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June 26, 2009
1. `Armenian King’ v `Turkish Lion’: Armenia sports fans await
Abraham’s Saturday night challenge
2.** Diplomacy Challenge: US `Meet and Greet’ comes with `tough
questions’ for Ambassador to Armenia**
3. Home, but not Alone: More `guest workers’ remain in Armenia due to
hard times in Russia
**4.** Tough tuition: Foundation in Armenia for sponsored studies
abroad stands by its statute to fund `all eligible’**
5. Business Tips: AmCham Armenia supports business with `M2M’
6.** Opinion: Let the splintering begin for Armenia’s opposition
7. Letter Home: A Diaspora discovers Armenia and `Armenianness’
8. Perspective: A news reporter looks at how Armenia defines `Public’
9.** **Partnership in perspective: Analyst says tensions in Tehran
unlikely to impact joint projects with Armenia
10.** A great club’s great decline: Armenia’s soccer icon a far cry from
its glorious Soviet self
11. Sport: Armenia soccer clubs learn their opponents in European
*********************** ************************************************** ***
1. `Armenian King’ v `Turkish Lion’: Armenia sports fans await Abraham’s
Saturday night challenge
By Georg Khachaturyan
Women looking for their men Saturday night in Armenia need go no farther
than TV screens and sports bars at around 10 p.m. local time when beloved
son `King Arthur’ defends his crown in the boxing ring.
Favored great Abraham (Abrahamyan) brings a sensational 29-0 record into the
ring in Berlin, Germany to face his friend, but ethnic foe, Turkish-German
Mahir Oral. Nearly all of the native Armenian’s fights (23) have ended in
knock outs (KOs).
Oral himself brings a sparkling 25-1-2 (wins, losses, draws) to the match,
including 10 KOs.
Armenia-born Abraham has heard, throughout this week, his next opponent’s
threats of `dethroning’ him amid words of respect and admiration from the
And as Abraham, the International Boxing Federation (IBF) middleweight
champion performing for Germany, was getting ready for his tenth title
defense this weekend, media and specialists have predicted his likely
movement to a higher weight division after the bout.
According to reports in Germany about Abraham’s possible last appearance
the middleweight division, the undefeated champion is `having a tough time
making weight and plans to make a move to super middleweight very soon.’
With the optional title defense against Oral coming up, Abraham may be
looking ahead to a long-awaited middleweight showdown with lineal champion
Kelly Pavlik that according to some reports may be held early next year.
A unification bout between Abraham and WBC/WBO middleweight champion
known as `The Ghost’) is believed to be the biggest fight in the weight.
Abraham recently told media that he blames the American and his promoters for
the fighting not happening.
`I say Pavlik is backing out. One time he’s injured, the next time he doesn’t
want to fight. They always have an excuse and I don’t know why. I’m always
ready to box against him,’ said the Armenian thumper.
Meanwhile, Abraham’s opponent on Saturday, Oral, alternated his bravado with
words of respect about his former sparring partner.
`I have the chance to face the strongest middleweight fighter in the world
today. They say to be the man you have to beat the man,’ said Oral (dubbed
Lion) as quoted by the boxing news website
Abraham reportedly was brief in his remarks following an open training
session on Thursday morning: `I am in perfect shape. Oral is in for a hard
night=85 Everything has gone according to plan. I will please my fans on
Despite a lot of reported speculations about Abraham’s future in the
division and possible fight against Pavlik, the 29-year-old, who is heavily
favored in Saturday night’s bout, has stressed he is `taking one step at a
`All my focus is on Mahir Oral now,’ he said.
Abraham’s fight, as always, generates great interest among his numerous fans
in Armenia. None approached by ArmeniaNow, though, doubted that Abraham will
have an easy night and will end the bout with a knockout, as it happened
many times in his previous nine title defenses.
`We always enjoy Abraham’s fights and always expect him to knockout his
opponent. The coming fight will be no exception,’ one fan said.
Specialists share this optimism but, typically, appear more superstitious,
avoiding upbeat statements ahead of big fights. Some, though, promised to
ArmeniaNow to be `more talkative’ after Abraham’s `successful completion of
The 12-round bout between Abraham and Oral is at Max-Schmeling-Halle in
Berlin, Germany, on June 27 (start time: 7.00 pm CET).
2. Diplomacy Challenge: US `Meet and Greet’ comes with `tough questions’
for Ambassador to Armenia
By John Hughes
The United States Ambassador to Armenia, Marie Yovanovitch, has been on a
tour of Armenian communities in the US this week which will continue through
>From Boston to California, the ambassador is making the first ambassadorial
visit since former ambassador John Evans’ series of meetings in 2005 during
which he used the word `genocide’ (in violation of US policy) and was
subsequently recalled from Armenia.
Yovanovitch’s `meet and greet’ opportunities places her in the crosshairs of
an unhappy Armenian-American Diaspora who are disappointed that the
`Armenia-friendly’ Obama administration has shown a different stripe in its
first five months in office.
First, the US president dodged saying `genocide’ when he had visited Ankara
in early April. Nor did Obama – who has supported Armenian Genocide
recognition – use the `g-word’ during his April 24 commemoration address
Then, the Obama government called for a reduction – from $48 million to $30
million – in aid to Armenia. (That request, however, was overturned, as on
Tuesday the House Committee on Appropriations approved $48 million for
Armenia and $10 million for Nagorno Karabakh under the `Freedom Support
Finally, the US has put a hold on Millennium Challenge money designated for
Armenia, worth tens of millions of dollars in infrastructure development.
Those factors considered, the Public Affairs Chair of the Armenian Assembly
of America (), in Yerevan prior to returning to meet
Yovanovitch in Boston, said the ambassador faces a challenge in America, but
voiced optimism for relations with the administration she represents.
Anthony Barsamian, who, along with Assembly president Carolyn Mugar helped
spearhead Armenian-American campaigning for Obama last fall said the US
ambassador `will get that question a lot’, in reference to Obama’s non-use
Barsamian, who with Mugar formed Armenian Americans for Obama in 2007, said
he is `disappointed’ that the Obama administration hasn’t yet fulfilled
campaign promises regarding Armenia. `Yet’ being the key word.
`I think the Obama administration has a plan,’ Barsamian said, reminding
that the president still has at least three and a half years in which to
redeem himself in the eyes of those who feel let down by his early policies.
While on business in Yerevan, Barsamian was also on a fact-finding mission
in preparation for his occasional meetings at the White House with Obama
advisors who include Samantha Powell, a member of the National Security
Council, and human rights advocate.
Does the Assembly member see his man eventually fulfilling his promises?
`Absolutely,’ Barsamian told ArmeniaNow, adding that the Assembly and other
advocacy groups have an opportunity to push the Genocide recognition agenda
as the 95th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide approaches (2010).
`The writing is on the wall,’ Barsamian said, saying, too, that the recent
talks on Armenia-Turkey normalization should be viewed as a separate issue
to Genocide recognition.
`The Assembly has always supported dialogue regarding Armenia-Turkey
relations,’ Barsamian said. `Our role is in `Track Two Diplomacy’,
promoting civil society projects.’
The Genocide has to be recognized in order for the region to experience `an
honest peace’, Barsamian said, adding that, presently, the Karabakh dispute
appears to be of a greater obstacle in Armenia-Turkey relations and that:
`I don’t believe Turkish foreign policy should be dictated from Baku’.
While the Assembly exercises patience and optimism, the harder-lined
Armenian National Committee of America () – representing the
`Dashnak’ party viewpoint – has encouraged its members to turn out to
Yovanovitch’s meetings with `tough questions’.
ANCA reported in its Asbarez newspaper that Yovanovitch handled a question
in Massachusetts on the Genocide, saying:
`I know there is disappointment and even anger at President Obama’s April
24th statement=85 But President Obama went further in his statement than any
previous American president.
`While we must never forget the past, we also must work together for a
3. Home, but not Alone: More `guest workers’ remain in Armenia due to
hard times in Russia
By Gayane Lazarian
The number of Armenians leaving the country for work decreased by 56 percent
this spring compared to a year ago.
A reported reversal of trend in Armenia’s outward migration during the
typical period of guest worker movement means that potentially more people
will be in search of jobs this year after losing opportunities for jobs
Armenia’s top government executive in charge of migration affairs says for
the first time in years a positive balance of those leaving and those
returning to the republic was observed in March, the month when seasonal
migrant workers typically return to their jobs abroad after a short winter
stay in the country.
`Migration is a very sensitive phenomenon,’ says Gagik Yeganyan, head of the
Migration Agency at the Armenian Ministry of Local Government. `Changing
social, economic and political processes are reflected on migration
phenomena as well. Naturally, a cataclysm like the current economic crisis
could not but have an impact on it.’
Seasonal migrant workers who return in late autumn and leave for work abroad
in early spring were the first to feel the impact, according to Yeganyan.
An estimated 95 percent of the total number of Armenian `gastarbeiters’
(guest workers, as they are known in Russia) seek jobs in Russia, with about
60-70 percent in construction. Meanwhile, Russia is believed to be among the
economies most affected by the deepening global crisis resulting in
dwindling of construction and other sectors that used to provide jobs for
Armenia’s Migration Agency provides its evaluations based on information
about the movement of people received from border customs.
Yeganyan says that as a rule, the largest negative balance of this movement
is observed in the period from February to April.
The `negative’ gap in Armenia between those who left and those who arrived
during February-March in 2008 increased by 46 percent as compared to the
same period of 2007.
Meanwhile, this year has revealed an opposite trend, with the gap closing by
56 percent against figures reported for February-March 2008, according to
Thus, a `positive migration balance’ of 1,200 people was reported for March
of this year, with nearly 70,000 people who stayed instead of going
potentially joining the army of unemployed in Armenia.
Dwindling private remittances wired to households in Armenia by family
members or relatives working abroad appears to be another major consequence
of the reduced `migrant worker export’ this year.
(Official statistics posted by Armenia for January-May 2009 shows about a 40
percent fall in remittances against the same period in 2008.)
`In the past five to six years remittances grew by an average of 25 percent
annually. Last year’s fourth quarter showed a 20 percent (or more) decrease
in remittances as compared to the preceding three-month period. But we all
know that remittances to Armenia tend to increase at the end of the year,’
says Yeganyan. `Already in Quarter Four, remittances to individuals through
bank transactions decreased from $530 million to $430 million. Had the
previous year’s trend continued, the amount of remittances in the mentioned
period would have totaled some $700 million.’
The trend has continued into this year as well. In January, remittances
decreased by 25 percent and in April by 39 percent. And again, 80 percent of
private remittances to Armenia come from Russia.
In contrast to previous years characterized by rapid growth in passenger
flows, this indicator has also fallen in 2009, according to the Migration
`This year the flows of passengers have reduced by 1-2 percent (or 7,600
people). Perhaps the number is not large, but the phenomenon shows that
fewer people can afford to travel. This is also the consequence of the
crisis,’ says Yeganyan.
4. Tough tuition: Foundation in Armenia for sponsored studies abroad
stands by its statute to fund `all eligible’
By Sara Khojoyan
A foundation set up in Armenia last year with the focus on funding the
education of students admitted to the world’s prestigious colleges has
announced it is entering the stage of active operations amid lingering
dissatisfaction and concerns expressed by potential beneficiaries about the
work it has done so far.
Meeting students at Yerevan State University for the first time this week,
Lyus Foundation educational programs director Jacqueline Karaaslanian heard
their concerns about application deadlines, the list of universities
admittance to which makes selected applicants eligible for funding, the
possible number of funded students, etc.
Introducing the Foundation’s executive to the students on Wednesday was
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, the chair of Luys’s Board of Trustees, who
put the omissions made so far down to `the absence of proper staff.’
`Jacqueline [Karaaslanian] is now alone, and our possibilities at this point
are limited to what her abilities are,’ explained Sargsyan.
Karaaslanian said the existing problems are solvable and, in the first
place, had arisen because of the foundation’s desire not to miss the
opportunity of this year for covering tuition fees for students. She said
that’s why it started activities without being fully prepared.
`We could have started later, but it would mean that whoever had been
admitted [to colleges abroad] this year would not be receiving funding in
time for beginning studies in September. That’s why we decided to start
early and solve problems as they arise,’ said Karaaslanian.
One of students’ major concerns is application deadlines. Initially, a
deadline for submitting applications had been set for May 31. But the Luys
foundation’s website started functioning only less than two weeks before
that deadline, presumably leaving many potential applicants without crucial
information. The deadline was then extended twice at students’ request.
`To my surprise, after we changed the deadline to leave more time for
student applications, instead of feeling happy about this many actually
became more concerned,’ Karaaslanian said.
But the person who basically conceived the idea of this foundation contends
that what in fact concerns applicants is the actual existence of deadlines.
Artur Ishkhanyan says: `Perhaps it is more correct for the foundation to
stay open for applications throughout the year, since university admission
terms and deadlines around the world vary from country to country.’
Statements about the foundation’s mode of activities are contradictory as
While Karaaslanian says there will be no contest and every student admitted
to a prestigious college will receive necessary assistance, the prime
minister speaks about 15 students who are likely to be financed this year as
part of the project.
Meanwhile, Ishkhanyan assures ArmeniaNow that he personally knows more than
20 students who have already been admitted this year to [one of the]
colleges or universities listed on the Luys website and therefore are
eligible for funding.
It is also estimated that the foundation’s budget of 400 million drams
(about $1.1 million) approved for the education programs in 2009 is enough
to cover tuition for 10-15 students admitted to first-rate colleges abroad.
`First go and get admitted and then come and complain that you don’t get
funding. Those who will be admitted will receive our assistance. As of
today, that budget of 400 million drams has not been spent yet,’ said the
In an ArmeniaNow interview ARMACAD student network founder Khachik Gevorgyan
said there has been no shortage of students eligible for Luys funding.
`Since they did not spread an announcement before the deadline, no one could
actually know about their existence and could not apply. Seeing that
indifference, we spread the announcement through our network and people did
apply,’ he asserted.
Meanwhile, Karaaslanian on Wednesday promised that the names of all students
eligible for the foundation’s assistance in 2009 will be published in two
5. Business Tips: AmCham Armenia supports business with `M2M’ initiative
By Sara Khojoyan
While the global crisis increases its negative impact on Armenia’s economy
and social life the American Chamber of Commerce in Armenia (AmCham) has
come out with a new initiative to help local companies increase their
Today, AmCham launched its Member to Member program (M2M) which entitles
AmCham members to the best discounts available on goods and services offered
by other AmCham members and representatives of the wider business community.
(The offers will be valid for one year). M2M program is a significant
opportunity for members to gain exposure and clients, while creating
additional value for other AmCham members.
With M2M AmCham Members will be provided with discount cards they can
present when doing business with companies participating in the program.
Discounts can be also received upon presenting M2M plastic cards, issued by
AmCham has been operating in Armenia since 2000, advocating a transparent,
free and fair business environment in Armenia and promoting business
relationships between the United States and Armenia. (It has more than 80
members from all business segments.)
Through advocacy efforts aimed at such areas as tax legislation and customs
administration, AmCham represents its members’ business interests in Armenia
to the Armenian government, international organizations, and to the wider
AmCham has also British, French and other European companies as members and
is in contact with other AmChams in the neighboring countries of Azerbaijan,
Turkey, and Georgia.
6. Opinion: Let the splintering begin for Armenia’s opposition
The best news we’ve heard lately from Armenia’s anemic opposition is that it
was suspending rallies for the summer.
Unfortunately, opposition leaders were no better at fulfilling that promise
than at any others they have made since trying to reinvent a movement.
Leaders now say we are due for more dirt in the already dusty Yerevan skies
when the opposition rallies July 2 – strengthened by the reluctantly
received amnesty of key members this past week.
In February 2008 and, especially, in March 2008, the opposition had
legitimate claim against being cheated out, then bullied out, kicked out
(literally), shot out and brutally beaten out of relevance in Armenian
We listened to battered voices with sympathetic hearts and supported calls
for international attention to the cause of genuine political prisoners.
The ruling regime was wrong to hold them, while nary a policeman nor special
forces combatant was held accountable for clear misuse of force witnessed by
our journalists and others on that horrible March 1 that left wounds this
whole republic is far from closing regardless of political persuasion.
Again on May 31, the opposition was overwhelmed by fraud during the Yerevan
City Council election.
It reacted as if this were the first time an election has been stolen by
authorities in Armenia. In fact cheating has been the path to success in
every election since (now) opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosyan utilized
deceit to maintain his presidential power in 1996.
Ter-Petrosyan champions a dead cause (regime change), supported by
lieutenants Stepan Demirchyan and Aram Sargsyan whose primary credentials
are dead relatives. (In reference to the latter: Has everyone forgotten that
when Vazgen Sargsyan was alive he was as reviled as he is now beatified?)
Whatever dignity `LTP’ might have pocketed when he returned from political
seclusion in October 2007 was spent when he refused to accept his party’s 13
seats in the Yerevan City Council following the May election.
It is likely the opposition would have earned more spots had the election
been fair. But, by now, shouldn’t any challenger to power in this country
have a contingency plan for when he is cheated out of contention?
Ter-Petrosyan reacted as expected of a man more intent on legacy than
leadership. By refusing the Council mandates he effectively told the
thousands of his supporters that his pride is more important than their
This week, the skeletons of the opposition leadership rattled their bones
with fervent concern over whether the opposition is being splintered. Let us
And let the splintering begin at the top, as so it appears.
Armenia deserves, needs, a legitimate opposition just as it needs a
legitimate ruling regime. Pity that neither appears at hand.
7. Letter Home: A Diaspora discovers Armenia and `Armenianness’
By Elizabeth Gemdjian
Armenian Assembly of America intern
Special to ArmeniaNow
Before I left for Yerevan, friends and family inevitably asked me, `Why are
you going to Armenia?’ My answer? It wasn’t to visit my family – any
members I have in Armenia are either unknown to me or nonexistent. Nor was
it to discover my true homeland – while Armenia remains the land of my
ancestors and its past and future are important to me, I have no illusion of
truly belonging here and returning to the `land of my people.’ My Armenian
language skills are subpar to say the least, and my knowledge of current
issues and affairs in Armenia is also deficient. Then, why was I making
this journey halfway around the world to a country I knew little about and
in which I knew no one?
Because I am Armenian? I ask this instead of stating it because it seems to
depend on to whom, and where, you ask this question. It did not take long
for some of my pre-arrival assumptions about what Yerevan would be like to
be shattered. I emerged from Zvartnots airport – small, but efficient – and
took the short and smooth highway trip to the center of Yerevan, passing
through Republic Square and watching the musical fountain show. The beauty
of the city with its tree-lined streets, grand center, and beautiful
landscape immediately struck me and diminished some of my anxiety about
living in this city for eight weeks. But that was only day one.
On my first full day in Yerevan, I explored much of the city with the other
interns from the Armenian Assembly of America, accompanied by our director
who guided us and mediated our experience of Yerevan. And then he left. We
were on our own – and after attempting, unsuccessfully, to bargain in the
market, find out about purchasing a cell phone, and navigate to my apartment
by myself, I started to doubt how much my being Armenian would actually make
living in this foreign city easier. Actually, after an encounter with a
Yerevan youth that evening, where my fellow interns and I were subtly mocked
in Armenian while watching the fountain show at Republic Square, and made to
feel quite unwelcome, I started to think that my being an Armenian-American
tourist in Yerevan might actually make life here more difficult.
The relations between the Diaspora and Armenia have been complicated. With
ancestors who were forced into exile or fled the horrors of the Genocide,
diasporan Armenians are now almost a century removed from quotidian Armenian
affairs. Established all over the world, with large communities in Los
Angeles (Little Armenia), Paris, and elsewhere, diasporan Armenians retain
their Armenian identity and solidarity while striving to adapt and succeed
in their new environments. Some look forward to an eventual return, but
many are content to remain in their new countries of residence.
However, the growing distance between diasporan and local Armenians seems to
be accompanied by increased resentment and frustration. I was immediately
surprised in my first encounters in Yerevan to be met not with the warm
hospitality that is so characteristic of Armenian culture, but with
less-than-open arms and a hint of hostility that made me question how
welcome I was in this city.
I do not mean to imply that all of my interactions were negative, only that
I was caught off guard, and started to feel self-conscious, and doubtful of
the legitimacy of my presence here. Whereas I thought my limited ability to
speak and read Armenian would be to my advantage, I felt it was worse to err
in my attempts to communicate in the language of the city; instead I found
it easier to give up and conduct myself as though I had no understanding of
the language so that I would not meet with the rolled eyes and sighs forced
by my broken Armenian.
In some ways, such a welcoming – or, rather, an unwelcoming – is to my
advantage. Knowing the impression that Armenian tourists give to local
Armenians in Yerevan, I can challenge these stereotypes by being more open,
willing to listen, and humble in my assumptions about my role in Armenian
affairs. However, I can do so while also standing up for my right to be
here against the gruffness of my reception into the city, if only as a
tourist who just happens to be Armenian. Unlike non-Armenian tourists who
are none the wiser when they are snubbed or mocked in Armenian, those
visitors to Yerevan who have some capacity to understand the language are
ultimately at an advantage for at least knowing where they stand with the
locals, and hopefully this knowledge can be productive and force a
renegotiation and re-conceptualization of the relationship between diasporan
and local Armenians so that we can expose misconceptions and learn from each
other rather than acting on our prejudices and stereotypes to disparage one
Elizabeth, 22, is studying anthropology at Columbia University in New York
City, her home. She is in Armenia as part of the Armenian Assembly of
America internship program. She is first generation Armenian-American. Her
immediate family stems from Bulgaria, where her grandparents were moved
following the Armenian Genocide.
8. **Perspective: A news reporter looks at how Armenia defines `Public’ TV
There is a good joke in Armenia: a pensioner is crying, and when she is
asked what has happened, she replies, `I want to live in Haylur’s Armenia.’
It seems that the Armenian Public Television (showing `Haylur’ news
program), as well as many TV companies in Armenia follow the former Soviet
ideology: everything is fine in the country; everything is blossoming;
people are happy; the economy is developing, and it is moving towards a
This is an unacceptable, yet comprehensible logic. It is also an
unacceptable, yet very good working mechanism for washing and dulling brains
in totalitarian countries.
However, when along with it the most primary rules of journalism are
dismissed, then it is more than irritating, especially since, because it is
`Public Television’ people like me pay for it from our State Budget.
We pay to be deceived. Good theatre; bad `journalism’.
On Monday of this week, the amnesty of four main activists of the opposition
was top news – regardless of personal or political sympathies. Top news for
all press and TV that is, except my Public TV.
`Haylur’ gave the amnesty event coverage 22 minutes into its 25-minute
program, and even then without a reporter on the scene.
The top news on that day was President Serzh Sargsyan receiving the Foreign
Minister of the United Arab Emirates; and `news’ that NA Speaker Hovik
Abrahamyan left for Strasbourg to participate in the session of the
Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).
It was expected that at least after the official news there would be an
interesting reportage about amnesty, but no, there were still `very
important’ news left.
The information about a `One Nation One Culture’ council session followed
the official news, later came the `Artsakh-Bridge’ conference news, moreover
all the above-mentioned five news were broadcast without video materials. At
best, the commentary of the news program anchor was accompanied with some
Then came a report of a `No Corruption’ conference held in Karabakh, when
Prosecutor General Aghvan Hovsepyan spoke at length about what `a terrible
disease’ corruption is.
This was followed by a Russian news agency commentary on the region,
followed by a conference on regional problems held in Tsaghkadzor, following
by footage of protestors being beaten in Iran. (Something that did not make
`news’ when it happened last year in Armenia.)
Finally came a report on the matter that dominated legitimate news agency
My `Public’ TV did not manage to produce video to go with its bottom-of-the
broadcast coverage. An anchor just read the text saying four oppositionists
that were sentenced to five-year imprisonments had been released early
thanks to the government’s amnesty. Only still photos of the court
building were shown.
It is a pity, yet it is not a unique case, and Haylur does not lack
professionalism. Very good and professional journalists work at Haylur. But
even the best journalist cannot out-work political order.
Even the most cynical critic could see that Haylur itself missed an
opportunity. It could have turned news into glowing government propaganda
connecting this `Public’ TV to its Soviet predecessor.
Worse, though, this `news’ program chose judgment apparently aimed at
dismissing the event’s significance – to ignore, not to speak, so that
people forget about it.
Those of us with alternatives (i.e. internet) can dismiss Haylur for what it
is – the ruling regime’s bulletin board. But for the greater number of
Armenians, `Public’ TV is their only source of information, and many take it
to be believable.
We all pay to be deceived. Armenia is worse off because of `Haylur’s’
masquerade. Worse off, because too many have no other source to `buy’.
9.** **Partnership in perspective: Analyst says tensions in Tehran unlikely
to impact joint projects with Armenia
Analysis by Aris Ghazinayan
The latest events in Iran can affect the prospects of development of
Iran-Armenia bilateral relationships, however some Armenian political
analysts believe that the political turmoil in the neighboring country isn’t
likely to impact at least the already outlined joint projects.
The railway construction project connecting Armenia to Iran and ports of the
Indian Ocean has been finally approved this year.
Reflecting on the timelines of the possible launch of this project, Armenian
Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan stated that `the scenario desirable for the
government would be if the construction started late in 2009′.
Armenia and Iran have taken up another major project this year –
construction of an oil pipeline from the Iranian city of Tabriz to the
Armenian station Yeraskh, (a borderline village in Ararat province,
with Turkey and Azerbaijan, some 50 km from Yerevan) villa where a terminal
would be built and where petrol and diesel fuel would be delivered.
According to Armenian Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen
Movsisyan, `the construction of the Tabriz-Yeraskh oil pipeline would become
the first step on the way leading to the construction of oil refinery in
Armenia with a processing capacity of 7 million tons per year.’
Political analyst Garegin Gabriyelyan, , director of the analytical center
`Keni’, says that despite the bitter rivalry between the main figures
involved in the political unrest, all of them have led the same policy
`The thing is that the figures involved in the political events in Tehran
are former presidents of Iran Hashamei Rafsanjani and Mohammad Khatami on
the one hand, and the current president Mahmud Ahmadinejad on the other.
During their tenures in office, each of them had a relationship with Armenia
with a pattern from good to better,’ says Gabriyelyan.
Diplomatic relations between Armenia and Iran were established during the
presidency of Rafsanjani (1989 – 1997). `It was then that Tehran took a
strong position in hindering Azerbaijan’s and Turkey’s efforts to declare
jihad on Armenians in the whole Muslim world and turn the Karabakh war into
a religious one,’ the analyst says.
In 1992 the first document was signed on Iranian gas supply to Armenia.
Nonetheless, the active military operations along the whole perimeter of the
Armenian-Azeri frontline did not allow the sides to agree upon and
coordinate some important issues, including the route of laying the
In 1995 Yerevan and Tehran signed a new interstate agreement, which was the
refined version of the one before, with a defined route of the perspective
gas pipeline. But that text as well became an archive item, because
Armenia’s Meghri region bordering on Iran and through which the pipeline
supposed to be laid became a subject of foreign-policy bargain in the
negotiation process of the Karabakh issue settlement.
The construction of the bridge over the border river Arax during
Rafsanjani’s presidency was highly important for Armenia in securing a
stable gateway to the rest of the world. The project started in 1994 and was
completed in 1996.
`It became the first major and, most importantly, completed joint project
meant to ease the severe reality of blockaded Armenia,’ says Gabriyelyan.
Of no small account was also the first line of electricity transmission from
Iran to Armenia put into operation in 1995. Due to it Armenia’s electric
power supply system was able to overcome the paralyzed state it had been in
and break complete isolation.
Bilateral relations developed rapidly during Khatami’s presidency (1997
2005). It was then that Moscow signed a contract with Iran on the
construction of a nuclear power plant in Busher, and addressed the issue of
`Due to that Yerevan and Tehran returned to the old gas project but this
time with a new player – the Russian-Armenian enterprise ArmRosGazprom,’
Gazprom participated in conducting the feasibility study and substantiation
of investments for the gas pipeline project.
Simultaneously, news spread on other joint projects including construction
of a hydropower station on the border river Arax.
In 2004, Tehran and Yerevan finally signed the main contract on gas supply
and a contract on construction of the gas pipeline.
It was then that the official laying of the first pipe took place on the
Armenian territory and the construction of the first 40-kilometer sector of
the Meghri-Kajaran pipeline began.
The most important period of current Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmedinejad’s
tenure was the ceremony of launching the first Armenian sector
(Meghri-Kajaran) of the Iran-Armenia pipeline on March 19, 2007, in the
border town of Agarak in the presence of the presidents of both countries.
The political analyst points out that a fundamentally new situation actually
threatening Armenian-Iranian projects can come up if new figures from the
West appear in the political arena of Iran. For example, representatives of
Iranian emigrants – with calls to re-establish circular power in Iran.
those calls are heard by residents of the capital city, the situation could
10. A great club’s great decline: Armenia’s soccer icon a far cry from its
glorious Soviet self
Commentary By Georg Khachaturyan
A legendary soccer club that has long been synonymous with the nation’s
Soviet-era successes is going through its worst crisis in years revealing
the extent of problems in the management of the game in independent Armenia.
FC Ararat, which reached the height of Soviet football in the 1970s and
became a perennial favorite in Armenia and across its Diaspora communities,
saw hard times after the breakup of the USSR in 1991 and the establishment
of an independent football league in Armenia. But it has never been so close
to demise as after the latest spat between its management and national
football’s governing body.
Last season provided a glimpse of hope for a better future for the Armenian
`brand name’ as Ararat nearly ended FC Pyunik’s long dominance of the
league. But the controversy over what Ararat’s management called biased
refereeing and off-the-pitch pressure in last November’s `gold match’ has
taken a more dramatic development in 2009.
With 12 defeats in as many games this season, Ararat is at the bottom in the
eight-team league, with no hope to catch up with the rest of the group.
The situation caused the club’s Diaspora-based president and co-owner Hratch
Kaprielian to rush to Yerevan from Los Angeles to address the concerns and
deal with the situation.
Kaprielian, a Swiss national, lambasted the Armenian football boss over
`injustices and lawlessness’ reigning in Armenian football and stressed that
there is no point in making sizable investments in the club’s infrastructure
and in purchasing high-level players. He thus implied that he wanted to see
a change of leadership in Armenian football.
And until then, the businessman and his partners, as he himself revealed at
a press conference last month, would invest in a French Division Four club
that also bears the name Ararat. Incidentally, a number of Ararat’s
Brazilian players that accounted for last season’s success, including the
2008 league’s top scorer Marcos Pizzelli, have already put on the French
club’s Ararat jerseys.
Kaprielian believes that in due course Paris-based Ararat will also achieve
the level that will enable it to play in prestigious European tournaments.
Meanwhile, Ararat’s Vice-President Arkady Andreasyan, one of the Ararat-73
stars, leveled harsh criticism at referees officiating local matches,
claiming that their bias `is killing Ararat’.
Andreasyan is known to have been at loggerheads with the current head of the
Football Federation of Armenia Ruben Hayrapetyan and has on many occasions
spoken in favor of changing the football leadership in Armenia. In return,
the hot-tempered former Ararat player has been criticized by the Federation
for failures as coach and manager. As anecdotal evidence of the rancor, at
least one leading publication dealing with football affairs in Armenia
reprinted a series of articles about Andreasyan’s `hooligan behavior’ from
the mid-70s Armenian communist press.
Meanwhile, Andreasyan would hit back by pointing out the latest
disappointing performances by the national team and Armenian clubs in
The disintegration of the Soviet Union hit virtually all spheres of life,
including the game of soccer that had always been more than just a sport for
the Communist party and state leadership of Soviet Armenia. That sport was
sphere where 15 Union republics could satisfy their national ambitions
within the existing system. That in part explained the huge popularity and
stardom that the players of then Ararat enjoyed.
While West Germany’s Gerd Muller and Holland’s Johan Kruiff were idols
role models for teenagers internationally, Ararat players enjoyed an equal
level of stardom domestically at the time when the football arena would not
be able to accommodate all those who wished to attend an Ararat-orchestrated
Andreasyan was one of former Ararat players who took up an active role of
football manager once Armenia became independent with an apparent desire to
share his experience of a top player with the new generation of players. The
man with an explosive character has never been afraid to speak out on any
thorny issue around the state of football in Armenia.
This, naturally, pitted him against Hayrapetyan, a government-connected top
football functionary primarily known for his extensive interests in business
The latest criticism from Ararat management only added to the antagonism,
provoking strong remarks from Hayrapetyan.
At a recent press conference, Hayrapetyan chided Ararat management for
`inaction, incompetence and an attitude of blaming all their failures on
Hayrapetyan also issued a stark warning to Ararat’s president to stop his
offensive behavior or face consequences. He also suggested that Andreasyan
be `forgotten for all times to come.’
One of the drivers of the conflict is the decision of the Federation to deny
Ararat a license to represent Armenia in a prestigious European club
tournament this season.
In making the decision the Federation cited Ararat’s repeated violation of
the player transfer rules.
`As President of the Football Federation, I am obliged to assist all
football clubs, but that doesn’t mean I can break the law,’ said
He went on to criticize the Ararat owners for mismanagement.
`Ararat is our most reputable club, whereas its current leadership is trying
to exploit the club’s name for some private interests,’ he said.
All along Ararat managers have denied any wrongdoing and claimed unfair
treatment from the Federation.
What is lost in the exchange of accusations, though, is the current state of
Ararat proper. And while both parties to the conflict have been stating that
they want a brighter future for the club, the pride of all Armenians is
dying a needless death to the dismay of not only fans but also the
generations that witnessed the unprecedented national unity made possible by
11. Sport: Armenia soccer clubs learn their opponents in European
By Suren Musayelyan
A draw in Switzerland this week has decided the opponents for Armenian
soccer clubs in European competitions commencing later this summer.
Champion Pyunik will start in the Champions League from the second
qualifying round against Croatia’s Dynamo Zagreb. The first and second leg
matches are scheduled for July 14/15 and 21/22, respectively.
In UEFA Europa League, two Armenian clubs, Banants and Mika, will start from
the first qualifying round where their opponents will be Bosnian Shiroki
Brieg and Sweden’s Helsinborg, respectively (match dates – July 2 and 9). If
successful in the first round, Banants will play Austrian Sturm and Mika
will play the winner of the Lisburn (Northern Ireland) v Zestafoni (Georgia)
Gandzasar starting in the same competition’s second qualifying round will
meet twice Dutch NAK Breda. Second qualifying round ties will be played on
July 16 and 23.
Meanwhile, Mika has taken over the top spot in Armenia’s league after
beating Kilikia 2-1 over the weekend and seeing Pyunik losing two points in
a 0-0 draw against Gyumri’s Shirak. Pyunik now have 30 points in 12 games,
two points behind Mika that played 13 games. Elsewhere in weekend action
Ulis beat Banants 3-1 and Gandzasar beat Ararat 1-0.
The central game in Round 14 of the league to be played over the coming
weekend is Pyunik v Mika (Sunday, kickoff at 7.00 pm). In other games Shirak
will travel to Kapan to play Gandzasar, Ulis will entertain Ararat and
Kilikia will play Banants.
(Source: Football Federation of Armenia)
Team Armenia has become the winner of Armavia Trophy in a two-day rapid
chess match against France held in Paris on June 24-25.
The two nations’ leading grandmasters, including Olympic champions Levon
Aronyan, Vladimir Hakobyan, Gabriel Sargsyan and Tigran L. Petrosyan
representing Armenia and Maxime Vachier-Lagrave, Laurent Fressinet, Joel
Lautier and Christian Bauer representing France, played a total of eight
rounds that brought an overall victory to the Armenian chess masters who
lost only one round to their French rivals and ended one in a draw. The
total score (according to wins and losses) is 11-4 to Armenia.
The tournament in France was held with the support of the Armavia airline.