Press Release: BREAKING NEWS: City of Burbank Councilmembers Unanimously Approve a Resolution to Formally Recognize the Independent Republic of Artsakh

The Blunt Post, CA
March 3 2021

 

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For Immediate Release: (Los Angeles) March 3, 2021 – The City of Burbank unanimously adopted a resolution recognizing the Independent Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh) and Rescinding the Friendship City Status of the Town of Hadrut in Artsakh during last night’s city council meeting. The Council requested for the city staff to write the final text of the resolution to be approved in the next few weeks.

The request for the City of Burbank to consider the resolution was initiated by the Armenian-American journalist, radio host, and activist, Vic Gerami. It was sponsored by Councilmember Nick Schultz

“As an Armenian-American who grew up in Burbank, this is a very important recognition for me. I am grateful for Councilmember Nick Schultz for sponsoring the resolution, as well as other Councilmembers for their vote.” Vic Gerami, the host of THE BLUNT POST with VIC on KPFK 90.7 FM.

He continued, “Burbank is known as the ‘Media Capital of the World,’ so this historic move will have significant reverberations and send a clear message that Burbank stands for human rights, people’s right to self-determination, and in support of its large Armenian-American community.”

Burbank is a city built by People, Pride, and Progress. These three ingredients turned a tiny, rural town into the thriving community it is today. Throughout its 100-year history, Burbank has embodied a forward-thinking city that provides a high quality of life and strong sense of community to its residents. In keeping with this tradition, the City will continue to combine 21st century technology with the same small town feel that will make Burbank an ideal place to live, work and play for years to come.

Armenians make up more than 10% of Burbank’s population. Since 1990, the number of Armenians in Burbank has nearly quintupled, from 2,780 to 13,846, according to the most recent Census data. This number is likely much higher now as it does not reflect the results of the most recent census conducted in 2020.

“Early last month, I spoke with Vic Gerami about the steps taken by our regional partners (e.g., Los Angeles, Glendale, and West Hollywood) to formally recognize the Independent Republic of Artsakh.  He encouraged the Burbank City Council to take action and I am thankful that he brought it to our attention. He was quickly joined by many members of our community,” said Councilmember Schultz.

He added, “Tonight the Burbank City Council unanimously requested that city staff bring back a resolution to finalize this recognition.  This step will be incredibly meaningful to the Armenian members of our community who have been directly and indirectly impacted by the violence and loss of life stemming from the military aggression by Azerbaijan in the region.  I look forward to formalizing this recognition of Artsakh in furtherance of promoting democracy and the right to self-determination.”

Approximately 900,000 Armenians live in CA, 700,000 of whom in the greater Los Angeles area, including West Hollywood, Hollywood, East Hollywood (Little Armenia), Glendale, Burbank, Pasadena, and throughout the San Fernando Valley.

Ten (10) states across the US have recognized the Independent Republic of Artsakh so far. They are CA, CO, GA, HI, LA, MA, ME, MI, MN, RI. Cities that have recognized Artsakh include Los Angeles, Glendale, West Hollywood, Fresno County, Highland, Gardena, Fort Lee Borough, Fowler, Englewood Cliffs, Clark County, Ridgefield, Cliffside Park, and Orange County.

In addition to dozens of cities across the US, hundreds of cities and principalities in France and Italy have recognized Artsakh, as well as cities in the United Kingdom, Spain, Uruguay, and Guatemala.

On November 25, 20202, the French Senate voted 305-1 recognizing the independence of the Republic of Artsakh, calling upon the US administration and Congressional leaders to take similar action.

Following the Senate’s vote, on December 3, 2020, France’s National Assembly approved a resolution calling on the government to recognize Artsakh as a “republic.” The resolution was adopted in the Assembly with 188 “yes” votes against three “no” votes, while 16 deputies abstained from voting.

About Burbank

Burbank is a city built by People, Pride, and Progress. These three ingredients turned a tiny, rural town into the thriving community it is today.

In the beginning, the land occupied by the present City of Burbank was part of two large Spanish land grants. The first was the vast Rancho San Rafael, granted to Don Jose Maria Verdugo by the Spanish government in 1798. Nearby, Rancho La Providencia was created following Mexico’s successful bid for independence from Spain in 1821. The real history of the City, though, began when a New Hampshire dentist headed west with the thousands of other Americans seeking new opportunities.

Burbank is a city in the southeastern end of the San Fernando Valley in Los Angeles County, California. Located just 12 miles (19 km) northwest of Downtown Los Angeles, Burbank is well known for being home to Walt Disney Studios and Warner Bros Studios, as well as having the largest IKEA in the United States. The population at the 2010 census was 103,340.

Billed as the “Media Capital of the World” and only a few miles northeast of Hollywood, numerous media and entertainment companies are headquartered or have significant production facilities in Burbank, including Warner Bros. Entertainment, The Walt Disney Company, Nickelodeon Animation Studios, The Burbank Studios, Cartoon Network Studios with the West Coast branch of Cartoon Network, and Insomniac Games. The Hollywood Burbank Airport was the location of Lockheed’s Skunk Works, which produced some of the most secret and technologically advanced airplanes, including the U-2 spy planes that uncovered the Soviet Union missile components in Cuba in October 1962.

Burbank consists of two distinct areas: a downtown/foothill section, in the foothills of the Verdugo Mountains, and the flatland section. The city was referred to as “Beautiful Downtown Burbank” on Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In and The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, as both shows were taped at NBC’s former studios. The city was named after David Burbank, a New Hampshire–born dentist and entrepreneur who established a sheep ranch there in 1867.

About Vic Gerami

A noted journalist, a columnist, Vic Gerami is also a radio show host and media contributor who is also publisher and editor of The Blunt Post.

Gerami is the host and producer of his prime-time radio show, THE BLUNT POST with VIC on Independent Radio KPFK 90.7 FM (Pacifica Network).  The program covers national breaking and headline news, politics, and current events, and Gerami offers analysis and commentary. He also interviews a member of Congress and other high-profile public figures on every show. A few of his recent guests include Congressman Adam Schiff, Congresswoman Jackie Speier, Congressman Tony Cardenas, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and Congresswoman Judy Chu, Congressman Jim Costa, Congresswoman Norma Torres, Congresswoman Grace Napolitano, Congressman Raul Ruiz + Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Congresswoman Linda Sanchez, as well as Marianne Williamson. You can listen to all the interviews here.

Today reaching national international audiences, Gerami first built a foundation of knowledge and skills by learning the media industry during his years at Frontiers Magazine, followed by positions at LA Weekly and Voice Media Group. For the second time, Gerami was selected as a finalist in the Los Angeles Press Club’s National Arts and Entertainment Journalism Awards “Columnist of the Year” category in 2019, having first made the final round of consideration in 2017. His celebrity Q&A column, ‘10 Questions with Vic‘ is internationally syndicated.

A few of many celebrities whom Gerami has interviewed include Melissa Etheridge, Paula Abdul, Dan Reynolds (Imagine Dragons), Kathy Griffin, Matthew Modine, Laverne Cox, and Marianne Williamson.

In July 2020, the Los Angeles Press Club announced that Gerami is a Finalist in record seven (7) categories for the 62nd Annual Southern California Journalism Awards.

The seven categories in which Gerami is a finalist are a mix of investigative reporting, political coverage, social justice issues, and interviews. He is recognized for his print and online journalism, as well as interviews on his namesake radio show.

Gerami is also a contributor for some of the most prominent publications in the nation, including Windy City Times, California Courier, IN Magazine, OUT Traveler, The Fight, and The Advocate Magazine, among others.

The Wall Street Journal featured Gerami as a “leading gay activist” in its landmark 2008 coverage of opposition to Proposition 8, the ballot measure that for years denied same-sex couples in California the freedom to marry. In addition to his years of volunteer work as a leading advocate for marriage equality, later Gerami went on to serve as a Planning Committee member for the historic Resist March in 2017. Vic Gerami is also a founding board member of Equality Armenia.

In 2015, Gerami was referenced in the landmark Supreme Court civil rights case, Obergefell v. Hodges, in which the Court held in a 5–4 decision that the fundamental right to marry is guaranteed to same-sex couples by both the Due Process and the Equal Protection Clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Five months after activating an informal task force addressing Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s sudden, violent, and unprovoked genocidal assault and ethnic-cleansing attack against Armenians in Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), Gerami set out to amplify the impact of his  own and his news-media and entertainment-industry colleagues’ efforts to shine a brighter light on aggressor nations’ war of propaganda, Armenophobia, and disinformation by launching the Truth And Accountability League (TAAL).

TAAL serves as a watchdog organization conducting human rights-violations monitoring and reporting. With eyes open wide and specifically focusing on how nation-states, dictators and other antidemocratic forces manipulate international media, diplomats, and members of the intelligentsia, be they individual or institutional, TAAL is elevating its powers of observation and aspiration to greater governmental accountability.

 

Tehran: Paintings by Iranian-Armenian artists on view at Tehran gallery

Tehran Times, Iran
March 3 2021
  1. Culture
March 3, 2021 – 18:34

TEHRAN – Javid Gallery in Tehran is currently playing host to an exhibition of paintings by a group of Iranian-Armenian artists.

Works by Marco Grigorian, Misha Shahbazian, Sirak Melkunian, Liliet Teryan and Hakup Vartanian have been selected for the exhibition entitled “Roots”.

The collection has been accumulated by art experts Sanaz Aryanfar and Kianush Motaqedi for the exhibition.

“It has been five years since I have been conducting research works on Iranian-Armenian artists, studying the influence of their art on the history of Iranian visual arts and have organized several solo and group exhibits,” Aryanfar said in a press release published on Wednesday.

“This collection features paintings by 27 artists from the first and second generations of influential artists in contemporary Iran. Some are not alive and some are not living in Iran, though,” she said. 

A highlight of the showcase is a painting by Leoni Tashchian, a 94-year-old pioneer painter who has trained many artists.

“The paintings have been collected from the families of the artists, private collectors and the Ardak Manoukian Museum in Tehran,” she said.

“All the artists have had their own style of works in creating still lives and landscapes, which are the main themes of the exhibit,” she noted. 

She added that she is still working on research about the careers of the artists.

“Today, all people can easily get access to all the knowledge they like, but there was a time when people had no means of communication, and traveling to other countries was not much common. The Armenians, however, had many trips to Iran where their relatives lived, bringing the new events happening in the West into the country,” she explained.

“The best example is Marco Grigorian. He was an Iranian-Armenian and American artist, a gallery owner, and a pioneer of Iranian modern art,” she remarked.

In 1955, Marco participated in the Venice Biennale for the first time. He then returned to Tehran and was appointed as the Head of the Graphic Department of the then Culture Ministry. In 1958, Marco participated as the Iranian delegate and an international jury member at the Venice Biennale. In the same year, under the auspices of the Culture Ministry, Marco organized the First Tehran Biennial, attempting to coin a modern tradition with an ethnic flavor. The establishment of the biennial, in which creative artists were recognized for their genuine and yet individualistic styles inscribed Marco’s name in the unfolding of modern Iranian art.

The exhibition will be running until March 10 at the gallery located at No.17, Yazdan Alley, Zartosht St. off Vali-e Asr Ave. 

Photo: Art aficionados visit the exhibition “Roots” displaying paintings by a group of Iranian-Armenian artists at the Javid Gallery in Tehran on March 1, 2021. (Honaronline) 

RM/MMS/YAW

Azerbaijan-Armenia conflict: How Baku destroyed Russian S-300s with Israeli suicide drones

Middle East Eye
March 3 2021

The Azerbaijani military used decoy aircraft to lure out the air-defence systems deployed in Nagorno-Karabakh



An S-300 missile system at the rehearsals of Victory Day parade in Moscow in 2009 (Creative Common/Vitaly V Kuzmin)


By Ragip Soylu in Baku

Published date: 3 March 2021

Azerbaijani forces used a sophisticated method to destroy Russian-made S-300 air defence systems during the Nagorno-Karabakh war last year, combining Soviet-era single-engine planes with Israeli-made "suicide" drones, Middle East Eye can reveal.

Azerbaijan’s battle strategy was based on the use of advanced drone technology in the disputed mountainous territory, tactics that won Baku the 44-day war against Armenian forces. Yerevan suffered huge losses of Russian weaponry, including six S-300 systems, according to the Azerbaijan military.

A senior official, who was briefed on Azerbaijan’s drone warfare, told MEE that at first Baku found it difficult to detect the S-300s, which were concealed and difficult to spot.

'Azerbaijan even didn’t need to change the actual shape of the Antonovs, they just need to appear as military drones on the radar'

– Can Kasapoglu, analyst

The solution, according to the official, was simple: Azerbaijan needed a decoy aircraft to lure and identify the Russian-made systems. Baku then began to employ Soviet-era Antonov An-2 single-engine utility and agricultural aircraft, which cost no more than $100,000 and were readily available.

Azerbaijani engineers converted the aeroplanes into unmanned aerial vehicles by replacing the pilot with a kit that allows remote control.

“The Antonovs would appear on radar as legitimate military-grade drones and activate the S-300 systems,” the official said. “And then Israeli-built Harop loitering munitions, dubbed 'kamikaze drones', would hit the Russian-made systems.”

A satellite image published by Russian media last October indicated that Azerbaijan had moved 50 An-2 biplane aircraft to Yevlakh airport, near the Azerbaijani city of Ganja.

Shushan Stepanyan, the spokesperson for the Armenian military, reportedly said on 1 October that they shot down an An-2 that didn’t eject any pilot, raising suspicions that it was being used as an unmanned aerial device, collecting information on Armenia's air defences.

Can Kasapoglu, director of defence research at Turkish think-tank EDAM, told MEE that the method was a textbook approach to the Russian weaponry.

“The Russian military, like the Armenians, wouldn’t activate their systems unless they see a threat on the radar,” he said. “Azerbaijan even didn’t need to change the actual shape of the Antonovs, they just need to appear as military drones on the radar.”

During the September-November conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh, a nominal Azerbaijani territory that had been occupied by Armenian forces since 1994, Turkey and Israel provided unprecedented support for Baku.

Armenia and Azerbaijan agreed on a ceasefire after six weeks of heavy fighting in November, following the Azerbaijani army’s seizure of the strategic city of Shusha (known as Shushi in Armenian).

The agreement, which was met with anger and disbelief among Armenians, handed administrative control over several areas of the mountainous territory to Azerbaijan.

A Group Of Israelis Secretly Built And Tested Suicide Drones For An Unknown Asian Customer

The Drive
Feb 11 2021



THOMAS NEWDICK

Agroup of more than 20 Israelis, among them former defense officials, are under investigation for allegedly illegally designing, producing, and selling “armed loitering missiles,” also known as “suicide drones,” to an unnamed Asian country. The news comes less than two weeks after the announcement of three legitimate sales of these kinds of weapons by the Israeli arms industry, including to unnamed Asian countries.

The Israeli Police today confirmed the investigation, which has been run “in recent months” in cooperation with the country’s Shin Bet state security service. In a statement posted on Twitter, the Israeli Police explained that the suspects had secretly received instructions “from entities related to the same country,” in exchange for “considerable funds” paid to them, as well as other undisclosed benefits. The investigation was conducted by the Unit for International Crime Investigations, part of the Police’s Lahav 433 division, which is otherwise primarily responsible for investigating national crimes and corruption. As already noted, Shin Bet was also involved, as was Israel’s National Security Council.

“The Israelis are suspected of national security offenses, breaching arms exports laws, money laundering and other financial offenses,” the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported. “The investigation continues. The details of the investigation and the identities of the suspects are under a gag order.”

The alleged crimes include offenses against the security of the state, violations of the law on the supervision of security exports, money laundering, and other economic offenses.

“This case illustrates the potential damage to the security of the country due to illegal deals conducted by Israeli citizens with foreign entities,” said a spokesperson for Shin Bet, as reported in the Jerusalem Post. “It also raises fears that technology will get into the hands of enemy countries,” they added.

Israel has sought to increase the regulation around its defense exports in recent years, with the aim of preventing companies from knowingly selling weapons to countries that have committed severe human rights violations.

Under the Law For Oversight of Defense Exports, the Israeli Ministry of Defense must consult with the Foreign Ministry in all weapons sales to foreign countries, weighing up the potential impact on foreign policy and diplomatic relations. Since the law was passed in 2007, the Foreign Ministry has much greater power to veto arms transfers, although they, in turn, can be overruled by the government’s security cabinet. Ironically, in light of the current case, this regulation was introduced, in part, due to the planned sale of intelligence-gathering drones to China, which was eventually canceled due to pressure from the United States.

The Israeli Police have released video and photos of the loitering munitions. A brief video clip, with two timestamps showing August and November 2019, shows one of the weapons being tested, with several individuals gathered beside two cars before it’s launched, almost vertically. The Times of Israel reports that the Police confirmed this test took place “near a residential area” in the center of the country. 

Broadly speaking, suicide drones have the advantages of being small, maneuverable, and hard to detect, as well as being relatively inexpensive. Even a relatively basic loitering munition, offering a man-in-the-loop control system would provide a very useful weapon in many scenarios, especially in asymmetric warfare. Other benefits of these kinds of weapons include the ability for the operator to abort the strike, even at the very last moment, or make manual adjustments to improve accuracy. Generally, suicide drones are very precise while also providing additional means to help avoid collateral damage, capabilities you can read about in more detail in this previous War Zone piece.

While the loitering munition in question appears to have been launched initially using a rocket motor, a photo showing the drones being manufactured in a workshop reveals that it also seems to have a propeller at the rear, for the cruise phase of its flight. The drone itself has a tubular body with large cruciform center-body wings, plus smaller cruciform fins at the tail end. Overall, the drone seems to be broadly reminiscent of an Israeli guided missile, the SPIKE-NLOS, produced by Rafael, although this doesn’t use a propeller engine.

It is not known what guidance system the drone used. Typically, these kinds of weapons can use a man-in-the-loop control system that allows their human operator to see what the drone sees, via a set of electro-optical and/or infrared video cameras, throughout the entire course of its flight.

The more sophisticated models now available offer a degree of autonomy, with the ability to automatically detect, categorize, and track various types of targets. Increasingly common are operating modes in which the drones can proceed to strike the desired targets without any further need for human input.

While it’s unclear whether these more advanced guidance methods were available to the individuals responsible for building these illicit drones, the fact that former defense officials were involved in the plot suggests that they may at least have a significant understanding of these technologies.

Israel is notably already one of the main developers of loitering munitions, or suicide drones, including the Harop that was developed by Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Less than two weeks ago, The War Zone reported about how the maritime version of that weapon had recently secured what was apparently its first order, from another unnamed Asian country. The navalized Harop sale was announced alongside a deal with “another customer in Asia” for standard ground-launched versions of that weapon and a sale of IAI’s rotary-winged loitering munition Rotem to a different “foreign country.”

It’s no exaggeration to say that Israel essentially pioneered the concept of loitering munitions, inspired by its early use of drones to help destroy and confuse hostile air defenses during the Yom Kippur War in 1973. In the conflicts that followed, Israel refined its use of drones to help overwhelm air defense batteries, as well as for surveillance. Drones intended for such high-risk missions became increasingly expendable, leading to the Harpy, which was intended to loiter and then home in on threat radar frequencies, destroying the air defense systems itself. As perhaps the first “loitering munition,” the Harpy is the ancestor of today’s Harop, and you can read more about it here.

Of course, it is in the interests of some countries to obscure the details of arms transfers from Israel, in the case of legitimate sales. Political sensitivities are often the reason for Israeli arms deals with international customers being little-publicized by either party, the recent Harop and Rotem sales perhaps being a case in point. Meanwhile, in the case of the illicit loitering munitions, there is a suggestion that the political ramifications could be significant, too. “Sources with knowledge of the investigation said the case was highly sensitive, as it could affect Israel’s foreign relations and lead to a rift between superpowers,” tweeted the editor of the English-language edition of Haaretz, Avi Scharf. 

Loitering munitions, in general, have been a topic of major international discussion since Azerbaijan used ground-launched Harops to decisive effect in its conflict with Armenia over the disputed Nagorno-Karabakh region last year. You can read more about this fighting, and the role that drones played in it, in our previous reporting on that conflict.

In this context, it is also worth noting that one Israeli company has previously run into trouble in connection with its involvement in an incident in Nagorno-Karabakh back in 2017. That year, Aeronautics Limited was accused of fraud and violating the country’s export controls for military equipment. This was reportedly the result of an incident in Azerbaijan in which executives from the company “demonstrated” the capabilities of their Orbiter 1K suicide drone by flying a very real strike on Armenian-backed forces in Nagorno-Karabakh. You can read all about that here. 

The fact that a fairly small group of individuals can also construct and test, in secret, an apparently functioning loitering munition should also provide pause for thought for the nations around the world that face a potential threat from militia groups or terror organizations. Following their use in the conflict in Yemen, the proliferation of these kinds of weapons in the hands of other non-state actors would seem to be just a matter of time. 

Until we know the intended customer of these illegally produced drones, it is difficult to know exactly what kind of scenario they were intended to be used in. However, it seems safe to say that the performance of Israeli-made loitering munitions in last year’s Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has helped make these kinds of weapons something of a “must-have” among armed forces around the world.


EU and Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement enters into force

Modern Diplomacy
March 3 2021

On 1 March 2021, the European Union-Armenia Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement (CEPA) will enter into force. It has now been ratified by the Republic of Armenia, all EU Member States and the European Parliament. This represents an important milestone for EU-Armenia relations.

This Agreement provides a framework for the EU and Armenia to work together in a wide range of areas: strengthening democracy, the rule of law and human rights; creating more jobs and business opportunities, improving legislation, public safety, a cleaner environment, as well as better education and opportunities for research. This bilateral agenda also contributes to overall aim of the EU to deepen and strengthen its relations with the countries of its Eastern neighbourhood through the Eastern Partnership framework.

High Representative of the European Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell, said: “The entry into force of our Comprehensive and Enhanced Partnership Agreement comes at a moment when Armenia faces significant challenges. It sends a strong signal that the EU and Armenia are committed to democratic principles and the rule of law, as well as to a wider reform agenda. Across political, economic, trade, and other sectoral areas, our Agreement aims to bring positive change to people’s lives, to overcome challenges to Armenia’s reforms agenda.”

Commissioner for Neighbourhood and Enlargement, Olivér Várhelyi, underlined that: “While these are trying times for Armenia, the European Union continues to stand by the Armenian people. The entry into force of the bilateral EU-Armenia agreement on 1 March will allow us to strengthen our work on the economy, connectivity, digitalisation and the green transformation as priority areas. These will have concrete benefits for the people and are key for socio-economic recovery and the longer-term resilience of the country. In the current turbulent days, maintaining calm and respect for democracy and constitutional order are key.”

The Agreement was signed in November 2017 and substantial parts of have been provisionally applied since 1 June 2018. Since then, the breadth and depth of the bilateral cooperation between Armenia and the European Union have advanced steadily. At the 3rd EU-Armenia Partnership Council held on 17 December 2020, the European Union and Armenia reiterated their full commitment to implementing the CEPA.

The Agreement plays an important role for the modernisation of Armenia, in particular through legislative approximation to EU norms in many sectors. This includes reforms in the rule of law and respect of human rights, particularly an independent, efficient and accountable justice system, as well as reforms aimed at enhancing the responsiveness and effectiveness of public institutions and at favouring the conditions for sustainable and inclusive development.

From the entry into force of the Agreement on 1 March, cooperation will be strengthened in those areas which to date were not subject to the provisional application of the Agreement. The European Union stands ready and looks forward to working even more closely with Armenia on the full and effective implementation of the Agreement, in our mutual interest and to the benefit of our societies and citizens.

Azerbaijan, Turkey Watching Armenia’s Political Crisis

Jamestown Foundation
March 3 2021

Viewed from Baku and Ankara, the political conflict in Armenia pits military and civilian nationalists unreconciled to defeat in the Second Karabakh War (September 27–November 9, 2020) versus the armistice-accepting government of Nikol Pashinian. As the former seek to oust the latter from power (see EDM, February 25, 26, March 1), the governments of Azerbaijan and Turkey view Armenia as facing a choice between relentless hostility toward its Turkic neighbors or cooperating with them to lift Armenia from entrenched poverty.

The latter option, however, is conditioned on Armenia’s compliance with the terms of the November 10, 2020, tripartite declaration that ended the war. Those terms refer to the ceasefire in Karabakh and region-wide transportation projects in the South Caucasus that would include Armenia. Subject to Yerevan’s observance of the armistice terms, Ankara and Baku would lift the blockade they have maintained since 1993 in response to Armenia’s occupation and ethnic cleansing of Azerbaijani territories.

Baku and Ankara would clearly prefer to deal with Pashinian’s government in the interest of normalization of relations and regional cooperation. Simplifying their choice is the fact that Russia acts to consolidate the new status quo (at least for the time being); Moscow also clearly prefers to deal with Pashinian’s government rather than its opponents. While proverbially incompetent at governing, Pashinian complies with the armistice at this stage and does not thirst for revanche (he had provoked the recent war through political blunders rather than nationalist grand designs).

By contrast, the opposition rejects the armistice terms. Most opposition forces are associated with former governments inspired by past-oriented nationalism and territorial ambitions vis-à-vis Azerbaijan and Turkey. Symbolizing that legacy, former prime minister and defense minister Vazgen Manukian leads the 17-party opposition alliance (Fatherland Salvation Movement) while former presidents Robert Kocharian and Serge Sarkissian support the opposition unofficially with their still-considerable media and organizational resources. The opposition groups gathering on a daily basis in Yerevan’s Republic Square mainly represent the former regime’s political personnel, the national-patriotic intelligentsia, and retired military officers and war veterans.

The opposition portrays the armistice as shameful and unacceptable to Armenia, the retrocession of territories to Azerbaijan as an act of state treason, and Pashinian as an enemy of the nation, himself “a Turk.” Those opposition members see Turkey as betting on Pashinian’s government and the latter as playing Ankara’s alleged game. They are, moreover, suspicious of region-wide transportation projects with Azerbaijan and Turkey. The anti-government forces are, in effect, opposing armistice terms agreed upon between Moscow and Baku, supported by Ankara, and accepted by a Russian-approved government in Yerevan. The Armenian Armed Forces’ command has not expressed its views on the November 10, 2020, tripartite declaration, but the generals want the government that accepted those terms to resign from office (News.am, Armenpress, Arminfo, February 24–March 3).

All this can only reinforce Baku’s and Ankara’s choice to bet on Pashinian’s government (albeit on the conditions stated) and hint at that choice publicly, though careful not to offer ammunition to Pashinian’s opponents.

Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliyev has made known the authorized interpretation of the ongoing confrontation in Yerevan and the potential for region-wide cooperation from Baku’s perspective. In so doing, he has implicitly signaled Baku’s relative preference for Pashinian (warts and all) over his nationalist and military opponents. Addressing a large visiting group of international journalists, Aliyev offered the following theses (Azertag, February 26–28), with follow-up authorized commentaries echoing the same points (1News.az, Haqqin.az, February 28, March 1, 2).

  • Armenia in its current crisis presents an “embarrassing, tragicomic” picture of mismanagement and disorder, both on the government’s and the opposition’s side. It is reminiscent of Azerbaijan’s own chaos in 1992–1993 under the Popular Front government. (Aliyev had already offered this analogy on the morrow of the November 10 armistice, “for the edification of today’s youth,” equating the Popular Front’s then-leader Abulfaz Elchibey and Pashinian as revolutionary demagogues too incompetent to govern.)
  • Armenia’s former leaders bidding to return to power today—Sege Sarkissian, Robert Kocharian and former defense minister (2008–2016) Seyran Ohanian—“are war criminals” who occupied Azerbaijani territories. The “Kocharian-Sarkissian junta” ruled Armenia for 20 years, “brainwashing it” and “leading it to the precipice.” Under their rule (1998–2018), “Armenia lost the main features of state independence, it came to resemble a colony.” The underlying cause for this was their “occupation policy” directed at Azerbaijan.
  • At the present time, however, the armistice declaration “is being implemented, and it must be implemented [a half-nod to Pashinian].”
  • Armenia has no resources for economic recovery unless it cooperates with Azerbaijan and Turkey; “there is simply no other way.” “Any attempts at non-compliance with the declaration would gravely damage Armenia. This is why I do not particularly worry that a change of government in Yerevan would stop the declaration’s implementation.”
  • The Russian president’s signature on the November 10 declaration should ensure Yerevan’s compliance with its terms. “Armenia’s dependence on Russia is ten times greater than it was before this war. Will Armenia dare to disregard the Russian president’s signature? [The onus is on the Kremlin to discipline its client.]”
  • Demonizing Azerbaijan has been counterproductive to Armenia in the first place. Innocent people in Armenia fell prey to anti-Azerbaijani propaganda. They will need time to understand and heal.
  • Azerbaijan needs a durable peace in order to restore and expand transportation routes and trade. In that case, Armenia will realize the advantages of peace. For this, “I warn, Armenia must fully implement the armistice terms, without attempts at revanchism.”
  • This will be a step-by-step process. If the Armenian government cooperates, “We may at some stage sign a peace treaty.”
  • A threat now exists that “a revanche party may come to power in Armenia and go to war against Azerbaijan… This would be a disaster for them” (Azertag, February 26, 28).

Turkey’s government, for its part, has refrained from commenting on Armenia’s power struggle except on the day when it broke out publicly in Yerevan, February 25. Many international observers initially perceived that event in Yerevan as a military coup. Ankara was no exception to that misunderstanding, but the Turkish government is especially sensitive to military coups, given its own—and the ruling Justice and Development Party’s (AKP)—experience with military interventions and coup attempts in Turkey itself (most recently in 2016).

In that light, and also as a declared general principle, Ankara hastened to condemn the perceived military coup in Yerevan. President Recep Tayyp Erdogğan, his top advisor İbrahim Kalın, spokesperson Fahrettin Altun and Foreign Minister Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu issued parallel, closely coordinated statements, condemning the perceived military coup attempt in Yerevan. According to Erdoğan, even if the people of Armenia seek the government’s resignation, overthrowing it would be unacceptable. “Any change of government in Armenia should be up to the people to decide” (Anadolu Agency, Daily Sabah, February 25, 26).

It became apparent within hours, however, that the Armenian generals’ move lacked the features of a military coup attempt (see EDM, February 25).

Other than taking a strong stand on the question of a military coup, the Turkish government has thus far withheld comments on Armenia’s compliance with the armistice terms or the country’s internal political situation.

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Azerbaijan Seizes Armenian Heritage Artifacts


March 3 2021


03/03/2021 Nagorno-Karabakh (International Christian Concern) –  Many cultural collections located in Nagorno-Karabakh (Armenian: Artsakh) are now under Azerbaijani control. Geological, cultural, and historical items that were moved into bomb shelters in Shushi are now claimed by Azerbaijan. Armenia and Nagorno-Karabakh representatives appealed via Russian peacekeepers for their return, although there has not been any success so far.

Several have been critical that the precious items were even allowed to remain in Shushi. During the war, Shushi was considered invincible and many believed it would not fall to Azerbaijan. As such, some museums only transferred items into bomb shelters instead of shipping them out of the region.

The claiming  of Nagorno-Karabakh’s historical items is part of the attempts of Azerbaijan, supported by Turkey, to rewrite the narrative and discredit the regions Armenian Christian history. The acquisition and reconstitution of these artifacts and religious sites are being utilized to negate and/or rewrite Christian history in Nagorno-Karabakh. This sends a message that Armenian Christians are no longer welcome in the present moment.

Throughout the 44-day war, Azerbaijan and Turkey both failed to respect human rights. To learn more about Turkey’s role, read ICC’s joint report here.


Pashinyan Maintains Anti-Russia Position Despite Armenia’s Abandonment From The West

Greek City Times
March 3 2021
by Paul Antonopoulos
0

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In an interview with 1in.am, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan assessed the results of the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

He questioned the capabilities of Russian-made weapons, and according to him, Iskander ballistic missiles exploded with only a 10% success rate.

The Armenian Ministry of Defense declined to comment on the Prime Minister’s ambiguous statement about the success of the Iskander system during last year’s 44-day war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh.

Iskander missile system.

However, after his statements, Pashinyan’s comments were quickly mocked by Russian media and military experts.

Viktor Zavarzin, Deputy Chairman of the Russian State Duma Committee on Defense, called Pashinyan’s statement an absolute lie.

One of the designers of the Iskander missile, Vladimir Kovalev, urged the Armenian Prime Minister to end his ignorance as soon as possible.

In fact, Armenia’s first Prime Minister after the country’s independence from the Soviet Union, Vazgen Manukyan, said “you have to either be an idiot or an enemy to make such a statement about the Iskander missile system.”

Former Prime Minister Vazgen Manukyan.

The Deputy Chief of the Armenian General Staff, Tiran Khachatryan, laughed when he was asked about Pashinyan’s statements about the Russian-made weapons.

In the end, Pashinyan backtracked on his Iskander comments, with his Press Secretary Mane Gevorgyan saying “The Prime Minister was not properly informed about the situation with the Iskander.”

This was followed by the Kremlin expressing satisfaction with Gevorgyan’s statement and a conversation between Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Kremlin spokesperson Dmitry Peskov said that the Armenian Prime Minister was misinformed about the Iskander missiles.

It is highly unlikely that Pashinyan was misinformed, despite Russia’s reconciliatory statement.

The Iskander missile system is designed to eliminate army bases, command and control units, missile complexes, fighter jets and helicopters.

The main advantages of the system are strategic mobility, hidden on-call and missile launch capabilities, automatic task calculation and entry, and radio-electronic response conditions.

Yet, despite these impressive specs, the Iskander system was only used a total of three times during the war, and according to Armenian journalist Tatul Hakobyan, citing a high-ranking military source,  said that Iskander missiles were:

“fired towards a completely pointless direction, at a time when the outcome of the war was decided, the outcome of Shushi was also decided.”

Tatul Hakobyan.

Although Pashinyan continually stressed that last year’s war was a “battle for survival,” he never fully engaged in the war effort as he did not mobilize 200,000 reservists.

In fact, although government and military officials were calling for diaspora Armenians to fight in Artsakh, most volunteers were only put on a list and never transported to Armenia.

Hovik Kasapian, a leading member of the Armenian National Committee of Greece, also said that many ethnic Greeks had volunteered to fight in Artsakh but were rejected because Armenia did not want to put Athens in an awkward diplomatic situation.

One would expect in a “battle for survival” that all volunteers would be welcomed, just as the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) in Syria accepted all foreigners into their ranks.

Pashinyan defended the necessity of the highly controversial ceasefire by claiming that Artsakh did not have enough manpower to defend against the Azerbaijani military, but Armenia had not even come close to using all the resources available.

In the political blowback to Pashinyan’s failure to deal with the Turkish-sponsored invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh, the Armenian military, police, several mayors and other high ranking and notable officials and former officials called for the his resignation.

Pashinyan came to power in 2018 on the back of pro-liberal/EU/NATO revolution to oust “pro-Russia oligarch” Merzhir Serzhin.

A report by EurAsia Daily documented Pashinyan’s appointments after coming to power, especially those associated with NGO’s funded by famous Russophobe billionaire George Soros.

Effectively, Pashinyan gained popularity on the back of an anti-Russia campaign, adopting the methods used by Baltic states to pivot to the West and reject Moscow.

However, Armenia is not in the European Union and is in an extremely dangerous neighborhood, wedged between Turkey, Azerbaijan, Georgia and Iran, not the likes of Finland and Sweden like the Baltic states.

For Pashinyan and his supporters, the folly of their obsession in rejecting everything Russian and pivoting towards Atlanticist power structures, despite being in a very dangerous and volatile Caucasus, came to a shocking realization.

This realization came when the Azerbaijani military, Turkish special forces and Syrian mercenaries began their invasion of Nagorno-Karabakh on September 27, 2020.

All efforts to pursue an anti-Russia agenda and move towards the West came to naught once the invasion began and the European Union, Washington and NATO were completely disinterested.

In the end, it was Russia that ended the conflict whilst saving Armenian administration over the Soviet-era borders of Nagorno-Karabakh.

However, with the political blowback because of his own incompetency, Pashinyan attempted to shift some of Armenia’s military failures onto Russia by falsely claiming that the Iskander system had only a 10% success rate.

This suggests that despite Armenia having experienced a catastrophic loss only a few months ago after receiving no support from the West, Pashinyan has no interest in ending his country’s path towards Western liberalism and continues attacks against Moscow.

Most Armenians in the post-war period realised that the oligarchs, despite their own set of problems, successfully defended Armenian interests and Nagorno-Karabakh from Azerbaijan and Turkey, something that Pashinyan catastrophically failed in.

The Armenian administration in Nagorno-Karabakh realise this reality and are even contemplating making Russian an official language in the de facto republic.

Meanwhile, Pashinyan has demonstrated that he is not interested in retreating from his Russophobia despite the Armenian people’s demand that he resigns.

Source: InfoBrics

Armenia’s Investigative Committee opens criminal case against opposition leader

TASS, Russia
March 3 2021
A criminal case has been opened for public calls for forcible seizure of power

YEREVAN, March 3. /TASS/. Armenia’s Investigative Committee has opened a criminal case against the opposition’s leader Vazgen Manukyan for public calls for forcible seizure of power, the IC’s press-service told TASS.

"During rallies in Freedom Square on February 12 and 20, 2021 Vazgen Manukyan made public calls for the seizure of power and forcible change of the constitutional system. In this connection, a decision was made to indict Manukyan under article 301 of Armenia’s Criminal Code," the press-service said.

Manukyan is obliged to report to the office Investigative Committee on Thursday. He will be notified of the decision to indict him on criminal charges and questioned. He may face a prison term of up to three years.

The spokesman for the party Dashnaktsutyun, Gegam Manukyan, told a rally earlier on Wednesday criminal proceedings had been launched against Vazgen Manukyan.

In different years Manukyan led the Cabinet of Ministers and held the position of Armenia’s defense minister. Amid the political crisis in Armenia, which has been developing since last November, the oppositional Movement for the Salvation of the Motherland, incorporating a dozen political parties, nominated Manukyan its candidate for the prime minister’s seat for forming a provisional government in case the current head of government, Nikol Pashinyan, resigns.

Demonstrations in support of the demand for Pashinyan’s resignation began in Armenia in November last year after the opposition blamed him for the conditions on which he had signed a joint statement with the leaders of Azerbaijan and Russia on the cessation of hostilities in the area of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. The political crisis flared up with renewed force when on February 25 the chief of Armenia’s General Staff, Onik Gasparyan, and top brass urged his resignation. Pashinyan slammed this statement as a military coup attempt. He has twice asked President Armen Sarkisyan to dismiss the chief of the General Staff. Gasparyan’s resignation will take effect automatically without being signed by the president, if the latter fails to take the case to the Constitutional Court by March 3. Sarkisyan has not said yet what decision he will take. He has been holding prolonged consultations with various political forces all along.

Armenia’s Pashinyan ready to call early election if opposition signs memorandum

TASS, Russia
March 3 2021
Nikol Pashinyan said he had already invited the leaders of oppositional factions to meet for consultations

YEREVAN, March 3. /TASS/. The Armenian authorities are ready to call early parliamentary elections provided the opposition agrees to sign a corresponding memorandum, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told parliament on Wednesday.

"We can call early elections during 2021, if the opposition – the opposition in parliament in the first place – agrees to hold them [by signing a corresponding memorandum]. For this purpose, I have already invited the leaders of oppositional factions to meet for consultations," he said.