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Hello, and welcome to Armenian News Network, Groong, Week in Review.
Before we begin, we appreciate your help in reaching a wider audience, so please don’t forget to subscribe and like us on whatever platform you’re using to listen to us. Also help spread the word by sharing this podcast on your social media channels. Thanks in advance.
I’m Hovik Manucharyan and this week, along with Asbed Bedrossian, we’re going to talk with our panelists about the following major topics:
● Is it Adios Madrid? Armenia is questioning the Madrid principles on which the Nagorno Karabakh negotiations have been based for the last 20 years;
● The Diaspora Commissioner’s new repatriation package and iGorts initiative;
● The status of the health minister Arsen Torosyan, who is in the middle of a three week vacation; Could this be Adios Torosyan?
● An update on COVID and the evolution of the state of emergency into a state of Karantin in Armenia.
We’re joined today by our resident panelists: Asbed Kotchikian, Emil Sanamyan and David Sandukhchyan.
Asbed Kotchikian is a senior lecturer of political science and international relations at Bentley University in Massachusetts.
Emil Sanamyan is a senior research fellow at USC’s Institute of Armenian Studies specializing in politics in the Caucasus, with a special focus on Azerbaijan.
David Sandukhchyan is an Armenian lawyer, security and privacy expert with over 20 years of experience in telecommunications, cyber law, media and personal data protection. This past week we recorded Episode 12 with David on judicial reforms, data protection and privacy in Armenia, so be sure to check that out!
This week there were four major interviews and public statements that drew attention to the Nagorno Karabakh negotiation process. Specifically, it seems that we’re getting clear signals that Armenia wishes to change the format of the negotiation process, moving away from the Madrid Principles, which have been the governing principles of the negotiations since 2002.
So what took place last week:
● Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov, in a speech in front of MGIMO students, touched upon the issue by alluding that certain sides wish to change the negotiations process format which was unadvisable from Russia’s perspective.
● Secretary of the NSC Armen Grigoryan, in an interview with Factor TV seems to have provided Armenia’s official response to Lavrov saying that many of the geopolitical realities on the ground have changed since 2002. He cited the April 2016 war as well as the recent skirmishes on the Tavush border as signs that a change is required.
● In Artsakh, President Arayik Harutyunyan harshly criticized the negotiation process indicating that Artsakh should prepare for war in earnest.
● And Artsakh’s Foreign Minister, Masis Mayilian, followed up on this stating that the Madrid Principles are no longer a topic of discussion in the Minsk Group negotiations.
It seems that the Minsk Group co-chairs at least do not favor a change. Is this posturing or should we expect a tangible change in the negotiations? And if so, what sort of change could we expect?
And what of Azerbaijan’s surprise recent expression of readiness to negotiate? This seems contrary to Aliyev’s previous criticisms of the negotiation process just a month ago.
This week the office of the High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs made two announcements.
Asbed Kotchikian, discusses these latest activities by the office?
This past week Armenia’s health minister Arsen Torosyan suddenly announced that he’s going on a three-week holiday. He was criticized heavily for taking a vacation during a pandemic. Due to the surprise nature of the announcement, there were also rumors of his impending resignation.
Putting aside the fact that even government officials need to take a break, Torosyan’s announcement was preceded by the fact that his personal Facebook account and his public pages were shut down, leading to speculations that Torosyan might be on his way out. Torosyan has denied any friction with Prime Minister Pashinyan.
Are social media accounts by Armenia’s public figures considered public record? They are a major source of information on COVID in Armenia and ministry employees must have spent time and resources working on it.
Let’s hear what David Sandukhchyan thinks.
The infection numbers in Armenia have dwindled to under 200 a day, from a peak of over 700 a day back in July. Daily deaths have also gone down from the teens down to a handful each day, while recoveries have picked up. The current rate of positivity is just above 8%, down from around 25% in July.
While the downward tendency in deaths and cases is great, comparatively speaking Armenia is still ranking high on the measure of new cases / 1M population. Based on worldometers, out of 50 countries that provide new cases data, Armenia is #13. These numbers may be consistent with the fact that Covid has a seasonal trend ( as discussed by Hrant Mikaelian in Episode 8) and the numbers may rise again similar to how they’ve been climbing in other countries.
In addition to the above, testing numbers overall continue to remain low with roughly 1700 tests being conducted each day (on average) last week. This presents a challenge to the government since 38,000 teachers must be tested for Coronavirus by September 15 (when schools are supposed to open).
In an effort to lift the State of Emergency, but keep various sanitary restrictions in place, the government on Friday adopted a bill on Quarantine, which lifts various restrictions while still mandating distancing protocols. The opposition voted against the bill, which nevertheless passed.
David Sandukhchyan, discusses the new Karantin law. What is the end goal, and how does this help?
Each panelist: please share one thing (for 30-60 seconds) with our reader/listeners, that you found interesting this week that we didn’t cover:
● Navalny, and merging black holes
● 5TV Documentary on the NK War and the Karabakh Defense Committee
● Tripolar realignment of the political landscape in Yerevan
● Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan visited border posts, together with their defense ministers.
● Armenia: Activists Seek End To Controversial Gold Mine.
● Henrikh Mkhitaryan has left Arsenal and joined Roma on a permanent deal after his contract was terminated by mutual consent.
● Armenia Rep to Eurasian Economic Commission, Gegham Vardanyan suspected of possible corruption.
● Russia to sell Armenia the Indian version of the SU-30fighter jets: the SU-30MKI.
● Armenian GMs slam FIDE after controversial Online Chess Olympiad. Both countries were declared joint winners of a major international chess tournament after two Indian players lost their internet connection during the final round. A round earlier FIDE rejected Armenian appeals for one of its players who lost connection as well.
● "Village of Women' directed by Tamara Stepanyan has won the Prize for the best documentary film at the Deella Lessina international film festival,
● Armenia’s Varazdat Lalayan wins Uzbekistan online weightlifting competition
● Azerbaijan continues to actively harass Russia for deliveries of arms to its strategic ally Armenia. Ilham Aliyev’s senior advisor, Hikmet Hajiyev effectively called Russian DM Sergey Shoigu a liar.
● The construction of the Kajaran-Agarak section of Tranche 4 of the North-South Corridor Investment Program continues to proceed.
● Tomb raiders have targeted the ancient Sangar Fortress in Dzoraghbyur and stolen materials from three tombs.
● PM Pashinyan will be on vacation from August 31 to September 4.
● Armenian Embassy in France strongly condemns desecration of statue of Komitas in Paris.
● Armenian hospitals begin decommissioning COVID-19 units amid declining numbers.
● The Kurdish community in Armenia held a demonstration outside UN Office over Turkey’s actions in Iraq.
● Artsakh’s FM received coordinator of “Armenian Refugees Platform” Initiative Group Arthur Ghazaryan.
● $1.375 Million was raised during the HyeAid Lebanon Telethon.
● Well-known Iranian-Armenian figure Leon Aharonyan has died.
● In Georgia, the Alliance of Patriots party is allegedly bankrolled by Russian money. They are the most pro-Russian party and have 6 seats in parliament.
● 11 deaths have been reported from an alcohol poisoning of unknown origin in the Armenian town of Armavir. Illegally produced home-made vodka is suspected as the cause. On Wednesday 4 additional cases were reported, with the death toll rising to 14. On Thursday tests indicated that the bootleg Vodka contained toxic levels of methanol.
● Speaker Ararat Mirzoyan departed for Artsakh on working visit.
● Ambassador to France Hasmik Tolmajyan and French Ambassador to Armenia Jonathan Lacôte paid a tribute to the memory of the Armenian Genocide victims at the statue of Komitas which was desecrated on August 31.
● Two people have died after a fire broke out at the branch of Proshyan Brandy Factory in the village of Armavir.
● Artsakh Republic HR Ombudsman Artak Beglaryan met with Arthur Ghazaryan, coordinator of the “Armenian Refugees Platform '' initiative group, they discussed NKR IDP’s.
● Members of an organized crime syndicate consisting of Armenians and Iranians are under arrest for racketeering and defrauding around 50 citizens of Iran in a travel fraud.
● Artur Vanetsian, the former NSS director leading the new opposition Hairenik party, on Tuesday reaffirmed his plans to try to oust Armenia’s current government.
● 24 Diaspora Armenians will be working in over 20 ministries and departments of the Armenian Government as part of the iGorts program, learning how the system functions. This number is projected to increase to 100.
● A package for integration of Lebanese-Armenians is submitted for government consideration, including access to health, socio-economic, educational and a number of other services.
● The ARF has announced an amnesty for all former members who have either been expelled or have resigned from the ranks, to return to the party.
● Militia may be used to surround buildings, disperse gatherings - this is not considered use of military force and must be excluded by law says Artak Zakaryan former deputy minister.
● 168: «Աշխարհազորը կարող են օգտագործել շենքեր շրջափակելու, ցույցեր ցրելու համար. դա զինուժի կիրառում չի համարվի». Արտակ Զաքարյան (տեսանյութ)
● Today, September 2, is the 29th year of independence for the Artsakh Republic. Pres. Arayik Harutiunyan enacted a number of celebrations on this occasion, and congratulated his people. Armenian Pres. Armen Sarkissian’s address; PM Pashinyan’s message; Serge Sargsyan; Robert Kocharyan.
● Former vice president of the parliament of the Basque Country, former member of the Spanish Congress, and politician Rafael Larreina congratulated the Independence Day of the Republic of Artsakh.
● Negligent welding work suspected in causing deadly explosion at Proshyan Brandy Factory
● Artsakh law enforcement launch manhunt for arsonist who targeted multiple homes, buildings
● Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Colonel-General Andrei Kartapolov has arrived in Armenia. He will meet with DM Tonoyan, among other functions.
● With the support of the US government Armenia announced the launch of joint projects aimed at the reforms in the police and anti-corruption fields,
● Ara Fidanyan was appointed deputy chief of Police.
● HayPost issued a new souvenir sheet with one stamp over Henri Verneuil’s 100th birth anniversary.
● Armenia and Russia continue to work bilaterally to reopen air traffic between the two countries. There’s no ETA yet.
● Armenia doesn’t consider Turkey as a mediator in the settlement of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict, stated the MFA.
● Artsakh women participated in a 1-week combat preparedness training at initiative of Armenian PM’s wife.
● Kenosha Mayor John Antaramian cross-checked Trump, rejecting his claim that protesters tried to 'get into' the mayor's house.
● In the second round of the US Open, Serena Williams will play against Margarita Gasparyan from Russia.
● Russian media claims Syrian mercenaries are in Azerbaijan ‘preparing for blitzkrieg on Armenia’. Azerbaijan denies this.
● The Jerusalem Municipality is still improving Armenian Patriarchate Street in the Old City of Jerusalem.
● Armenia issued a new stamp on Henri Verneuil’s 100th birth anniversary.
● Armenian, Cypriot, Kurdish, Egyptian diasporas in the UK call on PM Johnson to hold Turkey to account.
● Former Australian Defense Minister Joel Fitzgibbon joins Armenian, Assyrian, Greek calls for Genocide recognition.
● Red Cross officials still haven't visited Armenian POW Gurgen Alaverdyan in Azerbaijan. Armenia is not considering All-For-All prisoner exchange with Azerbaijan.
● Lt. Armine Grigoryan of the Armenian Armed Forces has won the Warrior of Peace competition with individual results for the third consecutive year among the women participants. Lt. Alexandra Akhtulova from the Russian military and Sergeant Kutuzoglu Gestimanis from the Greek military are the 1st and 2nd runner ups.
● Armenia and Russia signed a protocol on developing the South Caucasian Railway. It will enable increasing the volume of cargo and passenger transportation and upgrading the trains.
● Armenia plans 3-months musters involving reservists.
● Azerbaijan is extremely worried about Middle East Armenians settling in Artsakh, which they call “occupied territories”. Today there were 3 of their usual apologists making statements about it: Bryza, Goltz, Tase.
● Nevada Congresswoman Dina Titus is leading a Congressional effort calling on the Library of Congress to properly categorize the Armenian Genocide in its subject heading list.
● Karabakh President Arayik Harutiunyan said that “The likelihood of resolving this problem within decades is very low,” referring to finding a permanent solution to Artsakh peace.
● Law-enforcement authorities have launched a criminal investigation into a luxury compound belonging to Vladimir Gasparian, a former chief of the Armenian police.
● The Armenian government donates 21 modern ambulances to provincial hospitals.
● The Government approved a bill to allow the delivery of oil products from Kazakhstan to Armenia free from customs duty.
● The government will provide necessary funds for purchasing certain protective items for general educational facilities aimed at preventing the spread of the novel coronavirus.
● The National Center of Infectious Diseases will carry out measures to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV, hepatitis B and syphilis,
● Photographer Suren Manvelyan captures just how unique animal eyes are.
● Since the Beirut explosion over 1,100 Armenians have migrated to Armenia, and more are expected.
● 150 vehicles will be obtained for the new police patrol service
● Deputy PM Avinyan announced the launch of a unified electronic platform for submitting petitions; an Armenian version of Change.org.
● Villagers dissatisfied with grape procurement closed off a main road at Khor Virap.
● FFA introduces newcomers of Armenian national team.
● Artsakh FM Masis Mayilyan said that the Madrid principles are no longer being discussed.
● Russian Armenian Karen Khachanov destroys compatriot Andrey Kuznetsov to reach the US Open 3rd round.
● Turkey is scaling back authorization for an annual service on Akhtamar Island on Lake Van citing COVID-19 concerns. Only 25 people will be able to attend this year’s mass.
● ARF’s Artsvik Minasyan does not rule out that the ARF may cooperate with former presidents Robert Kocharyan and Serzh Sargsyan in the opposition field.
● Three-month training of reserve officers will be held.
● The Russian-Armenian dispute over the railway is now ‘Settled’. Armenia has dropped charges against the Russian operator for inflated investment estimates.
● The Ministry of Health said on Thursday that it has spent almost AMD 11.5 billion ($23.6 million) on treatment and preventive measures against Coronavirus since March.
● Interview with Gabriel Balayan (deputy minister of Defense) on a newly forming reserve system (Ashkharazor).
● Armenia’s General Prosecution has announced new key appointments of prosecutors responsible for stolen asset recovery functions. The special division will be tasked with enforcing a controversial law allowing the confiscation of private properties and other assets deemed to have been acquired illegally.
● Mayor of Yerevan Hayk Marutyan has vowed to protect and develop urban green spaces in the capital.
● EU-funded “Armenian-Georgian Platform for Policy Development” presents policy recommendations for the leaders of both countries focusing mainly on tourism for economic growth, fight against corruption and discrimination.
● The Armenian government plans to declare quarantine after the end of state of emergency. The bill to enable the quarantine was discussed and passed during the extraordinary session of the parliament. What are the differences between a state of emergency and quarantine?
● Senior lawmaker Lilit Makunts says the Prosperous Armenia party (BHK) is under the influence of certain political forces. She does not say more about what political forces. BHK MP and spokeswoman Iveta Tonoyan responded to Makunts.
● President Armen Sarkissian will attend the GMIS - Global Manufacturing and Industrialization Summit - on September 5. The summit is being held online this year.
● A corporate Eurobond trade was executed on AMX’s corporate bonds platform for the first time in the history of Armenian exchange market.
● Armenia and Russia are intensifying ties in the sphere of digitization, cyber-security and communication.
● Gyumri, the second largest city of Armenia, will celebrate the city’s day on September 5 under the title “My Love Gyumri”. This year the celebration will be held online.
● Results of Phase I-II clinical trials of Russian vaccine against COVID-19 are positive.
● New Dutch ambassador presents copy of credentials to Armenian FM.
● Yeghegnut villagers residents plan to file a lawsuit against the CEC’s decision to prohibit a local referendum.
● Yerevan held a benefit concert for Beirut, proceeds to be matched by the AGBU.
● The Armenian Stamp depicting the old city of Gyumri is one of the Top 5 most voted stamps of the pan-European Stamp Competition hosted by PostEurop. Voting continues until Sept. 9.
● Citizens hold a protest in defense of Amulsar in front of Armenian parliament.
● Deputy justice minister Rafik Grigoryan stated that rallies may be held in Armenia during the quarantine period.
● MP Warren Entsch supports calls for Australian recognition of Armenian, Assyrian and Greek Genocides.
● The level of Lake Sevan has increased by 5 centimeters compared to September 3, 2019.
● Artsakh President Arayik Harutyunyan expects that internet speeds will improve and telco costs from Karabakh Telecom will reduce by 2022.
● BHK’s Gagik Tsarukian continues to call for Prime Minister Pashinian’s resignation. He has said that the government has mishandled the pandemic response and needs to step down.
● “Gucci model” Armine Harutyunyan responded to discourse in Italy about “being different”.
● At the instruction of DM Tonoyan, MoD reps and the head of the Health, Social Protection and Veterans Affairs department visited the family of POW Gurgen Alaverdyan, and got acquainted with the family’s socio-economic and health condition. They promised to do everything within his powers to solve the issues.
● The EU Foreign Affairs and Security Policy office has criticized the sentencing of Azerbaijani Musavat opposition leader Tofiq Yagublu and has called upon the authorities to re-examine the case in line with Azerbaijan’s international commitments.
The Greece vs. Turkey animosity has been escalating in the past weeks. We will dedicate a section here to the headlines we’ve seen building:
● There’s a New Game of Thrones in the Mediterranean
● Former head of "Nubarashen" prison Samvel Mkrtchyan was arrested
● Turkey's President Warns Greece, France About Oil and Gas Exploration in Disputed Waters
● Turkey Marks 1922 Victory Over Greece Amid Med Tensions
● Kastellorizo, Idyllic Island At Heart Of Greece-Turkey Row
● War Monger: Erdoğan ordered his generals to shoot down and sink Greek jets and ships
● Mohamed bin Zayed, Prime Minister of Greece discuss regional developments
● Turkey called on the US to reconsider a decision to partially lift a 33-year-old arms embargo against Greek Cyprus, to let it procure non-lethal equipment.
● The EU continues to send aid to Turkey all the time while it is threatening Greece’s territorial waters, and EU borders.
● Retired Turkish Admiral says it will take Turkey only two days to capture French flagship and 16 Greek islands in the Aegean
● Turkey’s Black Sea gas find does not match its president’s hype
● Fitch downgraded 20 Turkish banks to ratings below investment grade on Wednesday, citing the depletion of the central bank’s reserves.
● Athens & Ankara agree to talks amid maritime tensions between NATO allies.
● Why is the Trump administration enabling Erdogan’s Turkey?
● What is Turkey’s endgame in Libya?
● NATO Announces Talks as Turkey-Greece Tensions Rise
● Energy is Just a Card in Ankara’s Game: Petrostrategies
● Turkey is losing all its gains in the Middle East, and Greece is benefiting
● EU to hone 'carrot and stick' line on Turkey at summit, EU Council President Charles Michel said.
John Antaramian, mayor of Kenosha, Wisconsin, has been dealing with the aftermath of the shooting of Jacob Blake. Following the unrest that followed those events 2 weeks ago, President Trump said he would visit Kenosha, but Mayor Antaramian said it was too early for either Trump or Biden to visit. A war of words followed, but Mayor Antaramian stood tall.
● Google him for more.
Dr Hagop Hovaguimian received the Order of Motherland for saving numerous human lives, for his exclusive services in the healthcare sector, creating an innovative medical center conducting complex heart surgeries, and preparing new specialists. He is the first doctor National Hero.
● President Sarkissian bestows National Hero highest title to doctor Hagop Hovaguimian - Armenpress.am
That concludes our program for this episode of Groong Week in Review. We hope it has helped your understanding of some of the issues from the previous week.
We look forward to your feedback and suggestions for issues to cover in greater depth. Contact us on our website, at groong.org, or on our Facebook Page “ANN - Groong”, or in our Facebook Group “Groong - Armenian News Network”.
Special thanks to Laura Osborn for providing the music for our podcast. I’m Hovik Manucharyan, and on behalf of everyone in this episode, I wish you a good week. Thank you for listening and talk to you next week.
Karabakh Negotiations, Madrid Principles, Arsen Torosyan, Covid19, State of Emergency, iGorts, repatriation
Additional: Emil Sanamyan, David Sandukhchyan, Asbed Kotchikian, Sergey Lavrov, Armen Grigoryan, Arayik Harutyunyan, Masis Mayilian, Minsk Group, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Artsakh, High Commissioner for Diaspora Affairs, Quarantine, Alexey Navalny, Channel 5