Armenpress News Agency , Armenia Thursday Finnish people leave Armenia with great impressions: Armenians of Finland do their utmost to make Armenia recognizable YEREVAN, DECEMBER 14, ARMENPRESS. Approximately more than 700 Armenians lives in Finland. They work in different fields and many of them reached success in their spheres. Abgar Margaryan – one of the founders of the Finland-Armenia Association, told ARMENPRESS that the number of Armenians living in Finland is approximate since there is no concrete statistics. “Some Armenians immigrated from different countries with different citizenships. Armenian is not the native language of all Armenians. And this factor hinders having an official valid statistics. Armenians are scattered in different cities”, he said. Over the last years immigration began after the Middle East military operations, when Armenians of that region, in particular, of Syria relocated to the European counties, including Finland. Like in the Armenian communities of different countries, the issue of preservation of the Armenian identity is also in the agenda of the Finnish-Armenian community. Before the registration of the Finland-Armenia Association, the Armenian community was holding different events in the country by the initiative of individuals. According to Abgar Margaryan, over the years the necessary rose to establish the organization, and starting from 2013 the Finland-Armenia Association started its activity which aims at gathering Armenians, creating an atmosphere of unity, organizing cultural events, as well as creating Armenian language and cultural groups for kids. “Despite the Association’s short history it conducted a serious activity for the preservation of the Armenian identity. During this period different cultural events have been organized, a Sunday school of Armenian language has been established which operates already for several years. The Association also closely cooperates with the Diaspora ministry which provides the necessary materials for the activity of the Armenian school”, he said, stating that among the later goals is to create sports and dance groups. One of the main goals of the Finland-Armenia Association is to actively cooperate with the Diaspora-Armenian communities and educational institutions. For this purpose the Association started establishing close ties with the Armenian communities of the neighboring states. The Association closely cooperates also with the Armenian Embassy in Finland and Sweden. There is also the representation of Armenian Apostolic Church in Finland. Two years ago the Armenian friendship group has been formed in the Parliament of Finland. The Development Fund of Armenia formed recently in Finland will also contribute to strengthening the ties with Armenia. “As of now the Association doesn’t have its own space, that’s why we mainly rent, as well as cooperate with different NGOs which also assist on this issue. Among our major problems is that Armenians live in different cities, the distance makes difficult the communication and the opportunity to frequently participate in different events, but I would like to note that the number of active participants in the community live increases year by year”, Abgar Margaryan said. As for Armenia’s recognition among the Finnish people, Abgar Margaryan said many are aware of Armenia and the Armenian people, but still works need to be done on this path. “This year our Association was participating in the annual cultural festival in Helsinki within the frames of which we have presented Armenia for the first time. Many Finnish people were interested in the Armenian pavilion. Many approached us and told about Armenia, their trip to Armenia and the desire to again visit the country. This year we participated in the Restaurant Day festival which is quite famous festival. The ‘Taste Armenia’ Armenian pavilion recorded an unprecedented success. The event organizer Mariam Nurminen transferred the proceeds to needy families of Armenia’s bordering villages. We also have plans to more frequently participate in such festivals in the future”, he noted. Armenia’s Finnish partners also greatly contribute to presenting Armenia in Finland. Margaryan informed that the Finnish people who visited Armenia leave the country with great impressions, many of them later again visit Armenia. Another goal of the Association is the presentation and spread of the Armenian culture, history in Finland by holding different events which also contribute to voicing about the Armenian Genocide and Artsakh issues.
Armenpress News Agency , Armenia Thursday Government changes New Year holiday calendar YEREVAN, DECEMBER 14, ARMENPRESS. The government of Armenia approved the bill on amending the “Holiday and Commemoration Days” law, whereby the 3rd, 4th and 5th of January will no longer be considered holidays in Armenia. Chief of Staff of the government Vahe Stepanyan said at the Cabinet meeting that the amendments will come into force from June 1, 2018. The bill was passed unanimously. The amendments come as the government found it necessary to consider only the Armenian Christmas holidays. And the fact that those 3 days are non business days is also inappropriate in social-economic terms.
Armenpress News Agency , Armenia Thursday Armenia starts active cooperation with Greece and Cyprus YEREVAN, DECEMBER 14, ARMENPRESS. Cooperation between Diaspora communities of Armenia, Greece and Cyprus is further strengthened, reports Armenpress. A trilateral meeting between the delegations led by Armenian diaspora minister Hranush Hakobyan, Commissioner for Humanitarian and Foreign Affairs of the President of Cyprus Fotiu Fotis and deputy foreign minister of Greece Terens – Nikolaos Quick was held in the Armenian Diaspora ministry on December 14. The Armenian minister said active cooperation has been established between the Armenian-Greek and the Armenian-Cypriot Diaspora communities. “This cooperation launched by the memorandum of understanding signed between Armenia and Cyprus. Our trilateral meeting between Greece, Armenia and Cyprus is taking place for already the second time. Our cooperation especially between the Diaspora of the countries will continue. The friendship of Armenian, Greek and Cypriot peoples started in 5-6th centuries. We all know that a very well-organized and interesting Armenian community lives both in Greece and Cyprus”, the minister said and thanked the Greek and Cypriot governments for enabling the Armenian communities to conduct an active work in these countries. “Our main goal as a result of negotiations is to actively work with the youth, organize youth meetings in different countries”, she said. There are plans to organize educational and cultural events in three countries. Hranush Hakobyan expressed her deepest gratitude to the two states for adopting a law against the denialism of the Armenian Genocide. Commissioner for Humanitarian and Foreign Affairs of the President of Cyprus Fotiu Fotis said it is necessary to continue the trilateral cooperation by such meetings and negotiations. He noted that the three countries have a historically formed friendship in all spheres, cultural, political, religious and etc. “We have developed the cooperation strategy on Diaspora affairs in Nicosia setting two important goals. Firstly, we need to promote our Diaspora to cooperate, know each other, actively work in cultural, educational and other spheres. The Diaspora of the two countries is successfully cooperating in several countries, like in US, France and UK. The cooperation in the US is more active, a memorandum has been signed which is encouraging. The second goal is the cooperation between the governments of these countries”, he said. Greek deputy FM Terens – Nikolaos Quick said the most important is that the governments of the three countries are able to work with the Diaspora youth. According to him, they have a vision, power and can greatly help solving the most important issues. “Yesterday Armenian foreign minister Edward Nalbandian met with his Greek counterpart. During the meeting the Greek FM proposed that our countries cooperate at the Diaspora level. We are here and ready to cooperate with Armenia, and we look forward to 2018 to be full of programs”, the Greek deputy FM noted. Armenian Diaspora ministry and the foreign ministry of Greece will sign a memorandum of understanding on cooperation over Diaspora affairs on December 15.
Armenpress News Agency , Armenia Thursday Armenian President presents vision of NK conflict settlement YEREVAN, DECEMBER 15, ARMENPRESS. President Serzh Sargsyan has presented his vision regarding the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. In an interview with ARMENIA TV, the president stressed that there must be calm in the line of contact. Causalities must be ruled out. “This manhunt which exists today must be ruled out. It will create certain atmosphere and mutual trust. Where does mutual trust come from? Mutual trust comes when you begin implementing the agreements which you achieved recently. If you fail to implement the agreements once, the worm of distrust begins to gnaw. One after one and this is how an atmosphere of distrust appears. This must be eliminated, so that after this the negotiations continue in a calm atmosphere”, he said. The president mentioned that at this moment negotiations over specific points of settlement are not proceeding, however he mentioned that this is natural – taking into account the developments of the past two years. “During the last two years we had meetings in Vienna, St. Petersburg, we’ve had agreements, and now one can say the process is proceeding in two directions. The first direction is that the tension must be eased, investigative mechanisms must be created, which will bring to a certain atmosphere of mutual trust, and after which it will be possible to go deeper over the provisions of the document. I’ve said this once, and I will repeat it again – it is impossible to negotiate with one hand and shoot with the other. Negotiations don’t like gunfire. And it is impossible to achieve agreement in this kind of conditions. Gunfire always disturb, human losses are always painful and bring a nervous atmosphere in the negotiations process. Each word, each provision must be weighed in a calm atmosphere, in order to be able to reach agreement”, the Armenian President said. The president also mentioned that Russian foreign minister Sergey Lavrov did not present any conceptual or new proposal regarding the NK conflict settlement during his latest regional visit. According to the president, the Armenian-Russian relations agenda is so rich that solely the NK issue is not discussed during the visits of high level officials. “In terms of Karabakh, I say again, Lavrov said everything at the press conference. The Russian FM is convinced that this conflict is possible to be settled within the OSCE Minsk Group and the proposed principles are the ones which enable to solve the conflict”, he said.
The Armenian National Assembly [Parliament] finally adopted a law against domestic violence on 8 December 2017. Tough debates preceded the adoption of the law during the whole autumn. The regulations were approved with 72 votes against 12 and six MPs refrained from participating in the vote.
It would seem that the adoption of such a law should not have been a major problem, but the activists and organisations that said that this law was directed against traditional Armenian families stood against it. They also said that the West was forcing Armenia to adopt the law.
As regards women's organisations and activists, in general, they supported the law, although they pointed to its drawbacks. However, the voices of opponents proved to be louder. The people, who claimed to hold the position of defending the traditional Armenian family intimidated society by saying that this law was against Armenian families. Some of them argued that there was no domestic violence in Armenia at all or its rate was simply exaggerated.
Citizens often referred to the arguments like "beating your wife is a sign of love" or spoke about "an ordinary method of parenting you child is to smack him up a couple of times". The process did not end without holding victims responsible. Many said that women themselves were guilty of violence in their own families.
Initially, similar statements were mostly made by marginal groups like Karabakh Movement veteran Khachik Stamboltsyan, who has turned into a Christian fundamentalism over years. As time passed, some members of the ruling [Armenian Republican] Party joined him, including quite prominent faces, for example, Armenian parliament Deputy Chairman Eduard Sharmazanov and former Prime Minister Khosrov Harutyunyan.
The voices of those, who criticised the law, got lost against this background. They spoke about concrete drawbacks in the draft law and warned about the possible misuse of some clauses of the law by investigative agencies.
Eventually, the draft law was adopted with significant changes. The title of the law was also changed from "On halting domestic violence and rendering assistance to victims of domestic violence" to "On halting domestic violence, protecting victims of domestic violence, and restoring harmony in the family".
In addition, the term "traditional Armenian family" appeared in the text of the law. In the opinion of some Armenian activists, in particular, members of the Stop Violence against Women coalition, new supplements to the text of the law make regulations inefficient and much weaker.
It is not only the title that is a problem. The new terms that emerged in the text – "harmony in the family" or "traditional Armenian family" – do not have any legal content.
The introduction of such wording can be viewed as a symbolic concession to the opponents of the law.
Other more serious changes were also made to the law. For example, it does not reflect violence in situations, where a couple is separated.
Conservatism and geopolitics: Who launched a campaign against the law and why?
Why did the adoption of the law directed against an unambiguously negative phenomenon become controversial? Numerous countries of the world, at any rate, most European countries, have adopted such laws.
Over the past few years, Armenian society has been shocked by high-profile crimes like murders of women or violence against them on the part of husbands or relatives.
According to Open Democracy, 602 cases of domestic violence were registered in Armenia in October 2017. The hotline of Armenian nongovernmental organisations received more than 5,000 calls with requests for help in 2017.
More than 50 women were killed in Armenia in 2010-2017 "for jealousy reasons". In addition, courts imposed light punishment on murderers in many cases.
The point is that the problem was regulated by the Criminal Code before the law was adopted. Therefore, the victim of violence or a witness had a choice to report to the police on the crime or keep silent.
According to activists of women's organisations, it was possible to avert many such cases over the past years, had the domestic violence law existed.
In society that holds patriarchal views on the family, it is often regarded as shameful to report on your husband, even if he beat you.
In spite of this, Armenia has made progress. Thanks to nongovernmental organisations and activists, the problem of domestic violence that everyone used to keep silent on is now openly discussed.
Many representatives of the Armenian diaspora also supported the law. However, the position of European structures was decisive in the adoption of the law. Of course, contrary to the opinion of conspiracy theorists, European officials do not have the aim of ruining the traditional Armenian family and the Armenian national identity. However, the fact that the adoption of the law coincided in time with the settlement of relations with the EU implied that its fate would be linked the Brussels-Yerevan-Moscow triangle. Expectations emerged that a framework agreement would be signed with the EU and it was clear that Russia was not going to be particularly enthusiastic over it.
It is here we are to search for the reasons why the adoption of this law caused such a stir. It is difficult to deny that Armenian society is patriarchal. Surveys carried out lately have shown that Armenian society is one of the most conservative among the East European and post-Soviet countries: Homosexuality is regarded as immoral by 98 per cent, the use of drugs by 97 per cent, prostitution by 96 per cent, extramarital sex by 78, and so forth.
However, it is clear that the struggle against domestic violence is not a controversial issue and, if desired, the law could have been adopted without raising a particular stir.
Even the Armenian Apostolic Church that cannot be described very liberal held quite a balanced position.
One of its top hierarchs, Bishop Mikayel Ajapahyan, supported the law. It is true that the bishop voiced his own position in this case, but at any rate, none of other church hierarchs criticised the law or made a statement on their different position.
The problem lies not only in Armenian Society and its being patriarchal and conservative. Certain circles that hold ultra-conservative and anti-Western positions have launched a campaign against the law.
Figures like aforementioned Khachik Stamboltsyan, former nationalist and openly Russia-oriented Hayk Nahapetyan, the chairman of the anti-homosexual and pro-Russian Geopolitical Club, Arman Boshyan, and others are among those, who were against the adoption of the law.
Many arguments of the opponents of the law were taken from the Russian media and some placards were even printed in Russian.
All this was happening against the background of the expectations of the signing of the agreement between the EU and Armenia. It was to this that many Armenian analysts linked the campaign against the law.
Interestingly, Russian involvement in this story is on the opposite side [sentence as published]. Well-known Russian activist Alena Popova arrived in Yerevan to support her Armenian colleagues. This is what she wrote about the events under way in Armenia: "Does this not remind you of anything? I can clearly see [Sergei] Kurginyan's eyes and quotations from Parent Resistance [organisation]. I recall Yelena Borisovna Mizulina, a lawyer, who told me that there is no such problem as domestic violence here and the West is exaggerating all this".
Anyway, the law is adopted, albeit with significant amendments and changes. The adoption of the law is an informal obligation the Armenian government assumed within the context of dialogue with the EU.
Armenia and the EU have now signed the agreement and the process that is to lead to the liberalisation of the visa regime is to start soon. The Armenian government will have to carry out reforms that are no less important in the context of these processes.
And the domestic violence law has shown that other reforms will also have to travel a difficult road. In order to have these reforms carried out, their supporters, even with support from the EU, will have to overcome the resistance not only from influential groups in Armenia [including the government themselves] [square brackets as published], but also external forces.
Cyprus, Greece and Armenia to hold joint activities to promote issues related to the diaspora
The second Trilateral Meeting of Cyprus, Greece and Armenia on diaspora issues took place on Thursday in Yerevan. The three countries agreed on the implementation of joint events and activities, that aim to promote issues related to the diaspora.
According to a press release issued by PIO, the meeting was attended by Presidential Commissioner PhotisPhotiou, Greek Deputy Foreign Minister Terence Quick and the Armenian Diaspora Minister HranushHakobyan.
The three parties, according to the press release, noted the importance of promoting cooperation among the three countries on diaspora issues, both at the governmental and the organised diaspora groups level, to promote common values and collective interests in important decision making centres and international organisations.
Such an initiative is their decision to organise a cultural event in France in spring 2018, which will be attended by diaspora organisations of the three countries.
Taking into consideration the importance of the active participation of the overseas youth, as a top priority of their strategy, they also suggested a trilateral meeting among young people, with a view to promote the exchange of the best practices and the know-how on diaspora issues, the press release said.
Photiou and Quick also had a joint meeting with the Deputy Foreign Minister of Armenia GarenNazaryan, during which they welcomed the increased political cooperation and the close and mutually beneficial ties among the three countries` governments. They also discussed about the cooperation among the three countries on diaspora issues.
By Rashid Shirinov
The OSCE Minsk Group that is mediating the peace diplomacy over the Armenian-Azerbaijani Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has recently demonstrated a noticeable intensification in the negotiation process.
Farhad Ibrahimov, expert of Primakov National Research Institute of World Economy & International Relations, hails such a positive trend observed in the activities of the mediators, who were subject of criticism for a long time due to lack of any tangible result in the conflict resolution.
Ibrahimov told Day.Az on December 13 international mediators began to declare increasingly that the territory of Nagorno-Karabakh indeed belongs to Azerbaijan, as well as the need to resolve the conflict in accordance with the UN Security Council’s resolutions.
“The reality is that during its existence, the OSCE Minsk Group has not made due efforts to achieve certain goals, and this is one of the reasons that today the problem remains unresolved and the situation on the line of fire is tense,” said Ibrahimov, adding that the increased activity of international mediators is now reduced to a mutual desire of the parties to resolve the issue so that there are no losers or winners.
The four resolutions (822, 853, 874, 884), adopted in 1993, condemned the occupation of Azerbaijani territories, stressed the unacceptability of forcible appropriation of territory, confirmed the inviolability of the territorial integrity, sovereignty and borders of Azerbaijan and demanded the immediate, complete and unconditional withdrawal of Armenian occupation forces from Azerbaijani lands. However, these demands are still on paper, as Armenia refuses to comply with the decision of the UN Security Council.
The expert expects progress in resolving the conflict, given a certain activity of the OSCE Minsk Group, as evidenced by the past meeting of Azerbaijani and Armenian presidents in Geneva, where the parties agreed to take measures to intensify the decisions on the conflict.
“The military solution to the conflict is undesirable, as it can lead to unpredictable consequences, added Ibrahimov. “This is why the OSCE Minsk Group will intensify its activities so that the next hotbed of tension does not erupt.”
He also noted that the threat of renewed hostilities is real, and the Armenian side, which is still demonstrating a stubborn and aggressive policy against Azerbaijan, must understand and realize this truth.
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict began in 1988 when Armenia made territorial claims against Azerbaijan. As a result of the ensuing war, in 1992 Armenian armed forces occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan, including the Nagorno-Karabakh region and seven surrounding regions. More than 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and over 1 million were displaced as a result of the large-scale hostilities. The 1994 ceasefire agreement was followed by peace negotiations. For more than 20 years, Russia, the U.S. and France, who are co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group, have been trying to broker a peace to the Armenian-Azerbaijani conflict.
By Rashid Shirinov
The expansion of military-technical cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia will further bring bilateral ties closer together and positively affect the level of further cooperation.
Azerbaijani MP Aydin Mirzazade made the remarks while commenting on the current state of military-technical cooperation between the two countries in his interview with Day.az on December 13.
Baku hosted the 11th meeting of the Intergovernmental Commission for Military-Technical Cooperation between Azerbaijan and Russia on December 12-13, where the parties discussed topical issues of the working agenda and the main activities for 2018.
Mirzazade said Azerbaijani-Russian relations have been developing dynamically in recent years, which positively affects the level of achieved cooperation.
“Undoubtedly, today’s high level of relations between the two countries is the result of a well-thought-out foreign policy pursued by these two regional states. Our countries build relations exclusively in the sphere of trust and respect, thereby contributing to strengthening the partnership dialogue and expanding the sphere of interaction,” the MP said.
In this context, he added, the development of military-technical cooperation is given special attention, and the strategic cooperation between Baku and Moscow is one of the main cumulative factors in the bilateral relations.
Mirzazade also touched upon the fact that Armenia, Russia’s closest ally in the region, is greatly dissatisfied with the country’s consistent supply of arms to Azerbaijan.
“Armenia, which has been conducting an occupation policy against Azerbaijan for more than two decades, in every possible way expresses its concern and dissatisfaction with the policy of Russia precisely because of military supplies to Azerbaijan. However, Armenia has not achieved progress on this issue – on the contrary, this fact has not affected the volume of Russian armaments in Baku,” said the Azerbaijani MP.
The existence of the Armenia-triggered Nagorno-Karabakh conflict makes Azerbaijan purchase arms to further improve its military-defense power and strengthen its combat capability.
Russia has been among main arms suppliers for Azerbaijani Armed Forces for many years. As for Armenia's incomprehensible claims, Russia declares that this issue is solely its internal affair, and that the military cooperation continues within intergovernmental contracts. It is also noteworthy that Azerbaijan, unlike Armenia, is fully able to pay for its purchases without getting into multi-million debts like its western neighbor does.
Anadolu Agency (AA) Turkey Wednesday Greece says Erdogan's visit freed up frozen relations Foreign Minister Nikos Kotzias says talks between Turkish president, Greek prime minister were 'sincere' By Furkan Naci Top ATHENS Greece's foreign minister on Wednesday said the Turkish president's visit last week was successful as it had freed up communication channels between the countries which had been frozen. Nikos Kotzias was speaking to journalists in a briefing after meeting Armenian Foreign Minister Edvard Nalbandyan in Athens. "The visit was successful because we restored the necessary communication channels that were frozen. It was successful because a series of new negotiations are being prepared," Kotzias said. Turkey's Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras talked "sincerely," he added. Kotzias also said Greek Migration Minister Ioannis Mouzalas would visit Turkey soon, adding that a High-Level Cooperation Council meeting between Turkey and Greece would be held in February. Erdogan paid a historic two-day visit to Greece on Dec. 7-8, the first by a Turkish president in 65 years. Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.
Turkish Foreign Ministry says blaming Ankara for delay in ratifying protocols aims to 'mislead' world public opinion
By Diyar Guldogan
Holding Ankara responsible for the delay in the ratification of 2009 protocols signed by Turkey and Armenia does not "reflect the truth," Turkey said on Thursday.
"These claims do not reflect the truth, and aim at misleading the world public opinion," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement.
The statement came a day after Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian claimed that the protocols have not been ratified due to preconditions from Turkey.
"Turkey has pursued its efforts to normalize relations with Armenia on several levels since Armenia proclaimed its independence in 1991," the statement said.
It said these protocols, which aim at normalized ties between Ankara and Yerevan, resulted from negotiations facilitated by Switzerland.
"However, the Constitutional Court of Armenia, with its ruling on 12 January 2010, introduced additional preconditions and restrictive clauses that are against the letter and spirit of the Protocols," it added.
'Armenian diaspora fought protocols'
The ministry said Armenian President Serzh Sargysyan publicly announced on April 22, 2010 that ratification of the protocols was suspended.
"It is a well-known fact that the Armenian diaspora was against the signing of the protocols from the onset and has been pressuring the Armenian Government not to ratify them," it added.
It said that in his address to the 2017 UN General Assembly, Sargysyan made "groundless" claims blaming Turkey for the delay in the ratification and saying Armenia will declare the protocols "null and void" absent progress in the protocols by spring 2018.
"Despite Armenia’s negative stance on the protocols, Turkey is committed to the primary clauses of the protocols. These protocols are still on the agenda of the Turkish Grand National Assembly’s [parliament’s] Foreign Affairs Commission and for their ratification, it is essential that a favorable political atmosphere and peace in the South Caucasus is secured," it said.
It said Turkey's "primary" target with the protocols process is to realize the normalization of relations between Turkey and Armenia in a way that "comprehensive" peace and stability in the South Caucasus is provided.
Within this framework, Turkey also called on Armenia to end its quarter-century occupation of Azerbaijani territories in Upper Karabakh.
It added that Nalbandian's claims about the so-called genocide also do not reflect the truth.
Under rulings “of the European Court of Human Rights, the 1915 events are a matter of legitimate debate within the framework of freedom of _expression_.
"The attempts of ill-intentioned groups to impose their one-sided narrative and to exert pressure on the world public opinion are morally and legally incorrect and do not contribute to peace and stability in our region," said the ministry.
Turkey expects Armenia to answer for one of the "gravest" crimes against humanity, the 1992 Khojaly massacre, rather than dealing with controversial historical events, said the statement.