President Sargsyan meets UN Under-Secretary-General Shamshad Akhtar

Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan received today Shamshad Akhtar, UN Under-Secretary-General, Executive Secretary of the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific.

The interlocutors discussed issues related to the cooperation between Armenia and the Commission. President Sargsyan stressed the importance of the Commission’s activity and reiterated Armenia’s willingness to develop the cooperation.

Noting that the Asian and Asia-Pacific regions are facing a serious challenge hampering the economic development, Serzh Sargsyan attached importance to the effort towards forming a common agenda, working out a comprehensive program to resist the challenges.

President Sargsyan assured that “Armenia is willing to make its modest participation in the process.” Mrs. Akhtar said she’s grateful for Armenia’s readiness to cooperate.

She briefed on the Commission’s future programs towards ensuring steady development in the region and the measures to be taken towards that end. She attached importance to the economic vision and political commitments of the countries of the region.

The parties also stressed the importance of regional integration and development of cooperation.

Prospects of Syrian-Armenian cultural cooperation discussed

Syria’s Higher Education Minister Mohammad Amer al-Mardini discussed on Sunday with Armenian Ambassador in Damascus Arshak Poladian means to enhance scientific and research cooperation between Syria and Armenia, reports.

Both sides touched on the prospects of renewing the executive program on cultural cooperation between the two countries.

The minister said it is important, given the deep historical ties binding the two countries, that cooperation be activated and mutual visits of scientific delegations to universities in Syria and Armenia be further encouraged.

He also called for increasing the number of scholarships and boosting student exchange program to enhance the scientific capabilities in the fields of applied sciences and Armenian language and literature.

The need to renew the executive program on cultural cooperation was echoed by the Armenian Ambassador, who also stressed the necessity to promote cooperation with Syria, appreciating the cultural and humanitarian role of the Syrian people in supporting the Armenian people throughout history.

Armenia calls for activation of transport corridors in the region

Armenian Minister of Transport and Communications Gagik Beglaryan on Tuesday called for activation of regional transport corridors between Iran, Armenia, central Asian countries and the Persian Gulf, reports.

Beglaryan held a meeting with Minister of Roads and Urban Development Abbas Akhundi.
Beglaryan told reporters that he discussed ways to activate Persian Gulf corridor to the Black Sea to develop transit passage for the regional countries.

‘I am confident that the outcome of joint cooperation on transport would be very positive. Armenia intends to construct suitable roads to promote transit in the region.’

Beglaryan said that the two sides discussed cooperation on railways and transit of goods in light of the capacities of the regional states railway networks.

The Armenian minister said that in talks with Iranian minister, he reached agreement on fixed transport tariffs for the two countries.

Former comedian Jimmy Morales inaugurated as new Guatemala president

Guatemalan former TV comedian Jimmy Morales has been inaugurated as the country’s new president, the BBC reports.

He was elected in October after huge anti-corruption demonstrations that led to the prosecution of a former president and vice-president.

Mr Morales has no previous experience in government. In his inaugural address, he promised to fight against corruption.

US Vice-President Joe Biden attended the ceremony.

It was the first time in 30 years that such a high-ranking American official was present at a Guatemalan inauguration.

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Morales praised the anti-corruption movement and said Guatemala was going through a “renaissance”.

He also promised money for health and education. “We want quality education for everyone, which prepares our children for a modern technical world.”

Pakistan suicide blast ‘kills 12’ in Mardan

A suicide attack at a government office in northwest Pakistan has killed at least 12 people, officials say, the BBC reports.

A bomber on a motorbike reportedly drove into the gate of the National Database and Registration Authority in Mardan.

“The death toll stands at 12 now, many others are injured,” district police chief Faisal Shahzad said.

The attack is one of worst since a security crackdown following the Peshawar school massacre a year ago.

Azerbaijan fired more than 2,000 shots in the direction of Armenian positions last night

The Azerbaijani side fired more than 2,000 shots from artillery weapons of different caliber in the direction of the Armenian positions during clashes at the line of contact with the Karabakh forces last night.

The Azerbaijani side used Zu-23-2 missile units, 82mm mortars and HAN-17 grenades.

The front divisions of the NKR Defense Army keep full control of the situation at the frontline and confidently continue with their military duty all along the line of contact.

Sargsyan-Aliyev meeting was a chance to clarify positions, Co-Chairs say

The OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs issued the following statement after the meeting of the Armenian and Azerbaijani Presidents held in Bern today:

The President of the Republic of Armenia Serzh Sargsian and the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev held a summit today in Bern under the auspices of the Co-Chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group (Ambassadors Igor Popov of the Russian Federation, James Warlick of the United States of America, and Pierre Andrieu of France).  The Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Ambassador Andrzej Kasprzyk also participated in the summit.

The summit created an opportunity for the Presidents to clarify their respective positions during their one-on-one meeting.

The Presidents discussed recent violence and expressed particular concern about casualties, including civilians, caused by the use of heavy weapons.  The Presidents supported the Co-Chairs’ ongoing work on proposals regarding measures to reduce the risk of violence along the Line of Contact and Armenia-Azerbaijan border, including an investigation mechanism.

The Presidents confirmed their readiness to continue engagement on proposals regarding a settlement currently under negotiation.  They also reaffirmed their commitment to the Minsk Group format.

The Co-Chairs remain ready to work with the sides on mediating a peaceful, negotiated settlement to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

Helsinki Commission Chair introduces bill on Baku sanctions

Asbarez – Following years of systematic efforts by the Government of Azerbaijan to eliminate the voices of independent journalists, opposition politicians, and civil society groups, Helsinki Commission Chair Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) Wednesday introduced H.R. 4264, the , a landmark bill that will deny U.S. visas to senior members of the Azerbaijani government.

“We recognize that there are important national security and economic ties that exist between our two countries, but the United States can no longer remain blind to the appalling human rights violations that are taking place in Azerbaijan,” said Rep. Smith. “Journalists and activists are routinely arrested and imprisoned; opposition politicians are in jail and elections are not free and fair; human rights lawyers have been harassed and disbarred; and religious freedom is under attack.  The Azerbaijan Democracy Act demonstrates that the United States takes human rights and fundamental freedoms seriously, and that we will not compromise when faced by a government that represses the political opposition, the media, and religious minorities.”

In addition to denying U.S. visas to senior leaders of the Government of Azerbaijan, those who derive significant financial benefit from business dealings with senior leadership, and members of the security or judicial branches, the Azerbaijan Democracy Act also expresses the sense of Congress that financial penalties should be considered. Sanctions could be lifted when the Azerbaijani government shows substantial progress toward releasing political prisoners, ending its harassment of civil society, and holding free and fair elections.

“It is unacceptable that senior members of the Azerbaijani government are free to visit the United States while courageous women and men like investigative journalist Khadija Ismayilova, attorney Intigam Aliyev, opposition politician Ilgar Mammadov, and activist Anar Mammadli are locked away in prisons with inadequate access to legal or even medical assistance,” Rep. Smith said. “If they can pay the price for standing up for human rights, the least we can do is to stand with them.”

Rep. Smith is a long-standing advocate for human rights in Azerbaijan. Following the introduction of today’s legislation he will chair a 2PM hearing to examine Azerbaijan’s persecution of Ms. Ismayilova, who was sentenced to 7.5 years in prison in early September.

“We welcome Congressman Smith’s leadership in introducing the Azerbaijani Democracy Act,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian.  “This measure, aimed first and foremost at protecting the rights of Azerbaijani citizens, can, in a broader sense, also potentially contribute to prospects for regional peace, by requiring that the United States – and our international partners – hold Ilham Aliyev and his regime accountable.  The fact is that Azerbaijan’s domestic repression mirrors its regional aggression.  We need to challenge both.

Armenia to file a second application to put Kochari dance on UNESCO Heritage List

Picture by Edward Artsrunyan


The application on inclusion of the “Kochari: The traditional group dance” in UNESCO Representative List of the Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity was discussed within the framework of the 10th session of the Committee for Safeguarding of Intangible Cultural Heritage held in Windhoek, Namibia.

The Committee reviews its stance on the initial decision of the expert group thanks to the arguments presented by the Armenian delegation, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Armenia reports.

As a result of discussions between the members of the Committee, the experts and the Armenian delegation, the Committee confirmed that “being an expression of national identity, the Kochari group dance is widely spread in Armenia and the Diaspora.” Armenia will present an amended application for further consideration of the Committee.

Russia offers $50 mln reward for info on Sinai plane attackers

Photo by AFP/Maxim Grigoryev


Russia’s federal security service (FSB) on Tuesday said it would pay $50 million for information about “terrorists” who brought down the plane in Sinai last month with 224 people on board, AFP reports.

The FSB appealed for “help in identifying the terrorists” that exploded a bomb on the A321 plane travelling from Egypt to Russia. “There will be a reward of $50 million for information helping to arrest the criminals,” it said on its website.