RFE/RL Armenian Report – 11/27/2020

                                        Friday, 

Armenian Businessman Named Economy Minister

'
Armenia - Businessman Vahan Kerobian at a news conference in Yerevan, January 
17, 2019.

The founder and chief executive of Armenia’s largest food delivery company has 
been appointed as economy minister in a government reshuffle announced by Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian following the recent war in Nagorno-Karabakh.

The 44-year-old businessman, Vahan Kerobian, is the sixth new cabinet member 
named by Pashinian over the past week. The five others are the ministers of 
defense, foreign affairs, labor, emergencies and education.

Pashinian announced the cabinet shakeup on November 18 amid anti-government 
demonstrations sparked by significant Armenian territorial losses suffered 
during the war. He has since continued to reject opposition demands for his 
resignation and snap parliamentary elections.

Kerobian set up the Menu.am company together with his wife and a friend in 2012. 
He previously managed an Armenian supermarket chain that went bankrupt and was 
purchased and rebranded by other investors.

Kerobian has publicly supported the current government and Pashinian in 
particular. Still, he criticized government policies during the prime minister’s 
meeting with a group of entrepreneurs held this summer.

Pashinian recalled this fact when he introduced Kerobian to senior Ministry of 
Economy officials on Friday.

“He now has an opportunity to carefully listen to business and the private 
sector and not only raise the sector’s problems with the government but also 
personally address them,” said Pashinian.

Kerobian said, for his part, that the war and the continuing coronavirus 
pandemic have created new economic challenges for Armenia. He also said that the 
Armenian economy could grow by 10 percent annually in the near future, an 
ambitious target set by Pashinian earlier this year.

The economy is now projected to shrink by about 7 percent in 2020 after three 
consecutive years of robust growth. The government forecast a less drastic GDP 
contraction before the war with Azerbaijan that broke out on September 27 and 
was stopped by a Russian-brokered ceasefire on November 10.

In its budget bill submitted to the Armenian parliament early this month, the 
government said economic growth will resume and reach a 4.8 percent rate already 
next year. The International Monetary Fund offered last week a less optimistic 
outlook for the Armenian economy.



More Aid Pledged By Armenian Diaspora For Karabakh


NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- The Mayor of Martakert Misha Gyurjian inspects a house 
destroyed by shelling in Martakert, October 19, 2020.

A pan-Armenian charity has raised over $26 million in fresh funds in the United 
States and France for humanitarian and economic aid to Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Hayastan All-Armenian Fund said on Friday that it attracted the bulk of the 
donations pledges, worth almost $23 million, during an annual telethon broadcast 
from Los Angeles. The remaining $3.1 million was raised by its French branch in 
an annual phonethon held on November 22.

“In light of recent developments in Artsakh (Karabakh) and Armenia, all proceeds 
of Telethon 2020 will be directed to supporting 100,000 displaced individuals 
and families of our fallen soldiers who lost their lives to protect the 
sovereignty of both republics,” the head of the fund’s U.S. branch, Maria 
Mehranian, said in a statement.


Nagorno-Karabakh - Rita Khachatryan, 50, whose husband and son were sent to the 
front line, walks in a basement shelter in Stepanakert, October 23, 2020.

Hayastan launched an international fundraising campaign immediately after the 
outbreak of the Armenian-Azerbaijani war in and around Karabakh on September 27. 
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians from around the world responded to its appeal 
for urgent aid to Karabakh and its population severely affected by the fighting.

Hayastan collected $170 million from them before its latest fundraisers in the 
U.S. and France. It emerged earlier this month that the charity headquartered in 
Yerevan redirected more than $100 million of those proceeds to Armenia’s 
government.

The Armenian Finance Ministry said on Tuesday that the hefty contribution will 
finance the government’s “infrastructure, social and healthcare expenditures” 
necessitated by the war.

The six-week hostilities, halted by a Russian-brokered truce on November 10, 
displaced most of Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian population and destroyed or 
seriously damaged much of its civilian infrastructure. Encouraged by the 
deployment of Russian peacekeeping troops, tens of thousands of refugees have 
returned to Karabakh in the last ten days.

Hayastan has implemented $370 million worth of various infrastructure projects 
in Karabakh and Armenia since being set up in 1992. Its board of trustees mostly 
comprises Armenia’s political leaders and prominent Diaspora philanthropists.



Pashinian Blasts, Warns Armenian Opposition


Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian delivers a televised address to the 
nation, 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian lashed out at his political opponents on Friday, 
saying they want to “spread chaos” in Armenia in a bid to oust him from power in 
the aftermath of the war in Nagorno-Karabakh.
Pashinian insisted that most Armenians continue to support him and his 
government despite Azerbaijan’s victory in the war stopped by a Russian-brokered 
ceasefire on November 10.

“In Armenia and outside it, there are people and groups who are trying to create 
a semblance of anarchy and spread chaos in our country,” he said in a televised 
address to the nation. “They want to bring the war into Armenia and, using 
assault rifles and criminal groups, leave the country in a state of freefall in 
order to ensure their return [to power] as saviors.

“I want to state clearly and unequivocally that we will not allow that to 
happen. Not because we are clinging to power but because the people do not want 
that.”

“Yes, the people have questions and are sometimes bitter and angry, sometimes 
disappointed and sometimes hopeless. But I see in all this the people’s trust 
[in the government] and want to thank the people for that trust,” added 
Pashinian.

The embattled premier thus pointed the finger at Armenia’s former leaders but 
did not name any of them. Nor did he specify “external forces known to you” who 
he suggested are helping the former regime topple him.

Pashinian’s latest speech came amid continuing calls for his resignation made 
not only by opposition forces but also President Armen Sarkissian, some public 
figures and media commentators. They blame him for significant territorial gains 
made by Azerbaijan during the six-week war.

The opposition criticism intensified on Thursday amid media reports that 
Azerbaijani soldiers entered a large gold mine on Armenia’s border with the 
Kelbajar district west of Karabakh which was handed back to Azerbaijan on 
Wednesday in line with the truce agreement. Some opposition figures accused 
Pashinian of ceding Armenian territory to Baku.


NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- Azerbaijani army soldiers sit atop of their military vehicle 
on a road in Kelbajar, 

A deputy chief of the Armenian army’s General Staff, General Tiran Khachatrian, 
denied those claims at a late-night news conference in Yerevan. But he said at 
the same time that the Armenian military agreed to pull out of a checkpoint set 
up near the Sotk mine after “lengthy negotiations” with Azerbaijani and Russian 
military officials.

More importantly, Khachatrian acknowledged that half of the gold mine, the 
largest in Armenia, is technically located on the Azerbaijani side of the 
internationally recognized border and will no longer be under Armenian control. 
He said the talks followed a brief standoff between Armenian and Azerbaijani 
servicemen deployed in the mountainous area.

Pashinian too insisted that the border cuts across the mine operated by a 
Russian company. He accused the opposition of spreading “disinformation” about 
the loss of territory in Armenia proper.


Armenia - A gold mine at Sotk.

Pashinian also faced late on Thursday more protests by parents and other 
relatives of Armenian soldiers who went missing during the war. They rallied 
outside the prime minister’s office before being received by Pashinian after 
midnight.

Pashinian’s press secretary, Mane Gevorgian, said afterwards that the premier 
“heard their demands” and briefed them on the Armenian side’s efforts to find 
the missing soldiers or recover their bodies believed to be lying on 
Azerbaijani-controlled territory.

Pashinian wrote on Facebook at around the same time that he has twice spoken 
with Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone over the past hour to discuss a 
wide range of issues relating to the implementation of the truce accord. He said 
they included the mutual search for and handover of dead soldiers’ bodies as 
well as the exchange of prisoners of war.



Karabakh Not Recognized By France


NAGORNO-KARABAKH -- Men walk along a street in Stepanakert, November 16, 2020

The French government has made clear that it does not recognize Nagorno-Karabakh 
as an independent republic despite a resolution adopted by France’s Senate on 
Wednesday.

The resolution calls on the government to “recognize the Nagorno-Karabakh 
Republic and use this recognition as an instrument of negotiations for the 
establishment of a sustainable peace.” It also urges the government to pursue a 
tougher European response toward Turkey, which has supported Azerbaijan in 
Karabakh the conflict, and an international war crimes investigation.

In a statement on the resolution issued late on Thursday, a French Foreign 
Ministry spokesperson said: “During the [Senate] debate preceding the vote, Mr. 
Jean-Baptiste Lemoyne, Secretary of State for Tourism, French People Abroad and 
the Francophonie, recalled the French government's position on this issue: 
France does not recognize the self-proclaimed Nagorno-Karabakh Republic.”

“Our responsibility as co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group is to work towards a 
negotiated solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, in particular on the issue 
of the future status of Nagorno-Karabakh, and the outcome of this negotiation 
cannot be determined beforehand and unilaterally,” added the statement.

“Our priority today must be to ensure the safe return of those displaced by the 
conflict of the past few weeks. In his address to the Senate, the Secretary of 
State further noted that no state has yet recognized Nagorno-Karabakh.”

Armenia was quick to welcome the resolution, with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
calling it “historic.”

Azerbaijan condemned the measure introduced by several pro-Armenian French 
senators. The Azerbaijani parliament on Thursday accused Paris of pro-Armenian 
bias and demanded an end to French co-chairmanship of the OSCE Minsk Group.

French President Emmanuel Macron criticized Azerbaijan’s military action in 
Karabakh shortly after the outbreak of the war on September 27. Macron has been 
even more critical of Turkey’s strong political and military support for Baku.

Earlier this week, the French government sent two planeloads of humanitarian aid 
to Karabakh’s ethnic Armenian residents displaced by the fighting.


Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2020 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

 


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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS