ARS WD Raises $210,000 at Banquet

On Friday, February 9th, at the 34th anniversary gala of the Armenian Relief Society, Western District, it was announced that $210,000 was raised for the organization.

The largest amount was donated by Mrs. Manoush Mamian, who had donated $50,000 in memory of her husband Garen Mamian to sponsor the building of two homes in Gyumri, Armenia.

Following the ARS reports and accomplishments in Artsakh and Armenia, Mrs. Mamian raised her donation to $100,000.

The Gala Banquet was held at the Taglyan Cultural complex and attended by a capacity of guests, around 500 people.

Among the guests were religious leaders, community organizations’ representatives’ as well as ARS Central Committee members.

Also present were elected officials – California State Senator Anthony Portantino; US Congressman Adam Schiff, Glendale City Mayor Vartan Gharpetian and City Councilmember Zareh Sinanyan, and others.

Welcoming remarks were delivered by Vicky Marashlian; ARS Gala Organizing Committee Chairperson, who thanks guests for their attendance and emphasized the importance of ARS programs.

The ARS Regional Executive Board’s message was delivered by Chairperson Silva Poladian. ARS of Western USA region currently has 26 chapters throughout the Western United States, as well as 16 one-day schools, and one day care center.

U.S Congressman Adam Schiff, California’s 28th District delivered remarks to guests, extending thanks to the ARS of Western USA for its continuous efforts in assisting populations in need both locally and internationally.

California State Senator Anthony Portantino addressed the guests praising the very important work of the ARS and presented a Certificate of Recognition to Chairperson Poladian recognizing the ARS of Western USA’s tireless advocacy of families in the homeland and Diaspora, as well as its philanthropic and ongoing commitment to promoting education and preserving the Armenian heritage.

The ARS Central Executive Board’s message was delivered by Marak Matossian, who mentioned that on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the First Republic of Armenia, the ARS Central Executive Board has organized a conference on May 24, 2018 at the Yerevan State University titled “The Role of Armenian Women from Renaissance to the First Republic.”

She also highlighted the ARS projects– the reopening of the ARS Stepanakert Soseh Kindergarten’ sponsoring hospital beds at the Military Disability Rehabilitation Center in Armenia for wounded and disabled soldiers; the ARS Mother & Child Clinic Dr. & Mrs. Murad and Flora Ookhtens; implementing a program to secure homes for families in Gyumri; and upcoming participation at the 62nd Conference of the UN Commission on the Status of Women on March 12, 2018.

The event’s Diamond Sponsors ($10,000) were Forest Lawn, Mr. & Mrs. Varant and Hoori Melkonian, Mr. Mike Sarian, and Mr. & Mrs. Sarkis and Nune Sepetjian.

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Armenian-American Jeffrey Harrigian Heads US Air Forces Central Command

As the air component commander for U.S Central Command, the general is responsible for developing contingency plans and conducting air operations in a 20 nation area of responsibility, covering Central and Southwest Asia.

President and CEO of Dover International Speedway and the Executive Vice-President and Chief Operating Officer of Dover Motorsports Michael Tatoian told about the Armenian roots of the high-ranking military officials.

In an interview with “Armenia Proud”, Tatosian said that he is part of the U.S Air Force program, within the framework of which they establish rites with civil society. He noted that they had a briefing with Jeffrey Harrigian. Tatoian noted that after the briefing, he approached Harrigian and said that he was also Armenian. “Immediately, there was a handshake. We started talking about our ancestors, our food our families. He looked Armenian, too”, Tatoian said.

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Istanbul Governor’s Office Cancels Elections for Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey

The Istanbul Governor’s Office has cancelled elections for the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey on the grounds that the necessary conditions for the electoral process have not been met,

The Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey has been planning to carry out patriarchal elections to replace Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan, who fell ill and could no longer perform his duties since 2008.

The Patriarchate sent a letter to the Ministry of Interior Affairs, in which they expressed their wish to hold an election for a new patriarch. However, the Istanbul Governor’s office rejected the Patriarchate’s demands saying that Mutafyan is alive and the necessary conditions in the election process had not been met, which meant keeping Mutafyan in the position (Mutafyan has been incapacitated for almost a decade.

The letter from the Governor’s Office also did not recognize Archbishop Karekin Bekciyan’s election as the “degabah” (caretaker patriarch). Bekciyan was the Primate of the Diocese of Germany.

The move has drawn a fierce reaction from the Turkish Armenian community. The Turkish-Armenian community weekly Agos, said the letter was “historic” in terms of charting the relationship between the Armenian community and the state in an editorial published on Feb. 8. “The AK Party (Justice and Development) government has openly intervened in the traditions of the church and told them they cannot elect their own patriarch,” the article said.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu and Istanbul Governor Vasip Sahin met the representatives of the Turkish-Armenian community on Feb 8 to evaluate the situation. Soylu said he would discuss the community’s concerns with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Prime Minister Binali Yirdirim.

Archbishop Mesrob II Mutafyan withdrew from his position in 2008 due to a deteriorating health condition, diagnosed as fromtotemporal dementia (FTD). His seat remained vacant for two years until Archbishop Aram Atesyan was appointed as acting Patriarch in 2010. However, the Turkish-Armenians have demanded an election, expressing their unease that patriarchal elections were not held at that time. In the end, the Armenian Patriarchate of Turkey announced the vacancy, which initiated the election process.

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Trump Appoints Patrick Hovakimian to Justice Department

WASHINGTON, D.C — Patrick Hovakimian was nominated to serve as a Member of the Foreign Claims Settlement Commission of the Justice Department, for the remainder of a three year term expiring September 30, 2020.

Patrick Hovakimian serves as an Assistant U.S Attorney for the Southern District of California, where he investigates and prosecutes public corruption and white-collar crime. Previously, he practiced law with the international law firm of Latham & Watkins, LLP, and clerked on the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit. He holds a Juris Doctor from Stanford Law School, where he studied as a Truman Scholar and was a member of the Stanford Law Review; a Master of Philosophy from Oxford, where he studied as a Marshall Scholar; and a Bachelor of Arts, conferred Suma Cum Laude, from Occidental College.

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U.S Congressman Ted Lieu Calls for Recognition of the Armenian Genocide in Response to Turkish Threats

U.S Congressman Ted Lieu, member of the Democratic Party from California, has called for a resolution to be passed in the Senate, recognizing the Armenian Genocide in reaction to Turkish threats to U.S troops in Syria,

“Turkey essentially is telling the United States that we should end our support to Kurish YPG fighters or risk being targeted by Turkey. In fact, they had some pretty specific remarks, threats to U.S troops and our policy there,” said Lieu according to local media sources. “We all understand that the Armenian Genocide happened, it is a historical fact, and the only reason that the resolution has not been passed is that we want to keep our relations with Turkey,” he said, adding “Is it now time to pass that resolution and tell Turkey that look, if you are going to take these actions against us, we are going to tell the truth and do some things you just might not like?”

According to Ahval News site report, the comments came during a Congress subcommittee hearing on the way forward for Syria in which Turkey was heavily criticized for its ongoing operation against the Kurdish-led Syrian enclave of Afrin.

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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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