Armenian Minister Narek Mkrtchyan says expanding ties with India remains a top priority

Feb 27 2024
India Blooms News Service | @indiablooms 27 Feb 2024, 10:25 am

Armenia’s labour minister Narek Mkrtchyan, who recently visited New Delhi to participate in the Raisina Dialogue, has said deepening and expanding ties with India remains a top priority for his nation's foreign policy agenda.

He said the longstanding friendship and mutual support between India and Armenia have strengthened continuously over the past three decades.

Mkrtchyan was speaking last week in New Delhi at Raisina Dialogue, India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics hosted by the Observer Research Foundation, an independent think tank, in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs of India.

He said both nations have experienced a significant boost in political dialogue.

"The longstanding friendship and mutual support between our countries have strengthened continuously over the past three decades, with the last three years experiencing a significant boost, especially in political dialogue. Deepening and expanding ties with India remains a top priority in Armenia's foreign policy agenda," the minister said in his Raisina Dialogue speech.

"The inter-governmental commission between Armenia and India has gained new momentum in areas like economy, technology, social protection, education, and culture, with enhanced engagement between sectoral departments. Mutual respect for each other's cultures and the preservation of Armenian heritage in India foster collaboration and projects to promote cultural exchange and appreciation," he said.

Tourism and AI

He said both India and Armenia should focus on the tourism sector which has the potential to boost economic growth.

"Direct flights between our countries would be a significant facilitator in this regard," Narek Mkrtchyan said.

He said both nations could collaborate in Artificial Intelligence.

"Armenia and India have the potential to collaborate on AI for social good, addressing sectors like healthcare, agriculture, environmental conservation, and urban planning," the Minister said.

"They could also potentially establish a global AI innovation platform to facilitate the sharing of solutions and research, thereby fostering social benefits through international collaboration," he said.

He said Armenia's historical position as a hub connecting North to South and West to East has made it a key player in trade and cultural exchanges.

The Minister said: "Recognizing this legacy, the Armenian government is committed to forming partnerships in major regional and global projects like the North-South International Transport Corridor, the Persian Gulf-Black Sea Transport and Transit Corridor, and the Chabahar Port Development, which is a collaborative effort between India and Iran that includes Armenia as well. With its strategic road network, Armenia is ideally positioned to make significant contributions to these initiatives. To this end, the government is focused on revitalizing and modernizing its infrastructure through the North-South Road Corridor Investment Program, with the goal of boosting Armenia's capacity and securing its active participation in these critical international initiatives."

Raisina Dialogue

The 9th edition of the Raisina Dialogue was held between February 21- 23.

The Raisina Dialogue is India’s flagship conference on geopolitics and geo-economics, committed to addressing the most challenging issues facing the international community.

The 9th Raisina Dialogue witnessed the participation of representatives from over 100 countries.

Baku’s aim is to keep tension in the region: Armenia FM at UN Council


YEREVAN, 27 FEBUARY, ARMENPRESS. There is continuous bellicose rhetoric and military escalation provoked by Azerbaijan following earlier incursions into the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. The impunity of the illegal use of force resulted in new territorial claims against Armenia. Nowadays, the whole territory of the Republic of Armenia is presented as so-called “Western Azerbaijan”, which was invented with a pure intention to keep tension in the region. 

Foreign Minister of Armenia Ararat Mirzoyan said in his address at the High-Level Segment of the 55th regular session of the UN Human Rights Council, the foreign ministry said.

The address reads as follows:

"Armenia congratulates the newly elected Bureau of the Human Rights Council under the Presidency of H.E. Ambassador Omar Zniber of Morocco and wishes all the best at the helm of this august body.

A year ago, from this very stage, the UN Secretary-General warned of rising public disregard and private disdain for human rights. He called to stand on the right side of history, to stand up for the human rights of everyone, everywhere.

Indeed, the world becomes a dangerous place when adherence to human rights declines, when our common principles and norms, particularly international law, international human rights and humanitarian law, are ignored and violated on a massive scale.  

Armenia views this august Council as one of the key pillars of the protection and promotion of human rights worldwide. It is in this vein that at this session, Armenia presents a new iteration of Genocide Prevention resolution. We believe that the HRC should continue its contribution to the international efforts of countering the scourge of genocide, not least through exploring ways of enhancing early warning and early action capacities. And this is the main thrust of the new draft. We count on the wide support to this noble goal.

Mr. President,

Since 2020 the international human rights law and international humanitarian law have been continuously violated in our region. In the course of the last three and half years, the people of Nagorno-Karabakh suffered from war of aggression, extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, starvation and other forms of inhumane treatment. It endured a ten-month-long blockade of the Lachin corridor, the only connection to Armenia and the world, and then was subjected to renewed hostilities, which resulted in the ethnic cleansing of the indigenous Armenian population of the region.

We have been witnessing such a policy of Azerbaijan since the 80s of last century. In fact, today, we commemorate the victims of Sumgait pogroms. Together with similar acts in Baku, Kirovabad and other Armenian-populated cities of Azerbaijan, around 360 thousand Armenians were forced to flee their homes, deprived of all their rights, including the right to property, and find refuge in Armenia. Earlier, due to the same-style implemented policy, Armenians left their homes in Nakhijevan. 

Ladies and Gentlemen,

In the case of Nagorno-Karabakh, there was no shortage of early warning signs of the looming atrocities. The list includes statements from the UN Secretary-General, the High Commissioner for Human Rights and Special Advisor to the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide, Orders of ICJ, public communications of UN Special Procedure Mandate Holders. 

However, this was not enough for the international community, and I quote the Secretary General again, “to stand on the right side of history, to stand up for human rights”. Approximately 145.000 people were forcibly displaced from Nagorno-Karabakh and relocated to Armenia between 2020 and 2023. Here I should state that the Government of Armenia undertakes all necessary actions to address the needs and rights of these people. Together with dealing with the short-term challenges-providing access to education, social protection, healthcare system, supporting their housing difficulties, we are already planning concrete actions to address mid-term and long-term needs aimed at further integration of Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

There are more than thousand missing persons and enforced disappearances on the Armenian side from the wars of the 1990s and 2020. We have 23 prisoners of war and other detainees in Azerbaijan. We have an immense risk of destruction of Armenian cultural and religious heritage that the UN Special Rapporteur has recently warned: “may amount to cultural cleansing.”

There is continuous bellicose rhetoric and military escalation provoked by Azerbaijan following earlier incursions into the sovereign territory of the Republic of Armenia. The impunity of the illegal use of force resulted in new territorial claims against Armenia. Nowadays, the whole territory of the Republic of Armenia is presented as so-called “Western Azerbaijan”, which was invented with a pure intention to keep tension in the region.

Nevertheless, Armenia is committed to the peace agenda and will not deviate from it. We are convinced that mutual recognition of territorial integrity and inviolability of borders based on the 1991 Almaty declaration and delimitation of the interstate border based on the most recent and legitimate maps of the USSR is the only path towards peace and stability in our region. We also do believe that the opening of all regional communications that respect sovereignty and jurisdiction of states and is based on the principles of equality and reciprocity can create additional interdependencies complementing the stability of the South Caucasus and wider region. To that end, the Government of Armenia introduced the “Crossroads of Peace” initiative once again reaffirming our genuine interest and political will to unblock all the transport links. 

Concluding, I would like to underline that against all odds and challenges, we have been facing, Armenia continues its path towards the consolidation of democracy, and we are proud of the remarkable achievements that have been registered. The recent accession to the Rome Statute is only one, albeit a major step in this regard that stands as the token of our unwavering commitment to uphold human rights. Armenia is also taking considerable steps to further strengthen the rights of women, children, and other vulnerable groups, improve labor rights and social protection mechanisms. 

And I thank you."

Armenia’s CSTO Membership Freeze: A Rift in Russian-Armenian Relations?

Feb 23 2024
Safak Costu

As the morning sun casts its first rays over the Kremlin, the political atmosphere within seems as frosty as the air outside. Armenia's recent announcement to 'freeze' its participation in the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) has sent shockwaves through the corridors of power in Moscow, challenging the longstanding alliance between Russia and Armenia. This move, articulated by Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan, has sparked a flurry of diplomatic exchanges, with Russia seeking a comprehensive explanation and openly criticizing Armenia's decision.

At the core of this diplomatic rift is Armenia's dissatisfaction with the CSTO, particularly its perceived failure to fulfill obligations towards Yerevan. Prime Minister Pashinyan's bold statement on 'freezing participation' underscores a growing frustration with the organization's response—or lack thereof—to Armenia's security concerns. This decision, announced in a recent interview, has left Moscow scrambling for answers, with the Russian Foreign Ministry strongly rejecting the criticisms and emphasizing the need for confidential dialogue to resolve any issues within the framework of their partnership.

Complicating matters further is Armenia's choice to invite observers from the European Union for security consultations, a move seen by Russia as a pointed critique of the CSTO's effectiveness. This decision not only highlights a potential shift in Yerevan's geopolitical alliances but also raises questions about the future of Russian-Armenian relations. The situation is further nuanced by Pashinyan's comments on the challenges of achieving peace with Azerbaijan, suggesting that Armenia is reevaluating its strategic partnerships in light of ongoing regional tensions.

Russia's reaction to Armenia's announcement has been one of both concern and criticism. The Russian Foreign Ministry's call for a comprehensive explanation from Armenia reflects Moscow's desire to maintain its influence in the region and uphold the CSTO's integrity. However, Russia's outright rejection of Armenian criticisms and its emphasis on resolving concerns through dialogue suggest an attempt to downplay the severity of the rift, perhaps in hopes of preserving the alliance's facade of unity.

The Kremlin's response also highlights a broader geopolitical chess game, with Russia keen on preventing any erosion of its sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space. Armenia's flirtation with the European Union, albeit for security consultations, raises the specter of a realignment that could diminish Russia's leverage in the South Caucasus. Thus, Moscow's diplomatic maneuvering in the wake of Yerevan's announcement can be seen as part of a larger effort to reassert its dominance and discourage further defections from its orbit.

In the midst of this diplomatic quagmire, the importance of open and confidential dialogue cannot be overstated. Russia's call for a constructive approach to address the issues within the CSTO framework underscores the potential for reconciliation, albeit through a process of negotiations that could test the resilience of Russian-Armenian relations. The hope that Armenia will recognize the importance of resolving concerns through dialogue offers a glimmer of optimism in an otherwise tense situation.

As both nations navigate this challenging chapter, the international community watches closely, aware that the outcome could have far-reaching implications for regional stability and the balance of power in the South Caucasus. The path forward is uncertain, but what remains clear is the need for honest communication and a willingness to address the underlying issues that have led to this moment of reckoning.

The Plight of Nagorno-Karabakh

Feb 20 2024
By James Cowan

The South Caucasus is not just a political minefield; some areas are literally littered with unexploded munitions. The UK-US landmine clearance charity, HALO, tries to help, says the organization’s CEO, retired British army General James Cowan. 

It was a deadly accident in the rugged Caucasus mountain region south of Russia.   

 After September’s lightning incursions by the Armed Forces of Azerbaijan into the contested territory of Nagorno-Karabakh, over 100,000 Karabakhi Armenians were fleeing their homes towards the safety of neighboring Armenia.  

There was only one road out and that was now packed with vehicles – a traffic jam from hell. Among those in the bumper-to-bumper queue were nearly 100 employees of the HALO Trust, the landmine clearance charity I head, and who were fleeing with their families. 

As the traffic jam out of Nagorno-Karabakh shuddered once again to a halt, a woman traveling in an SUV got out of the back door to get some air.    

Behind the car was a truck. Its driver stepped out of his cab. Somehow, his handbrake disengaged, and the truck rolled forward. The woman was crushed and died. 

Also in the car were the woman’s husband, a senior HALO deminer, and their two children. Our colleague had to put his children in another car and drive the dead body of his wife into Armenia.   

Stories of loss and tragedy were all too common as a whole population fled, with reports of hundreds dead or injured following an explosion at a fuel depot near the largest city, Stepanakert. Most of the people in the huge column of vehicles were also hungry and exhausted. For almost a year, Nagorno-Karabakh had been blockaded. Grocery shops had empty shelves and a lack of fuel meant vital farm machinery was idle; crops were rotting in the fields. People had to queue for many hours to get the simplest of things such as bread.   

HALO has been working in Nagorno-Karabakh since 2000. Our main job was to clear landmines in the fertile soil which once grew grain, or boasted pomegranate orchards. These areas where tanks and armored personnel carriers had done their deadly work were littered with mines.     

We also made roads and schools safe so teachers could explain the dangers of unexploded munitions to the next generation. Over a two-decade period, HALO cleared deadly mines and other ordnance from over 300 square kilometers of land (that’s about the size of 30,000 Premier League soccer pitches) across Nagorno-Karabakh.    

Our work aimed to restore some normality and make life safe and enjoyable for everyone. It’s not really normal to worry about exploding munitions when you go for a walk or play games.  

The conflict had simmered for decades after the end of the first war in 1994 but Azerbaijan resumed full-scale hostilities in September 2020, with a surprise air and land attack. We immediately focused our efforts on clearing the most populous areas of deadly munitions, including Stepanakert.   

But since September’s exodus of its Armenian population, all of HALO’s work in Nagorno-Karabakh has now been stopped. Our staff and their families, along with the over 100,000 people living there, have left. As a result of the deteriorated security situation, they have all been effectively deprived of their right to their land and their homes.  

Armenia is a poor country and remains extremely dependent on Russia for trade and energy supplies, although it has maintained good relations with the West as well.  

As I write, it’s unclear whether the Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh will be able to return to their homes. At the moment, it doesn’t look promising. Instead, they are likely to settle in the State of their ethnic kin and perhaps hope that one day things will change. Either way, they and the Armenian government will need considerable Western aid to ease their transition.  

The death of my colleague’s wife was bad enough — two other HALO employees were also killed around the same time in the fuel depot explosion. But over 100,000 other people have also lost their homes and their land. In the words of a senior HALO staffer who worked in Nagorno-Karabakh;

 “They have left their lives behind. They have lost their past, and maybe their future as well.”  

Major General James Cowan left the British Army to join the HALO Trust as its chief executive in 2015. The landmine clearance charity was founded in 1988 in Afghanistan and achieved global prominence when Princess Diana visited its operations in Angola. Under James’s leadership HALO has increased its global workforce by a third to some 11,000 people and expanded from operations in 17 countries to 29. The organization’s work has saved the lives and limbs of more than two million people.  

Europe’s Edge is CEPA’s online journal covering critical topics on the foreign policy docket across Europe and North America. All opinions are those of the author and do not necessarily represent the position or views of the institutions they represent or the Center for European Policy Analysis.

Central Bank of Armenia: exchange rates and prices of precious metals – 19-02-24


YEREVAN, 19 FEBUARY, ARMENPRESS. The Central Bank of Armenia informs “Armenpress” that today, 19 February, USD exchange rate down by 0.05 drams to 404.37 drams. EUR exchange rate up by 0.23 drams to 435.71 drams. Russian Ruble exchange rate up by 0.02 drams to 4.38 drams. GBP exchange rate up by 1.03 drams to 510.11 drams.

The Central Bank has set the following prices for precious metals.

Gold price down by 83.18 drams to 25974.29 drams. Silver price up by 4.97 drams to 299.15 drams.

AW: Leaping over the flames on “Trndez” in Armenia

Armenians gathered on February 13 outside Saint Anna Church in Yerevan and Holy Mother of God Church in Garni to celebrate “Trndez,” a festival with ancient roots tied to Zoroastrian traditions venerating the sun and fire. 

This occasion marks the onset of spring and fertility, carrying a tapestry of folk beliefs. For newlyweds, it holds particular significance as they leap over flames, believing that if touched, they will soon be blessed with children. It has been observed that the weather traditionally begins to warm after this day.

Trndez’s history is rich, tracing back to Zoroastrian and Pagan origins, predating Armenia’s conversion to Christianity in 301 A.D. Originally named “Derendez,” it was later christened “Dyarnuntarach,” meaning “bringing forward of the Lord.” The term “Trndez” itself carries the essence of “the Lord is with you.”

Commemorations typically include church services followed by the lighting of bonfires, symbolizing divine light and warmth and the advent of spring and fertility. Participants encircle these fires, jumping over them as a ritual. “Dyarnuntarach” is intricately linked with the purification feast of the Armenian Apostolic and Catholic Churches, celebrated 40 days after the nativity. It commemorates the presentation of the Lord to the Temple by Mary and Joseph and the confirmation of Jesus’ revelation as God.

Anthony Pizzoferrato is an Italian American freelance photojournalist, documentarian and filmmaker based in Yerevan, Armenia. His work places emphasis on reporting and documenting conflicts, political events, complex social issues, human rights and cultural history within post-Soviet states and the Middle East while creating understanding, intimacy and empathy. His work on the war in Ukraine and protests in Yerevan has been published in Getty Reportage.

Armenian Diaspora Online Survey 2024 is looking for your participation

Aleksandr V. Gevorkyan, Ph.D. has recently launched his 2024 Armenian Diaspora Online Survey, an update based on his earlier survey from 2015-2018. 

The purpose of the survey is “to learn more about the Armenian Diaspora’s willingness to engage with Armenia’s economic, social and cultural development” and is “open to all participants of ethnic Armenian origin in the U.S. and globally.” You can read more about Dr. Gevorkyan’s diaspora-related research here.

Everyone is encouraged to participate in the 2024 survey and to disseminate it to your networks to maximize the number of responses. 

Dr. Gevorkyan’s research is not funded by any individual or group and is part of his independent research on Diaspora and development. His most recent article in the Weekly, “Diaspora: identity, trust, engagement infrastructure and socio-economic development in the homeland,” was published in October 2023.

Dr. Gevorkyan is Henry George Chair in Economics and Associate Professor of Economics at the Department of Economics and Finance of St. John’s University’s Peter J. Tobin College of Business. He is the author of Transition Economies: Transformation, Development, and Society in Eastern Europe and the Former Soviet Union (Routledge, 2018).

Armenia’s Pashinyan congratulates new Georgian PM

 15:31, 9 February 2024

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 9, ARMENPRESS. Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan has congratulated the new Georgian Prime Minister Irakli Kobakhidze on assuming office.

“Congratulations to the newly appointed Prime Minister of Georgia Irakli Kobakhidze,” Pashinyan said in a post on X. “I expect the Armenian-Georgian strategic partnership, which is based on the common values, strong friendship and the idea of democracy, to strengthen further.”

The Georgian parliament on Thursday approved Irakli Kobakhidze, the former Chair of the ruling Georgian Dream party, as the Prime Minister of Georgia, following the resignation of PM Irakli Garibashvili.

World changed since the adoption of the current Constitution: Prime Minister

 18:29, 7 February 2024

YEREVAN, FEBRUARY 7, ARMENPRESS.  During the question-and-answer session with the government in the National Assembly on Wednesday, the Prime Minister of Armenia Nikol Pashinyan noted that a thesis is being developed that changing the Constitution is being done to sign a peace treaty.

"In terms of the signing of the peace treaty, even if such problems exist, they have been resolved. There is an agreed article in the text of the peace treaty stating that the parties cannot refer to their own legislation to avoid fulfilling any of their obligations under this treaty. The issue here is not and cannot be about the peace treaty at all," said Pashinyan.

The Prime Minister noted that while the Constitution primarily governs internal affairs, it also regulates foreign relations, as is the case with the Constitution of any country. The current Armenian Constitution also provides guidelines for foreign relations.

“Every Constitution also has external effects. But connections there work completely differently," said Pashinyan.

The Prime Minister emphasized that Armenia should think about its relations with the external world in new conditions.

"Nothing in the world is the same as it was under the conditions of the adoption of the current Constitution; no foreign relations are the same," Pashinyan said, adding that this is not only about Armenia.

According to the Prime Minister, none of the Constitutions adopted until now have  been enacted by the free will of the people; it was always the elite who imposed how they should live.

"However, one of the most important issues is to become more resilient and better protected in the external environment. But how?" noted the Prime Minister. Pashinyan reiterated that in terms of providing a security component, he had frequently mentioned the army and foreign relations. However, there is also a need for a third component.

"The army and foreign relations should serve the legitimate interests of the given state within its internationally recognized territory. This is a step aimed at elevating the level of security by one level," said the Prime Minister.