Presence of Armenian specialists in Syria underline special allied relations between Armenia and Syria: Russian ambassador

Aysor, Armenia
Feb 21 2019

This day is not just Russia’s but part of our joint history, it is the holiday of our two countries, Russian ambassador to Armenia Sergey Kopirkin told today at the reception in the Russian embassy dedicated to the Day of Homeland’s Defender.

“The states are based on their firm Armed Forces, which are considered the guarantors of their freedom and independence, but in contemporary world it is always necessary to have the support of the ally states. Only thanks to the strong and lasting ties between the allies it is possible to solve the most important issues the international community is facing – ensuring peace and security both in the world and the region,” he stressed.

The ambassador stressed that today the Armenian-Russian military cooperation is developing more.

“The Russian army which is fairly considered one of the strongest in the world, throughout the years shares its experience with Armenia, cooperates in bilateral projects. We attach great significance to Armenia’s participation in the humanitarian mission in Syria. The presence of Armenian specialists in Syria once again underlines our special allied relations,” he noted.

Russian border guard troops properly carry out their duty in Armenia: Davit Tonoyan

Aysor, Armenia
Feb 21 2019

Armenian Defense Minister Davit Tonoyan referred today at the reception organized in Russian embassy on Day of Homeland’s Defender to the deployment of Armenian humanitarian mission in Syria.

The minister thanked the Russian embassy for operative response and transportation of the Armenian mission.

Tonoyan also referred to the significance of the role of Russian border guards in Armenia.

“The Russian border guard troops continue proper implementation of their duties in Armenia,” Tonoyan said.

Lydian Armenia to sue MP Sergey Bagratyan

Aysor, Armenia
Feb 21 2019

Lawyers of Lydian Armenia have filed a lawsuit against NA MP Sergey Bagratyan demanding public rejection of the statement he voiced on February 17 in Jermuk and in particular the following, “Dear people, the issue is very simple, there is trivial truth, it is not serious for us to treat it seriously, as the former authorities took bribe from them and allowed, I state about it with the whole responsibility…”

The company demands publishing rejection in at least 1,000 examples, in a newspaper spread throughout the whole country in a week after the verdict enters into force, under the title “Rejection” with the following content: “The information voiced by Sergey Bagratyan on 17/02/2019 in Jermuk educational center at the familiarizing meeting with the MPs considered defamatory and relating to giving bribe to former authorities by Lydian company, does not correspond to reality.”

The company also demands money compensation from the MP.

Minister highlights amendments into Armenia’s Law on Children’s rights

Panorama, Armenia
Feb 21 2019

Armenia’s Minister of Labor and Social Affairs Zaruhi Batoyan met on Thursday with Tanja Radocaj, the Representative of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and discussed the priorities in the sphere of children’s rights, focusing specifically on the procedure of de-institutionalization that will also include children with disabilities.

As the ministry press service reported, Batoyan praised the immense contribution the UNICEFF has made in the design and implementation of reforms to address gaps in the fulfilment of the rights of all children in Armenia.

“Whenever we speak of the process of de-institutionalization, we should consider all children living in boarding schools, including in private ones. Our approach is clear if there are any funds available from the state budget, donor of private organisations, they should be directed not to institutions but to the family,” the minister has said, stressing also the importance of protection of personal data of the children.

Minister Batoyan has also stressed the pending amendments into the Law of Children’s rights, especially into provisions of children’s trafficking and exploitation.

Renewable Energy Producers Association of Armenia complains about illegal actions of officials

ARKA, Armenia
Feb 21 2019

YEREVAN, February 21. /ARKA/. The Renewable Energy Producers Association of Armenia complained in a statement today about ‘obstacles and illegal actions’ caused by officials, warning also about a looming crisis that may hit small hydropower plants of the country.

The Association said these concerns were conveyed by the chairman of the Association Roman Melikyan to Bella Andriasyan, who is chief coordinator of projects financed by the German KfW bank in Armenia. 

According to the statement, Melikyan presented in detail the situation in the small hydropower plants sector, saying because of connivance, lack of supervision and non-compliance with the law, and also inconsistency and other reasons, the implementation of KfW-financed projects in Armenia are under threat.

More precisely, the Association complained that the breaches include failure to provide water for small hydropower plants, despite the requirement of the law and the availability of legal acts, water outages, and other illegal and anti-constitutional actions that could lead to the closure of plants. As a result, hydropower plants are likely to become unable to service the loans provided by KfW.

As an example, the statement cited illegal actions of the State Committee for Water Management against Green Energy Concern LLC last autumn, when without any legal and legislative substantiation the water supply to this hydropower plant was stopped for about 20 days, causing it huge financial damage.

According to the statement, Bella Andriasyan, sharing the concern of the Association, expressed readiness to look deeper into the problem. The parties were said to have agreed to include these issues in their cooperation agenda.

Arka news agency contacted the State Committee for Water Management for comments, presenting the arguments voiced by Bella Andriasyan. The head of the Water Supply and Drainage System Department of the Committee, Armen Sergoyan, requested confirmation of the mentioned facts saying they need also a written request for comments. -0

Robert Fisk: This new history of the Christian genocide during the Ottoman Empire sounds a dark warning for the future

The Independent, UK
Feb 21 2019
This new history of the Christian genocide during the Ottoman Empire sounds a dark warning for the future
Is it possible for a people to be so inured to cruelty that they changed, that their acts of sadism could alter their humanity?
Robert Fisk Middle ,East Correspondent

Israeli historian Benny Morris doesn’t do things by half. The footnotes of his new book on the 30-year genocide of Christians by their Turkish rulers, cowritten with his colleague Dror Zeevi, take up more than a fifth of the 640-page work. “It was nine years, a long haul,” he admitted to me this week, with an audible sigh over the phone. And he talks about the involvement of Ataturk in the later stages of the genocide of around 2.5 million Christians of the Ottoman empire; how “religions do drive people to excessive violence” – he has in mind the Turks, Isis, the Crusades – and even condemns the Arabs for their inability to criticise themselves.

The mere title of the Morris-Zeevi book, The Thirty-Year Genocide: Turkey’s Destruction of Its Christian Minorities 1894-1924, is going to have the Turks enraged, from Erdogan down. The Armenians and other Christians will dispute his apparent claim that he has only just discovered that their slaughter lasted for 30 years – others have talked of the Armenian genocide of 1915 bookended by the late 19th-century massacres in Turkey and the post-1915 killing of surviving Armenians and Greeks, Assyrians and others. And the Arab world will challenge his view that the holocaust (my word) of Christians was more motivated by Islam than Turkish nationalism.

Having written about the genocide of the Armenians for 35 years, I have doubts that the actual call for “jihad” in the Turkish Ottoman empire unleashed at the start of the First World War was as ferocious as Morris makes it out to be. Muftis were indeed told they were in a holy war against Christians – but not against German Christians, Austro-Hungarian Christians, neutral Christians or allies of the Central Powers (Bulgaria, for example). Many Muslim worshippers, sitting on the carpets of mosque floors, must have shaken their heads in puzzlement at these caveats. Well, one way was to notice the German officers training the Ottoman army, the German diplomats and businessmen who witnessed the genocide of the Armenians with their own eyes, and wrote home about it. Hitler asked his generals who now remembered the Armenians just before invading Poland in 1939.

But again and again, I was brought up short by the sheer, terrible, shocking accounts of violence in Morris’s and Zeevi’s work. “Strident religiosity” moved through the Muslim lands, write the authors.

The date: 1895. The place: Severek. The witness: Armenian survivor Abraham Hartunian. “The first attack was on our pastor [Mardiros Bozyakalian]. The blow of an axe decapitated him. His blood, spurting in all directions, spattered the walls and ceiling with red. Then I was in the midst of the butchers. One of them drew his dagger … Three blows fell on my head. My blood began to flow like a fountain … The attackers [were] sure that I was dead … Then they slaughtered the other men in the room, took the prettier women with them for rape …”

Now it is July 1915. The place: Merzifon. The witness: missionary JK Marsden. “They were in groups of four with their arms tied behind them and their deportation began with perhaps 100 … in a batch … they were taken about 12 miles across the plains, stripped of their clothing and, in front of a ditch previously prepared, were compelled to kneel down while a group of villagers with knives and axes quickly disposed of them. For a week, this was repeated until 1,230 of the leading Armenian men had been disposed of.”

In January 1920, YMCA secretary CFH Crathern was in Marash. The wife of an Armenian pastor had reached his hospital. “She was bleeding … from three bullet and three dagger or knife wounds while a child of 18 months had been taken from her breast and slain with a knife, and an older girl killed with an axe. To add to the sorrow of it, this woman was pregnant and had a miscarriage as soon as she reached the hospital.” The woman died the following day. 

I have repeated above only a few of the less bloody episodes from the 30 years. I will spare readers the chopped off fingers, the thousands of raped girls, the priests beheaded or burned on crucifixes.

In the final annihilation of the Armenians, an American missionary spoke of “minds obsessed with Muslim fanaticism seven times heated”. Turks, he wrote, had “become drunk with blood and rapine, and plunder and power, and he will be a different man from what he was before the atrocities”. Benny Morris thinks it was more to do with a mixture of modern nationalism and the decline of “Islamic polity”.

I discussed all this with him. Is it possible for a people to be so inured to cruelty that they changed, that their acts of sadism could alter their humanity? Religions drive people to excessive violence, he said again, and then repeated this as “excessive sadism”. Morris agreed that the Romans were cruel, but they were pagans. “In terms of religion, the Romans were amateurs. Abrahamic religions drive people to excess.” Jews had avoided this. Palestinians will disagree.

There is certainly a frightening geographical scope to the killings. Many thousands of horrors were perpetrated in Mosul, Raqqa, Manbij and Deir ez-Zor, names grimly familiar from the Isis torments of 2014 onwards.

Why, one keeps asking, didn’t the Christians leave after 1924? But of course, they had been urged to return to settle in Cilicia and in Mesopotamia and Syria by the French and British – who left; and thus the Christian descendants waited for the next generational bloodletting.

The Turks were not the only killers, and Kurds also killed the Christians for the Turks, as Ukrainians killed the Jews for the Nazi Germans. At one point in Morris’s text, a group of Circassians plait a rope 25 yards long from the hair of young women they have killed, and send it as a present to their commander.

Mustafa Kemal Ataturk gets pretty well trashed in this volume. “There are accounts of him saying in 1922 that, ‘Our aim is to get rid of the Christians’ – he said this in a number of conversations,” Morris contends. “He gave orders, and men in his later government were responsible.” But if this 30-year history of blood was fuelled by “Muslim fanaticism”, there are “good Turks” in the book. In the first massacres, government officials arrested Essad Bey, an “honest, impartial and tolerant” judge who tried to help the Christians. There is a heroic Turkish doctor who throws out his sick Turkish soldiers from a hospital and replaces them with Armenian refugees. Missionary Tacy Atkinson hoped to meet the doctor one day “in the Kingdom of Heaven”.  There are others. It’s true that the Greek Christians have fewer historians than the Armenians. Tens of thousands of Greeks were transported to Greece in return for an equal number of Muslims – official agreements kept the massacres a trifle smaller – but Morris and Zeevi give too little attention to the awe in which the Nazis held Ataturk’s people.

Ataturk himself cared little for Islam: he smoked and womanised, and was a nationalist before he was a Muslim. The Nazis admired his “Turkified” non-minority republic. When he died, the front page of Volkischer Beobachter was fringed in black.

The authors briefly compare the Jewish Holocaust and the Armenian genocide – I prefer the terms Jewish Holocaust and Armenian Holocaust – and there are some already published parallels. Armenians might be spared if they would convert to Islam or marry Muslim men. Jews could not save their lives by converting. The Turkish massacres were more sadistic. I rather think the German-inspired slaughter could be just as bad in the Second World War: witness the head-chopping at the Jasenovac camp on the Croatian-Bosnian border. Persecution of the Jews under the Nazis lasted at most 12 years, but persecution of Christians in Ottoman territories 30 years.

German civilians played little role in the Jewish Holocaust. Turkish civilians played a far greater role. If 2.5 million Christians is the correct figure for those murdered in the 30 years – Morris warned me that it cannot be accurately tallied, and I’m sure he’s right – at least six million Jews were killed in the 1939-1945 period, and so it took the Nazis five times as few years to slaughter more than twice as many human beings. The Turks simply didn’t have the industrial tools to kill more Christians more quickly, because these mechanics were unavailable at the turn of the 19th and 20th centuries. But working on this basis, how many people will be killed in the future – and how quickly – with new technology?

Government of Armenia revises procurement scheme for armed forces

ARKA, Armenia
Feb 21 2019

YEREVAN, February 21. /ARKA/. The government of Armenia has approved today the launch of a pilot project designed to revise the procurement scheme for the Armenian armed forces.

"Until now the process of food supply for the armed forces was organized by the ministry of defense. At various stages of the process we used to face problems, and the quality of food supplied to the armed forces often caused dissatisfaction,” said Deputy Defense Minister Makar Ghambaryan.

According to him, after studying the experience of various countries and assessing the existing risks, it was decided that the most effective way is to hand this process to private companies.

He said a relating draft law provides for minimum requirements for soldier canteens and adjacent cooking zones, renovation and replacement of technical equipment, appliances and utensils, modern heating, air-conditioning and fire-fighting equipment.

The deputy minister said there is a need to increase the number of jobs and raise also the wages of the involved personnel. In his words, the entire process will be tightly supervised. 

In turn, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said the task is to increase the quality of the supplied products without additional spending. He also said that the pilot project is supposed to reveal the existing problems and suggest ways to eliminate them.-0-.

Armenia and Georgia sign new defense program

MediaMax, Armenia
Feb 21 2019
Armenia and Georgia sign new defense program

According to Armenian MoD, the ministers attached importance to Armenian-Georgian friendly relations and the necessity to expand cooperation in defense sector. 

 The sides also prioritized continuation of exchange of progressive experience, high level mutual visits between Armenia and Georgia in sectors of military education and medicine, professional sergeant system, human rights and building integrity. 

 Levan Izoria expressed hope that Armenian and Georgian units will carry on their joint participation in multination exercises. 

 Davit Tonoyan assured that the two states realize and respect the preferences of each other, as well as solutions for providing national security.

The Aleppo mission: Armenian experts’ first week

MediaMax, Armenia
Feb 21 2019
The Aleppo mission: Armenian experts’ first week

A group of deminers, doctors and the personnel ensuring their safety has traveled from Armenia to Syria to provide humanitarian relief in Aleppo. The group of 83 has worked there since February 8.


How have the Armenian experts settled in Aleppo and what have they managed to do until now? Mediamax has talked about it with Director of Armenian Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise Ruben Arakelyan, who paid a four-day visit to Syria and met with representatives of the UN Mine Action Gateway as well as Syrian and Armenian political and public figures.


The general tasks


The expert group has several areas of focus: demining, defusing of explosives, raising awareness of mines in schools and the community, and medical services.

 Humanitarian demining means total clearance of the area even of the smallest pieces of metal. It is conducted in the Armenian-populated areas and the territory adjacent to the group’s base.

 In general, there are no land mines in Aleppo, but there is ammunition that did not explode at the strike and is now left in the ground and the buildings. It is extremely dangerous, and people (especially children) can easily become victims of an explosion if they approach the ammunition out of curiosity.


Our main task is to collect the unexploded ammo and submit it for elimination, which is done by the Syrian army’s sappers. We will not blow up the ammo in any case.

 The doctors work at the hospitals of Aleppo. It is a multi-field group with a gynecologist, dermatologist, physician, surgeon, etc. The doctors work with local population and provide free-of-charge medical services.


Areas of priority

 The priority is the areas of public use and lands adjacent to water sources, etc. Therefore, the Armenian experts will also clear the surrounding territories.

 Contrary to the areas of demining in Armenia, for instance, the experts have to deal with self-made explosives in Aleppo. They are more dangerous because the explosive device is activated remotely.

In Aleppo


Usually, it is the local residents who identify the mined areas because they move there a lot and they notice the ammunition. We cannot plan which areas to clear, so for several days our group examined the place, asked the local people for tips, and singled out concrete spots. It is all done now. The deminers outline tracks, clear them and use them to get to the dangerous zones. In the end they put signs telling the residents of Aleppo that the given zone is clear from mines and unexploded ammo.


The expert group’s base

 The Armenian humanitarian mission stays at the base near Aleppo. The building is furnished and renovated, so the group has normal living conditions.

 They are paid by different bodies, including our Center and the Armenian Ministry of Defense.

 The doctors don’t have concrete working hours, and they provide medical services whenever necessary.

 The deminers do have a schedule: their work begins at 9 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. At that time the Syrian army starts blowing up the mines that the deminers have found.

 I believe the group will have to stay in Aleppo for six or seven months.


The security of Armenian mission

 The group is not armed. Their security is ensured by Armenia’s military police officers. Although the military police is a part of the Armenian army, it is not a combat unit and it functions as police force.

Armenian deminers (archive photo)

Photo: Armenian Center for Humanitarian Demining and Expertise

They patrol the area to protect the humanitarian mission from possible attacks and provocations and to ensure its security.


Contacts with Syrian army and Russian troops

 Contacts and cooperation with the Syrian army and Russian troops is related strictly to security purposes. They will defend the humanitarian mission in case of possible attack along with the Armenian military police.

 The only contacts the mission has with the Syrian side are related to the elimination of the explosives they discover.

In Aleppo


Cooperation with Russian troops is connected with logistics. As you know, Russia helped transport Armenian mission to Aleppo. We have certain exchange of experience with Russian sappers, because they have been in the area longer, so they know the issues better and are more skillful when it comes to defusing the mines there.


Relationship with the community

 In a few days the primacy will hold the ceremony of blessing of Armenian national flag and flag of our organization. The relationship with the Armenian community of Aleppo is very good.

 Our experts were asked to limit movement in the evening for security purposes, which is why there are no active contacts yet with the Armenian population.

In Aleppo

Photo: Mediamax

I met with Armenian Ambassador to Syria Tigran Gevorgyan in Damascus, who said that our humanitarian mission received very positive feedback. Some people in Armenia claim that this mission jeopardizes Syria’s Armenian community, but that is not true. Local Armenians have a positive view on the mission. As for the claims that the Armenian community is against it, they are simply false. Why should these people view our work negatively? They receive medical services, their roads are cleared from mines, their children are taught how to move safely in a dangerous zone.

 I also met with a former government official, public and political figure, Dr. Eng. Yahia Awaidah, who manages a non-governmental organization and makes huge contribution to the relief efforts. He expressed appreciation for our mission and said that the Syrian people thank us, as they know we are helping them even though we [Armenia] have security issues ourselves.

 Both sides remember how Syria helped the survivors of the Armenian Genocide. We saw war too, and we understand the consequences and challenges that follow a disaster of that kind. Once, we were waiting for help too.


UN reaction


I also introduced Ahmad Javed, United Nations Mine Action Service (UNMAS) Syria Program Manager, to the purpose of our mission. The UN welcomed the mission’s goals and the program for raising awareness of mines among school students and asked us to cooperate with them and distribute their mine awareness brochures in the communities and schools.

 Humanitarian demining has five components: notification of mine risk, assistance to mine victims, mapping, demining itself, and the propaganda of mine elimination. The standards are in development and our UN colleagues asked to involve our experts in the process and hear out their suggestions.

In Aleppo


We also offered to host 15 Syrian children and their 5 guardians at a summer camp in Armenia, which we organize annually for children who were impacted by mines. There are some financial issues with transportation, so we are trying to settle them with the help of Dr. Yahia Awaidah.

 The fact that UNMAS is ready to cooperate with Armenia’s humanitarian mission speaks volumes about the response it met from the international organization.


Marie Tarian

Armenian, Georgian defense ministers sign 2019 military cooperation program

Panorama, Armenia
Feb 21 2019
Politics 15:08 21/02/2019 Armenia

Armenian and Georgian Defense Ministers Davit Tonoyan and Levan Izoria signed the 2019 military cooperation program signed since 2010, the Armenian official said at today’s joint press conference with his Georgian counterpart in Yerevan.

Tonoyan stressed Armenia and Georgia mutually perceive and respect each other’s preferences and national security solutions, believing in the idea of a peaceful and safe South Caucasus.

“Armenia and Georgia are crucial for each other in security, political, economic, cultural and many other spheres and should constantly expand cooperation in these areas,” he said.