Urban resilience through integrated spatial planning։ Armenia’s key learnings for the region

Feb 28 2024

Armenia's unique landscape is often at the brunt of seismic challenges. This has presented the Government the opportunity to implement a variety of urban development strategies tailored to its seismic risk zone. In response to such geodynamic processes, Armenia has not only embraced cutting-edge guidelines for earthquake-resistant construction but has also focused on the renovation of existing housing stock.

At the center of this is the implementation of a “micro regional planning document”, a participatory spatial plan aimed at fostering balanced territorial development with a green energy focus. Armenia's focus on integrated governance, community involvement, and a holistic approach to spatial planning, sheds light on valuable lessons for sustainable urban development in the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Considering that Armenia is in a seismic risk zone with geodynamic processes throughout its’ territory, it has adopted new guidelines for earthquake-resistant construction, as well as enforcement of existing housing stock and its renovation.

Another important milestone is the protection of historic heritage and adaptive reuse of industrial abandoned areas from the post-Soviet cities, done in parallel with the modernization of the housing stock, urban fabric, mobility enhancements and low carbon transport.

The development of these policies ensures active involvement of local communities through public discussions supported by decentralization of governance processes in the country, in line with the pledge of “leaving no one behind”.

A key learning for the region is Armenia’s integrated and participative governance model for urban planning which has proved to be more effective for achieving sustainable urban regeneration and growth.

Analysis of Armenia’s existing human settlement system uncovers disparities and uneven utilization of territorial resources as well as urban expansion to agricultural lands and on the other hand shrinking settlements in the suburbs.

In response to these spatial development challenges, several priorities to promote sustainable territorial arrangements from Armenia’s experience based on integration of social, economic, environmental and cultural demands emerge. These include priorities to strengthen:

  • Polycentric urban growth to formulate a sustainable settlement system across regions for a balanced spatial structure with cities as centers of the system.
  • Cities’ urban structure and their inclusive governance systems.
  • Partnerships for balanced territorial development between urban and rural areas.
  • Economic capacity of the region by building integrated economic relations between the components of urban clusters.
  • Disaster risk management including addressing the adverse impacts of climate change such as flooding.
  • Ecologic frameworks and cultural resources as part of new urban development strategies.
  • Ecological frameworks, which integrate public spaces, attract a number of key development functions and affect climatic conditions, along with being places for leisure and culture-which are essential for social life.

    Since 2017, joint planning projects have been developed for marzes (regions) of Armenia. Due to the clustering of the communities, they need new urban models and general concepts for their spatial structure to respond to new development challenges

  • The conceptual, socio-economic justification of combined spatial planning should be aimed at identifying internal potential opportunities and preconditions of the region as a complete planning unit cluster and communities, interconnected by mutual territorial, economic and infrastructural relations. The ongoing spatial planning programs improved local policies and designs for safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces, which support more compact, integrated and connected, socially inclusive cities and neighborhoods in partner settlements of the urban cluster-joint community.

    In addition, the documents recommend solutions to address the problems of providing proper housing to the forcibly displaced population from Nagorno-Karabakh, and those displaced as a result of disasters.

    Armenia's experience in advancing sustainable urban development and localizing the SDGs provides valuable insights and policy implications for the wider Asia-Pacific region. The region can draw upon these lessons to formulate and implement effective policies for sustainable urban and territorial development.

    Omar Siddique
    Economic Affairs Officer

    Nune Petrosyan

    Deputy Chairman of the Urban Development Committee of the Republic of Armenia

  • https://www.unescap.org/blog/urban-resilience-through-integrated-spatial-planning-armenias-key-learnings-region

The Surprises in “Armenia, My Home”

Cynopsis Media
Feb 27 2024

“Armenia, My Home” celebrates the modern-day Armenian Republic and its people, and explores the nearly 3,000-year-old  past of the world’s first Christian nation. The documentary from filmmaker Andrew Goldberg, narrated by Andrea Martin (“Only Murders in the Building”), is airing on PBS Stations this week (check local listings) and here, Goldberg explains what makes to project special.

What will viewers of  “Armenia, My Home” be surprised to learn about the Armenian culture?

I think anyone who has never been to Armenia will be most surprised by just how beautiful the country is. It’s got a striking landscape — very ancient monasteries surrounded by totally untouched hills and valleys and cliffs. It’s a hiker’s paradise.

But in terms of the culture, I think one of the most interesting things is the Armenian language. It’s not really related to any other language unless you go back thousands of years, and it has a very distinct and beautiful written alphabet that dates back to the fifth century. You’ll see this script throughout the film — the legend has it that it came to its creator in a dream.

How was Andrea Martin chosen to participate?

I first worked with Andrea in 1999 on another PBS project and she was just an incredible person and a huge talent. When we approached her for this film, we wanted someone who could bring a certain warmth and humor to the script, and she just exudes that naturally. She came to the table with an understanding of the country because she herself is Armenian and has traveled there, and I really do think her love for the place comes through in every line.

What is cutting edge about the documentary’s cinematography?

We were lucky enough to have almost unlimited access to fly drones wherever we wanted in Armenia, and we had some of the best aerial cinematographers in the world to capture it. The drones themselves are the most technologically sophisticated available and they were actually released for purchase just two days before we began filming. We used Guy Alexander and Nathan Richards to film. They are based in Australia. They usually shoot major features like Thor and Mad Max, but can truly do almost anything. Somehow with their footage they managed to capture the soul of Armenia. There’s an expansiveness to their aerials — you can really get the sense of hope and aspiration that Armenians have for the young and growing independent country they now have.


Armenia’s Democratic Reforms Bolstered by US Support: Simonyan Meets NDI Delegation

Feb 28 2024

On February 28, in a significant meeting held in Yerevan, Alen Simonyan, the President of the Armenian National Assembly, engaged with a delegation spearheaded by Eva Busza, the Regional Director for Eurasia at the National Democratic Institute (NDI). This assembly underscored the pivotal role of US assistance in nurturing Armenia's political and economic spheres, particularly emphasizing the enhancement of democracy, the rule of law, and anti-corruption measures.

During the discussion, Simonyan expressed profound gratitude towards the United States for its substantial contributions to Armenia's development journey. The conversation revolved around the critical support the US has provided in advancing Armenia's democratic reforms. These reforms aim at boosting the transparency and accountability of state institutions, thereby fortifying the foundation of democracy and the rule of law in Armenia. The successful re-establishment of the NDI office in Armenia and the effective implementation of joint programs were highlighted as key achievements in the longstanding cooperation between Armenia and the NDI.

Eva Busza, representing the NDI, acknowledged Simonyan's essential support in executing the institute's programs in Armenia. She lauded the democratic strides Armenia has made, reflecting positively on the nation's commitment to reformative processes. The meeting served as a platform to discuss the fruitful outcomes of collaboration between Armenia and the NDI and to explore potential avenues for further enhancing democratic practices within the country.

The dialogue concluded with a forward-looking perspective, contemplating the expansion of cooperative efforts to foster democratic reforms in Armenia. Both parties expressed optimism about the future of Armenia's democratic journey and discussed strategies to deepen the impact of their collaborative initiatives. The discussions underscored the importance of continued support and partnership in achieving the shared goal of a more transparent, accountable, and democratic Armenia.

As Armenia continues on its path of democratic reforms, the support from international partners like the United States and NDI remains crucial. This meeting between Alen Simonyan and Eva Busza not only reaffirms the strength of Armenia's international partnerships but also sets the stage for future collaborations aimed at furthering democratic governance and the rule of law in Armenia.

“Harmony And Transparency: Building A Solid Future For The Armenian Church”

feb 28 2024

Audience with the Members of the Synod of Bishops of the Patriarchal Church of Cilicia of the Armenians

This morning, the Holy Father Francis received in audience the members of the Synod of Bishops of the Patriarchal Church of Cilicia of the Armenians.

The Pope to the bishops “In this Synod, we find ourselves faced with one of the most important responsibilities: electing the bishops who will guide our Church into the future. It is a crucial task that requires deep reflection and discernment.”

We publish below the speech of the Holy Father which was read by Monsignor Filippo Ciampanelli:

Your Beatitude,
Dear Brother Bishops

Welcome! It is a joy to welcome you to Rome and the tomb of the Apostles Peter and Paul on the feast of Saint Gregory of Narek, Doctor of the Church.

As Bishops, Successors of the Apostles, we have the responsibility of accompanying the holy People of God towards Jesus, the Lord and Friend of Mankind, our Good Shepherd. For this reason, on the day of our episcopal ordination, we committed ourselves to preserving the faith, strengthening hope and spreading the charity of Christ.

Dear Brothers, one of the great responsibilities of the Synod is precisely to give your Church the Bishops of tomorrow. I urge you to choose them carefully, so that they will be devoted to the flock, faithful to pastoral care, and not driven by personal ambition. They should not be selected on the basis of our own ideas or preferences, and great caution should be used with regard to those with “a nose for business” or those “always with a suitcase in hand”, leaving their people orphaned. A Bishop who sees his Eparchy as a stepping-stone to another more “prestigious” position forgets that he is married to the Church and risks, if I may be allowed to use the _expression_, committing “pastoral adultery”. The same thing happens when one wastes time scheming to get new jobs or promotions. Bishops are not bought in the marketplace; it is Christ who chooses them as Successors of his Apostles and Shepherds of his flock.

In a world so full of isolation and loneliness, we must ensure that those entrusted to our care feel the closeness of the Good Shepherd, our own paternal concern, the beauty of fraternity and the mercy of God. The children of your dear people need the closeness of their Bishops. I know that they are in diaspora throughout the world in great numbers and sometimes in vast territories, where it is difficult for them to be visited. Yet the Church is a loving Mother and she cannot fail to seek every possible means of reaching them and offering them God’s love in their own ecclesial tradition. It is not so much a question of structures, which are only a means of assisting the spread of the Gospel, but above all one of pastoral charity, of seeking and promoting the good with an evangelical outlook and an open spirit: here I think also of the importance of even closer cooperation with the Armenian Apostolic Church.

Dear Brothers, in this holy season of Lent we are called to contemplate the cross and to build on Christ, who heals our wounds with forgiveness and love. We are called to intercede for all, in breadth of mind and spirit. Like Saint Gregory of Narek, who prayed: Lord, “remember… those in the human race who are our enemies, but for their sakes give them forgiveness and mercy”. With remarkable prophetic foresight, he added: “Do not exterminate those who snap their jaws at me, but transform them! Banish vicious earthly conduct and plant goodness in me and in them” (Book of Lamentations, LXXXIII).

Brothers, together with the priests, deacons, consecrated men and women, and all the faithful of your Church, you have a great responsibility. Saint Gregory the Illuminator brought the light of Christ to the Armenian people, who were the first, as such, to welcome that light into their history. Consequently, you are witnesses and, as it were, the “first-born” of that light, a dawn called to shine the rays of Christian prophecy in a world that often prefers the darkness of hatred, division, violence and revenge. You may well remind me that your Church is not large in numbers. Yet let us remember that God loves to work wonders with those who are small. In this sense, please do not fail to care for the little ones and the poor, by exemplifying an evangelical life far removed from the pomp of riches and the arrogance of power, by welcoming refugees and by supporting those in the diaspora as brothers and sisters, sons and daughters.

I would like to share with you another thing that I see as a priority: to pray much, not least to preserve the interior perspective that enables you to work in harmony as you discern the priorities of the Gospel, those dear to the Lord. In the words of the ancient Latin adage: ‘Preserve order and order will preserve you’. Take care that your Synods are well prepared; the issues carefully studied and wisely evaluated; and that decisions, always and only aimed at the good of souls, are applied and tested with prudence, consistency and competence, ensuring, above all, full transparency, also where finances are concerned. Laws must be known and applied not out of a spirit of legalism but because they are instruments of an ecclesiology that allows even those without power to appeal to the Church with full and clearly codified rights, and not find themselves at the whim of the powerful.

A further thought I would like to confide and entrust to you has to do with the pastoral care of vocations. In our secularized world, seminarians and those being formed in the religious life need, today more than ever, to be solidly grounded in an authentic Christian life, far from any “princely pretensions”. So too, priests, especially young priests, need to feel close to their Bishops, who will foster their fraternal communion, so that they will not grow discouraged by hardships but rather grow daily in docility to the creativity of the Holy Spirit, serving the people of God with the joy born of charity, not with the unbending and insensitive attitude of bureaucrats. In all things, let us foster hope: even though the harvest is always great and the labourers few, let us count on the Lord, who works wonders in those who trust in him.

Your Beatitude, dear Brothers, how can we not finally turn our thoughts to Armenia, not only in words but above all in our prayers, particularly for all those fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh and for the many displaced families seeking refuge. So many wars, and so much suffering! The First World War was supposed to be the last; it led to the formation of the League of Nations, the “precursor” of the United Nations, in the belief that this would be sufficient to preserve the gift of peace. Yet since then, how many conflicts and massacres have we witnessed, always tragic and always pointless. So often have I pleaded: “Enough!” Let us all take up the cry for peace, so that it may touch hearts, even hearts untouched by the sufferings of the poor and lowly. And above all, let us pray. I pray for you and for Armenia; and I ask you, please, to pray for me!

I thank you for your presence and for your ministry. Before imparting my blessing, I would like to recite a prayer of Saint Nerses the Gracious. I ask you to pray it with me, in anticipation of the day when, God willing, we will be able to celebrate him at the same altar with our brothers and sisters of the Armenian Apostolic Church:

“All-merciful Lord,
have mercy on all those who believe in you;
on my beloved ones, and on those who are strangers to me;
on all those I know, and on those unknown to me;
on the living and on the dead;
even forgive my enemies, and those who hate me,
forgive the trespasses they have committed against me;
and relieve them from the malice they bear towards me,
so that they become worthy of your mercy.
Have mercy upon your creatures,
and on me, a manifold sinner” (I Confess with Faith, The 24 Prayers, XXIII).

Thank you.

Raisina Dialogue: Making a Case for India-Armenia Strategic Partnership

The Quint
Feb 27 2024

"Relations between India and Armenia are so close and deep, that we can be considered strategic partners," announced Narek Mkrtchyan, minister of Labour and Social Affairs of Armenia. The minister was in Delhi to attend the Raisina Dialogue – the flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics organised by the Union Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) and the Observer Research Foundation (ORF).

How this tiny country has come to occupy an important strategic space for India could be gauged by the fact that one of the first panels of this year's dialogue was devoted to India-Armenia ties.

Why should Armenia be important for India?

For one, Armenia, situated in the south Caucuses range, occupies a geopolitically strategic location, bordering Iran, Turkey, and Azerbaijan.

Gaining a foothold in the region is of long-term benefit for India. Bilateral relations would primarily be hinged on two key pillars – defence and connectivity.

Armenia-India Defence Ties

Emerging after a decades-long conflict with neighbouring Azerbaijan in which it lost the contested but ethnic-Armenian populated territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, Armenia is facing numerous security challenges.

The Ukraine crisis has exacerbated these concerns as Armenia's traditional defence ally Russia has been unable to fulfill some of its obligations under the Collective Security Treaty Organisation (CSTO) – a Moscow-led military bloc, of which Armenia is a member (recent reports say that Armenia has suspended its membership of the CSTO).

Since at least 2020, Armenia has turned to India for its defence procurements. These include:

Four Swathi Weapon Locating Radars (WLRs) developed by India’s Defence Research and Development Organisation (DRDO) and the indigenously manufactured Pinaka rocket launcher also developed by the DRDO.

Armenia, in a sense, has become the launchpad for India's defence exports. In fact, according to Mkrtchyan, India now accounts for 90 percent of all of Armenia's arms purchases amounting to USD 245 million.

Such export of military hardware is meant to give a boost to India's country’s defence industry and indigenous production, in keeping with the government’s 'Atmanirbhar Bharat' and 'Make in India' policies. The government has set an export target of USD 5 billion dollars of defence goods for 2025.

Defence cooperation between the two countries also envisages setting up joint manufacturing bases in Armenia, synergised by the fact that it has a large pool of specialists. At one time, it was known as the "Silicon Valley of the CIS". It can become a hub for defence exports to countries in the region and the Balkans.

Strengthening Armenian defences would also be a bulwark against the increasingly expanding military alliance of Azerbaijan-Turkey-Pakistan, all three inimical to India and the Indian position on Jammu and Kashmir.

In this regard, it behoves us to remember that Armenia has always supported India's position on Jammu and Kashmir.

Armenia's other strategic salience for India is connectivity. In earlier columns, I have dwelt on the importance of alternative routes to the Suez Canal to Europe via the Eurasian landmass. This has been further exacerbated by the Houthi attacks on commercial shipping in the Red Sea.

India has not escaped these attacks either. According to the UNCTAD, as of 26 January, the volume of trade going through the Suez Canal had fallen by 42 percent over the previous two months.

Such a trade and transport route could only pass through Armenia which has joined the Chabahar Port project and is part of the International North-South Transport Corridor (INSTC) – which connects India to the Russian Federation through Iran, Azerbaijan, and the Caspian Sea.

With Russia under increasing Western sanctions and neighbouring countries like Poland and Finland closing the border with it, the alternative for India would be to access the Black Sea ports via the INSTC connected to Armenia's North-South Transport Corridor which would run further through the territory of Georgia to access the ports of Batumi and Poti, (another geo-strategic, significant port of Anaklia is under construction).

The Armenian government has launched an ambitious project to leverage Armenia's geopolitical location tournaments into a "Crossroads of Peace".

Large tracts of the North-South Corridor running through Armenia need to be constructed and a minister pitched for Indian companies to participate in the international tenders the country would soon float.

Connectivity through Armenia to Europe would further allow India to overcome the tyranny of geography thrust on it with the 1947 partition.

There are a plethora of other avenues of cooperation with Armenia – trade, setting up manufacturing bases for Indian companies, migration corridor. Currently, Armenia hosts about 50,000 Indian workers; education, space research, science and technology, and tourism.

All this is capped by centuries-old historically cordial relations between Indians and Armenians – two of the world's most ancient people – evidence of which is scattered all across India at least. India enjoys a position in the mind-scape of the country that few other nations do. This gives India an advantage there.

Another advantage is India’s close relations with Russia, which precludes any discomfort with Indian presence there.

Given the speed with which Indo-Armenian relations have taken off after a long inertia with several high profile visits and meetings including those at the level of foreign ministers, defence ministers, and national security advisors of both countries, along with the immense potential that waits to be tapped, it would only be logical for bilateral ties to be institutionalised into a strategic partnership.

It would be immensely conducive to the balance of force in the South Caucuses and to peace in the region and beyond.

(Aditi Bhaduri is a journalist and political analyst. She tweets @aditijan. This is an opinion piece and the views expressed are the author’s own. The Quint neither endorses nor is responsible for them.)


Indian workers in Armenia claim abuse from job agencies (in India)

DW – Deutsche Welle, Germany
Feb 27 2024
Luise Glum in Yerevan

Recruitment agencies in India promise well paying jobs in Armenia. But when workers arrive, they say conditions are far worse than what they expected.

When Ishan Kumar came to Armenia from southern India early last year, he thought he was coming for a better life.

Kumar, who spoke with DW using a pseudonym, said a friend living abroad introduced him to the idea of moving․

"He said I'd earn a lot of money there, about $1,000 dollars per month. He said it's a European country."

Kumar's friend organized the trip through an agent in Armenia, and paid more than 650,000 Armenian drams (€1,500/$1,600) for an e-visa, the flight and the provision of a job at a delivery company.

There was no agreement other than a WhatsApp chat, but Kumar decided to go.

His new home for the next six months was the Cherry Hotel, located some thirty minutes from downtown Yerevan, the Armenian capital. The hotel provides lodging for many Indian workers in Yerevan, who sleep in cramped rooms, Kumar said.

Kumar soon started working for the delivery service. But the job conditions were not what he had expected.

"They said for one order we would receive 1,900 drams at peak times and 1,400 drams at other times of the day. But when I came here, I realized that it is all a scam. That they were only giving us 1,300 and 900 drams."

But Kumar said he worked hard from morning until midnight. In the end, his first salary was close to what he had expected, the equivalent of around $940.

However, Kumar claims he could only save a small part of that money.

He had to pay for room and board in a space shared with 10 people. He also had to pay to rent the scooter used for the delivery service. Kumar said he had not been informed about these costs before he left for Armenia. "After I paid all that, I had only 50,000 drams to send home."

Indians are the second largest group of foreign citizens in Armenia after Russians. According to Armenia's economy ministry, 20,000 to 30,000 Indians currently live in the country.

Some 2,600 of them are students – Indians have been coming to Armenia to get higher education since Soviet times.

In 2017, the Armenian government decided to change the law to make it easier for Indian citizens to get an entry visa. Since then, their number has increased. Last year, 3,200 Indians were granted a work visa, compared to 530 the year before and 55 in 2021.

However, many workers told DW that like Kumar, they were promised a high salary and were convinced into paying large sums to agents to move to Armenia.

Some said they spent even more money than Kumar – up to $3,500. Others claimed they weren't provided with any work after arrival, or didn't receive the salary they had agreed to. At the same time, they had to pay high prices for bunk beds in crowded rooms.

Most workers originated from India's southern Kerala region. People from Kerala started migrating in large numbers in the 1970s, said S. Irudaya Rajan, head of the International Institute of Migration and Development in Kerala.

"The main factors then were poverty and unemployment," he told. Today, they are mostly "aspirational migrants" from the middle class who strive for a higher standard of living elsewhere.

Rajan said there are many job agencies in Kerala. "Migration is hope. The recruitment agencies are selling people dreams," he said, adding that the industry is rife with fraud and that migrants are abused and endure bad living conditions in many host countries.

"I know hundreds of cases where people were being cheated," he said. "Often, after migration, their life is much worse than before."

Kumar's experience soon went from bad to worse after he had a scooter accident in the icy streets of Yerevan. After the accident, he wanted to change jobs, but was unemployed for several months. He couldn't afford the rent at the Cherry Hotel, so he had to go into debt with his agents.

Later, several jobs were arranged for Kumar, but they were all short-term. His agents charged him a commission and withheld his wages to pay room and board.

He wanted to leave the Cherry Hotel, but being in a foreign country, he didn't know where to go. "That is why all of us are staying there like this," he said.

Some of his companions eventually found work on their own and Kumar wanted to join.

But then there was another problem. Kumar said the agents were holding his passport. He claimed he had to lie to get it back.

"I said I want to go to India, I want to get a ticket, give me the passport." Kumar said he doubts the agents would have returned the passport otherwise.

Several other Indian men who stayed at Cherry told DW their passports were taken.

One worker said he complained to the Indian embassy in Yerevan. DW contacted the embassy. While Consul Aditya Pandey was open for a background talk, the embassy didn't respond to DW's request for a statement on the allegations.

Kumar's agent, Raihan Sainelabudeen, was once an "aspiration migrant" from Kerala who came to Armenia to study medicine. Sainelabudeen's current business partner is Anna Petakchyan, and a company called "Find Your Progress LLC" is registered under Petakchyan's name at the Cherry Hotel address.

The company operates an additional office in Kollam, Kerala. The company's ads claim they provide "amazing salary and benefits" and a highly attractive "compensation package" that "ensures that employees are rewarded for their hard work and dedication."

However, the Indian workers who used the company said they were exploited and abused.

Yerevan-based labor and migration attorney Ara Ghazaryan told DW that the motivation behind recruitment of workers is crucial to determining malfeasance by recruitment agents.

 "If the purpose is not to give a normal and safe employment environment, but to exploit, then it's already a crime," he said.

Employing a migrant who doesn't have immigration status or a work permit is a crime. The same goes for violating labor rights, he added.

Migrant workers, Ghazaryan notes, shouldn't be paid in cash, they should have a valid employment contract and place of work, normal working hours, annual leave, sick leave, weekends off. "And of course, no ill treatment or threats," he said.

Withholding passports is one of the initial indicators of trafficking and exploitation, Ghazaryan added.

"By holding the passport, they control the movement and the life of the migrant," he said. Generally, only government agencies are allowed to hold on to a person's passport. "The passport is property. No one can keep it."

The Armenian Ministry of Labor and Social Affairs told DW they delt with 14 cases of Indian labor migrants as possible trafficking victims in 2023.

To date, none of them have been acknowledged as trafficking, but violations of labor relations and fraud were found. In some cases, passports were taken by employers, but not by force, the ministry said. They were given to the employer for processing work permit papers.

However, Ghazaryan said that providing the original passport isn't needed during the permit process. A simple copy is sufficient.

"If they claim otherwise, it's a lie. It means a crime is ongoing," he said.

Petakchyan and Sainelabudeen told DW that all workers pay them $1,500 in advance, which covers airfare, job placement and the first month of food and lodging.

Apparently, some of the conditions have changed since Kumar arrived. Petakchyan confirmed that at the time, food and rent were not free, adding that workers were informed about this before their arrival.

In addition, all workers sign contracts now, Petakchyan said. However, a document seen by a DW reporter in a binder full of contracts,did not include the salary or the agent's signature.

Petakchyan claimed the recruitment agency is working with some of the biggest companies in Armenia, including hotels, restaurants and gas stations. They don't want to register Indian citizens, she said, and that's why "Find Your Progress” hires the workers and provides services.

According to Petakchyan, that is the reason why salaries are not transferred directly to the workers. "We pay them exactly the salary they are receiving," she insisted.

Petakchyan said 40 workers live in stuffy cramped basement rooms of the hotel.

"I don't say it's perfect, but it's the minimal that Indian people need," she said.

During the conversation, three men said they didn't receive their wages and accused Sainelabudeen and Petakchyan of holding on to their passports.

Sainelabudeen disputed this. "You have some proof?"

Petakchyan confirmed that they take worker's passports to file residency applications. "After that we return the passport," she said.

It is hard to say who is telling the truth. In any case, it is clear some of the men were without their passports. 

When DW talked to Kumar one month after first meeting, he was unemployed. The manager of a factory said Kumar had to leave because health problems impacted his performance. Kumar said he had to ask his family in India for money. He hopes he can soon start working as a taxi driver.

Kumar would like to return to India, but that's not an option for him now. He needs money for the plane ticket. And most importantly, he had to borrow a large sum to come to Armenia in the first place and must pay it back.

"After all that, I will go to India," said Kumar. But for now, he is stuck.

Greek Prime Minister: Relations with Armenia can become even more productive

TORNOS News, Greece
Feb 27 2024
Greece and Armenia have historic ties that stretch across the centuries and can now become even more productive given the common challenges that lie ahead, Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis said on Tuesday, during joint statements with his Armenian counterpart Nikol Pashinyan in Athens, ANA reports.

The Armenian prime minister's visit was an important step in consolidating the already excellent relations with Armenia, Mitsotakis said, adding that they will have the opportunity to discuss bilateral cooperation in areas such as renewable energy sources and technology. 


"Armenia needs to sign a trilateral agreement with France and India." Opinion

feb 27 2024
  • JAMnews
  • Yerevan
  • If Armenia manages to sign a trilateral agreement with France and India, the country’s security level will increase significantly,” said the leader of the “Republic” party and former prime minister, Aram Sargsyan.

He believes that with such a document in place, Azerbaijan “will think twice before shelling Armenia.”

According to Sargsyan, the interests of France, India, and Iran converge in the South Caucasus. It is necessary to take advantage of this opportunity without wasting time. The politician is confident that if such an agreement is signed, Armenia will “make other countries in the region envy” within five years.

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“It’s been almost two months since I started promoting this idea. It came about when I learned that France, India, and the UAE had signed a military cooperation agreement, similar to the one between Georgia and the US. Since then, I have been consistently advocating for Armenia to sign a military assistance agreement with France, India, and the US. Preferably with all of them at once.

If Armenia were to sign such a military-political agreement with the US, like Georgia did, we would have problems with our neighbor Iran. Iran would start creating problems both in terms of transporting weapons through its territory and in many other areas.

In such a situation, there is no better Western country for Armenia to engage with than France.

French president Macron recently visited India. He participated in events on the occasion of the country’s Independence day. I am confident that the perspective of trilateral cooperation with Armenia was discussed.

From a geopolitical point of view, the agreement is beneficial for both India, France, and Armenia. India sees its path to Europe through Iranian ports in the Persian gulf, through Armenia, and Georgia.”

“Iran also sees its only path to Europe through France. The thing is, Iran has good relations only with France among Western countries.

France becomes an important country in the region for both Iran and Armenia, which makes Turkey, Russia, and Azerbaijan nervous.

France is a part of China’s “One Belt, One Road” initiative. Considering the fact that two months ago, the Chinese ambassador to Armenia stated that it is beneficial for Beijing for the “One belt, one road” to pass through Armenia, the overall picture starts to take shape.

The “One belt, one road” initiative is a transcontinental investment program aimed at developing infrastructure and economic integration of countries located along the historical Silk road. As of March 13, 2022, China has signed cooperation agreements under the “One belt, one road” initiative with 148 countries and 31 international organizations.

If a trilateral military-political agreement with France and India is signed, the country’s security cushion will instantly strengthen.

Iran has no problems with India, and it is absolutely not against India’s presence. Moreover, transit through its territory will only strengthen Iran’s economy and increase its political influence.

India has no problems with the CSTO [the Russian military bloc, of which Armenia is a member] and Russia. In my opinion, India is absolutely not against signing a trilateral document with Armenia and France in the field of security, regardless of whether Armenia is a member of the CSTO.

The problem with agreeing to sign a trilateral document lies with France. Is France willing to sign such a document considering that Armenia is still a member of the CSTO? I cannot answer this question.

But I have no doubt that the mentioned countries are interested. Therefore, the authorities of Armenia should work in this direction.”


Azerbaijan continues policy aimed at erasing Armenian trace in territories under its control – MFA


YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 27, ARMENPRESS. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs  of Armenia has issued a statement on the occasion of the 36th anniversary of the Armenian massacres in Sumgait, Azerbaijan.

The statement reads as follows:

"On February 27, 1988, at the initiative and with the full connivance of the leadership of Soviet Azerbaijan, massacres of the Armenian population of Sumgait commenced, accompanied by cases of violence, brutality, enforced disappearances, deprivation of property, and massive violations of human rights. Hundreds were killed, including women, children and elderly, thousands were forcibly displaced. 

The Sumgait tragedy was followed by massacres of Armenians in Kirovabad, Baku and other Armenian-populated settlements of Azerbaijan. This chain of events, as well as the complete annihilation of Armenians from Nakhijevan earlier, showed that the mentioned crimes were not separate episodes of violence based on national identity but regular manifestations of a state-orchestrated and state-led policy of Armenophobia. This policy resulted in forcible displacement of about 500.000 ethnic Armenians from Soviet Azerbaijan.

It is noteworthy that these events targeted not only the Armenian population: they were also accompanied by deliberate actions to destroy the Armenian heritage and to erase the Armenian trace in general.

Already in the 21st century, under the conditions of complete impunity, Azerbaijan continued the same policy of ethnic cleansing by terrorizing the native Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh, inhumane siege, starving them to death and finally depopulating Nagorno-Karabakh through the use of force: ethnic cleansing was completed even in spite of the three legally binding decisions of the UN International Court of Justice.

Today, as well, Azerbaijan continues the policy aimed at erasing the Armenian trace in the territories under its control, desecrating, vandalizing and destroying Armenian religious and historical and cultural monuments. Today as well, the continuing xenophobic and hostile policy towards the Republic of Armenia is accompanied by hate speech, threats and aggressive rhetoric at the highest level, which is an obstacle in the path of overcoming hostility between nations and establishment of peace and stability in the region.

The international community must give an adequate assessment of the committed mass crimes and use all available mechanisms to prevent the recurrence of such crimes and to contribute to the genuine efforts of Armenia to achieve a dignified and lasting peace in the South Caucasus."

EU provides 15 million euros to Armenia to support refugees: Adrienn Kiraly


YEREVAN, 27 FEBUARY, ARMENPRESS.  Adrienn Kiraly, Neighbourhood East & Institution Building Director at European Commission presented details of the results of the meeting with the Armenian Deputy Prime Ministers Mher Grigoryan and Tigran Khachatryan. 

“Good discussions with Deputy Prime Ministers Grigoryan and Khachatryan in Yerevan on our joint efforts to strengthen EU-Armenia relations. During the meeting, I handed over the financing agreement allocating €15 million in budget support for refugees”, Kiraly posted on her X account.