2021 February 16

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Daily news wrap-up

Feb/16/2021: (1) Serj about negotiations, his plan for land giveaway. Aliyev's rejection of 5+2. Officials respond to Serj. Sasna Tsrer's 2016 hostage takeover. (2) Bill: rifles for border residents (3) Anti-corruption & confiscation reforms (4) Arts. & Azerb. hold direct talks (5) New houses (6)...
by ar_david_hh


Your 12-minute Tuesday report in 3216 words.

=bill could allow border residents to carry more advanced rifles / no hunting license necessary

QP MP Khachatryan co-authored a bill to allow more border residents to possess guns for self-defense.

Khachatryan: currently, you have to join a hunting club and possess a non-threaded (?) rifle for at least 5 years to receive a permit to carry a threaded (?) rifle.

The new bill will eliminate the 5-year requirement. Any resident who meets other requirements will be allowed to have one. These threaded rifles bear similarities with combat ones and are closer to them technically and tactically.

This will increase the sense of security among the population. It's also a more efficient weapon for hunting. We want to work with gun importers and sellers to simplify the process. Most border residents already know how to handle a gun. No issue in this regard.

This isn't being done to counter occasional border shots heard from the Azeri side. This is done primarily to increase the sense of security among the population.

There are age and medical requirements. Owners will be required to undergo training. Any qualified member of a family can carry the weapon. The existence of any weapon brings its risks, be it threaded or non-threaded. If we allow non-threaded then we might as well allow threaded.

I've spoken with residents and border mayors. They lobbied for this bill. The government will select the list of qualified bordering settlements; this won't apply to all automatically.

The Parliamentary committee will discuss the bill within a month, followed by a Parliament debate.

https://factor.am/338773.html , https://youtu.be/ouTDYdFwEO4

Tags: #GunLaw #BorderGun #RifleLaw #Hunting #HuntingRifle

anti-corruption efforts / new courts / new committee

Pashinyan summoned the Ministers to discuss the ongoing fight against corruption.

Corruption Prevention Committee: we vetted 47 officials recently, including judicial candidates, prosecutor's office officials, etc. 26 received a positive result, 16 positive with ASTERISK, 4 negative.

The work on improving the public official's property and income declaration system continue. The number of applications 3x since 2019. 640 examinations, 240 of which relating to judicial candidates and their family members. 4 of them failed ethics or other tests.

We launched an auction to find a company to build a new digital platform to make anti-corruption more efficient. International experts helped us to create a corruption risk assessment methodology. The risky areas are appointments in offices, promotions, performance appraisal, budget handling, purchases.

Justice Minister Badasyan: the new Anti-Corruption Committee (different from above) and Anti-Corruption Courts will be implemented soon after the Parliament holds the second and final vote on the bill.

5 specialized Anti-Corruption Court judges will hear cases relating to the confiscation of illegally-obtained property.

Pashinyan: are you doing anything right now to confiscate properties of illegal origin?

Justice Minister Badasyan: 4 cases are being finalized. The Supreme Court is currently retraining the new Anti-Corruption judges, who will handle those cases. We're also discussing the judges' salaries.

Pashinyan: they need to be paid good. It will improve the work quality. The Anti-Corruption institute staff also needs to undergo ethics vetting.

Justice Minister Badasyan: we plan to merge two institutes and create one, tasked with finding the real owners of businesses. It'll apply to all businesses.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043595.html

Serzh Sargsyan interview / negotiations / army / investments / response

Serzh gave a lengthy interview recently and blamed the loss of 7+ regions on the Pashinyan administration, saying that under his watch, Artsakh would have only lost 5, with Lachin and Kelbajar remaining Armenian. [at least in the initial period]

Serzh also claimed he had planned to make a similar deal in 2018 but a revolution happened and he couldn't finalize it.

That appears to be wishful thinking, however, because Aliyev ended up rejecting Serzh's offer. It was rejected back in 2011 in Kazan. Yesterday, Aliyev bragged about how he rejected Serj's offer and got those 2 regions, too, with the help of his military.

Ilham Aliyev: during the negotiations they [Armenians] never wanted to return Lachin and Kelbajar. That was the main reason for the lack of success in negotiations. Unfortunately, Armenia and its sponsors wanted Azerbaijan to receive only 5 regions and be satisfied with it, and Karabakh would one day gain independence. But I rejected it. //

Serj also claimed he planned to spend $1.3B between 2018-2024 to purchase 2,000 drones. He also said the Iskander missile was used in the Shushi area, but it wasn't used at important Azeri facilities sooner likely out of precautions. "It should have been used sooner."

Serj said that Shushi was "given" but not as an intentional conspiracy. "I knew from the Azeri actions that they would only stop when they captured Shushi."

LHK leader Marukyan responded to Serj's claim that he was in favor of giving the lands: "It turns out that our citizen's taxes were spent on an area that was to be transferred to Azerbaijan. Why were you spending millions of dollars on Zangilan, Kubatlu, Arakasavan, and Jabrayil? Hundreds of millions of dollars were made available mostly for hydro-power plants in Lachin and Kelbajar. Why spend this money and simultaneously negotiate the handover of these regions?" (Context: Serj was claiming that he wasn't a "not-a-single-inch-er" and that he was ready to go for a compromise. Also relevant: the All Armenia Fund has, throughout the years, invested many millions of dollars in these adjacent regions.)

ARF leader Ishkhan: our party's stance has been no compromise until we know what we get in return. "Develop without [land] compromises."

Question: when you [ARF] voted to approve Serj Sargsyan as Prime Minister in 2018, did you know that Serj was coming to give the lands to Azerbaijan?

ARF leader Ishkhan: I wasn't aware of it. I wasn't a leader at the time. //

During the April 2018 revolution, opposition leaders were jailed. One of them was soon-to-be Education Minister Arayik Harutyunyan.

Arayik wrote: during the interview, Serj claimed that he summoned Karen Karapetyan and informed the latter about his resignation, and asked Karapetyan to visit the jail to meet us [opposition leaders] and inform about his resignation. That isn't true. In reality, Karen Karapetyan met us on April 23rd with two questions: can Serj stay until the Francophonie convention? We rejected it. Can he at least resign on April 25th? It was also rejected. He resigned under pressure. Today he lies about it. (Article notes: Serj claimed he asked the opposition to stay longer to resolve the Karabakh conflict.)

Security Councilman Armen Grigoryan: The 2016 April war was stopped because Serj gave promises to Azerbaijan. The deadline was the Summer of 2016. But Sasna Tsrer organized the hostage takeover [Tsrer actually claimed they did it to stop Serj's "land giveaway"]. Serj used the hostage incident to ask the deadline to be moved to 2017, then until the formation of the new government in 2018. After placing this burden on Armenia, he leaves the position in 2018. Now he blames others.

https://factor.am/339006.html , https://www.panarmenian.net/arm/news/290311/ , https://factor.am/339006.html , https://factor.am/339220.html , https://youtu.be/Pf8Li_uu6PA , https://youtu.be/EmZPR-f_L3s?t=123 , https://youtu.be/yDegAndMjvs , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206849 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206830 , https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206835

Tags: #ArtsakhNegotiations #negotiations #SerjSargsyan #7regions #sevenregions #5+2 #SasnaTsrer

March 1st: Kocharyan trial is resumed and postponed again

Former president Kocharyan and co-defendants were charged with illegal use of the military against civilian protestors in 2008. Lawyers asked today's trial to be held behind closed doors because co-defendant Yuri Khachaturov wanted to reveal private health information.

Yuri then complained about the worsening of his condition. The judge decided to delay the trial until February 23rd to allow Yuri to GET WELL SOON.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043559.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043581.html

court extents arrest of two November 10th rioters

ex-HHK Sergey Kharatyan and an associate will remain locked up. The court rejected their bail offer. They are accused of breaking into govt buildings during the November 10th riots.

https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/206778

police warn employers against pressuring workers to join protests

On December 24th, the police launched a felony investigation against Kocharyan's Toyota dealership in Yerevan after an employee came forward claiming that he was told he couldn't work there anymore if he doesn't join anti-Pashinyan protests. He doesn't work there anymore. The police said several employees were pressured.

Police issued a general warning today: we received information that certain businesses are using their leverage to require workers to take part in rallies. This is illegal and a violation of human rights Code 143, and punishable between a ֏300K fine to 3 years. Call 1-02 if you've been pressured.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043565.html

prominent opposition MP Gevorg Petrosyan (straight Gevorg) resigns from BHK

Now-independent MP Petrosyan: it was a difficult decision. The number-one priority of any MP is to respond swiftly to issues faced by the public and the country, and not fearing for yourself. The delays in clear steps and condemnation of political persecutions are unacceptable. If I fill in the gaps and call things by their names, it will cause anxiety among some of our partners. Therefore, I will not continue my work as part of BHK. I will become an Independent. //

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043578.html

re: imported cement tariffs could turn into ban to shield domestic producers

We learned earlier that the government is discussing whether to outright ban the import of Iranian cement to allow Gagik Tsarukyan's AraratCement and the other cement factory to survive. There is an argument that Armenia has a lot of building to do right now, and since Iran was "cautious" during the war, it shows that Armenia should not rely on imports when it comes to "strategically important items." There were counter-arguments about imported and cheaper cement being better for the industry.

ArmeniaWeekly's Raffi Elliot wrote an article in 2019 when the government introduced the import tariffs to help Tsarukyan's business to survive. There is a discussion here.

https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/lk4656/feb142021_1_earthquake_in_armenia_no_major/gnijpi8/

https://armenianweekly.com/2019/04/17/are-tariffs-protecting-local-jobs-or-corporate-welfare/

search operations

Armenian and Azeri crews continue to search for their soldiers' bodies. Armenian crews didn't find anyone in Hadrut today. Azeris found and transferred one body to Armenia. DNA analysis will be conducted.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043525.html

The DNA analysis in recent days has allowed the identification of 132 more names.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043566.html

direct Artsakh-Azerbaijan-Russia negotiations yield results / body exchange

President Arayik: recently we held a meeting with Russian and Azeri representatives. Today Azerbaijan handed over additional 106 bodies. The search operations continue. We are also discussing the identification and repatriation of remains of Armenian and Azeri people who died during the 1990s war.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043627.html

OCSE Minsk Group met the Armenian and Azeri Foreign Ministers

... over a teleconference. "The Co-Chairs had a lengthy and substantive exchange of views with each Minister on issues related to the promotion of stability in the region, the mediation process, and the role of the Office."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043635.html

PACE adopts a resolution about NGOs

The resolution condemned Azerbaijan, Russia, and Turkey for adopting laws that weaken NGOs, and for prohibiting their foreign financing. The French representative called for the states to bring the laws regulating rallies and free speech in line with international standards.

https://factor.am/339186.html

Artsakh is building new houses for IDPs and refugees / "those are rookie numbers, pump them up"

President Arayik summoned a meeting to discuss the ongoing housing project. "Despite the large-scale construction across the Republic, I'm not satisfied with the pace. We don't have a financial shortage. It depends on the pace of our work on how soon the citizens get housing. Increase the pace. This is a strict assignment."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043516.html

A new settlement is being built in Artsakh, between the Askeran region's Astghashen and Patara villages. It'll provide permanent housing to refugees who migrated from 4 other Askeran villages.

116 new houses and adjacent land will take up 644,000 m2 lands. The first units will be ready within the next few months. Everything should be complete by Dec-2022.

The design of houses is inspired by Qashatagh's Aghavno village. They will be 2-4 bedroom. Each will have 1,500 m2 land. A new market will be built near the main road.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043546.html

Meanwhile, in Askeran's Hovsepavan village, the government is building 5 pilot houses with different designs to learn which one suits best of the local environment. They will be ready soon.

It'll take 1 month for 5 construction workers to build a wooden house with 3br. It costs between $200-300 per m2. They come with a 70-year warranty. Two entry/exit. The walls are heat and soundproof.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043602.html

Tags: #housing #ArtsakhHousing #RefugeeHousing

Artsakh government is selling its unnecessary cars

They will auction 9 expensive vehicles in March, with up to ֏25M in price. The total price is ֏150M. Another 5 vehicles will be taken from Internal Affairs Ministry for sale at ֏2M.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043573.html

aid package: disabled soldiers will receive help to practice sports

Education Ministry met NGOs and sports agencies to discuss an aid package. Soldiers with a disability will receive mental health services and encouragement to join adaptive sports programs. Later, they will be trained to become professionals.

Wheelchair basketball, chess, checkers, handball, ping pong, etc. They're discussing the possibility of turning one of the existing sports centers into a multi-purpose center. "Our Paralympics stats are unsatisfactory. We need to enlarge the list of participants. We need to compete for medals," said Deputy Minister Karen Giloyan.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043606.html

trade reforms: diasporan-Armenians are invited to become commercial attachés

Deputy Economy Minister Varos: Armenia is activating the institution of trade attachés. Armenian citizens living abroad, if they meet the requirements, can use their connections for the benefit of Armenia's economic development. In the past, some attachés received public funding while others did not.

Applicants should present their plans and how much they believe they will increase the volume of Armenia's exports and attract investments. Our primary goal is to be active in Georgia, Iran, Russia, EU, USA, Canada, etc.

The attachés will help other Armenian businesses abroad to handle import/export paperwork. Many people want to trade but don't know how.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043604.html

Armenian companies will resume ability to participate in Russian govt contract auctions

Deputy Economy Minister Varos: last year Russia violated the EAEU bloc rules by banning foreign companies from participating in federal and municipal auctions. EAEU states raised a complaint. Serious negotiations were held.

Beginning in July, companies registered in Armenia can easily participate in those auctions. Armenian companies are more competitive in the light industry, compressor, and refrigeration industries.

We're currently creating a registry of businesses. They will have to meet standards. We are inviting foreign companies to register in Armenia, create products, meet the standards, and use Armenia's EAEU membership to export their products to Russia.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043603.html

regulator audits the expensive Armenia-Russia airline tickets

When Armenia and Russia resumed the flights on February 1st, some travelers learned they'd have to pay astronomical fees. The Economic Protection Commission audited the prices and found:

First. The foreign airline company was selling tickets at a high price. The Commission petition the EAEU trade bloc to learn the cause. EAEU said certain algorithms were used to calculate the price to ensure profit.

Second. The Armenian company ran out of cheap tickets because of high demand, resulting in only Business Class being available.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043551.html

COVID stats

3075 tested. 136 infected. 243 healed. 3 deaths. 4101 active.

In Artsakh: 140 tested, 9 infected, 1 patient receiving hospital care. To this date, Artsakh has done 20.2K tests and confirmed 2.4K infections.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043528.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043536.html

COVID investigative commission

Opposition parties earlier created a Commission to audit the government's handling of the pandemic. Commission president LHK MP Arkadiy lists the types of questions they sent:

251 questions were sent to various agencies. 164 about economic impact, 44 about financial expenditures; their efficiency will be audited. 49 questions about social sphere; Labor Ministry's handling and efficiency of certain programs.

6 questions to Education Ministry (includes other branches) to audit efficiency of preventative measures in the army. Several questions to law enforcement agencies about physical restrictions and human rights.

72 questions are aimed towards receiving statistics to then analyze whether the government's measures were effective.

Some agencies have already begun the process of gathering the data.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043548.html

economy: sales turnover is picking up steam again

IRS said: the comparison of sales receipts and tax invoices shows growth in sales turnover in the first half of February YoY. We're comparing it to last year's period when there was no pandemic yet:

2020 period: 19.6M receipts worth ֏228B

2021 period: 20.2M receipts (+3%) worth ֏259B (+12%)

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043583.html

protect the nature... anyone?

Nature Ministry Romanos met a UN representative Dmitry Mariyasin to discuss nature protection programs as part of "green" cooperation. Minister thanked the UN for the help. The UN envoy thanked the Armenian colleague for "close cooperation, especially since 2018, which resulted in the implementation of numerous reforms."

The two discussed Armenia's obligations in the fight against climate change, the 9 ongoing cooperation programs, as well as possible legal reforms in Armenia.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043592.html

Education Ministry has asked United Youth Union NGO to prepare three animation clips to promote the importance of nature and cultural heritage. The clips are titled "Noah's Amazing Story" (nothing amazing about being a victim of a flood), "The Secrets of the Birth of Armenian Lakes", and "The Secrets of Armenian Mountains".

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043529.html

Nature Ministry sets allowances for non-commercial fishing

Every year, amateur fishers are allowed to catch small quantities of fish. For this year, you can catch 1kg 15-cm-long red trout every day. The full list in the article. The fishing in Lake Sevan is regularly monitored by guards.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043526.html

new British embassy office in Yerevan

A senior Brith Foreign Ministry official Wendy Morton has paid her first visit to Armenia today to open the new British Embassy office in Yerevan. "Good day Armenia. It is wonderful to be in Armenia for the first time. I enjoy the beautiful views of the road to Yerevan."

She plans to discuss global challenges, climate change, and COVID with the MFA. She will meet some businesses.

Wendy: We welcome Armenia's ambitious commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and look forward to helping Armenia realize its potential. We are glad to have supported Armenia's impressive progress in the fight against corruption in recent years, and in the field of democracy and economic reforms. Strengthening women's participation in business is vital for Armenia's development. //

She also welcomed the ceasefire in Artsakh and the plans to lift trade blockades. She met Parliament Speaker Ararat to discuss the ongoing digitization programs, co-funded by the UK.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043522.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043599.html , https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043619.html

HayPost registers a new tech company

Armenia's post office has registered a new "iNovation" tech company "consisted of top-rated programmers." It'll write web/mobile apps, conduct a business analysis, and provide digital advice to HayPost and other companies. "The successful operation of this company will contribute to Haypost's progress."

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043550.html

sports news

National soccer team's defender Varazdat Haroyan has signed a contract with Kazakh "Astana" to transfer from Russian "Tambov". Astana is also home to Tigran Barseghyan, another national team player.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043515.html

Japan will provide $3.6M in aid to Armenia

It's for post-war humanitarian causes, to improve social life, housing, medicine. Dozens of schools will be renovated and medical centers will receive equipment.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1043531.html

donations to Artsakh & recovering soldiers

www.1000plus.am (recovering soldiers & their families)

www.HimnaDram.org (for Artsakh & Armenia)

www.ArmeniaFund.org (U.S. tax-deductible)

archive of older news

http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Daily_Anti-Corruption_Reports

disclaimer

All the accused are considered innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "sound" or "appear" guilty.


Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/lldr10/feb162021_1_serj_about_negotiations_his_plan_for/

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