Russia, Iran, Armenia, Georgia discuss North-South energy corridor




The Energy Ministers of Armenia, Georgia, Iran and Russia met in Yerevan today to discuss the countries’ cooperation in the power sector.

The parties signed a “roadmap” of steps towards forming a North-South energy corridor by 2019, Armenia’s Deputy Energy Minister Areg Galstyan told reporters after the signing ceremony.

The project will allow the four countries to unite their energy systems, improving the level of governance, as well as the efficiency, security and reliability of the energy systems.

Before that, Armenia and Iran plan to commission the 400 kW third power transmission line.

Armenians and Assyrians raise expropriation of religious property by Turkey to Australia FM

On April 1st, the Armenian National Committee of Australia (ANC Australia) and the Assyrian Universal Alliance (AUA) sent a joint letter to Australia’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

The joint letter addresses the issues and concerns of both the Armenian and Assyrian communities in regards to the decision made by Turkey to take ownership of more than 6000 properties in the Sur district of the Diyarbakir region, including Saint Giragos Church, which is the largest Armenian Church in the Middle East, as well as the Virgin Mary Ancient Assyrian Church.

This expropriation comes after a violent crackdown on the Kurdish minority in the region, further contributing to the questionable human rights record that Turkey has with respect to the treatment of its minority groups.

The letter makes references to the reports covering this ruling. It also references statements made by Garo Paylan, an Armenian member of the Turkish Parliament and member of the Kurdish Peoples’ Party (HDP), the Co-chair of the HDP, Figen Yüksekdag, as well as the Diyarbakir Bar Association.

The letter stressed that this “immediate expropriation” violates the right of property, and explicitly contradicts the Turkish Constitution’s Expropriation Law, and the European Convention on Human Rights.

The letter stated that there could be no justifiable “security” grounds to expropriate churches and other religious sites or property. Even more so because of Turkey’s atrocious record of destroying and desecrating both Armenian, Assyrian and Greek religious and cultural heritage, especially during and after the Genocide of Armenians, Assyrians and Greeks in 1915.

It was stressed that this was a renewed attack by President Recep Erdogan and Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoglu on the Christian Communities of Turkey whose heritage and existence is increasingly under threat.

ANC Australia and the AUA jointly call upon the Australian Government urgently to:

  1. add its voice to our Communities’ concerns;
  2. convey its objection to the expropriation of these Churches (and all other religious sites and property) to the representatives of the Republic of Turkey; and
  3. request the immediate return of all Churches and other religious sites and properties back to their rightful owners.

ANC Australia Executive Administrator, Arin Markarian said: “It is important that in times like these we stand united with our minority partners and ensure that religious and cultural centres for people to gather in are not under Turkish state control.”

“That is why the Armenians and Assyrians strongly condemn these expropriation actions taken by Turkey, and urge the Australian government to condemn this decision as well.”

ANCA advocates bring community message of peace, prosperity and justice to Capitol Hill

The first day of the Armenian National Committee of America’s (ANCA) grassroots advocacy Fly-In campaign concluded this evening with a standing-room-only Capitol Hill program featuring Congressional speeches, inspiring remarks by Armenia’s Ambassador and Nagorno Karabakh’s Permanent Representative, and a moving keynote address by the director of Stepanakert’s Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center – a regional clinic in urgent need of U.S. support.
House Intelligence Committee Ranking Democrat Adam Schiff (D-CA), Armenian American Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-CA), and Representatives Judy Chu (D-CA) and Jim Langevin (D-RI) were among House Members offering powerful remarks regarding ongoing grassroots efforts to support peace, prosperity and justice.
Armenian Ambassador to the U.S. Grigor Hovhannissian and Artsakh’s Permanent Representative to the U.S. Robert Avetisyan shared the Armenian nation’s efforts to foster regional peace and stressed the vital role of expanded ties with the United States.  Offering impromptu remarks was Montebello, CA Mayor Jack Hadjinian, who shared his cities’ efforts to assist Artsakh through a special sister-city relationship with its capital, Stepanakert.  In his keynote remarks, Lady Cox Rehabilitation Center Director Vardan Tadevosyan discussed the life-changing work of the internationally renowned program which helps over 1,000 adults and children with disabilities annually.
Tadevosyan traveled to Washington DC to join with ANCA advocates from throughout the U.S. who are participating in two full days of meetings with Congressional leaders on a host of community concerns, with special focus on expanded U.S. aid to Artsakh and Armenia; the implementation of Royce-Engel proposals for Artsakh peace; passage of the Armenian Genocide Truth and Justice Resolution (H.Res.154);  and support for a State Department determination of genocide in describing the ISIL / Da’esh attacks against Christians, Yezidis and other minorities in the Middle East.  A resolution, H.Con.Res. 7
5, led by Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE) and Anna Eshoo (D-CA) condemning the genocide was adopted unanimously on Monday evening.  Secretary of State Kerry’s statement on the issue is expected later this week.
On Wednesday, March 16th, advocates will continue with a full day of meetings culminating in a reception at the Embassy of the Republic of Armenia.
The ANCA kicked off the week of grassroots activism with a national Congressional Call-In Day, with thousands of community calls advocating the peace, prosperity and justice message reaching Capitol Hill.
Complete coverage of the Capitol Hill Program and Congressional meetings to follow.

Armenian President to lecture at University of Cyprus

The President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsyan arrives in Cyprus on March 15 for a two- day official visit.

Armenian President will be the keynote speaker of a lecture entitled “Armenia`s political agenda on the eve of the 25th anniversary of independence” to be organized by the University of Cyprus on March 16, Famagusta Gazette reports.

According to a press release issued by the University, Rector of the University of Cyprus, Professor Constantinos Christofides and Representative of the Armenian Community in the Cyprus House of Representatives Vartkes Mahdessian will deliver welcome speeches.

The lecture, to be held at the University Campus at 16:00, will be followed by a short question and answer session. Greek and English translation will be available.

Serbian lawmakers visit Armenian Genocide memorial – Photos

The delegation led by Maja Gojkovic, Speaker of the National Assembly of the Republic of Serbia, visited the Tsitsernakaberd Memorial in Yerevan.

Members of the delegation laid a wreath at the memorial to the Armenian Genocide victims and paid tribute to their memory with a minute of silence.

The Serbian lawmakers visited the Armenian Genocide Museum-Institute, familiarized themselves with the materials and photos of genocide. Maja Gojkovic left a note in the Memorial Book.

AYF calls on community to protest Turkey’s murderous policies

Asbarez – On Saturday December 19, Kurds, Armenians, and all defenders of human rights will  come together to protest the assassination of Tahir Elçi, and support the struggle for self-determination and peace that he represented.

The protest, organized by the Rojava Solidarity Committee of Los Angeles and the Armenian Youth Federation, will also demand justice for assassinations on Armenian community members such as Hrant Dink and Sevag Balikci, as well as other victims of Turkish State violence on minorities who struggle for freedom.

Elçi was the president of the Diyarbakir Bar Association and one of the most prominent Kurdish lawyers and human rights defenders in Turkey. He was shot dead with a single bullet to the back of his head on November 28th, 2015. Tahir Elçi died as he finished delivering a speech calling for an end to the ongoing state violence against the Kurdish towns. The bullet that killed him came from the direction of Turkish police who had started a gun battle with unknown men.

Elçi was under threat from the AKP’s government (the AKP is the ruling party in Turkey) because on October 14th he went on television and declared that “the PKK is not a terrorist organization.” For this he was arrested and charged with spreading ‘terrorist’ propaganda, a crime that is punishable with a seven-and-a-half year prison sentence. Tahir Elçi was released pending his trial but was placed under judicial supervision. During this time he was subject to many death threats for his statement.

Elçi is not alone in his fate – every day now Kurds are being murdered by the AKP across the country’s southeast. Cities are being placed under siege by the military, power and electricity cut off, snipers shooting randomly from minarets, helicopters dropping bombs on houses, tanks blockading all the roads – a situation of total war against the Kurdish people. These assaults come from the same ideology and state structure that years ago on the same land carried out the Armenian and Assyrian Genocides, and from the same guns that more recently murdered the Armenian journalist and human rights defender Hrant Dink.

Elçi was part of a strong movement to end that murderous racist and nationalist state ideology, and to silence those guns. He relentlessly represented victims and their families against the Turkish state in cases of political murders, extrajudicial killings, and burning down of villages. On December 28, 2011, Turkish warplanes bombed and killed 34 Kurds in Roboski, of whom 17 were children. Elçi was one of the lawyers representing the Roboski victims’ families. Most recently, after years of fighting, he won the case of the 38 people who were massacred in Şırnak in 1994. Thanks to him, many cases of forced disappearances, bombings, and torture that had been delayed or ended with impunity were reopened. Elçi did not just work for the rights of Kurdish people – he fought for the freedom of all oppressed peoples, recently working for justice with the family of Sevag Balıkçı, an Armenian soldier in Turkey’s military who was murdered in a hate crime on April 24, 2011, the day Armenians demand justice for the Armenian Genocide.

We are coming together to honor his memory and to support the movement that carries on his work, struggling for freedom for all ethnicities, genders, sexualities, and religions in Turkey and the Middle East.

Below are a list of demands:

“We demand a fair and independent investigation of the death of Tahir Elçi.

We demand a fair and independent investigation of the death of Hrant Dink, Sevag Balikci, and all other minority hate crimes in Turkey.

We call on the Turkish government to stop carrying out these massacres of minorities – lift the sieges on Kurdish cities, stop the bombing of guerilla camps, and stop supporting terror groups in Syria.

We call on the US government to stop its support of the Turkish government – ban all arms sales to the AKP government, lift the ban on the PKK, and suspend Turkey from NATO.”


Discussion Policy

Azerbaijan’s guns must be silenced: Can’t negotiate under fire

By Harut Sassounian
Publisher, The California Courier

For over two decades, the international community, led by OSCE Minsk Group mediators representing the United States, France and Russia, has been trying to negotiate a peaceful resolution to the Artsakh (Karabagh) conflict.

The main obstacle is Azerbaijan’s persistence in shooting while negotiating, and intensifying its attacks on the eve of every crucial meeting for settlement of the conflict. Such unconstructive behavior is totally unacceptable for everyone involved in the peace process. Azerbaijan intentionally escalates the violence on such occasions in order to pressure the international community to force Armenia into making unfair concessions on Artsakh.

To make matters worse, every time Azerbaijani forces launch attacks on Artsakh or Armenia, the Minsk Group mediators issue a routine statement urging both sides to stop firing, thereby equating the violator with the victim. In addition, the mediators cover up their irresponsible statement by claiming that they are not certain which side initiated the shooting.

In October, House Foreign Affairs Committee Chairman Ed Royce (R–CA) and Ranking Democrat Eliot Engel of New York, initiated a letter signed by 85 House members, to U.S. co-chair, Amb. James Warlick, urging him to take all necessary steps to withdraw snipers from the border, deploy gunfire locator systems along the Line of Contact, and increase the number of field monitors. These measures were accepted by Armenia, Artsakh, the US Congress, and the Minsk Group co-chairs, but rejected by Azerbaijan because of its intent to conceal and continue its warmongering initiatives. Under these untenable circumstances, the three mediators may consider placing gunfire locators on the Artsakh side of the border to record the source of incoming fire. If the mediators are unwilling to take such action, Armenia should go ahead and purchase gunfire locators from US manufacturer Raytheon and recruit independent NGOs to monitor and report the results to the international community.

Once the source of the shooting is identified, the mediators would then be obligated to condemn the perpetrator; otherwise, they would be encouraging Azerbaijan to escalate the attacks on Armenia and Artsakh.

Meanwhile, the mediators must warn Azerbaijan’s autocratic President Ilham Aliyev that should he not cease and desist from making threats and shelling Armenia and Artsakh, they will be forced to submit Azerbaijan’s violations to the United Nations Security Council, to mandate economic sanctions against his country.

The mediators could also temporarily suspend their peacemaking activities by announcing that they are prevented from seeking a negotiated settlement to the conflict, while Azerbaijan keeps on shooting. Surely, it is not possible to fight and talk at the same time!

Since Azerbaijan is not ready to go to war — if it were, it would have started it already instead of merely threatening — it has no choice but to heed the call of the mediators to cease firing and start negotiating in earnest. Freezing the negotiations would be a serious setback for Azerbaijan because that is the only way it can hope to reach some accommodation with Armenia and Artsakh. Armenians, on the other hand, have already accomplished their objective of liberating Artsakh from Azeri occupation and have nothing to gain from further negotiations.

Should the mediators decide not to freeze the peace talks, the Armenian government may decide to suspend its participation in these unproductive negotiations, thus sending a clear message to Baku that shelling Armenia and Artsakh undermines Azerbaijan’s own interests.

If the negotiations are not suspended and Azerbaijan continues its attacks, the Armenian government may eventually respond with a “massive and asymmetrical retaliation,” as it has repeatedly warned. While some may be concerned that such an action would further escalate the violence, in fact it would diminish, if not halt the endless border skirmishes, once Azeri leaders realize that they have more to lose by fighting than talking. It is unfortunate that Pres. Aliyev is exploiting the deaths of young Azeri soldiers on the frontlines to distract his people’s attention away from massive violations of civil rights, corruption at the highest echelons of his government, and abysmal economic conditions due to diminishing oil revenues.

I had the opportunity to discuss some of these issues last week with various officials in Washington, D.C., while Artsakh’s Foreign Minister Garen Mirzoyan was in town to meet with members of Congress and US mediator Amb. Warlick. Two receptions were held to honor the visiting Foreign Minister at the Armenian Embassy and on Capitol Hill, the latter co-hosted by the U.S. Congressional Caucus on Armenian Issues, Armenian National Committee of America, Armenian Assembly of America, and the U.S. Office of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic. Several House members, Amb. Warlick, and other dignitaries attended the congressional reception to the chagrin of Azerbaijan’s Embassy which had dispatched a small group of Azeris to protest the event. Chairman Royce announced during the reception that he had asked Amb. Warlick to come to the House of Representatives this week for a briefing on the Artsakh conflict.

A large number of ANCA activists from throughout the USA, including this writer, joined Foreign Minister Mirzoyan in Washington last week, to share a message of peace and democracy for Artsakh with dozens of House and Senate members, urging them to recognize its independence from Azerbaijan.

Indictment accepted for Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink’s murder case

Istanbul Public Prosecutor’s Office accepted an indictment against 26 suspects on Wednesday in the murder case of Armenian-Turkish journalist Hrant Dink and referred it to Istanbul 14th High Criminal Court, reports.

The Criminal Court will decide whether to approve of the indictment or return it. In case of an approval, the 26 suspects will stand a trial at the court.

Terror and Organized Crimes Prosecutor Gökalp Kökçü submitted the indictment to Istanbul the Public Prosecutor’s Office in October, requesting the arrests of alleged suspects, for forming an organization to commit crimes, deliberate killing, and forgery on documents.

Suspects include the former Istanbul Police Department Chief, Celalettin Cerrah and former Istanbul Police Intelligence Department Head, Engin Dinç.

The indictment submitted by Kökçü for approval was returned two times by the prosecutor’s office due to incomplete documents, but was finally approved on Wednesday.

Dink, then editor-in-chief of the Armenian Agos newspaper, was shot dead by a teenager on Jan. 19, 2007 outside his office in Istanbul. Dink drew the ire of hardline Turkish nationalists in his lifetime, as he was one of the most outspoken voices calling for a debate to start on the controversial Armenian genocide issue. He received numerous death threats before his murder and faced several lawsuits for “denigrating Turkishness,” an act punishable with prison terms, for his articles and editorials on the mass deaths of Armenians in 1915.

The role of police officers and public officials in the plot to kill the Dink had come to light as a new investigation focused on an alleged cover-up of the murder by officials linked to the Gülen Movement, which is accused of attempts to overthrow the government.

Turkish journalists charged with spying over weapons report

Two prominent Turkish journalists have been charged with espionage after alleging that Turkey’s secret services sent arms to Islamist rebels in Syria, the BBC reports.

Can Dundar, the editor-in-chief of Cumhuriyet daily, and Erdem Gul, the paper’s Ankara bureau chief, face life imprisonment if found guilty.

Their report and video footage attracted a political storm in Turkey and a lawsuit filed by the president.

Turkey faces severe criticism over its press freedom record.

The journalists, who deny the allegations against them, reported that trucks belonging to the Turkish intelligence agency MIT were used to carry weapons to Islamist opposition groups in Syria.

Video footage published alongside their report purported to show Turkish police officers intercepting the trucks and discovering crates containing weapons and ammunition.