Oct 20, 2018

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Arevadasht Village in Armavir Region Has a New School

The new school in the Arevadasht Village of Armavir Region AEF chairperson Hermine Pakhanians and AEF construction director Neshan Peroomian cut the ribbon of the new school Until September 2018, the schoolchildren of the community were studying at a half-ruined wooden building that had previously served as army barracks AEF members in front of the new school Schoolchildren during the inauguration of the school The schoolchildren pose in front of their new school Students in their new well-equipped classroom

For 35 years the inhabitants of the Arevadasht village have been dreaming about having a new school. Today that dream is a reality. Until September 2018, the schoolchildren of the community were studying at a half-ruined wooden building that had previously served as army barracks. The school has not had a bulding since its foundation, and during the Soviet years the wooden barracks served as a school since 1981.

“Some members of the Armenian Educational Foundation visited the school and decided that it was impossible to renovate the dilapidated building, so decision was made to build a new one,” said Hermine Pakhanians, president of the AEF. The newly built school was provided with the necessary supplies, chess tables, computers, a canteen, a library, and an open air playground.

Neshan Peroomian, who was in charge of the construction, mentions that there were many difficulties during construction, but ultimately they were resolved, including the issues regarding water and electricity connections.

”This is my volunteer work. I am in charge of the AEF’s school renovation project in Armenia. So far, we have renovated 185 schools, 5 of which were built anew, including the one in Arevadasht. 120 out of 185 schools were renovated or built in Armenia, 5 in Javakhk and 60 in Artsakh.”

Accorrding to Nazik Babayan, the school principal, currently 64 children are enrolled in the school, but taking into account the number of kindergarten students, the number is expected to rise to 70 students next year.

”There are grades 1 to 12 in the school, and the conditions are incomparably improved: new building, new furniture, new computers. Our studentss have been dreaming about studying at a school with these facilities,” she adds.

The opening ceremony was attented by AEF members and sponsors of the new school building. Gagik Mirijanyan, governor of the Armavir region was also present. He addressed the sponsors expressing his gratitude. ”Armenians have proven to have a zeal for building, and a passion for education,” he added. He wished a bright future for the school, sunny like the weather was, the  day the school opened.

The Armenian Educational Foundation’s past experience shows that when new schools are built in villages, the problem of migration is also partially resolved.


Pashinyan, Aliyev Establish ‘Operative’ Ties

Azerbaiajan's president Ilham Aliyev (left) and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a conversation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Sept. 28

Azerbaiajan’s president Ilham Aliyev (left) and Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan held a conversation in Dushanbe, Tajikistan on Sept. 28

YEREVAN—A mechanism for “operative” ties has been established between the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan, according to Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan who told reporters on Thursday that since a brief conversation with Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev the system has been effective.

Pashinyan and Aliyev held a discussion in Dushanbe, Tajikistan earlier this month when the two were attending a summit of CIS leaders. According to Pashinyan, he and Aliyev agreed to de-escalate tension along the Armenia-Azerbaijan and Artsakh-Azerbaijan borders.

“Based on our agreement, a reliable and operative connection has been established with the Azerbaijani side and we can say that any information can be conveyed to the Azerbaijani President and from their side to me within half an hour,” Pashinyan told reporters Thursday, explaining that the communication between the two leaders takes place on an as needed basis.

Pashinyan also attributed the recent relative calm on the borders to his conversation and agreements with Aliyev.

“Generally speaking, the situation on Armenian-Azerbaijani border and Karabakh-Azerbaijan contact line is unprecedentedly calm and it is, in some sense, the result of Dushanbe agreements,” explained Pashinyan.


President Urges Hayastan Fund to ‘Become a 21st Century’ Organization

President Armen Sarkissian (right) with Hayastan All-Armenian Fund Executive Director Haykak Arshamyan

President Armen Sarkissian (right) with Hayastan All-Armenian Fund Executive Director Haykak Arshamyan

Donates his state salary to the organization.
YEREVAN—While visiting the headquarters of Hayastan All-Armenian Fund on Thursday, President Armen Sarkissian, who is also the chairman of the Board of the Trustees of the organization, said the time has come for the Hayastan Fund to become a 21st century structure.

“The Fund was created in the 20th century and has had many achievements. It is time for the Fund to become a 21st century institution,” said Sarkissian while meeting with the organization’s staff.

The Hayastan All-Armenian Fund has weathered some difficulties of late, specifically with the revelation that it former executive director, Ara Vardanyan, had used the organization’s funds for online gambling. He was fired from his post and replaced earlier this month by Haykak Arshamyan who accompanied the president on the tour.

Sarkissian said the fund is of great importance to Armenia and the Armenian people, and since its formation, at a time of great economic hardship in Armenia, it has carried out its mission with great success.

However, the president pointed out the imperative to reevaluate the fund’s activities and modernize its approaches to fundraising and advancement of its mission.

“Time advances faster than we can think. Therefore, the Fund needs to adopt new approaches, introduce new programs and work in a new way,” said Sarkssian who added that with the accelerated pace at which change is moving in Armenia, the fund must also adapt to the 21st century world. He urged the staff to take lessons from past achievements, as well as difficulties to carve out a more contemporary approach to the fund’s activities.

“I shouldn’t be the one to tell you about [the fund’s] achievements, programs and respect among Armenians all over the world. It’s just enough to visit different places in Armenia, depart from Yerevan to Stepanakert and see the roads, which have been meticulously constructed,” the president said and emphasized the national significance of the fund’s mission.

Sarkissian also reiterated his earlier announcement that he would donate his state salary to the Hayastan All-Armenian Fund.

“During our meeting in May of 2018 I expressed my confidence in the fund and its projects in a very simple way – I said that I am ready to donate my salary to the fund,” Sarkissian said, explaining that his entire salary, which has been accumulating since taking office, will be donated to the fund in the coming days “in order to have my small contribution in the solution of big and important issues.”


Bolton’s Visit to Armenia is ‘Important,’ Says Mnatsakanyan

National Security Advisor John Bolton

National Security Advisor John Bolton

YEREVAN—An upcoming visit by President Donald Trump’s National Security Advisor John Bolton to Armenia is “important” according to Armenia’s Acting Foreign Minister Zohrab Mnatsakanyan who detailed to reporters Thursday the issues that official Yerevan will raise with the U.S. official.

Last week, Bolton announced on Twitter that he would visit the region beginning Saturday.

“On October 20th I’ll be travelling to Russia, Azerbaijan, Armenia, and Georgia to meet with my counterparts and other senior officials to advance American interests on a range of security issues,” Bolton said in a Twitter post.

“[Bolton’s visit] is a very important visit. Bolton is traveling to Russia, he is coming to the region, and we have our agenda with the United States that has been developed throughout years. There are bilateral issues, there is a regional agenda, around which we will hold meetings with the US representative,” said Mnatsakanyan.

Armenia’s top diplomat also took the time to address the controversial statements made by the outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills, who in an interview published this week by the EVN Report said that returning what he called “occupied territories” to Azerbaijan was an inevitable part of the Karabakh conflict resolution process. He also expressed his dismay and how little traction that issue has had in Armenia during his more than three-year tenure in Armenia.

“Our position on the Karabakh conflict is clear and very concrete. Last time I spoke about it in Luxembourg, the prime minister also discussed it. We are working and negotiating within the parameters of our position and will continue the move toward that direction,” Mnatsakanyan told reporters.


‘Living Diaspora’ to Mark UCLA Narekatsi Chair 50th Anniversary

Living Diaspora

Living Diaspora

The UCLA Narekatsi Chair in Armenian Studies in collaboration with the Melkonian Global Overture is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the chair’s founding with a program of events under the general rubric Living Diaspora.

The program will foreground the chair’s achievements in Armenian instruction and its initiatives directed at revitalizing the language among a younger generation of speakers in the Diaspora with a view to developing Armenian’s potential as a vibrant, relevant, contemporary means of communication and creativity.

The events are scheduled at various campus locations on Saturday, January 19, 2019.

The Narekatsi Program in Armenian Language and Culture at UCLA is currently the largest of its kind outside the Armenian Republic. Its faculty comprising Prof. S. Peter Cowe, Dr. Anahit Keshishian Aramouni, Dr. Shushan Karapetian, and Dr. Hagop Gulludjian provide instruction on all major standards of the language from Classical Armenian to the modern Eastern and Western forms. UCLA also features the Richard G. Hovannisian Chair in Modern Armenian History held by Prof. Sebouh D. Aslanian, and the Research Program in Armenian Archaeology and Ethnography and Chitjian Archive at the Cotsen Institute of Archaeology as well as an introductory course in Armenian Music offered in collaboration with the Music Department.

Living Diaspora program

Living Diaspora program

The Narekatsi Program is also unique in its efforts to expand the creative employment of Armenian under diaspora conditions. Analyzing the particular profile of diasporic heritage language speakers, it reviews its theoretical basis in international conferences, devises curricula to enrich students’ potential for self-expression in a wider range of language contexts, and offers a nurturing classroom ambience for hands-on experimentation.

Over the last years the Melkonian Global Overture (MGO) has been active in securing the viability and self-sustainability of Armenian institutions identified as being of historic and symbolic value. Its president Mrs. Arsine Shirvanian also remarked that MGO tries to foster those institutions’ functionality by material means and to assist them adjust most effectively to the demands of the 21st century through financial consulting. Shirvanian declared that her organization’s motto is “recognize, restore, revitalize”, mainly by finding innovative and immediate solutions to current challenges, while at the same time stimulating and empowering young people to realize their full potential. Apart from the above institutions, she stated “our targets are primarily the youth and education.”

Short Film Award Ceremony

A public screening will be held in Melnitz Hall (3:30-4:30 p.m.) of the ten best award-winning entries to a competition for short films.

Contestants, especially young people, are encouraged to submit their entry with a duration of up to three minutes in either the documentary or fiction category on the general topic “Armenian roots and language: connections, disconnects, aspirations, potential.”

Authors of the three best films will receive awards in the sum of $1000, $750, and $500 and consultation on film production. In addition to screening in the Living Diaspora program, authors of the ten best films will be invited to a special Masterclass with world-famous director Albert Kodagolian.

Entries should be sent to submissions@MelkonianGlobalOverture.com by the December 1, 2018 deadline.

Living Language: a Roundtable Discussion led by Razmik Panossian

The second public event on the program Living Diaspora is scheduled 5:00-6:30 p.m. in Melnitz Hall.

Participating in the discussion will be faculty and students of the UCLA Program in Armenian Language and Culture and invited guests. Dr. Razmik Panossian, Director of the Armenian Section of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, will steer the conversation on the subject of how to teach and disseminate Armenian in the Diaspora, and especially in the West, as a living organism, countering tendencies gradually emerging as the norm whereby the language is reduced to fulfilling purely ceremonial functions.

Concert of Contemporary Armenian Music

The Living Diaspora program concludes with a concert in Royce Hall at 7 p.m. The concert includes a fifty-piece orchestra specially assembled for the occasion, performing modern and contemporary arrangements of traditional music. The concert will showcase the talents of a range of young musicians and vocalists. Tickets are available from info@MelkonianGlobalOverture.com. For further information on all the events on the daylong program, please call (818) 642-7787.


Kind Campaign Visits Chamlian School

Chamlian School officials flank Kind Campaign creators, Molly Thompson and Lauren Paul

Chamlian School officials flank Kind Campaign creators, Molly Thompson and Lauren Paul

The Kind Campaign visited Chamlian Armenian School to the great delight of both faculty & staff as well as the middle schoolers who benefited greatly from their positive message and kindness. Chamlian Armenian School, which has had a running theme of Kindness for years, prides itself in being a model school of good citizenship and encouragement.

It was such a delight to see the values of kindness and positivity being upheld and reinforced in a school where these characteristics are regularly spoken about as well as instilled within the very fabric of the character building program that the Counseling center runs.

Chamlian students during the Kind Campaign presentation

Chamlian students during the Kind Campaign presentation

Kind Campaign creators, Molly Thompson and Lauren Paul, who tour schools around the entire United States, chose Chamlian Armenian School for a visit, engaged the students with both visual presentations as well as hands on activities which allowed the students to collaborate and familiarize themselves with practicing active listening skills as well as social values that would promote kindness and healing among all. After speaking of the virtues of kindness, students were shown a documentary where Paul and Thompson had traveled the country, spoken to many students and adults in regards to the dangers and long lasting effects of bullying.

The video was very truthful in the sense that it emphasized the importance of treating one another with kindness and outlined the shocking truth about bullying by informing viewers about the tremendous effect on individuals even years after the bullying occurred. Molly and Lauren introduced the “Kindness Pledge” activity to the girls through which the promise to continue upholding the practices of lifting one another up, of instilling positive influences within one another, and of promoting a general sense of unity became reinforced within their blossoming character.

The students also wrote a “Kind Apology” to whomever they wanted to express their feelings to and apologize for their actions and/or words. This activity was very raw and honest; it gave the students the opportunity yo restore their relationship with the person they may have emotionally hurt whether intentionally or unintentionally.

The school expressed its gratitude to Lauren Paul and Molly Thompson for being shining beacons in the quest to promote kindness throughout the world. They were glad to see that a Kindness Campaign as well as visual aids promoting kindness around Chamlian already in effect; Here’s hoping for continued success to all in who work hard to make our world a little more kind.


ANCA Supporters Across the Garden State Strongly Back Menendez

ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian with Senator Bob Menendez

ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian with Senator Bob Menendez

MAHWAH, NJ—Friends, supporters, and leaders of the Armenian National Committee of America came together recently in Mahwah, New Jersey to honor U.S. Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), a longstanding legislative leader on Armenian issues, as he vies for re-election this November.

The ANCA, which has consistently scored Senator Menendez with an “A+” rating, formally endorsed his candidacy, and is working state-wide to ensure strong voter turnout on Election Day in support of his re-election. Senator Menendez serves as the Ranking Democrat on the influential Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a key panel with vital “advise and consent” powers over presidential appointees and international treaties.

Senator Bob Menendez (center) with ANCA supporters and leaders Hovig Koushagjian, Karine Shnorhokian, Ani Tchaghlasian, Kim Hekimian, event hosts Maral and James Sahagian and ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian

Senator Bob Menendez (center) with ANCA supporters and leaders Hovig Koushagjian, Karine Shnorhokian, Ani Tchaghlasian, Kim Hekimian, event hosts Maral and James Sahagian and ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian

The event was graciously hosted at the home of James and Maral Sahagian. James Sahagian is a longtime community activist and currently serves as the Chair of the ANCA New Jersey Chapter. The event was co-sponsored by distinguished attorney John Shahdanian of Old Tappan, New Jersey. John is a longtime ANCA supporter and currently serves as an elected official on the Old Tappan Board of Education. Joseph Ariyan, a prominent attorney in northern New Jersey and ardent ANCA supporter also co-sponsored the fundraiser for Senator Menendez. Joe has been a very active attorney with municipalities across the State of New Jersey and is well known for his dedication to public service. Ani Tchaghlasian, a longtime friend of Senator Menendez and a past Chair of the ANCA New Jersey Chapter, also co-sponsored the gathering for Senator Menendez.

“The ANCA is proud to stand shoulder to shoulder with Senator Robert Menendez,” remarked ANCA Chairman Raffi Hamparian at the event. “The ANCA looks forward to working with Senator Menendez on our content rich legislative agenda during the upcoming 116th Congress. Our ANCA agenda includes, but is not limited to, securing a new U.S.-Armenia Double Tax Treaty, working towards a new Millennium Challenge Compact for Armenia that will rebuild close to 100 schools across rural Armenia, and ensuring that direct U.S. aid to the Republic of Artsakh continues to be appropriated by Congress,” added Hamparian.

ANCA youth advocate Sarhad Melkonian talks foreign policy with Senator Bob Menendez

ANCA youth advocate Sarhad Melkonian talks foreign policy with Senator Bob Menendez

“Maral and I were happy to host this event for Senator Menendez – a great friend of Armenia and Artsakh throughout his career in Congress,” shared event host James Sahagian. “He has been a true advocate for justice – no matter which party has been in the White House or Senate leadership. I urge all my friends and community members to cast their vote for Senator Menendez when they go to the polls this year,” he added.

“Senator Menendez – has stood with Armenian Americans – over and over again – rallying for justice for the Armenian Genocide, self-determination for Artsakh, and stronger U.S.-Armenia ties,” said Ani Tchaghlasian. “Whether it is introducing legislation, speaking out at committee hearings or supporting local initiatives, Senator Menendez has stood by principle. We look forward to his continued service in the U.S. Senate – and to working together to advance Armenian American priorities and values.”

Senator Menendez has an outstanding, proven track-record of support on key Armenian American community concerns, beginning with his election as mayor of Union City in 1986, his time in the New Jersey state legislature from 1988 to 1992, and his 1992 election to the U.S. House of Representatives. As a member of the House International Relations Committee, then-Congressman Menendez voted in favor of the Armenian Genocide Resolution in 2000 and 2005, setting the stage for future House consideration of the measure.

Robert Menendez’s service in the House is perhaps best remembered for his leadership in maintaining the Section 907 restriction on U.S. assistance to Azerbaijan. During an hour-long floor debate in 1997, House Appropriations Committee Chairman Bob Livingston, as part of his pro-Baku drive to lift these restrictions on Azerbaijan, vilified the Armenian American community, questioning its right to participate in the American political process. In response, Congressman Menendez spoke eloquently in favor of maintaining Section 907, stood strong with the people of Artsakh in their quest for freedom, and called efforts to silence the Armenian American community’s voice in the halls of Congress “outrageous.” Chairman Livingston later resigned in disgrace and accepted millions of dollars in lobbying fees from the governments of Turkey and Azerbaijan as their chief mouthpiece in Washington, DC.

Elected to the U.S. Senate in 2006, Senator Menendez often took the lead in scrutinizing U.S. ambassadorial nominees to Turkey and Azerbaijan regarding their positions on the Armenian Genocide and efforts to mediate a lasting peace for the Republic of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabagh). And, when nominees crossed-the-line into Armenian Genocide denial or showed undue bias in favor of Azerbaijan, Senator Menendez resisted White House and Senate leadership pressure, placing a “hold” on the candidates, ultimately blocking nominee Dick Hoagland from becoming U.S. Ambassador to Armenia, and stopping a full-term appointment for Matt Bryza as U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan.

In 2014, as Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Senator Menendez led the Committee passage of the Armenian Genocide Resolution, with bipartisan support. Senators John McCain (R-AZ) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) joined all the panel’s Democrats in voting for the measure, making it the first time in 25 years that a Senate committee had reaffirmed the Armenian Genocide. The Armenian Genocide Resolution (S.Res.136) currently under Senate consideration, which Senator Menendez has spearheaded, has 16 cosponsors to date.


Homenetmen Ararat Chapter to Mark 40th Anniversary

Homenetmen Ararat Chapter will celebrate its 40th anniversary

Homenetmen Ararat Chapter will celebrate its 40th anniversary

This year marks Homenetmen Glendale Ararat Chapter’s 40th Anniversary which coincides with Homenetmen’s Centennial. Four decades ago a handful of selfless visionaries with very limited resources decided to establish a local chapter in city of Glendale. Today Homenetmen Glendale boasts with two centers and more than 2,000 members whom are productive members of our community. Through scouting, sports, arts and array of other after-school youth programs, Homenetmen Ararat is considered the largest chapter in the Homenetmen family and a dynamic nonprofit organization in US.

Ararat Chapter’s inaugural meeting commenced on December 15, 1978, at the Armenian Center in Glendale, where the first Executive Board was elected. Initial activities were conducted at St. Mary’s Church on E. Carlton for years and in 1984, the first Chapter building/property was purchased on Broadway which consisted of two adjacent single-family homes. A single fundraiser banquet organized by the group of “Gharadagh” compatriots raised more than $70,000, which served as the seed money and a significant part of the down payment. Later, the Chapter was successful in obtaining a grant from the City of Glendale for the purpose of renovating the center.

By late 80s, the Broadway Center could no longer serve the growing activities and membership and the main campus and property/building on N. San Fernando Road in Los Angeles was purchased in 1996. The center went through three different construction phases, which took five years, and the end result culminated in a fully-equipped, multi-function facility which serves a large portion of the Chapter’s needs.

The Vahe Ardsroony Building, (North Campus) on San Fernando Road in Glendale, was purchased in 2007 and received a generous donation from late Vahe Arzroony’s family which houses the D-League program, Table Tennis Center and the Elevate Fitness Complex.

With the help of countless scouts, athletes, parents, volunteers, supporters and donors, Homenetmen Ararat operates these two state of the art facilities and contributes to the quality of life and well-being of residents in Glendale and surrounding areas. Many corporate sponsors like Forest Lawn and the Gaska Alliance Foundation and others have continuously supported Ararat Chapter and today the chapter is an integral part of community building and outreach.

Throughout 2018 the chapter has organized many undertakings and dedicated several events to mark this 40th milestone, including the unveiling of Ararat Heritage Center dedicated to late Sevak Saginian, Gathering of Alumni, Reunion of former athletes and coaches, chapter picture and many others.

The celebrations will peak at a 40th Anniversary Gala on Friday November 30th at Taglyan Complex in Hollywood. A dedicated and devoted committee of volunteers have worked tirelessly for many months to organize an elegant and noteworthy celebration to mark the beginning of another 40 years in serving our youth and the community. More information available at www.ararat.org.


European Lawmaker Says Artsakh Can become a Recognized State

Member of the European Parliament Jaromír Štětina from the Czech Republic

Member of the European Parliament Jaromír Štětina from the Czech Republic

STEPANAKERT—Member of the European Parliament Jaromír Štětina from the Czech Republic said on Wednesday that Artsakh currently has all the attributes to be a recognized independent state.

“I think that Artsakh has all the attributes for being an independent and recognized state. There is a democratic system here, all the institutions function, and all this is regulated by the new Constitution,” said Štětina in an interview with ArtsakhPress. He is visiting Artsakh where he has met with President Bako Sahakian, Foreign Minister Masis Mayilyan and held meetings in the National Assembly headed by its speaker Ashot Ghulyan.

“In addition, the Republic of Artsakh is able to organize its defense and has a developed and developing economic system. These are important components, and I personally confirm that as I have regularly visited Artsakh within the last 30 years,” the European lawmaker added.

He said there are forces in the European Union and the European Parliament that do not want to engage in true evaluation of Artsakh democratic processes nor do they want to single out Azerbaijan, which continues to threaten Artsakh’s physical well-being.

“That should be our front, our struggle. Azerbaijan wants to distort Artsakh’s political and economic system, and Baku is trying to intimidate those visiting Artsakh. For example, after my previous visit to Artsakh during the Constitutional referendum, Baku appealed to Interpol to arrest me but was rejected because the organization is not engaged in political issues,” explained Štětina.
He said he was happy to be back in Artsakh and was extremely pleased with the constructive discussions he had with Artsakh government officials about advancing Europe’s engagement in the region.

“In particular, we talked about the possibilities of establishing direct contacts between Artsakh and the European Union. This process should be sped up,” said the lawmaker.

“For example, the system of lobbying in EU structures should include the appointment of an [official] Artsakh representative to the European Parliament. I also proposed as an expert to involve two people from Artsakh in the European Parliament for practical training and exchange of experience,” he explained.


Good Riddance to the Tone Deaf U.S. Ambassador Mills

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Armenia speaks to EVN Report's Maria Titizian (Photo from EVN Report)

Outgoing U.S. Ambassador to Armenia speaks to EVN Report’s Maria Titizian (Photo from EVN Report)

BY ARA KHACHATOURIAN

“In Armenia they constantly fight for peace;. they don’t hand over land on which the blood of our boys has not dried.”

This was the response by Armenia’s Acting Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan to the outgoing United States Ambassador to Armenia Richard Mills who in a farewell interview published by EVN Report on Tuesday discussed among other things the Karabakh conflict saying that any resolution would require return of some of what he called “occupied territories,” using the same language as Azerbaijan does in referring to Artsakh.

Mills is completing a three-and-a-half-year tour in Armenia.

“The harsh reality is that any settlement is going to require the return of some portion of the occupied territories,” Mills to EVN Report’s Maria Titizian, adding that maintaining the current status quo was not a favorable option for Armenia. He went on to make an odd assessment by blaming the rampant corruption in Armenia by mainly the former ruling elite on the closed borders resulting from Karabakh conflict, saying: “corruption didn’t grow because there are evil people here,” he said. “The ground was pretty fertile for it because you have closed borders and a very small economy, so it’s very easy to control markets.”

“I was surprised when I first got here and found out that most Armenians I met were adamantly opposed to the return of the occupied territories as part of a negotiation settlement,” saying that he believed that the so-called “occupied territories” were part of some kind of “land for peace” deal, emphasizing that return of lands has long been a party of the Madrid Principles that are currently serving as a basis for the negotiation process. It is interesting that Mills only mentioned the “return of territories” provision of the principles and not the ones that actually are designed to ensure security and stability in the region.

His tone deaf statements on Artsakh have caused an uproar from Yerevan to Stepanakert to Washington, Brussels and Los Angeles. Ambassador Mills’ statement became fodder for criticism by not only government officials in Armenia and Artsakh, but also advocates for justice for Artsakh and its right to self-determination.

Artsakh’s presidential spokesperson David Babayan was puzzled by Mills’ statements saying that the people of Artsakh want peace in return for peace, calling Mills’ assessment of “land for peace” ludicrous at best.

Babayan argued that Artsakh would never loosen—or compromise—its security and warned that Mills’ statements are essentially drawing the Armenians to become victims of yet another Genocide.

“There are no ‘occupied territories’ in Artsakh,” declared Babayan.

“Ambassador Mills rounds out his time in Armenia with reckless remarks about Artsakh. Sadly, his was a tenure marked by moving goalposts and missed opportunities. Too many lectures, too little action,” said Aram Hamparian, Executive Director of the Armenian National Committee of America in a Twitter post on Tuesday.

Mills’ statements on Artsakh were not the only eyebrow raising points in his interview.

“Ultimately, what we want for Armenia is that it follow its own foreign policy based on a very basic principle; Armenia is a sovereign nation, it should make its own decisions based on its own interests and the interests of the Armenian people,” Mills told EVN Report.

Yet it seems his wish for Armenia to have a sovereign foreign policy hinges on whether Armenia advances the United States’ agenda and priorities in the region, because at one point Mills admonishes Armenia for not having done enough to push back Iran, Armenia’s neighbor to the south and a country with which Armenia enjoys economic and friendly relations.

He said if Armenia wants to be taken seriously as a member of the international community it has to speak out when Iran “engages in destructive behavior that violates international law or the norms of behavior.”

“We will be looking to Armenia to join others to speak out,” said Mills directly countering his earlier statement about the U.S. wanting Armenia to “follow its own foreign policy.”

Interestingly Mills makes what I would like to call demands on Armenia after commending Yerevan for partnering with the U.S. on other international initiatives, such as Genocide prevention.

“We’ve worked with Armenia on genocide prevention and Geneva, these are important global issues and we’re happy and pleased that Armenia is playing a role,” said Mills before outlining his—and the United States’—vision of what Armenia should do to have a seat at the table. That’s rich coming from a country that while applauding Armenia on its efforts to prevent genocide, has done everything to not only deny the Armenian Genocide but to work alongside Turkey to promote its own denialist policies, which have paved the way for Ankara to utilize the same tactics on its own people in Turkey.

Ambassador Mills’ incongruent , and often patronizing if not destructive statements, completely diminish and undermine his vocal support for the Velvet Revolution, or the “April/May events” as he calls it, and seem to indicate that the U.S. is encouraged by the people’s movement in Armenia only if it suits its needs.

No thank you Mr. Ambassador and good riddance.  We can hope that  Lynne Tracy, President Trump’s nominee to replace Mills, will have a different approach on Armenian issues, but I am not holding my breath.


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