RFE/RL Armenian Report – 06/12/2017


Karapetian Denies Discord With President

 . Narine Ghalechian

Armenia - Prime Minister Karen Karapetian visits the Ararat province,

Prime Minister Karen Karapetian dismissed on Monday lingering
speculation about his mounting tensions with President Serzh
Sarkisian, saying that their relationship is "very good, respectful
and businesslike."

"That's not true," he told reporters when asked about his alleged
discord with Sarkisian.

Accordingly, Karapetian made clear that he does not intend to
resign. He also stood by his previous statements indicating that he
would like to retain his post after the president serves out his final
term in April next year.

"Nothing has changed # My previous answers haven't changed," the
premier said after attending, together with Sarkisian and other top
state officials, the inauguration of Yerevan's newly reelected Mayor
Taron Markarian.

A number of Armenian media outlets and commentators have speculated in
recent weeks that Sarkisian plans to become prime minister or replace
Karapetian by someone else in April 2018. Some of them have claimed
that Karapetian will resign or be sacked before that time because of
his worsening relationship with the president. The Yerevan daily
"Zhoghovurd" reported on June 6 that Karapetian has already twice
tendered his resignation and that Sarkisian has refused to accept it.

The president dismissed those rumors later on June 6. "The prime
minister has no reason to resign," Sarkisian said in rare comments to
Armenian journalists. "Periodical reports about alleged differences or
a confrontation are untrue."

Sarkisian appointed Karapetian as prime minister in September last
year with the stated aim of improving the socioeconomic situation in
Armenia through more radical reforms. The 53-year-old former business
executive has since repeatedly pledged to create a level playing field
for all businesses, combat corruption and tax evasion, and attract
large-scale investments in the Armenian economy.

Yerevan's Reelected Mayor Inaugurated

 . Narine Ghalechian

Armenia - Yerevan Mayor Taron Markarian (R) is congratulated by
President Serzh Sarkisian after being sworn in for another term,

Yerevan's Mayor Taron Markarian was sworn in for another four-year
term on Monday one month after leading the ruling Republican Party of
Armenia (HHK) to a landslide victory in municipal elections.

Markarian, in office since 2011, vowed to "honestly and diligently
perform the mayor's duties" at an inauguration ceremony attended by
President Serzh Sarkisian, Prime Minister Karen Karapetian and other
top officials.

According to the official results of the May 14 elections, the HHK won
more than 70 percent of the vote that gave it 46 of the 65 seats in
the municipal council empowered to appoint the city's mayors. The
opposition Yelk alliance finished second with 14 council seats.

A more radical opposition group, the Yerkir Tsirani party, gained the
remaining 5 seats. It decided not to boycott sessions of the Yerevan
council after accusing the HHK of buying votes and resorting to other
serious irregularities. The Central Election Commission (CEC) rejected
last month Yerkir Tsirani's demands to annul the official vote

Unlike their Yerkir Tsirani colleagues, the 14 council members
representing Yelk chose to attend Markarian's inauguration. But they
demonstratively refused to stand up when Sarkisian entered a
conference hall where the city council holds its sessions.

In a speech at the ceremony, Sarkisian gave a largely positive
assessment of the 38-year-old mayor's track record, while urging him
to do more to address Yerevan's lingering problems and a lack of
adequate public transportation in particular.

"You must work day and night in order to increase Yerevan residents'
respect and trust towards you, maintain you position as the most
popular political figure in Yerevan, get even more votes in the next
elections and continue to run Yerevan," the president said.

Markarian's late father Andranik served as Armenia's prime minister
from 2000-2007. The inauguration ceremony coincided with Andranik
Markarian's 66th birthday anniversary.

Mediators Visit Armenia, Karabakh

Armenia - President Serzh Sarkisian meets with the co-chairs of the
OSCE Minsk Group in Yerevan, 10Jun2017.

U.S., Russian and French diplomats co-heading the OSCE Minsk Group
have met with Armenia's and Nagorno-Karabakh's leaders as part of
their continuing efforts to relaunch Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks.

The three mediators met with President Serzh Sarkisian and Foreign
Minister Edward Nalbandian in Yerevan on Saturday at the start of
their latest tour of the Karabakh conflict zone. They then proceeded
to Stepanakert for similar talks with Bako Sahakian, the Karabakh
president, that were held on Monday. They are expected to travel to
Baku later this week or early next.

The envoys gave few details of their talks when they spoke to
reporters in the Karabakh capital. "France, the United States and
Russia are making every effort to achieve progress on this issue,"
Stephane Visconti, the Minsk Group's French co-chair, was reported to

Neither the mediators nor official Armenian sources specified whether
they pressed for the conduct of high-level Armenian-Azerbaijani
negotiations. Visconti's American opposite number, Richard Hoagland,
expressed hope in March that Nalbandian and Azerbaijani Foreign
Minister Elmar Mammadyarov will "prepare the ground" for a meeting of
their presidents.

The two ministers reported no agreements to that effect after they
last met in Moscow in April. Nalbandian said on May 30 that an
Armenian-Azerbaijani summit is unlikely to be organized "for the time

Presidents Serzh Sarkisian and Ilham Aliyev most recently met in
Vienna and Saint Petersburg in May and June last year. The Karabakh
peace process has been essentially deadlocked since then.

Meeting with Visconti, Hoagland and Russia's Igor Popov on Saturday,
Nalbandian accused Baku of continuing to ignore their calls for the
conflicting parties to comply with confidence-building agreements that
were reached by Aliyev and Sarkisian last year. According to the
Armenian Foreign Ministry, he said the mediators should take "concrete
actions" in order to "rein in this unconstructive and provocative
policy by Azerbaijan."

Sahakian likewise accused Baku of continuing ceasefire violations
along the Karabakh "line of contact" when met with the co-chairs in
Stepanakert. The spokesman for the Karabakh leader, Davit Babayan, was
quoted by Artsakhpress.am as stressing the importance of bolstering
the ceasefire regime.

Babayan also said that the warring sides still have a "long way to go"
to resolve the conflict. Their positions on a peaceful settlement are
"almost diametrically opposite," he said.

Mainstream Oppositionist Critical Of Attack On Yerevan Police Base

 . Karlen Aslanian
 . Sargis Harutyunyan

Armenia - Opposition politician Edmon Marukian speaks to RFE/RL's
Armenian service, Yerevan, 12Jun2017

Armed members of an Armenian fringe opposition group broke the law
when they seized a police station in Yerevan last summer, a leader of
the opposition Yelk alliance insisted over the weekend.

Edmon Marukian pointedly declined to describe as political prisoners
the gunmen who were arrested following a two-week standoff with
security forces which left three Armenian police officers dead.

The gunmen stormed the police compound in Yerevan's southern Erebuni
district and took several police officers hostage on July 17,
2016. They demanded President Serzh Sarkisian's resignation and the
release of Zhirayr Sefilian, the jailed leader of their Founding
Parliament movement.

The authorities rejected those demands before forcing the armed group
to lay down its weapons and surrender. The group's most important
members went on trial last week, facing a range of serious criminal
charges. Two of them also stand accused of murdering the
policemen. All of the defendants reject the accusations as politically

Armenia -- An armed man speaks to the press after pro-opposition
gunmen locked in a week-long hostage standoff with Armenian
authorities released the final four police officers held captive in
Yerevan, July 23, 2016

n an interview with RFE/RL's Armenian service (Azatutyun.am), Marukian
said he cannot refer to them as political prisoners because their
actions involved an "illegal arms circulation" and resulted in
casualties. "If I, for example, pick a gun and walk to RFE/RL for an
interview but get arrested on the street, could we claim that Edmon
Marukian is a political prisoner?" he said.

Accordingly, the U.S.-educated lawyer asserted that the attack on the
Erebuni police facility had "elements of a crime." "If we say that
there was no such thing, that they did nothing wrong # that would mean
[going to] the other extreme," he said. "If people armed with assault
rifles seize a [police] regiment, can I really say that it's OK and
there are no elements of crime in their actions?"

Marukian's Yelk finished third in Armenia's recent parliamentary
elections. Nikol Pashinian, another leader of the bloc formed in
December, criticized the gunmen during the Erebuni standoff.

Armenia - Relatives of police officers killed in a standoff with
opposition gunmen attend a remembrance ceremony in Yerevan, 28Sep2016.

The gunmen, who referred to themselves as Sasna Tsrer (Baredevils of
Sasun), won the backing of other prominent opposition figures, notably
former Foreign Ministers Vartan Oskanian and Raffi Hovannisian as well
as Zaruhi Postanjian.

Postanjian, who set up a radical opposition party earlier this year,
stood by her view that the jailed gunmen are political prisoners. "As
a lawyer, I insist that there were no elements of crime in their
actions because they willingly came out of [the besieged compound] and
laid down their arms," she said.

Both the United States and the European Union condemned the deadly
attack last July. "We obviously condemn strongly the use of violence
to effect political change in Armenia or anywhere," a U.S. State
Department spokesman said at the time. "We stress that the use of
force to achieve political change is unacceptable," the EU Delegation
in Yerevan said for its part.

Press Review

(Saturday, June 10)

"Haykakan Zhamanak" reports on what it sees as widespread violations
of traffic and parking rules in and outside Yerevan by the owners of
cars carrying Russian license plates. "All you have to do to realize
that is to walk around Yerevan's center in evening hours and see how
such cars are parked on second lanes and violate all possible traffic
rules," writes the paper. It also carries photographs of several such
cars parked at unauthorized locations near Yerevan's Zvartnots
international airport.

Speaking to "168 Zham," Naira Zohrabian, a senior representative of
Gagik Tsarukian's political alliance, notes with satisfaction that the
alliance and the opposition Yelk bloc will have some say in the
upcoming formation of a new anti-corruption body. She argues that the
government and the ruling Republican Party of Armenia (HHK) were
initially not willing to make any concessions to the parliamentary
opposition when they first submitted a corresponding bill to the
parliament. "Of course this is not enough, but this is the minimum
that we could get today," says Zohrabian.

"One gets the impression that the authorities have suddenly woken up
and discovered that there is corruption in the country," writes
"Hraparak." "Some evade taxes, others abuse their positions or carry
out illegal imports, and the authorities horrified by that are hastily
trying to enforce the law in the country." The paper downplays recent
prosecutions on corruption charges of several judges and prosecutors,
saying that they are not high-ranking enough. It says that if the
authorities were really committed to combatting corruption they would
have sacked the mayor of the Armenian town of Hrazdan whose underage
son ran over and killed a pedestrian while driving a local government
car last week.

"An escalation is not a war," Sergey Markedonov, a Russian political
analyst, tells "Aravot," commenting on the Nagorno-Karabakh
conflict. "There have always been and there will be escalations when,
for example the [OSCE Minsk Group] co-chairs visit the region or when
there are important negotiations. War, on the other hand, presupposes
serious military-political changes, serious casualties."

(Tigran Avetisian)

Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
Copyright (c) 2017 Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty, Inc.
1201 Connecticut Ave., N.W. Washington DC 20036.

Tourism: Stunning Armenia

Gulf Times, Qatar
June 7 2017
Stunning Armenia

By T N Shaji

Wednesday، 11:14 PM

Republic of Armenia is a country of ancient monasteries, and former Soviet Union, in the Caucasus region between Asia and Europe. With beautiful mountains, especially the Mount Ararat, relaxed pace of life and welcoming residents, stable weather and lower crime rate, Armenia is a perfect tourist destination. The cheapest flights to Armenia provided by some leading airlines include Qatar Airways, Air Arabia, Fly Dubai, Atlasglobal and MEA.

One of the reasons why tourists prefer to spend their holiday in Armenia is very affordable prices. The national currency in Armenia is dram (AMD), which exists in the form of banknotes and coins. Most often during the daily expenses, Armenians use banknotes of 1,000 or 5,000 dram and coins of 200 and 500 dram.

There is a wide range of both luxury restaurant cafes offering fast food. In fast food chains, visitors can have a full meal and pay only 1,500-2,000 AMD ($3-4), in the national restaurants the dinner will cost from 5,000 to 15,000 AMD ($10-30) or higher that depends on the prestige and selected dishes.
The cuisine reflects the history and geography where Armenians have lived as well as incorporating outside influences. In Armenia, there is a restaurant for each taste like Armenian national cuisine, Lebanese cuisine, Middle Eastern cuisine, Indian cuisine, Georgian cuisine, Special Halal menu, homemade food, European, continental and snack menu.
Visa procedures are also simplified as part of promoting tourism in Armenia. The citizens of the UAE with all types of passports are exempt from the requirement to obtain a visa to enter the Republic of Armenia up to 180 days per year. The citizens of Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman can obtain Armenian entry visa.
Citizens of India, who have residence permit in Qatar, the UAE, Bahrain, Kuwait and Oman can obtain Armenian entry visa also on the border of the Republic of Armenia. 
If the tourists do not want to use roaming during their stay in Armenia, Armenian operators’ SIM cards can be purchased in any book stall for 1,000 drams ($2). Rates operators (Beeline, Orange, VivaCell -MTC) are different, but on average we can say that one minute of talk within Armenia will cost 20-30 drams ($0.04 – 0.06).
Climate of Armenia is markedly continental. Summer is dry and sunny, lasting from June to mid-September. Winter is short and quite cold with plenty of snow. In the mountains, the average summer temperature ranges between +10 and +22C, and in the winter temperatures range between +2 and -14C. In plain lands the average January temperature is -5C, and July temperature is +25C. 
Armenia boasts some of Europe’s most stunning views, with the peak of Mount Ararat dominating the country’s skyline. The mountain is Armenia’s national symbol despite its peak lying just over the Turkish border. Armenia is home to countless beautiful monasteries and they are often found in areas of truly outstanding natural beauty. Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, is one of the most rapidly developing cities in the whole of Europe as the nation continues to embrace tourism. 
The following are some of the key attractions in Armenia.

By far the largest city in Armenia, the capital Yerevan is a great place to start for anyone wishing to explore Armenia. The city is home to the grand Republic Square, while climbing the Cascade to see the city’s monument to Soviet victory in the Second World War is a must. Yerevan is a deeply historic city and visiting the Armenian Genocide Memorial is a must to learn more about the nation’s troubled past. Vernissage flea market is worth visiting too – it is open at the weekend – while a walk through the Hrazdan gorge is also very attractive. Much of what Armenia has to offer can be explored during day trips from Yerevan, which is known as the City of Cafes. Yerevan is also home to Blue Mosque, which is the only mosque in the whole of the country, as well as Levon’s Amazing Underground World, which is one of Europe’s most unusual attractions.

Shikahogh State Reserve 
The second largest forest reserve in Armenia, Shikahogh State Reserve is so unspoiled that large parts of it remain unexplored to this day. The forest is believed to be home to animals including leopards, bears, wild goats and vipers and it is also thought that Shikahogh State Reserve has about 1,100 species of plants, although its fauna has not yet been fully explored. The reserve also has a number of very beautiful waterfalls to enjoy.

Lake Sevan
Lake Sevan, found in the heart of Armenia, is the country’s largest lake and a beautiful place to visit. The lake is surrounded by some stunning monasteries – the most impressive of them being arguably the Sevanavank Monastery – providing a glorious scenic backdrop to a relaxing trip. Windsurfing is among the recreation activities available at the lake, which also has a wide choice of excellent seafood restaurants along its shore. Lake Sevan has a number of popular beaches and, as the country has no coastline, this is the best place in Armenia to sunbathe, with Sevan Bay and its surrounding mountains providing spectacular scenery.
The lake is considered to be one of the largest fresh water lakes in the world at an altitude of 1,897 metres above sea level.

Dilijan national park 
Armenia has four national parks and Dilijan national park may be the most beautiful of the lovely quartet. The park, which was only established in 2002, is famous for its medicinal mineral water springs, as well as its natural monuments. Many of Armenia’s more important cultural locations can be found within the grounds of the park, such as Haghartsin Monastery, Goshavank Monastery and Jukhtak Vank, as well as Matosavank Monastery. The Aghestev and Getik river basins are also both within the boundaries of Dilijan national park.
Dilijan is also a resort town with mild climate, fresh air in the northeast of Yerevan. It is famous for its amazing surroundings, called the “Armenian Switzerland” by the locals, due to the densely forested valleys and mountains with alpine meadows around. It is an excellent centre for walking.

Monasteries are one of Armenia’s defining characteristics and the example at Noravank is one of the most beautiful in the whole country. Sheer brick-red cliffs shield the monastery, which was built in the 13th century. Noravank is famous for its Astvatsatsin (Holy Mother of God) church; while the story goes that the monastery was saved by God himself when Armenia was conquered by the Mongols hundreds of years ago. Noravank would be an extremely good tourist location in Armenia where thousands of people visit every year. 

Armenia’s mountainous scenery makes it ideal for winter sports and the country’s best ski resort can be found at Tsaghkadzor in the heart of the country. Ski lifts are paid for by the ride and are among the most affordable in Europe. Tsaghkadzor boasts some of the finest hotels in the country, while the resort also has one of the nation’s biggest entertainment centres in the form of the Senator Royale casino complex. Tsaghkadzor also has the Kecharis Monastery, which is one of Armenia’s most important religious complexes, dating back to the start of the 11th century.

Upper Azat Valley 
The Upper Azat Valley is one of Armenia’s World Heritage Sites, partly due to the incredible Geghard Monastery for which the region is most famous. The main chapel was built 800 years ago but the history of the monastery goes all the way back to the fourth century, when it was founded by Gregory the Illuminator. 

Geghard Monastery
It is a monastery which is hewn out from a cave. The monastery had been originally named Ayrivank meaning the “the Monastery of the Cave”. The monastery is included in the Unesco World Heritage list. The name commonly used for the monastery today, Geghard, or more fully Geghardavank meaning the Monastery of the Spear.

Garni Pagan Temple
The temple was built by Armenian King Tiridates and was dedicated to the God of Sun Mithra. Garni is the only Hellenistic temple existing nowadays in Armenia. The stairs of the temple are made huge and high which means that every human being climbing up the stairs is condescending to the God. The place is attractive for the wonderful natural rocks, formed of regular cylinders. This composition is called “Symphony of Stones” which one can find anywhere else in the world.

ANKARA: Turkish, German leaders discuss Incirlik airbase in Brussels

Yeni Safak , Turkey

 Turkish, German leaders discuss Incirlik airbase in Brussels

German Chancellor Angela Merkel urged Ankara on Thursday to allow
German lawmakers to visit the troops stationed in Turkey's Incirlik
Air Base.

Merkel met with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Brussels on
the sidelines of NATO leaders' summit, and the two leaders discussed
current problems in bilateral relations, German government spokesman,
Steffen Seibert said in a statement.

"German Chancellor once again pointed out that it is indispensable
that German lawmakers can visit our troops stationed abroad," he said.

Seibert did not give any further details about the discussions between
the two leaders on Incirlik.

Earlier in the day, Merkel had told reporters that she would raise the
issue at a meeting with Erdogan.

"I will tell him that this is something indispensable for us," Merkel stressed.

"Because our army is a parliamentary army. Our lawmakers should be
able to visit our troops. Otherwise we will have to leave Incirlik,"
she added.

Since 2015, Germany has stationed six Tornado surveillance jets and a
tanker aircraft at Incirlik, along with around 260 personnel,
providing intelligence and logistics support for anti-Daesh

Situated in southern Turkey, the base is the main site for launching
airstrikes against Daesh in Syria.

Turkey has been reluctant to give permission for German lawmakers to
visit the base amid ongoing political tensions between Berlin and

Last June, the German parliament approved a controversial motion which
described the deaths of Ottoman Armenians in 1915 as "genocide",
sparking outrage in Turkey.

Most recently, earlier in May, Germany granted political asylum to a
number of Turkish ex-soldiers suspected of involvement in last year's
coup attempt, further straining relations.

Berlin has repeatedly underlined the importance of visit of German
lawmakers with troops stationed abroad, saying the German army was not
under the control of the government, but the parliament.

Zartonk Daily 25.05.2017

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BAKU: Russian expert: Armenia will have to leave territories of Azerbaijan

AzerNews, Azerbaijan

By Rashid Shirinov

The recent Armenian provocation, which resulted in destruction of the Osa surface-to-air missile system of the Armenian Armed Forces by the Azerbaijani side, continues to be widely debated in Armenian media and expert community.

On May 15, an Osa surface-to-air missile system, belonging to the Armenian Air Defense Forces, was taken to a new position on the frontline in the Fuzuli-Khojavand direction, and an attempt was made to take control over the airspace of Azerbaijan.

As a result, the Osa missile system, a re-supply vehicle and personnel of the Armenian Armed Forces were destroyed in order to eliminate the real threat to Azerbaijani aircraft and suppress the enemy’s activity.

This is one of many provocations by Armenia aimed to aggravate the situation on the front line. On April 27, the air defense units of Armenia launched a guided missile from the Osa system in Khojavend-Fuzuli direction of the front. Without hitting any targets, the rocket fell onto an empty section in the territory controlled by Azerbaijan.

Commenting on the recent incident at the contact line, the well-known Russian expert Igor Shatrov told Day.az that today there are many hot spots on the planet; many states have territorial problems that typically arise in the course of violation of the norms of international law by one of the sides. However, in all such conflicts the first step towards a solution was always full and unconditional ceasefire by both sides, noted Shatrov.

“This does not mean that the resolution of the issue will be immediately found, but it is a prerequisite on the way to such a resolution,” the expert said.

Shatrov believes that Armenia will eventually have to fulfill the will of the international community, which is expressed in the four resolutions of the UN Security Council – they demand de-occupation of Azerbaijani territories by Armenia.

“Only this will put an end to the constant provocations on the contact line of troops, which for many years result in losses in manpower and military equipment of both sides,” said Shatrov.

He reminded that Russia is a supporter of the settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by peaceful means and it supports Azerbaijan in the issue of restoration of territorial integrity and inviolability of its borders.

Azerbaijani political scientist Fikrat Sadikhov also commented on the recent provocation of Armenia on the front line. He noted that Armenia is provoking Azerbaijan in every possible way with such attacks.

“In the incident with liquidation of Osa missile system in the occupied territories of Azerbaijan, the Armenian side received a blow in response to its provocation. This case has shown the combat capability of the national army and high technical training of our military personnel,” Sadikhov said.

The expert believes that in the future, the political leadership of Armenia will realize that the results of such provocations created in the line of fire can be disastrous for themselves.

Sadikhov also noted that Russia can contribute to the solution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict by putting pressure on its strategic ally Armenia.

“It is not about severing their alliance with this country, but it would be nice to reconsider some priorities and to approach this issue constructively, with the understanding that the development of relations with Azerbaijan is a more profitable process for Russia,” the expert noted.

Armenia broke out a lengthy war against Azerbaijan by laying territorial claims on its South Caucasus neighbor. Since a war in the early 1990s, Armenian armed forces have occupied 20 percent of Azerbaijan's territory, including Nagorno-Karabakh and seven surrounding regions. More than 20,000 Azerbaijanis were killed and over 1 million were displaced as a result of the large-scale hostilities.

Armenia has not yet implemented four UN Security Council resolutions on withdrawal of its armed forces from the Nagorno-Karabakh and surrounding districts.

Azerbaijan has repeatedly expressed its consent to come to the negotiating table with Armenia to solve the conflict by peaceful means, but Armenia continues to play for time in order to preserve the status quo in Nagorno-Karabakh. Moreover, Armenia tries to provoke and sabotage the Azerbaijan Armed Forces on the contact line, but receives a strong rebuff.