Tensions ease at Armenian-Azerbaijani border

The Armenian Defense Ministry reports that tensions were reduced along the Armenian-Azerbaijani border last night.

Only several shots were registered in the northeastern part of the border. No shooting was reported at the Armenia-Nakhijevan borderline.

The front divisions of the Armenian Armed Forces confidently control the situation at the border and resort to retaliatory measures only in case of extreme necessity.

Europe and Russia launch joint mission to Mars – Video

Photo: Sputnik/ Oleg Urusov    

Europe and Russia have launched a joint mission to the Red Planet, the BBC reports.

The satellite, called the ExoMars Trace Gas Orbiter (TGO), lifted off from Baikonur in Kazakhstan at 09:31 GMT.

The probe will investigate whether the methane in the world’s atmosphere is coming from a geological source or is being produced by microbes.

If all goes well, the two space powers expect to follow up this venture with a rover, to be assembled in the UK, which will drill into the surface.

That could launch in 2018, or, as seems increasingly likely, in 2020.

Armenian President beats FIDE Chief in blitz chess

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan defeated FIDE President Kirsan Ilyumzhivov in an unforeseen blitz chess game, Narek Nikoghosyan, Assistant to the Press Secretary of the President of the Republic of Armenia, said in a Twitter post.

The game took place on the sidelines of the Candidates Tournament in Moscow.

President of Armenia, Chairman of Armenia’s Chess Federation Serzh Sargsyan attended the official opening ceremony.

Armenia’s leading chess player Levon Aronian  participates in the tournament along with eight other acclaimed contenders. The winner of the tournament will compete for the World Champion’s title in New York on November 11-30.

As the Chess Federation of Armenia is a sponsor of the event, the opening ceremony was dedicated to the 25th anniversary of Armenia’s independence.

Garo Paylan’s business cards printed in Armenian and Turkish

The printing house of the Turkish Parliament has printed the business cards of ethnic Armenian MP Garo Paylan in two languages –Armenian and Turkish.

Garo Paylan, representing the pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), shared the photo of the cards on his Facebook page.

“This step on Mother Language Day is very symbolic. I wish the same to other languages,” Paylan wrote.

Pope calls for worldwide abolition of death penalty

Pope Francis yesterday called for the worldwide abolition of the death penalty, saying the commandment “You shall not kill” was absolute and equally valid for the guilty as for the innocent, Reuters reports.

Using some of his strongest words ever against capital punishment, he also called on Catholic politicians worldwide to make “a courageous and exemplary gesture” by seeking a moratorium on executions during the Church’s current Holy Year, which ends in November.

“I appeal to the consciences of those who govern to reach an international consensus to abolish the death penalty,” he told tens of thousands of people in St. Peter’s Square.

“The commandment “You shall not kill,” has absolute value and applies to both the innocent and the guilty,” he told the crowd.

The 1.2 billion-member Catholic Church allowed the death penalty in extreme cases for centuries, but the position began to change under the late Pope John Paul, who died in 2005.

The pope added that there was now “a growing opposition to the death penalty even for the legitimate defence of society” because modern means existed to “efficiently repress crime without definitively denying the person who committed it the possibility of rehabilitating themselves.”

Francis made the comments to throw his weight behind an international conference against the death penalty starting Monday in Rome and organised by the Sant’Egidio Community, a worldwide Catholic peace and justice group.

Francis, who has visited a number of jails since his election as pope nearly three years ago – the latest in Mexico last week – also called for better prison conditions.

“All Christians and men of good will are called on to work not only for the abolition of the death penalty, but also to improve prison conditions so that they respect the human dignity of people who have been deprived of their freedom,” he said.

Islamic State camp in Libya attacked by US planes

Photo: Reuters


US warplanes have carried out attacks on militants from the so-called Islamic State (IS) in Libya, killing at least 30 people, the BBC reports.

The strikes hit an IS training camp and “likely” killed a senior Tunisian extremist leader, US officials said.

Noureddine Chouchane is linked to two attacks in Tunisia last year, including an attack that killed 30 Britons.

The IS group has operated in Libya for about a year and the US estimates it has up to 6,000 fighters there.

Libya remains in chaos more than four years after the overthrow of former leader Muammar Gaddafi, and is being fought over by a number of groups, including the self-styled IS.

The mayor of Sabratha said that a building in the city, west of the capital Tripoli, had been hit.

He put the death toll at 41, and said the majority of those killed were Tunisians.

Kremlin monitoring possible Saudi troops deployment in Syria

Photo: Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser/Files


Moscow is monitoring how the situation unfolds regarding the possible deployment of Saudi military forces to Syria, Kremlin spokesman Dmity Peskov said Friday, reports.

Earlier in the day, the Guardian newspaper reported that Saudi Arabia could send thousands of ground forces to Syria, most likely in coordination with Turkey, in order to take part in the fight against ISIS.

“Naturally, we are carefully monitoring the situation,” Peskov said.

He added that the Kremlin currently does not have any facts confirming the validity of the reports on the Saudi plans.

Moscow has been conducting air strikes against IS and Nusra Front targets in Syria since September 30, at Damascus’ request.

Ara Guler doc finalist in Greek festival

World renowned Turkish-Armenian photographer Ara Guler’s documentary film, “The Eye of Istanbul,” has become a finalist at the International Thessaloniki Film Festival, the  reports.

Produced by Ăśmran Safter, the documentary will premiere in the U.S. and Greece in March. Recently, the documentary was also chosen as a finalist at the Washington Film Festival.

The “Eye of Istanbul” tells the story of GĂĽler in conjunction with the preparatory stages of a retrospective exhibition of his in Istanbul. The documentary follows a non-linear narrative and explores the artistic process and the impulses that lead to his works of art. GĂĽler’s curiosity, resourcefulness and fearlessness – all of which play a part in making him who he is – are showcased through a series of stories in the film.

The core team members behind the film are co-directors Fatih Kaymak and Binnur Karaevli, Director of Photography Zafer Bir, Script Writer Ahsen Diner, Editor Engin Yıldız, Composer Derya Türkan and Project Consultant Nezih Tavlas.

Syrian forces capture new heights West of Aleppo, gain upper hand in Damascus

The Syrian Army announced today that its troops alongside the country’s popular forces have made a significant advance and captured more heights after a tough battle against the terrorist groups in the Western part of Aleppo province, Fars News Agency reports.

“The pro-government forces’ operation in the Western part of Aleppo province has forced the militant groups to withdraw forces from al-Zeitoun and Hazmar Heights,” the army said.

“The militant groups left scores of dead and injured members and fled the battlefields,” the army added.

“The government forces have started to hunt rest of the militants in the newly captured heights,” the army went on to say.

The Syrian army also continued to advance against the Takfiri militants in a key town of Damascus province after fierce clashes with the terrorists.

Informed sources said on Monday that the Syrian troops continued to advance in al-Bilaliyah village in Eastern Ghouta, and reached to the area of Dawar al-Bilaliyah after fierce clashes with militant groups that left a group of terrorists dead and injured.

The army also managed to secure a road in the region where the soldiers are combing the roads and defusing the mines and explosive devices there as the terrorists fled in a state of confusion.