Civil Contract Party approves candidacy of MP Gevorg Papoyan as Minister of Economy


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 24, ARMENPRESS. The Civil Contract Party’s Board has approved the candidacy of Member of Parliament Gevorg Papoyan for the position of Minister of Economy, which has been vacant since the dismissal of Vahan Kerobyan on February 14. 

Papoyan is the Chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Financial-Credit and Budgetary Affairs.

The confirmation of Papoyan’s candidacy for the post was made during a board meeting of the party chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, the Chairman of the Board, the party said in a press release.

“The Board discussed and approved the candidacy of Gevorg Papoyan for the position of Minister of Economy,” the party said, adding that a number of other party matters were discussed.

Kerobian has been under house arrest since February 16, one day after he was indicted in an ongoing corruption investigation. The ex-minister denies the accusations of abuse of power allegedly committed in a procurement tender last year.

Armenpress: Armenia-France relations are at exceptional dynamic stage. Pashinyan, Macron meet at the Élysée Palace


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 21, ARMENPRESS. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and French President Emmanuel Macron made statements for media representatives before the meeting at the Élysée Palace.

According to the readout issued by the Prime Ministers office, the French President said in his speech.

"Mr. Prime Minister,
Ladies and Gentlemen Ministers,
Ladies and gentlemen,

I want to thank dear Nikol for being in Paris on this important day. February 21 is the day when Missak Manouchian and his comrades of the resistance movement were killed for the freedom of France, and the motherland fully recognized them and they will rest in the Pantheon. Missak Manouchian and his wife Mélinée will rest in the Pantheon, where France enshrines its great people. It is also the gratitude of France for the struggle for freedom.

Your presence today is very important to all of us. I once again want to tell you, to reiterate, that you can count on France's support for Armenia, its independence, territorial integrity, democratic process and peaceful aspirations.

I would also like to salute, dear Nikol, your personal courage and determination to move forward on this path. Armenia's membership in the International Criminal Court is also a shining example of this commitment. At this moment, as we commemorate Missak and Mélinée Manouchians, war crimes continue on the continent of Europe, and the fight for freedom, more than ever, requires a fight against impunity.

During our meeting we will be able to talk about the discussions aimed at the normalization of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan. The recent incidents in Syunik prove that the danger of escalation remains real. France regrets that an Azerbaijani was wounded as a result of the shooting on February 12, which was also accepted by the Armenian leadership with full transparency, but France expresses regret for the disproportionate retaliatory strike by Azerbaijan, as a result of which the Armenian side suffered four deaths and one wounded. France will continue to support efforts towards a just and lasting peace. We are convinced that this can only be achieved by respecting international law, sovereignty, territorial integrity and inviolability of borders.

At the Prague meeting in 2022, you and Aliyev reaffirmed your commitment to the Alma-Ata Declaration, and it is necessary for Azerbaijan to dispel ambiguities. I think it is more than necessary for Azerbaijan to dispel any ambiguity regarding the territorial integrity of Armenia, as far as maps are concerned, then conscientious work should be done for border delimitation and demarcation, which will serve as a basis for the withdrawal of forces from both sides of the border.

We also call for the implementation of the decision of the International Court of Justice of November 17, 2023. According to this decision, Azerbaijan must ensure that persons who have left Nagorno-Karabakh since September 19, 2023 and who wish to return can do so safely, unhindered and quickly.

We want the South Caucasus to be a region of peace, integration and cooperation, and it is necessary for communication channels to be factors assisting integration and not division. I have visited Central Asia and I want communication links between Central Asia, the South Caucasus and the European Union to develop. And I welcome your "Crossroads of Peace" initiative in this shared ambition.

We will also discuss issues aimed at strengthening bilateral cooperation. France will continue to support infrastructure development in Armenia with the participation of our companies. We will also continue to develop cooperation in the field of defense. France has given its consent for the delivery of defense military equipment. And in this area France will continue in the spirit of responsibility, not wanting any escalation.

France also continues its humanitarian commitment to the refugees of Nagorno-Karabakh, providing 29 million euros in aid in 2023.

France will continue to resolutely support the development of relations between the European Union and Armenia. Here, too, we are making progress in favor of sovereignty and our common strategic interests. The observation mission of the European Union has been strengthened. It aims to contribute to stability, delivering unbiased information to the international community and the security of vulnerable populations in military contact zones. Armenia should also take advantage of the European instruments of peace. The European Union and Armenia want a timetable for a new partnership.

These are the few aspects I wished to remind. And you know that beyond words, France stands by Armenia because justice, freedom and international law are important to us.

Once again, I want to salute the courage and on the occasion of this special day, I reaffirm France's support to Armenia and all Armenians."

In turn, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan noted.
"Thank you, honorable Mr. President, dear Emmanuel. First of all, I want to thank you for today's invitation and for making me and the delegation of the Republic of Armenia a participant in this truly historic and emotional event.

Today we will be present at the ceremony of enshrining the remains of one of the heroes of the French Resistance, our compatriot Missak Manouchian, in the Pantheon of the greatest French citizens, and it is a great honor for us to be present at today's event and ceremony. I think today's event also shows the depth of existing relations between our countries and peoples, because they are not only political, economic, human, cultural ties, but I think we are connected by a deep, emotional connection. And I also want to thank you for the decision you made, because, indeed, this once again emphasizes not only our friendship and the depth of our relations, but is also a unique and special appreciation to the Armenians who contributed to the accomplishment of France, which is an honor and a great pride for us.

I want to express my gratitude for highlighting that contribution. With your permission, I should also emphasize that this year we have a similar event with a very deep context. This year is the 100th anniversary of Charles Aznavour, and I hope that in September in Yerevan we will participate together in the gala concert dedicated to Aznavour's 100th anniversary. And I want, Mr. President, to emphasize once again my invitation to you to visit the Republic of Armenia on a state visit.

I should also note that the relations between Armenia and France are at an exceptional dynamic stage. And here, of course, you have a special personal role, Mr. President, and I want to emphasize that, and thank you for your approach to the development and deepening of our relations. Our ties are deepening in the field of economy, our ties are deepening politically. And I must also emphasize your contribution to creating a favorable environment around Armenia.

You mentioned the quadrilateral meeting in Prague on October 6, 2022, where, in fact, cornerstone principles of regional peace and stability were highlighted. I am sure that if these principles are adhered to, peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan is indeed achievable and realistic. And once again I emphasize our committment to the agreements reached.

Mr. President, I specially want to thank you for your support in the resilience of Armenia. You emphasized that in the field of defense, in fact, we have established new relations, which is essential for ensuring security and stability in the region. In that regard, it is known that there are criticisms, and I want to emphasize that the Republic of Armenia, as I said, recognizes the territorial integrity of all its neighbors. And in this sense, the development of the defense capabilities of the Republic of Armenia cannot cause worries for anyone, because our only task is to form the right balance in the region and only to protect the legitimate, sovereign, internationally recognized territory, borders, territorial integrity, and independence of the Republic of Armenia and increasing the resilience of our country.

I also want to to express my special thanks to you for your support to the democratic reforms of Armenia. In this context, we are indeed entering a new dynamic phase in our relations with the European Union. And here I must emphasize the support of France and personally you, because the European Union is also of key importance for the implementation of democratic reforms and development of institutional capacities of our country.

Of course, today I will also have the opportunity to share with you thoughts about our region and the international situation. The last time we had a discussion was in Granada, and during this time some developments have taken place.

Also, I would like to share some information with you about the meeting and other discussions that took place in Munich a few days ago. And of course, there are many issues on our agenda and, fortunately, our agenda of bilateral relations and our cooperation on international platforms is very positive, very extensive. And it is important to have this opportunity here, although we do not forget that our main mission today is to honor the memory of all the heroes who sacrificed their lives and contributed to the independence and statehood of France.

Thank you".

Next, the meeting of the Prime Minister of Armenia and the French President took place, during which the consistent development and strengthening of multi-sectoral cooperation between Armenia and France, the processes taking place in the South Caucasus region, and other topics of mutual interest were discussed.

Armenian soldier’s sight saved with help from AECP

When Azerbaijan began its attacks on Armenia in 2020, Vahe Poghosyan was one of many brave young men who volunteered to join the Armenian army to protect their homeland. He was sent to a border area constantly under heavy attack by Azerbaijan. During one of these attacks, a rocket hit the truck Poghosyan was riding in. Fourteen Armenian soldiers were killed that day; only three survived. One of those survivors was Poghosyan.

“I was covered in blood,” Poghosyan recalled. “I couldn’t see anything as there was shrapnel in both of my eyes.” He spent the next eight and a half terrifying hours lying on the battlefield, bleeding and unable to see, until it was possible for someone to rescue him. 

With only a few minutes left to live, Poghosyan was rescued and rushed to a hospital in Yerevan, where he was treated for almost one month. His eyesight was gone, and all he could see was a sliver of light. Poghosyan thought he was going to be blind for the rest of his life. After escaping one traumatic experience of fighting in the war and losing his friends, Poghosyan faced another agonizing prospect – that he may never be able to see again. 

Vahe Poghosyan at Yerablur

“I remember so vividly the effects of the first Karabakh war in Armenia,” recalled Dr. Roger Ohanesian, founder and president of the Armenian EyeCare Project (AECP.) “It was the unrest during that time that led to the beginning of the Armenian EyeCare Project. Now, 30 years later, I am happy to say that because of the AECP’s emphasis on medical education and training, doctors in Armenia are capable of performing complex surgeries and offering top-of-the-line eye care to their countrymen.”

Dr. Georgi Grigoryan, one of AECP’s very first fellows, successfully performed two complex surgeries on Poghosyan’s eye, removing the shrapnel and replacing the lens. This allowed Poghosyan to see again. “I can see my daughter’s beautiful smile now,” said Poghosyan with immense gratitude. After regaining his sight, life has drastically improved for Poghosyan as he is now able to work, drive and support his family once again.

Vahe Poghosyan with his family

“I am deeply grateful to all the donors of the AECP for saving my sight and allowing me to see again, to raise my child, to grow my family and to reach all my dreams,” said Poghosyan with a smile.

As Poghosyan walked up the hill to Yerablur, the burial site of Armenian soldiers who died protecting their homeland, a song praising the bravery of his fallen friends could be heard far and loud. He joined in on singing along to the patriotic song, honoring his fellow soldiers and feeling grateful to be alive.

Asbarez: Western Prelate Bishop Torkom Donoyan in Recovery

Western Prelate Bishop Torkom Donoyan (left) with Very Rev. Zareh Sarkissian

The Executive and Religious council of the Western Prelacy announced Friday that due to health concerns and under the strict orders of his physicians, Prelate Bishop Torkom Donoyan is in need of immediate convalescence to fully recover, thus he will be halting his administrative duties.

During this period, Very Reverend Zareh Sarkissian, the Dean of the St. Mary’s Apostolic Church in Glendale, will be the representative of the Prelate and the chief administrator of the Western Prelacy.

New domestic violence prevention bill, including ban on virginity testing, passes first reading in parliament

 12:08, 7 February 2024

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 7, ARMENPRESS. The Armenian parliament adopted on Wednesday at first reading by 63-32-1 votes a bill authored by Civil Contract faction MPs aimed at preventing domestic violence.

Opposition MPs voted it down citing several issues concerning the wording of the legislation.

MP Zaruhi Batoyan, the author of the bill, told lawmakers that her legislation seeks to increase the effectiveness of the protection of domestic violence victims, and to prevent domestic violence.

Virginity testing is defined as a form of violence in the bill.

The law, among others, will also protect children, define timeframes of protection, set free healthcare for victims and set other regulations.

Armine Kyureghyan, an opposition MP from Hayastan faction, disagreed with the wording “partner” in the legislation. Batoyan said this issue is still under discussion. The authors explained that under current law police don’t have grounds to apply the domestic violence protection law if the victim isn’t married to the suspected abuser.

“We received signals from the law enforcement system that when officers enter the house and want to take the victim of violence under protection, unfortunately these women were not taken under protection because they didn’t have a marriage registration paper, because the law requires this paper. Couples who are engaged, or unmarried couples, will from now on be under protection. This bill has a highly important component of prevention,” said MP Sona Ghazaryan. She said that 14 women died in 2023 as a result of domestic violence.

Opposition MP Artsvik Minasyan disagreed with the arguments, noting that a crime is a crime regardless of the relations between the victim and offender and the current laws are sufficient. 

Kyureghyan disapproved of the virginity testing ban. She said that his is a “strong cultural problem.” Furthermore, the MP was concerned over the legal certainty stemming from the regulations. “How would an attorney prove that no virginity testing has occurred? What kind of mechanisms would work?,” she asked.

Zaruhi Batoyan said the legislation is about family values. “We must treat domestic violence differently. This isn’t a usual type of violence. It’s no coincidence that the new law defines the circle of people considered as family members,” she said, highlighting the need for additional regulations.

The aggravating circumstances in several articles of the criminal code will be amended to include the gender-based grounds, as well as whether the crime has been committed by the victim’s family member, partner, or former partner.

Prime Minister attends opening ceremony of Eighty Eight Hotel & Spa hotel complex in Tsaghkadzor

 12:13, 3 February 2024

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 3, ARMENPRESS.   Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan attended the opening of the rebranded and renovated Eighty Eight Hotel & Spa hotel complex. "Project Inter-Invest" LLC acquired the former "Golden Palace" Tsaghkadzor hotel complex and rebranded it, the Prime Minister's Office said.

The Prime Minister toured the hotel complex and familiarized himself with the completed works, created conditions and offered services.

The reconstructed hotel has 126 rooms of different categories. A restaurant, a bar, a gym with a swimming pool and other services operate inside the seven-story building. The hotel has a direct access to the snow slide, through which guests can slide to reach the cable car.

In addition to recreation, various corporate events can also be organized in the hotel.

AW: Stepanyan & Beglaryan represent the Artsakh people’s interests and aspirations on Capitol Hill

Without international support for the safe return of Artsakh Armenians and justice for the crimes committed against them, a sustainable regional peace will be elusive, argued Artsakh Ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan and former State Minister Artak Beglaryan.

WASHINGTON, D.C.—Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno Karabakh) Human Rights Defender (Ombudsman) Gegham Stepanyan and former State Minister Artak Beglaryan represented the Artsakh people’s inalienable rights, national interests and democratic aspirations at a Capitol Hill briefing featuring powerful remarks by Representatives Brad Sherman (D-CA) and James Costa (D-CA), and organized by the Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA).

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) urged the Biden administration to provide U.S. defensive weapons to Armenia in response to Azerbaijan’s escalating war rhetoric at a Capitol Hill briefing with Artsakh representatives Gegham Stepanyan and Artak Beglaryan.

“We are here to demand the right of safe return of Artsakh’s refugees to their homes, homes that in many cases have been occupied by their families for hundreds and hundreds of years,” stated Rep. Sherman, who urged the enforcement of Section 907 restrictions on U.S. aid to Azerbaijan, sanctioning the Aliyev regime for the ethnic cleansing of Artsakh. Citing President Aliyev’s escalating rhetoric claiming Armenia’s capital Yerevan is Azerbaijani territory, Rep. Sherman urged the Biden administration to provide defensive military weapons to Armenia, “to avoid the next tragedy which is being planned in Baku.”  Rep. Sherman concluded his remarks with a message to President Aliyev, who claims that his main enemies are the Armenians of the world. “Well, I have news for you, Mr. Aliyev. Your main enemies are every person in the world who believes in democracy, who believes in human rights and who believes in justice.”

“We must hold the Azerbaijan government responsible for not only the ethnic cleansing but the cultural genocide,” stated Rep. Jim Costa (D-CA) at a Capitol Hill briefing with Artsakh representatives Gegham Stepanyan and Artak Beglaryan.

Condemning Azerbaijan’s ethnic cleansing of Artsakh, Rep. Costa noted, “We must do more” to provide U.S. humanitarian assistance to Artsakh’s forcibly displaced population through the foreign aid supplemental currently under consideration. “We must hold the Azerbaijan government responsible for not only the ethnic cleansing but the cultural genocide that they continue to attempt to implement as part of a systematic effort that has long been the history of Azerbaijan and their attitude toward the Armenian people and the culture and the religion.  The threats that Azerbaijan is now making toward Armenia, I believe, are serious and real, and therefore should be treated as such,” stated Rep. Costa.  He also called for concrete U.S. action to secure the return of Artsakh leaders and Armenian POWs illegally held hostage by Azerbaijan.

“Artsakh’s rights were center stage this week in Washington, D.C., as two of the Republic’s most eloquent voices – Artak Beglaryan and Gegham Stepanyan – made the case to U.S. legislators and international religious freedom leaders for the safe return of indigenous Armenians to their ancient homeland,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Today’s congressional briefing was a great opportunity for legislators to hear first-hand about the Artsakh genocide and also for them to consult among themselves about the concrete U.S. steps needed to restore this integral part of the Armenian homeland.”

Artsakh Ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan and former State Minister Artak Beglaryan share an eyewitness account of Azerbaijan’s genocide against Artsakh Armenians and offer policy recommendations for justice and lasting peace.

During the briefing, Stepanyan and Beglaryan offered eyewitness accounts of the brutal realities of Azerbaijan’s ten-month blockade of Artsakh, which culminated in the September 2023 genocidal attack that forcibly emptied Artsakh of its indigenous Armenian population.  The Artsakh leaders shared the history of Azerbaijan’s premeditated attacks against Artsakh’s Armenians, which laid the foundation for the 2023 genocide.

Beglaryan and Stepanyan called for bold U.S. and international leadership to hold Azerbaijan accountable for the Artsakh genocide, including via:

— Sanctions on Azerbaijan, building on Senate passage of S.3000, which enforce Section 907 restriction on U.S. military and security aid to Azerbaijan.  They also encouraged the application of Magnitsky sanctions on Aliyev government officials for war crimes and ethnic cleansing committed during the 2020 Azerbaijan-Turkey war against Armenia and Artsakh and subsequent genocidal aggression.

— U.S. aid for Artsakh’s forcibly displaced Armenian community, including housing and job placement assistance, until a secure mechanism can be put in place through international oversight and mediation with Artsakh authorities to guarantee the safe return of forcibly displaced Armenians to their Artsakh homes.

— Expanded U.S. and international efforts to help secure the immediate release of Artsakh leaders captured in September 2023 and POWs illegally held by Azerbaijan since the 2020 Azerbaijan/Turkey attacks.

— Preservation of Artsakh’s Armenian cultural and religious heritage already under threat of destruction by Azerbaijan.

Stepanyan and Beglaryan stressed that without international efforts to address the Artsakh people’s right to safe return and justice for the crimes committed, it will be impossible to establish sustainable peace in the region. They also emphasized that the systemic anti-Armenian hatred fomented by the Azerbaijani government must be eradicated to ensure an enduring settlement of the conflict and regional stability.

The speakers underscored that enforcement of Section 907, via enactment of S. 3000, would represent a meaningful contribution to regional peace. They also touched on related initiatives, among them ANCA-backed resolutions pending in the U.S. House, H.R. 5686 and H.R.5683. These measures would hold Azerbaijan accountable for ethnic cleansing against Artsakh’s indigenous Armenians and help deter further military aggression against Armenia by providing foreign military financing (FMF) aid to Armenia. They also raised H.Res.735, requesting a report on Azerbaijan’s human rights practices under Section 502B of the Foreign Assistance Act, and H.Res.861, a bipartisan resolution introduced by Rep. Schiff calling on the United States to ensure the immediate release of Armenian POWs and other detained persons illegally held by Azerbaijan.

Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), Artsakh Ombudsman Gegham Stepanyan, former State Minister Artak Beglaryan and ANCA Government Affairs Director Tereza Yerimyan discuss U.S. policy options to support Artsakh’s forcibly displaced Armenian population.

The ANCA is accompanying Beglaryan and Stepanyan as they represent Artsakh interests during two weeks of Washington, D.C. meetings with elected officials, policymakers and religious freedom advocates, as part of a 120,0000 Reasons coalition effort supported by the Tufenkian Foundation and the Philos Project.

Earlier this week, Stepanyan offered powerful remarks on Capitol Hill at an International Religious Freedom Summit-related forum calling for U.S. government and non-governmental organization leadership to provide for the secure return of Artsakh Armenians, protection of Artsakh’s Christian heritage and sanctions against the Azerbaijani government.  Throughout the IRF Summit, they discussed the broad range of challenges and opportunities for international action to assist forcibly displaced Artsakh refugees.

The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian American community on a broad range of issues.

India, France agree on joint defense production



YEREVAN, JANUARY 27, ARMENPRESS. India and France have agreed to work together on the joint production of defense equipment including helicopters and submarines for the Indian armed forces and production for friendly countries, Reuters reported citing a statement from the Indian government.

The deal was reached during a visit by French President Emmanuel Macron, who met India’s Prime Minister Narendra Modi and attended a state banquet hosted by President Draupadi Murmu, the Indian government said in a statement late on Friday.

Macron and Modi agreed to expand bilateral ties in defense production, nuclear energy, space research and the use of artificial intelligence for public services like climate change, health and agriculture, the statement said.

It did not specify the value of any deals.

After Russia, France is the largest arms supplier to India, which has relied on its fighter jets for four decades.

The leaders welcomed the setting up of maintenance, repair and overhaul services by France's Safran for leading-edge aviation propulsion (LEAP) engines in India and adding such services for Rafale engines, and a helicopter partnership.

The bilateral summit during Macron's 40-hour visit, was the fifth Macron-Modi meeting since May.

India's Tata Group and France's Airbus have signed an agreement to manufacture civilian helicopters together, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said.

French jet engine maker CFM International also announced an agreement with India’s Akasa Air to buy more than 300 of its LEAP-1B engines to power 150 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft.