Finnish people leave Armenia with great impressions: Armenians of Finland do their utmost to make Armenia recognizable

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.

Government changes New Year holiday calendar

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.

Armenia starts active cooperation with Greece and Cyprus

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.

Armenian President presents vision of NK conflict settlement

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.

Who is against the domestic violence law in Armenia?

Netgazeti, Georgia
Dec 13 2017
Who is against the domestic violence law in Armenia?
by Mikayev Zolyan's
[Armenian News note: the below is translated from Georgian]
'Domestic violence' or 'harmony in the family'

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

Cyprus News Agency / Cyprus News Agency

December 14, 2017 Thursday

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.

Photiou and Quick were received by the Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II. Speaking during the meeting, Photiou noted the close ties between Cyprus and Armenia, noting that Cyprus is the most fervent supporter of Armenia within the EU.

Azerbaijani Press: OSCE MG becomes active in Karabakh negotiations

AzerNews, Azerbaijan
Dec 14 2017

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.