States of America have always been and will remain among the fundamental directions of our foreign policy.”

During his remarks, Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Pallone spoke about the significance of the resolution he introduced earlier this year supporting United States-Artsakh relations. H.Res. 697, titled “U.S-Artsakh Travel and Communication,” calls for free and open communication, as well as travel, between the two nations at all levels of civil society and government. The resolution also notes the importance of placing OSCE-monitored, advanced gunfire-locator systems and sound ranging equipment to determine the source of attacks along the line of contact.

Armenian Caucus Co-Chair Rep. Valadao, who traveled to Artsakh during the Congressional Delegation in September 2017, spoke about his visit to the The Halo Trust and how he learned more about its demanding efforts in the region. “You hear on the outside of the shelling, the sniper fire, and the rocket fire in such a small country but people are living their lives just like our families here. So the resilience, the strength, the courage, of so many people is amazing to see,” he said.

President Sahakyan awarded Medals of Gratitude to Reps. Valadao, Cicilline, Costa, and Sherman for their longtime and substantial contribution to the recognition of the Republic of Artsakh. The President previously honored Reps. Pallone, Speier, and Eshoo with Medals of Gratitude during the Congressional Delegation to Armenia and Artsakh in September 2017. Rep. Cicilline noted that his home state of Rhode Island was the first U.S state to formally recognize the Republic of Artsakh. In addition, the states of California, Georgia, Hawaii, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, and Michigan also passed resolution recognizing Artsakh. “It was a pleasure to welcome Bako Sahakyan, President of the Republic of Artsakh, today. I hope that the relationship between our two nations grows stronger in the years to come. We stand with the Republic of Artsakh as they fight for the right of self-determination, and I extend an invitation to President Sahakyan to visit Colorado in the future,” Rep. Mike Coffman (R-CO) told the Assembly.

Following the Congressional Reception, the Armenian Assembly leadership discussed a broad range of issues, including its work with Congress and the State Department, with the Artsakh delegation and Armenian Ambassador to the U.S Grigor Hovhanissian. “We want to thank the State Department for issuing the visa to the Artsakh delegation for this long overdue visit to our nation’s capital. The Armenian Assembly family and the entire Armenian American community is truly happy and proud to have this delegation in Washington, D.C,” Assembly Co-Chair Van Krikorian said. “Considering Azerbaijan’s reaction in protesting the President’s trip to Washington and not protesting similar visits by the President of Artsakh to Moscow, Paris, and other capitals, reveals that their $3 billion Laundromat scheme might not be working in Washington either,” he concluded.

Earlier, U.S Ambassador to Baku, Robert Cekuta was summoned to the Azerbaijani Foreign Ministry, and was handed a note of protest for President Sahakyan’s visit. The Foreign Ministry spokesman threatened the U.S, and stated that “Azerbaijan will proceed from the principle of reciprocity.”

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Turkey: It Was “Not Nice” to Annul the Protocols

BAKU — It was “not nice” of Yerevan to annul diplomatic protocols that would normalize its relations with Ankara, a senior Turkish official on a trip to Baku as reported by an Azerbaijani news agency, according to Radio Free Europe.

In the first official public reaction of Ankara to Yerevan’s move Turkey’s Deputy Foreign Minister Ahmet Yildiz again linked the implementation of the agreements, which were never ratified by parliaments in either country, to the resolution of the protracted Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Turkish-Armenian accords envisaging the establishment of diplomatic relations and opening of the border between the two countries was signed through the mediation of Switzerland in Zurich in late 2009. The United States and Russia supported Yerevan and Ankara in their endeavor to normalize historically strained relations.

In negotiating the deal, Armenia insisted that its implementation should not be conditioned to other issues. After its signing, however, Turkey repeatedly linked it with progress in Armenia’s negotiations with its regional ally, Azerbaijan, regarding the settlement of the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Citing Ankara’s continuing refusal to implement the normalization protocols unconditionally, Armenia formally annulled the agreements on March 1st. “Although the Zurich protocols between Turkey and Armenia had not been enacted, it was not nice of the Armenian side to take a decision to annul them,” said Yildiz, who attended an international forum hosted in Baku. Azerbaijani news agency APA quoted the Turkish diplomat as claiming that Yerevan benefited more from the protocols than Ankara. “It is their decision. All the same they have demonstrated their unwillingness to settle the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict over all these years. This way they once again demonstrate the same position. What we do expect from them above all is their withdrawal from the Azerbaijani land. This was the key to resolving this conflict. But they did not want it,” Yildiz added.

During a news briefing in Yerevan, Armenia’s Deputy Foreign Minister Shavarsh Kocharian confirmed that the decision to annul the protocols was properly communicated to Turkey and reiterated that “the Armenian side is ready to conduct negotiations aimed at normalizing relations without pre-conditions.” “We have not received any offer from the Turkish side in that direction,” the senior Armenian diplomat said.

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