Customs officers seize $5,374 in undeclared gold, silver items on Turkey, Armenia borders

Agenda, Georgia
Jan 11 2024

Georgian customs officers seized ₾14,429 ($5,374) in undeclared gold and silver items on the Sarpi border crossing with Turkey in Georgia’s south-west and the Sadakhlo Border Crossing Point on the country's southern border with Armenia.

The country’s Revenue Service on Thursday said the items – weighing in at about 326,34 grams – were seized during personal and luggage search of Georgian and foreign citizens.

The body added the offenders were fined ₾14,429 ($5,374) for the offence.

New Governor of Armavir named


YEREVAN, JANUARY 11, ARMENPRESS. Mayor of the town of Armavir Davit Khudatyan is set to be appointed Governor of Armavir Province.

The appointment is included in the agenda of the January 11 Cabinet meeting. 

Khudatyan has been the Mayor of Armavir and the President of the Armavir Regional Board of the Civil Contract Party since 2018.

Armenpress: Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia meets with Head of Division for European External Action Service

 21:04, 9 January 2024

YEREVAN, JANUARY 9, ARMENPRESS. Secretary of the Security Council of Armenia Armen Grigoryan on January 9  received the delegation headed by  Rory Domm, Head of Division for European External Action Service, Grigoryan said on social media.

"I welcomed the delegation's visit to Armenia and highlighted the development of Armenia-EU cooperation in the field of security. I emphasized that collaboration with the EU contributes to maintaining a stable security environment in the region,’’ said Security Council Secretary.

Grigoryan added that during the meeting they discussed the process of providing support to Armenia through the European Peace Facility.

Economic growth in 2023 to be around 8,3-8,5%

 16:24, 8 January 2024

YEREVAN, JANUARY 8, ARMENPRESS. Armenia’s economic growth in 2023 will stand around 8,3-8,5%, Economy Minister Vahan Kerobyan has said.

“We assume that economic growth in 2023 will be around 8,3-8,5%,” Kerobyan said at a press conference.

GDP per capita is projected to be $8,280.

In 2017, Armenia was 122nd among 196 countries according to GDP per capita; Armenia improved its position to 112 in 2020, and according to IMF projections the country will be 86th with 2023 data.

‘Armenian Melodies’ Float Wins Grand Marshal Award

Jan 8 2024

The American Armenian Rose Float Association earned the Grand Marshal award for “most outstanding creative concept and float design” for its “Armenian Melodies” float in the 135th Tournament of Roses Parade on New Year’s Day.
Inspired by the strength of Armenian matriarchs throughout history, the float featured dynamic Armenian mother and daughter figures dressed in vibrant, traditional garb, surrounded by important symbols within Armenian heritage and culture. In line with the Tournament of Roses theme, “Celebrating a World of Music,” “Armenian Melodies” showcased several musical instruments endemic to Armenia.
Glendale resident Meline Mailyan rode in the float, which was adorned with symbolic objects including Armenian instruments, birds and pomegranates. Mailyan is on the board of Center for Truth and Justice, an organization that formed to tell the stories of Armenian war survivors.
This was the sixth year the American Armenian Rose Float Association has participated in the Tournament of Roses with the mission of “inspiring, educating and raising awareness around the rich history, traditions and values of the Armenian community” through its floats, as stated on the organization’s website.

First published in the January 6 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

The hardest winter away from Karabakh

Jan 5 2024
January 5, 2024

After Azerbaijan’s latest offensive, the self-proclaimed autonomous republic was canceled and one hundred thousand inhabitants fled en masse, mostly to Armenia. Where “the situation is critical”, says the president of Caritas

Since January 1st, Nagorno Karabakh no longer exists. This land nestled in the mountains of the southern Caucasus, cradle of an ancient people of Armenian ethnicity and Christian faith, has been officially erased from the maps. And its people, after the extremely violent attack by the Azerbaijani army on September 19th, quickly abandoned their homes and belongings. All of it, apart from a few dozen elderly people who – they say – want to die where they have always lived, just like their ancestors, for generations.
“In a few days, over one hundred thousand people poured across the border: we tried to welcome them with dignity, but the situation is critical”, says the director of the Armenian Caritas Gagik Tarasyan. “Today, twenty thousand have managed to reach Russia or some European country, but the others are still here and will most likely stay in the long term.”
What is underway is only the latest, tragic act in the tormented story of the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh – the ancient Armenian name of the area -, which has dragged on between conflicts and armed truces for decades. This region, which for centuries had managed to carve out an autonomy under the domination of Persians and Romans, Byzantines and Arabs, Turks, Tatars, Russians and Azerbaijanis, at the time of the Soviet Union became aoblast inserted into the socialist Republic of Azerbaijan, despite being 97% inhabited by Armenians. It was only with the perestrojka that its inhabitants asked for independence and annexation to Armenia. Serious tensions, pogroms and wars arose. The first (from 1992 to 1994) was won by the Armenians, but in the following years the conflict remained frozen and the negotiations inconclusive, until the Azeri offensive in autumn 2020 marked the defeat of the Karabakh forces and the loss of many districts, including the symbolic city of Sushi.
“That aggression caused, among serious violations of international law, more than 5,000 victims,” recalls Tarasyan. Which underlines: «The Trilateral Declaration on the ceasefire, signed on November 9, 2020 by the Armenian Prime Minister Pashinyan, the Azerbaijani President Aliyev and Vladimir Putin, provided among other things for the safety of the movement of citizens and goods through the Lachin corridor , the only road that guarantees the connection of Nagorno Karabakh with Armenia and the rest of the world.”

But things have gone very differently in the last year. «From December 12, 2022 until the attack last September, the Goris-Stepanakert highway, which crosses the Lachin corridor, was closed by Azerbaijan: for almost ten months, due to the blockade, all inhabitants, including 30 thousand children have suffered from the serious shortage of food, medicines, basic necessities, but also fuel and electricity.” It is these same people, already exhausted from the long period of isolation, who have fled en masse following the latest large-scale Azeri offensive, which on the first day of the attack alone caused 200 deaths and more than 400 injuries. To avoid a tragedy on a scale never seen before, local Armenian leaders had to accept surrender: the pact, agreed with Azerbaijani representatives and Russia, includes the complete disarmament of the self-defense forces and the dissolution of the enclave’s authorities. When, on September 24, the road to the outside world was finally reopened, it took just a few days for the inhabitants of Artsakh to leave their homeland en masse, fearing that in that very land, where culture is so deeply imprinted, the art and faith of the Armenian people, there is no more room for this people.
“Our family had to face the third forced displacement in a few years,” says Razmela, who with her husband and six children found refuge in Yerevan, the capital of Armenia, thanks to the support of Caritas. “Until the 2020 war we lived in Avetaranoc, a village in the Askeran region, where we had a beautiful house and worked as farmers,” recalls the woman. «Then, the area was occupied by Azerbaijan and we fled to Armenia. Months later, we returned home to settle in Dahrav, where we bought a small house and renovated it with our savings: there we started a new livestock and agriculture business. We didn’t imagine that we would have to relive the terrible experience of being displaced.”

Instead, Razmela and her family had no choice. Together with their father-in-law – and also bringing their dog with them – nine of them traveled for 26 hours in an old Soviet-era car, until they reached Armenia again. «But this time we lost everything we had built over a lifetime – she sighs. We currently live in a tiny 20m2 apartment and my eldest son earns some money working in the construction sector, but unfortunately my husband has health problems and it is very difficult for me to find a job, so we survive thanks to the help of some humanitarian organisations” .

Since the beginning of the emergency, Caritas has mobilized to meet the enormous needs of refugees, integrating its interventions with those of the government – supported by funding from the European Union and countries such as the United States and Canada – and NGOs local and foreign. The director says: «In the first weeks we had to respond to basic needs, providing hot meals to over five thousand people, water, blankets and sheets, but also medical and psychological assistance and immediate shelter. Then, with the arrival of winter, we had to organize ourselves to meet the most vulnerable groups in particular, such as the elderly, children and people with disabilities: among other things, we help pay electricity bills and distribute voucher for use in supermarkets. Thanks to a project supported by Caritas Internationalis we are assisting around six thousand displaced people between Yerevan and the provinces of Syunik – on the border with Azerbaijan – and Ararat, where many have settled because the climate is milder”.

But after the initial phase of emergency reception will come the even more complex phase of sustainable integration, given that “many of these refugees are destined to remain in the long term”. The imperative, therefore, shifts towards “the creation of a reliable source of income, with support for employment and entrepreneurship, and the finding of adequate housing”. This is not an easy prospect: today refugees make up almost 3% of the entire Armenian population. «And even the local people, particularly in the North of the country, live in very precarious social conditions, not to mention the twenty thousand refugees from the previous conflict, who often still live in the container», underlines Tarasyan. The current surge in requests for housing, which adds to the effects of the arrival of thousands of Russians following the war in Ukraine, has caused house prices to rise, to the obvious discontent of the people.

«The massive influx of these desperate people from Artsakh – reflects the director of Caritas – is destined to have a far-reaching impact on the socio-economic landscape of the country, which is already extremely vulnerable for various reasons, especially the dependence on global factors outside its control, including climate change, supply chain disruptions and exchange rate fluctuations.”

And while the crisis of the displaced people of Nagorno Karabakh has taken a back seat in the awareness of the international community – and that of donors -, focused on the Ukrainian tragedy and the Middle East in flames, public opinion in Yerevan does not hide the discontent for the President Pashinyan’s choice to renounce a land that is symbolic of the Armenian collective memory. There is fear of the destruction of ancient monasteries, churches, cemeteries with their Khachkar, the traditional crosses carved in stone. The Azerbaijani president promised a “peaceful reintegration” with “equal rights and freedoms for all, regardless of faith”. But Aliyev’s words could not erase the image of him trampling the flag of Artsakh and raising that of Azerbaijan in the deserted capital Stepanakert, after renaming its main street in honor of Enver Pasha, one of the triumvirs who organized the genocide Armenian of 1915.

Armenpress: Iran says at least 103 people killed, 141 wounded in explosions at ceremony honoring slain general

 19:46, 3 January 2024

YEREVAN, JANUARY 3, ARMENPRESS. Iranian state media said Wednesday at least 103 people have been killed by explosions minutes apart targeting a commemoration for a prominent general slain in a U.S. drone strike in 2020.

Another 141 were wounded,  Iranian media reports.

The blasts struck an event marking the the fourth anniversary of the killing of Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, who died in a U.S. drone strike in Iraq in January 2020.

The explosions occurred near his grave site in Kerman, about 510 miles southeast of the capital, Tehran.

2 trillion 221 billion drams in tax revenue collected in 2023 – SRC chief

 12:34, 4 January 2024

YEREVAN, JANUARY 4, ARMENPRESS. The State Revenue Committee (SRC) of Armenia collected 2 trillion 221 billion drams in tax revenues in 2023, which is 296 billion drams more compared to the previous year, SRC Chairman Rustam Badasyan told reporters Thursday.

“The revenue section of the state budget was executed around the figure of 2 trillion 221 billion drams in terms of tax revenues, which is around 296 billion drams more compared to the previous year,” Badasyan said.

He added that the government projects the tax-to-GDP ratio to improve significantly , which, according to Badasyan, means that the shadow economy is being reduced.

Badasyan said that billions of drams have been recovered from shadow circulation in 2023, which in turn positively impacted tax discipline.

Mob attacks Armenian Christians amid Jerusalem land dispute, patriarchate says

The Christian Post
Jan 1 2024

The head of the Armenian church in Jerusalem says a mob of more than two dozen men attacked the site of a local real estate dispute in what officials called a "massive and coordinated attack."

Over 30 "armed provocateurs in ski-masks with lethal and less-than-lethal weaponry" attacked clergymen and other members of the Armenian Christian community Thursday at the site of a controversial land sale in Jerusalem's Armenian Quarter, the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem said in a statement.

Known as the Cow's Garden, the site has been at the center of a dispute between the centuries-old Armenian Christian community and an Australian Israeli investor looking to build a hotel on the land. 

The patriarchate said that attackers used "powerful nerve-agents that have incapacitated dozens of our clergy broke into the grounds of the Cow's Garden and began their vicious assault."

Several priests, Armenian Theological Academy students and indigenous Armenians were "seriously injured," the statement adds. 

Patriarchate officials blamed the attack on real estate developer Danny Rothman's response to "legal procedures" involving the site. Announced in November, the land deal was criticized by the Patriarchs and Heads of the Churches in Jerusalem, who expressed concern that such development could weaken the Christian presence in the Holy Land.

"This is the criminal response we have received for the submission of a lawsuit to the District Court of Jerusalem for the Cow's Garden," the statement read. "This is how the Australian-Israeli businessman Danny Rothman (Rubenstein) and George Warwar (Hadad) react to legal procedures."

"The Armenian Patriarchate's existential threat is now a physical reality. Bishops, Priests, Deacons, Seminarians, and indigenous Armenians are fighting for their very lives on the ground."

Police told The Jerusalem Post that arrests were made on both sides but no one was officially charged, saying the incident involved Muslim men. 

“There was an unfortunate incident where some Arab Muslim men and some men from the Armenian community got into a brawl in the old city of Jerusalem,” Deputy Mayor Fleur Hassan-Nahoum told The Post. “Police came promptly to separate the parties, and arrests were made on both sides.

“The city of Jerusalem will not tolerate any criminal activity, whether religiously motivated or otherwise, and the police will prosecute those responsible,” she said.

Video shared on social media showed attackers clothed in all black hurling stones at local Armenians and assaulting others. 

The patriarchate called on world leaders and the international media to help "save the Armenian Quarter from a violent demise that is being locally supported by unnamed entities."

The head of the Armenian Church in Jerusalem signed the deal in July 2021, but the community learned of it only when surveyors appeared earlier this year. The church leader claims he was misled and is pursuing legal measures to annul the contract. A priest involved was defrocked in May.

"The provocations that are being used by the alleged developers to deploy incendiary tactics threaten to erase the Armenian presence in the area, weakening and endangering the Christian presence in the Holy Land," officials said in a statement.

A statement released by the World Council of Churches (WCC) called the attacks a "distressing escalation of violence and [a] severe infringement of the rights and dignities of the communities in the Armenian Quarter."

"It is imperative to uphold the rights of all people and to prevent any forced displacements, ensuring the preservation of the diverse cultural and religious tapestry that defines Jerusalem and Palestinian territories," said WCC general secretary Rev. Prof. Dr Jerry Pillay. 

"The World Council of Churches stands in unwavering solidarity with the Armenian Patriarchate of Jerusalem. We pray for a just peace and for the strength and resilience of the communities under threat." 

Home to about 1,000 residents, the Armenian Quarter dates back to the fourth century and is home to St. James' Cathedral. Armenians hold equal rights in Jerusalem's Holy Christian sites since Armenia is believed to be the first nation to adopt Christianity in 301.

Some of the quarter's residents trace their heritage back to those original pilgrims or refugees who fled the Armenian genocide in the early 20th century.

Tehran confirms transfer of six prisoners from Armenia to Iran

Iran – Dec 22 2023

TEHRAN- The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs announced on Friday that six Iranian citizens who had been imprisoned in Armenia have been repatriated to Iran. 

Following the follow-up of the Islamic Republic of Iran's embassy in Yerevan and with the assistance of the Armenian government, the six Iranian nationals were transferred to Iran under the framework of an agreement on the transfer of sentenced persons after undergoing legal procedures.
The repatriation of Iranian citizens is the second such action taken this year, with an Armenian national who had been imprisoned in Iran also being transferred to Yerevan on December 19.

The repatriation of these individuals underscores cooperation between Iran and Armenia in the field of judicial matters.