Turkey Rejects US Recognition Of ‘Armenian Genocide’

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

Turkey on Wednesday rejected the US House of Representatives’ official recognition of the “Armenian Genocide”, warning it risks harming ties “at an extremely fragile time” for international and regional security.

“As a meaningless political step, its sole addressees are the Armenian lobby and anti Turkey groups,” the foreign ministry said in a statement.

“We believe that American friends of Turkey who support the continuation of the alliance and friendly relations will question this grave mistake and those who are responsible will be judged by the conscience of the American people,” it added.

Kim Kardashian Christens Her Children In Armenia

Kim Kardashian and Kanye West arrive for the 2019 Met Gala at the Metropolitan Museum of Artin New York.  ANGELA WEISS / AFP

 

US reality television star Kim Kardashian baptised her children on Monday during a visit to her ancestral homeland Armenia.

Kardashian wore a tight-fitting beige dress and stopped to take pouting selfies with local fans as she left Holy Echmiadzin, the Caucasus nation’s main cathedral.

She was accompanied by her four children and sister Kourtney Kardashian, according to an AFP photographer. Her husband, rapper Kanye West, was not present.

The visit was the star’s first to the Caucasus nation since a 2015 trip marking the centenary of the Armenian genocide that saw her husband give a chaotic, impromptu concert in capital Yerevan.

Kardashian is due to give a speech on Tuesday at the World Congress on Information Technology which is being held in Armenia.

Kardashian’s Armenian ancestors on her father’s side emigrated to the United States from an area that now lies in Turkey.

Armenia was the first country in the world to adopt Christianity as an official religion, in the fourth century.

AFP

Armenia Opposition Leader Pashinyan Elected PM By Parliament

Armenian opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan addresses lawmakers during a parliament session to elect a new prime minister in Yerevan on May 8, 2018/ AFP

 

Armenia’s parliament on Tuesday elected opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan as prime minister after he spearheaded weeks of mass protests against the ruling party, transforming the country’s political landscape.

Lawmakers voted 59 to 42 to approve Pashinyan’s candidacy to the nation’s top job with the ruling Republican Party backing the opposition leader’s premiership bid on his second attempt after it narrowly voting him down last week, plunging the Caucasus nation into its most serious political crisis in years.

Armenia Braces For New Protests Amid Political Deadlock

Armenian-Americans march in protest through the Little Armenia neighbourhood of Hollywood, California on April 24, 2018. Credit: FREDERIC J. BROWN / AFP

 

Armenia braced for fresh protests on Wednesday amid a deepening political crisis after opposition leader Nikol Pashinyan accused the authorities of unwillingness to negotiate the transfer of power.

The country’s veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian stood down on Monday from his new post as prime minister after days of protests by demonstrators who accused him of a blatant power grab.

Pashinyan, the leader of the opposition movement, was due Wednesday to hold talks with the acting head of government Karen Karapetyan to discuss a “peaceful” transfer of power but the talks were cancelled at the last minute, plunging the impoverished country of 2.9 million people into fresh turmoil.

Pashinyan said the ruling Republican Party did not wish to cede power and called on his supporters to renew protests.

“We can’t allow the Republican Party to continue ruling the country,” he said in a live video address Tuesday night.

“The problem was not only Serzh Sarkisian but the entire Republican Party.”

Karapetyan confirmed the planned negotiations had been cancelled and accused the protest leader of putting forward “new demands” concerning the proposed talks.

“This not a negotiation, a dialogue but simply promoting his own agenda,” Karapetyan said in a statement.

He said he asked Armenia’s President Armen Sarkisian, who is no relation to the former leader and is a ceremonial figurehead, to help organise talks with “the participation of a wider spectrum of both parliamentary and non-parliamentary political forces.”

Earlier Tuesday Pashinyan, the 42-year-old leader of the Civil Contract party, told reporters he was ready to lead the Moscow-allied country.

The new prime minister must be a “people’s candidate” and not a member of Sarkisian’s ruling Republican Party, he said.

Last week Sarkisian was elected prime minister by lawmakers after serving a decade as president, triggering political turmoil in the South Caucasus country which is locked in a simmering territorial dispute with Azerbaijan.

The opposition charged that the 63-year-old wanted to extend his grip on power under a new parliamentary system of government, saying he failed to tackle a litany of problems such as poverty and corruption.

Protests broke out several days before his expected election, with tens of thousands of people eventually taking to the streets of Yerevan and other cities in largely peaceful protests.

Russia — which has a military base in Armenia — has appealed for stability but said it would not interfere.

Armenia’s arch-foe Azerbaijan expressed the hope that new Armenian authorities would adopt a “constructive” approach over the breakaway region of Nagorny Karabakh.

AFP

Armenia Celebrates As Veteran Leader Quits Amid Protests

People celebrate Armenian prime minister Serzh Sarkisian’s resignation in downtown Yerevan on April 23, 2018. PHOTO: Vano Shlamov/AFP

 

Armenia’s veteran leader Serzh Sarkisian resigned on Monday after mass protests against his election as prime minister with sweeping powers, sparking celebrations across the impoverished country.

Last week Sarkisian was elected prime minister by lawmakers after serving a decade as president, triggering political turmoil in the Moscow-allied nation of 2.9 million people.

The opposition said the move was designed to extend his chokehold on power under a new parliamentary system of government, with tens of thousands taking to the streets of the capital Yerevan and other cities in recent days.

“Our velvet revolution has won but this is only the first step,” protest leader Nikol Pashinyan told supporters during a rally Monday evening.

“Our revolution cannot stop halfway and I am hoping that you will persevere until the final victory.”

The 42-year-old leader of the Civil Contract party said he would meet with the acting head of government, Karen Karapetyan, on Wednesday to discuss the transfer of power.

He said parliament would have to elect a new prime minister “within a week” and new parliamentary elections were also in the cards.

Earlier in the day the 63-year-old Sarkisian — who previously refused to step down — stunned the country by saying he was in the wrong and resigning.

“I am leaving the post of the country’s leader,” Sarkisian was quoted as saying by his office.

“Nikol Pashinyan was right,” he said. “I was wrong.”

Sarkisian implied that there were several ways to resolve the crisis and that he could have used force to break up protests but chose not to.

“This is not in my nature,” he added.

Sarkisian quit after a number of serving and former soldiers joined the protests.

His resignation came as a major surprise, with analysts saying just last week that the opposition did not have enough resources to force the veteran leader to quit.

‘People won’

Armenians cheered Sarkisian’s departure, dancing, hugging each other and setting off fireworks.

“The people won!” shouted supporters of Pashinyan as some people waved national flags and others tooted car horns, on the 11th day of demonstrations.

Spontaneous street parties broke out as many flocked to stores to buy wine and raise a toast to the country’s future.

Sarkisian remained the country’s top leader even after he transitioned to the post of prime minister following constitutional amendments approved in 2015, which transferred powers from the presidency to the premiership.

Sarkisian, a former military officer, was first elected president of the impoverished, landlocked nation in 2008.

He also held the office of prime minister from 2007 to 2008.

After the 2008 presidential vote, 10 people died in clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate.

The Kremlin said it was closely watching the political crisis in Armenia — which hosts a Russian military base — but would not interfere.

‘Never happened before’

Protesters said Sarkisian’s peaceful departure after a decade in power was unprecedented.

“For the first time ever the people forced the head of state to resign,” said 46-year-old Arman Sarkisian (no relation to Serzh Sarkisian).

“This has never happened before. From now on those who will replace him will think twice before taking decisions.”

Gohar Badalyan, a 21-year-old student, added: “A new life is beginning today.”

Sarkisian had earlier refused to go and on Sunday stormed out of televised talks with Pashinyan, accusing him of “blackmail”.

Over the past days, thousands of protesters held rallies against Sarkisian, denouncing his failure to fight poverty, corruption and the influence of oligarchs.

They blocked roads and marched arm-in-arm holding Armenian flags, with students and a group of serving soldiers joining the protests.

A number of uniformed former soldiers and veterans who fought in Nagorny Karabakh — a breakaway region seized by Armenian separatists after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991 — also joined the demonstrations.

Despite the festive mood, many in Armenia acknowledged that the country still faced huge uncertainty.

Andranik Serobyan, a teacher, said the “hardest part is ahead”.

“Who will be the prime minister? Who will be the country’s leader? We will have to live through all of this.”

UN urges restraint

UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres called for restraint and the continued respect of democratic rights in Armenia.

Guterres “calls for the continued respect of democratic rights and the rule of law, as well as for the maintenance of peace and stability in Armenia and the wider region,” said a UN spokesman.

In Moscow, President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman Dmitry Peskov — who spoke to reporters before Sarkisian resigned — said Russia was carefully watching events in Armenia, which has retained close ties to its former Soviet master.

Last week Putin called Sarkisian to congratulate him on his election as prime minister despite the rallies.

AFP

Police Deny Armenia Protest Leader Arrested In Clashes

Armenia’s anti-government protest leader Nikol Pashinyan speaks at the start of a televised meeting wiht Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian who left shortly after it began in a hotel in Yerevan on April 22, 2018, / AFP

 

Armenian police said protest leader Nikol Pashinyan was on Sunday “forcibly taken” from a protest rally, dismissing reports of his arrest as riot police and demonstrators clashed in Yerevan.

“Despite repeated calls to stop illegal rallies, Pashinyan continued leading a demonstration” in the capital, police said in a statement, adding that he and two other opposition MPs “were forcibly taken from the site” as riot police dispersed the rally.

An opposition MP Sasun Mikaelyan earlier told journalists that Pashinyan was arrested.

“People must liberate Nikol,” he said.

As an MP, Pashinyan is protected by a parliamentary immunity and cannot be arrested without the approval of lawmakers, in accordance with the Armenian constitution.

Riot police using stun grenades clashed with demonstrators at the march led by Pashinyan in Yerevan’s suburban district of Erebuni.

It came shortly after new Armenian Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian walked out of talks with the protest leader.

The televised meeting between the two only lasted for a couple of minutes on Sunday morning before the premier walked out, accusing the opposition of “blackmail”.

Pashinyan had earlier announced the “start of a peaceful velvet revolution” in the landlocked South Caucasus nation of 2.9 million people.

Heeding a call from Pashinyan, protesters held rallies over the last 10 days to denounce Sarkisian’s shift to the post of prime minister after a decade serving as president.

Opposition supporters have criticised the 63-year-old leader over poverty, corruption and the influence of powerful oligarchs.

Under a new parliamentary system of government, lawmakers elected him as prime minister last week.

Constitutional amendments approved in 2015 have transferred power from the presidency to the premiership.

After Sarkisian was first elected in 2008, 10 people died and hundreds were injured in bloody post-election clashes between police and supporters of the defeated opposition candidate.

Armenia Marks Centenary Of Ottoman Forces Mass Killing

ArmeniaCeremonies are being held in Armenia to mark the centenary of the massacre of up to 1.5 million of Armenians allegedly killed by Ottoman forces.

The Presidents of France, Francois Hollande and Russia,Vladimir Putin, joined other leaders at the memorial for the victims on the outskirts of the capital, Yerevan.

Armenia said up to 1.5 million people died, a figure disputed by Turkey.

Armenian President, Serzh Sarkisian and First Lady, Rita Sarkisian, laid a wreath at a hilltop memorial at the start of a solemn ceremony, commemorating the mass killings that began in 1915 during World War 1.

President Sarkisian expressed hope that recent steps to recognise the massacre as genocide would help “dispel the darkness of 100 years of denial”.

Each foreign diplomat held a yellow rose to put into the wreath laid at the foot of a monumental 44-metre needle, symbolising the nation’s rebirth.

Trying To Divert World Attention

Turkey strongly objects to the use of the term genocide to describe the killings and the issue has soured relations between the nations.

Turkey accepts that atrocities were committed but argues there was no systematic attempt to destroy the Christian Armenian people. Turkey said many innocent Muslim Turks also died in the turmoil of war.

A memorial service will also be held in Turkey on Friday and its prime minister, Ahmet Davutoglu, has said the country will “share the pain” of Armenians. But he reiterated Turkey’s stance that the killings were not genocide.

Turkey is also hosting ceremonies on Friday to mark the 100th anniversary of the start of the Battle of Gallipoli.

However, the actual fighting there began on 25 April, and  President  Sarkisian has accused Turkey of “trying to divert world attention” from the Yerevan commemorations.