Speaker Simonyan, UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Chair discuss Azeri aggression against Armenia

 16:32, 7 June 2023

YEREVAN, JUNE 7, ARMENPRESS. Speaker of Parliament Alen Simonyan and his delegation met on June 7 with UK House of Commons Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Alicia Kearns.

The legislators discussed the opportunity for launching direct contacts between the foreign relations committees of the two parliaments.

The imperative of sending an international mission to Nagorno Karabakh and Lachin Corridor and ensuring unimpeded access of international humanitarian organizations was emphasized.

At Kearns’ request, Simonyan presented details on the humanitarian and other issues resulting from the crisis in Lachin Corridor. The continuous Azerbaijani aggression against Armenia’s territorial integrity was also discussed.

Alicia Kearns notified about her upcoming visit to the United States and said she’s ready to discuss the abovementioned security issues during the official meetings.

Simonyan is leading a delegation to the UK on a three-day visit.

Armenian wine may be thousands of years old, but it’s never been more in vogue

Los Angeles Times
June 2 2023

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Wine has always been an inseparable part of Armenian history. Just look at Areni-1, an ancient winery discovered in the village of Areni in 2007, with well-preserved clay vessels, a wine press for stomping grapes, drinking cups and withered grape vines, skins and seeds. Armenian wine even withstood a 70-year-long Soviet ruling that decreed grapes were to be used only for brandy, vodka and fortified wine production. It was only after independence was proclaimed in 1991 that a few vintners were able to take the first steps to reestablish the winemaking traditions of the new Republic of Armenia. Now, Armenian wine has emerged as a global player in the modern era.

“Armenian wine is ancient and also entirely new,” said Master of Wine Christy Canterbury, who participated in L.A.’s Armenian-wine-centered GiniFest virtually from New York. “Today, producers are experimenting and rediscovering how best to make their wines but also how to plant and farm their vineyards. The possibilities are endless.”

This new chapter started with growers such as the Mkrtchyan family of Voskeni Wines, Zorik Gharibian of Zorah Wines, Varuzhan Mouradian of Van Ardi Winery and others who chose winemaking as an investment in their homeland and a way to honor their ancestors. With the help of prominent winemakers, Armenian vintners worked with the terroir to bring out the intense flavors of the grapes.

“Armenia’s terroir relates to some of the hottest topics in the wine industry today: volcanic soils and high-altitude, cool-climate vineyards,” said certified sommelier Irina Ponomarenko. These conditions are ideal for grapes growing in Armenia’s winemaking regions of Aragatsotn, Tavush, Armavir, Ararat, Vayots Dzor, Syunik and the Republic of Artsakh, and part of what separates them from Old World wines produced in France, Italy or Germany.

Areni, Voskehat and Sireni are the most popular wine grape varieties native to Armenia, dating back 4,000 to 6,000 years, and used to create wines ranging from sparkling to still, and even dessert wines. With thick, dark skin, Areni is disease-resistant and strong enough to survive the country’s harsh winters, lending itself to elegant, full-bodied wines. Voskehat, which translates to golden berry, is considered the queen of the Armenian varieties. Not as disease-resistant as Areni, it makes delicate white wines with aromas of fruits and wildflowers. Sireni is the indigenous grape variety of the Republic of Artsakh and is known for its robust flavors.

Historically, multiple varieties were planted together in a single vineyard, with all of the different grapes harvested at the same time and made into a single wine. Today, Armenian winegrowers are separating the varieties in order to understand how each of the grapes performs differently.

“Armenian wine brings us grapes we don’t see grown anywhere else in the world, grapes that are uniquely Armenian,” Canterbury said. “Take Areni, Armenia’s signature red grape. It is an ancient grape that has been largely isolated in this part of the Caucasus. It’s a rugged survivor. Also, it is grown at very high elevation, around and even over 4,000 feet above sea level. These conditions give the grape a remarkable intensity of flavors and structure.”

Recently, a collaboration between Armenian producer Maran Winery and the Institute of Molecular Biology revealed another lost indigenous grape variety — Areni Blanc. This grape now is being used by Maran Winery in its white and orange wine production.

In celebration of Armenia’s winemaking traditions, every year winemakers fly from Armenia to Los Angeles to offer their craft at GiniFest (gini translates to wine in Armenian), an Armenian wine and spirits festival founded in 2018 by sommelier and winemaker Anush Gharibyan O’Connor with L.A. philanthropist Stepan Partamian.

“When I was earning my degree at the Agrarian University of Armenia, my teacher would often speak with great enthusiasm and admiration about Bordeaux wines,” O’Connor said. “I couldn’t help but wonder if Armenian wine would ever garner the same level of recognition, and how I could help facilitate that. Could Areni become a grape that would be known in other countries like the United States?”

Starting with only 10 wineries, year by year GiniFest has grown. This year’s festival brought more than 50 Armenian winemakers from around the world, offering more than 200 wines made from indigenous Armenian varietals and aged in traditional clay vessels and oak barrels.

Husband-and-wife Alex and Talar Sarafian bought their 15-acre Sarafian Vineyards in Artsakh in 2005 as a passion project, selling indigenous Sireni grapes to other wineries. In 2018, the pair began producing estate-grown wines under their new Aran Wines label, including the first rosé made with Sireni grapes. “We like full-bodied wines, like Cabernet Sauvignon, that we are used to drinking here in the U.S.,” Alex Sarafian said. ”When we first tried Sireni, we knew we wanted our wines to be made from that grape.”

Founded in 2013 by the Karapetyan family, less than two kilometers from Areni-1 Cave, Hin Areni vineyards replaced a factory that produced dessert wines during the Soviet Union. On 32 hectares surrounding Areni Village, Hin Areni works specifically with single varietals, highlighting the fresh white fruits and citrus flavors associated with Voskehat and the cherry, black currant and pepper aromas in Areni grapes. A decade after opening, Hin Areni is in the process of building a museum, a guest house and a new vineyard to expand its operations.

GiniFest has introduced Armenian wines to restaurants and wine shops across the U.S., but in Los Angeles in particular. In Studio City, the entire wine list at Rouge restaurant is dedicated to Armenian wines, with more than 20 wineries featured on its list.

“We’ve made it a point to educate all of our guests on the rich history behind the wines, the grape varietals and the ancient winemaking process that is unique to Armenia,” said Rouge co-owner Kevin Zadoyan. “Once in a while, a guest will be confused because the wines are different from what they are used to drinking, but that moment is usually fleeting, and it leads to a second glass more often than not.”

As a new crop of Armenian chefs enters L.A.’s fine-dining arena, many are bringing a modern approach to the far-ranging cuisine of their homeland, while still upholding the tradition of Old World Armenian wines.

“[Wine] works hand in hand with food and cuisine,” said Alex Sarkissian, owner of Momed restaurant in Atwater Village. “Eastern Mediterranean flavors and spices are now being used by established chefs in well-known restaurants, so we can expect wines from those regions to become more popular.”

According to advanced sommelier Paul Sherman, the rise of Armenian wines couldn’t be better timed.

“Culturally, they’re as ‘Old World’ as they can possibly be, but with winemaking traditions that are currently in vogue with the natural wines being made today,” Sherman said. “More importantly, their wines are made with the unique, native grapes of the region, often with no added or needed adornment from oak.”

And with modern wine consumers displaying different preferences, such as a recent trend toward orange and natural wines, Armenian producers are well positioned to capitalize on the moment.

“Armenia provides energetic wines that nonetheless have character and offer a true sense of place,” said Robert Vartanian, advanced sommelier and director of wine at Wally’s. “So much of what makes wine special, even spiritual, is the story behind the bottle: the vineyard, the year, the personalities and cultures that dedicate their lives, even generations, to crafting something beautiful and delicious. Armenia’s is the oldest story.”

Syria accuses Israel of air strike near Damascus



YEREVAN, MAY 29, ARMENPRESS. Israel fired missiles at targets in the vicinity of Damascus, the Syrian state media reported citing a source in the military.

Some of the missiles fired in the “Israeli act of aggression” were intercepted by Syrian air defenses, SANA news agency reported citing a statement released by the source.

Israel didn’t immediately comment on the accusation.

Only material damages were reported.

Top corporate taxpayers paid 113,4% more taxes in Q1 2023 compared to Q1 2018


YEREVAN, MAY 29, ARMENPRESS. The top 1000 taxpayers in Armenia paid 113,4% more taxes in January-March of 2023 compared to the same period of 2018, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan told lawmakers at a joint committee session for preliminary debates of the 2022 government budget report.

“The policy towards major taxpayers has changed significantly. 113,4% more taxes were collected from top 1000 taxpayers in January-March 2023 compared to the same period of 2018. The major taxpayers paid more than twice in taxes compared to the first three months of 2018. This is important for us to see that we are bringing not only the small businesses to the taxation framework but also the major ones,” the PM said.

Furthermore, the total amount of the taxes collected from the 100 top taxpayers equals to 55,7% of the entire amount of taxes paid by the top 1000 taxpayers.

BREAKING: Armenian soldier, ambulance medic wounded in Azerbaijani shooting




YEREVAN, MAY 17, ARMENPRESS. The Azerbaijani Armed Forces opened fire at an Armenian military position deployed in the direction of Sotk around 16:15, May 17, wounding an Armenian soldier, the Defense Ministry said in a statement. Then, the Azerbaijani forces opened fire at the ambulance which was evacuating the wounded soldier. The ambulance medic was wounded in the shooting, the defense ministry said. 

The Defense Ministry said it will issue additional updates on the condition of the wounded soldier and medic.

Prime Minister Pashinyan leaves for Brussels on a working visit




YEREVAN, MAY 13, ARMENPRESS. Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan left for Brussels on a working visit on May 13-14, ARMENPRESS was infomred from the office of the Prime MInister. 

 Nikol Pashinyan will first have a meeting with the President of the European Council Charles Michel, then a tripartite meeting of the Prime Minister of Armenia, the President of the European Council and the President of Azerbaijan is scheduled.

​President of Armenia: ‘You need to live in peace with your neighbours’

Cambridge Univ. Student Newspaper
May 8 2023

President of Armenia: ‘You need to live in peace with your neighbours’

HE Vahagn Khachaturyan on his presidency, Armenia’s conflict with Azerbaijan, and his will for peace.

by Sophie Denny

For someone whose country is currently in intensive peace talks with Azerbaijan, the President of Armenia is surprisingly relaxed as he sits across from me ahead of his Cambridge Union talk.

After assuming the presidency last year, Vahagn Khachaturyan stated he wanted to be a unifying figure. When asked whether he feels he’s achieved this in his first year as President, he takes a moment to think: “it’s very difficult to do”, he tells me; tensions with Armenia’s neighbours create difficulties both internally and externally, despite his desire to be unifying being “very great”. The ongoing dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan is over the Nagorno-Karabakh region, a conflict which lasted “for more than 30 years” and caused his predecessor, Armen Sarkissian, to resign because of his lack of influence in times of emergency. Khachaturyan, however, does not share this feeling, emphatically declaring: “if there is a law, I shall move by the law”. He evidently has no intention of overstepping his constitutional role, understanding that when you have such power “you should know your capacities and also the limits”.

“Corruption was more governing the country than the state institutions”

I begin to wonder if his commitment to ensuring that he stays firmly within the confines of his position is rooted in a desire to tackle Armenia’s history of systemic corruption, but he preempts me: “corruption was more governing the country than the state institutions”, he acknowledges. When questioned about how to resolve this, he replies: “It’s a very simple formula”. He makes it clear that confronting the issue requires the collaboration of the whole country; while the first steps focusing on governmental corruption have been successful, the President also says that the “citizenship must be supporters of combating corruption, not parties of corruption”. For a country fragmented by civil unrest, such as the anti-government protests following the 44-day war with Azerbaijan in Autumn 2020, the nationwide collaboration needed to tackle corruption is difficult to achieve.

Armenia’s ability to develop internally is reliant on peace with neighbouring nations. How will Armenia and Azerbaijan be able to reach a peaceful agreement? “You need to live in peace with your neighbours, regardless of all factors. Even if you hate each other … you should still live in peace, same as in life.”

“We don’t want the settlement of the issues in our region to become the occasion for another conflict”

Although we are relying on a translator to communicate, his tone is that of an astute, judicious politician ready to steer his country towards a truce: to me, his desire for conciliation is clear. “You should re-evaluate the balance of losing and winning”, he says, before joking that the “big Armenia” many still yearn for existed “about 2000 years ago”. Despite saying this with a laugh, his comment is a stark reminder of the importance of maintaining realistic expectations within peace discussions, with both sides needing to be prepared to compromise.

Tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan are a matter of international interest, with the recent peace talks held in Washington D.C., and Khachaturyan is not afraid of addressing the elephant in the room: Russia’s influence in the region. “We don’t want the settlement of the issues in our region to become the occasion for another conflict between Russia and other countries”, he says carefully, demonstrating his awareness of the current volatility of the international stage. This makes it all the more important that their dispute should be resolved swiftly, although history suggests that this prospect will not be easily enacted.

I ask the President what he hopes to achieve during the rest of his presidency, and he chuckles. It was almost certain that his reply would be: “Most importantly, peace”. He is clearly tired of years of fighting.
“When I started, my daughter … was one month old. Now my youngest granddaughter is four years old and we still have this problem. I don’t want to leave this issue to the generation of my grandchildren. I want them to live in peace and friendship with their neighbours”. This moving sentiment shows dedication to achieving peace is derived from the powerful force of love. He understands both personally as well as politically that too many generations have suffered, and he is not prepared to let this continue. As our discussion comes to a close, his final statement is characteristic of the quietly compelling, wise remarks he has offered throughout: “It’s not always that speaking loudly brings you success.”

PM Pashinyan to meet with Aliyev in Brussels – FT



 10:30, 8 May 2023

YEREVAN, MAY 8, ARMENPRESS. Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan will hold a meeting with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on May 14 in Brussels, Financial Times reported citing officials with knowledge of preparations.

European Council president Charles Michel will host the meeting on Sunday, Financial Times reported.

The Brussels meeting is an “important sign of progress”, one of the three officials told Financial Times on condition of anonymity as it is not yet public, adding that the EU and US efforts were “mutually reinforcing” and “complementary two-track processes”.

There are also plans for the three leaders to hold another meeting on June 1 with German chancellor Olaf Scholz and French president Emmanuel Macron on the sidelines of the European Political Community summit in Moldova, two of the officials told Financial Times.

Pashinyan’s negotiations: The kingdom of crooked mirrors

Armenia – May 6 2023

Here is the approach of a country in pro-Azerbaijani Europe, which is considered pro-Armenian for some reason.

“We must distinguish the situation between Armenia and Azerbaijan from the situation of Nagorno-Karabakh, which is an Armenian-populated enclave inside Azerbaijan,” French Minister of Europe and Foreign Affairs Catherine Colonna said, speaking about the Republic of Artsakh.

If this one is pro-Armenian, imagine what the others would be like.

Now, let’s get to the U.S. approach.

“I have proposed the Ministers to return to their capitals to share with their governments the perspective that, with additional goodwill, flexibility, and compromise, an agreement is within reach,” U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken said in a statement.

Compromise? Apparently, mine maps are needed again “for the sake of nothing”.

In all likelihood, again, there is a need for a mirror withdrawal of troops from the border violated by aggressor Baku long ago; in the kingdom of crooked mirrors.

This is exactly the way Turkey and, by extension, the U.S. understand compromise in the region. This is how many years we have been taught this experience of "compromise”.

Separately, why should Armenia fear or regret that a monument commemorating the heroes of Operation Nemesis has been erected?

Here we go! We are taken for slaves, just like the authorities.


An Armenian-Azerbaijani life of wandering

May 5 2023

A life of wandering

“There are no photos where dad and mom are together. They collected photos in one album. When we moved, our things were moved to my grandmother’s house, and then there was a fire and the album was destroyed.

“Pictures” of Emil’s mother and father together remained only in his memory. Emil Rahimov, 42, was born in Baku. His father is Armenian, his mother Azerbaijani. They fell in love as students and got married, then had two boys. This was in the ’80s, when the two peoples lived in peace.

  • Memories of the war
  • “Cherry kebab” on the platform
  • “Time stopped for us”

Emil’s father and mother were students at the former Institute of National Economy. Emil says that when they decided to get married, their parents and relatives did not mind.

After graduation the newlyweds began working at the BakElectroAvtomat plant. To live closer to work they moved to the village of Bina, on the outskirts of Baku.

Then the conflict over Nagorno-Karabakh between Armenia and Azerbaijan began. Azerbaijanis from Armenia were forced to move to Azerbaijan, and Azerbaijani Armenians to Armenia.

Gennady, Emil’s father, also decided to leave Azerbaijan. First he went to Armenia, could not get along there, moved to Russia, and there too stayed there for a short time. In the end, he moved to Kazakhstan where his mother was and stayed there.

After some time, Gennady brought his wife and children to him. But Solmaz, his wife, could not live away from her homeland and relatives, and together with her sons she returned to Azerbaijan.

Emil with his brother and father
Emil with his brother

According to Emil, life without a father was very difficult for both him and his brother. But he says that because of their nationality, he and his brother did not have problems either at school or in the yard among the neighbors, although they still switched to their mother’s surname.

“I almost never experienced discrimination. Only once did I work in the yard of a woman in Surakhani, and when she found out that I was half Armenian, she drove me away. She did not understand that I was not to blame for this conflict. I almost did not take offense at her, I accepted it with understanding.”

As a child, Emil dreamed of becoming a doctor and prepared to enter a medical school. But his family was in a difficult financial situation and he had to work from an early age, so he could not get a good education. A new circle of friends in high school also alienated him from his studies.

“I was a plastic bag salesman at a flea market—that was my first job. At the age of 15, I first started to wander. I got acquainted with cigarettes and vodka. It was cold at the market in winter, this was the only way to keep going.”

But he nevertheless learned to be an electrician at the insistence of his family, and this profession still feeds him.

“You can say that I did everything I wanted in this life and achieved everything I wanted. Maybe my desires were small, but you need to enjoy life. The biggest desire was probably to serve in the army. I was tall, but very thin, and not accepted into the army. I had to fight for the right to serve for a very long time, and I succeeded. I served in Nakhichevan.”

After the army, Emil decided to live in Russia. It came to his mind abruptly.

“I got ready, didn’t say anything to anyone, went to the border, from there I crossed into Russia on foot. My family put me on the wanted list. I was shown on TV, on the news. I found a good job there, I made good money, but I missed my homeland very much. Once I was returning home by taxi, the driver was listening to mugham. When I heard it, I started crying. I said to myself: “Emil, what are you doing here?” And just as I had gotten there, I left — without telling anyone.”

Emil says he never married, but doesn’t consider it a failure. He says that he could marry in Russia, but did not want to, did not feel ready for family life.

Later he decided to try his luck in Europe and lived for some time in Germany. According to Emil, it was difficult for him to find a job there. He says that he did not have a job, had no means of subsistence, and had to steal food in the markets, and he got caught for that. Life in a German prison brought him closer to books.

“There was a lot of books in there. On psychology, philosophy, logic, natural sciences, religion, fiction. This period taught me a lot. I learned not to make decisions on first impressions, I learned ideologies, I became more sociable, I began to apply in my life all the good things that I read.”

Emil says that he has no idea about his future.

“I just want to live to retirement age, sit idle in the yard. Watch for those who come, go, grumble at everyone. And I also want the hungry ’90s to never happen again, not only for me, for everyone. For peace and tranquility, everyone lived happily and prosperously.”

Author: Huseyn Gurbanzade

This story is part of the “Tell Me About Yourself” media project, where young Azerbaijanis whose families were displaced as a result of the Nagorny Karabakh conflict tell their stories. The authors are solely responsible for these materials.This is an European Union-funded project implemented by International Alert and GoGroup Media.