Civilian Operations Commander visits Armenia on 1st EUMA anniversary

Feb 28 2024
 28.02.2024 Strategic Communications

Stefano Tomat, the Civilian Operation Commander (CivOpsCdr) visited Armenia to mark the 1st anniversary of the EU Mission in Armenia (EUMA) presence on the ground.

On 19 February, Prime Minister of Armenia, Mr. Nikol Pashinyan received Mr. Tomat and noted that effective operation of the European Union Mission in Armenia (EUMA) contributes to ensuring peace and stability in the region.

Minister of Foreign Affairs of Armenia, Mr. Ararat Mirzoyan met with Mr. Tomat to discuss the activities of EUMA, touching upon the work done with one year since the deployment of the Mission. Minister Mirzoyan emphasized the important contribution of the Mission in promoting the stability of the international border with Azerbaijan.

The parties agreed that the Mission is one of the good examples of expanding Armenia-EU cooperation, serving the mutual interest of both Armenia and the EU.

During his visit, CivopsCdr Tomat also joined a EUMA patrol in Jermuk, sharing a car with EU monitors. To this day, EUMA has conducted over 1720 patrols contributing to enhanced security and stability on the Armenian side of the border with Azerbaijan.

On 21 February, EUMA celebrated its first anniversary in Yerevan. CivOpsCdr Tomat addressed the participants stating:

I am very proud of what has been achieved by the Mission so far. It has conducted its activities with exemplary professionalism. EUMA’s presence on the ground is proof of EU engagement for peace and stability in the region.

EUMA is an exclusively civilian and unarmed Mission, operating as an impartial actor to monitor the situation on the Armenian side of the Armenian border with Azerbaijan. Through its reporting to Brussels, it has contributed to a better understanding of the situation on the ground. It also plays an important role in support of EU high-level efforts for Armenia-Azerbaijan normalisation.

On 11 December 2023, the EU Foreign Affairs Council agreed to strengthen the observation capacity of EUMA within the Mission’s existing Area of Operation by increasing its presence on the ground from 138 staff to 209.

The Mission operates from Headquarters in Yeghegnadzor, with six Forward Operating bases in Kapan, Goris, Jermuk, Yeghegnadzor, Martuni and Ijevan. The Mission will open a Liaison and Support Office in Yerevan in spring 2024. The Mission has a two year mandate which runs until February 2025.

Meeting with Armenian bishops, Pope Francis prays for peace

Feb 28 2024
“How many conflicts and massacres have we witnessed, always tragic and always pointless?” the Pope asks. “Let us all take up the cry for peace."

By Joseph Tulloch

The dire geopolitical situation in Armenia, the importance of collaboration with the country’s Orthodox Church, and the need for bishops to be close to their flocks.

These were the themes at the centre of Pope Francis’ address to the Bishops of the Armenian Catholic Church on Wednesday morning.

As the Pope is recovering from a cold, his speech was read aloud by Msgr. Filippo Ciampanelli, an official at the Vatican’s Secretariat of State.

Last year, more than 100,000 ethnic Armenians were forced to flee the Nagorno-Karabakh enclave after a military offensive carried out by neighbouring Azerbaijan. There are fears that another attack may follow.

“Your Beatitude, dear Brothers,” Pope Francis said, “how can we not turn our thoughts to Armenia, not only in words but above all in our prayers, particularly for all those fleeing Nagorno-Karabakh and for the many displaced families seeking refuge?”

“The First World War,” he continued, “was supposed to be the last …Yet since then, how many conflicts and massacres have we witnessed, always tragic and always pointless?”

“Let us all take up the cry for peace,” the Pope urged, “so that it may touch hearts, even hearts untouched by the sufferings of the poor and lowly. And above all, let us pray.  I pray for you and for Armenia.”

Another key topic of the Pope’s speech was the importance of cooperation between the Armenian Catholic Church and the Armenian Apostolic Church, an Orthodox body.

The Pope touched on this subject twice, and chose bring his address to an end with a prayer from Saint Nerses the Gracious, a 12th-century Armenian bishop recognised as saint in both the Catholic and Armenian Orthodox Churches:

All-merciful Lord,

have mercy on all those who believe in you;

on my beloved ones, and on those who are strangers to me;

on all those I know, and on those unknown to me;

on the living and on the dead;

even forgive my enemies, and those who hate me,

forgive the trespasses they have committed against me;

and relieve them from the malice they bear towards me,

so that they become worthy of your mercy. 

Just last week, Catholicos Karekin II, the head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, met with Cardinal Claudio Gugerotti, Prefect of the Vatican's Dicastery for the Eastern Churches.

According to a press release from the Armenian Apostolic Church, the Catholicos "spoke with satisfaction about the fraternal cooperation" between the two Churches, and "conveyed his fraternal best wishes to Pope Francis."

Pope Francis also urged the Armenian bishops to remain close to those they serve.

“In a world so full of isolation and loneliness,” he said, “we must ensure that those entrusted to our care feel the closeness of the Good Shepherd.”

This includes, he noted, priests, especially young ones, who need to “feel close to their Bishops.”

The Pope then urged the Bishops to select their successors wisely, picking individuals who will be “devoted to the flock, faithful to pastoral care, and not driven by personal ambition.”

“You may well remind me that your Church is not large in numbers,” Pope Francis said. “Yet let us remember that God loves to work wonders with those who are small.”

Urban resilience through integrated spatial planning։ Armenia’s key learnings for the region

Feb 28 2024

Armenia's unique landscape is often at the brunt of seismic challenges. This has presented the Government the opportunity to implement a variety of urban development strategies tailored to its seismic risk zone. In response to such geodynamic processes, Armenia has not only embraced cutting-edge guidelines for earthquake-resistant construction but has also focused on the renovation of existing housing stock.

At the center of this is the implementation of a “micro regional planning document”, a participatory spatial plan aimed at fostering balanced territorial development with a green energy focus. Armenia's focus on integrated governance, community involvement, and a holistic approach to spatial planning, sheds light on valuable lessons for sustainable urban development in the wider Asia-Pacific region.

Considering that Armenia is in a seismic risk zone with geodynamic processes throughout its’ territory, it has adopted new guidelines for earthquake-resistant construction, as well as enforcement of existing housing stock and its renovation.

Another important milestone is the protection of historic heritage and adaptive reuse of industrial abandoned areas from the post-Soviet cities, done in parallel with the modernization of the housing stock, urban fabric, mobility enhancements and low carbon transport.

The development of these policies ensures active involvement of local communities through public discussions supported by decentralization of governance processes in the country, in line with the pledge of “leaving no one behind”.

A key learning for the region is Armenia’s integrated and participative governance model for urban planning which has proved to be more effective for achieving sustainable urban regeneration and growth.

Analysis of Armenia’s existing human settlement system uncovers disparities and uneven utilization of territorial resources as well as urban expansion to agricultural lands and on the other hand shrinking settlements in the suburbs.

In response to these spatial development challenges, several priorities to promote sustainable territorial arrangements from Armenia’s experience based on integration of social, economic, environmental and cultural demands emerge. These include priorities to strengthen:

  • Polycentric urban growth to formulate a sustainable settlement system across regions for a balanced spatial structure with cities as centers of the system.
  • Cities’ urban structure and their inclusive governance systems.
  • Partnerships for balanced territorial development between urban and rural areas.
  • Economic capacity of the region by building integrated economic relations between the components of urban clusters.
  • Disaster risk management including addressing the adverse impacts of climate change such as flooding.
  • Ecologic frameworks and cultural resources as part of new urban development strategies.
  • Ecological frameworks, which integrate public spaces, attract a number of key development functions and affect climatic conditions, along with being places for leisure and culture-which are essential for social life.

    Since 2017, joint planning projects have been developed for marzes (regions) of Armenia. Due to the clustering of the communities, they need new urban models and general concepts for their spatial structure to respond to new development challenges

  • The conceptual, socio-economic justification of combined spatial planning should be aimed at identifying internal potential opportunities and preconditions of the region as a complete planning unit cluster and communities, interconnected by mutual territorial, economic and infrastructural relations. The ongoing spatial planning programs improved local policies and designs for safe, inclusive and accessible public spaces, which support more compact, integrated and connected, socially inclusive cities and neighborhoods in partner settlements of the urban cluster-joint community.

    In addition, the documents recommend solutions to address the problems of providing proper housing to the forcibly displaced population from Nagorno-Karabakh, and those displaced as a result of disasters.

    Armenia's experience in advancing sustainable urban development and localizing the SDGs provides valuable insights and policy implications for the wider Asia-Pacific region. The region can draw upon these lessons to formulate and implement effective policies for sustainable urban and territorial development.

    Omar Siddique
    Economic Affairs Officer

    Nune Petrosyan

    Deputy Chairman of the Urban Development Committee of the Republic of Armenia


Iraqi, Armenian presidents hold talks in Baghdad to boost ties

Feb 28 2024

BAGHDAD: Iraqi President Abdul Latif Rashid and his Armenian counterpart Vahagn Khachaturyan met in Baghdad and discussed means to enhance bilateral ties in various aspects.

A statement by the media office of the Iraqi presidency said on Tuesday that the two leaders discussed ways to enhance bilateral relations and cooperation in various fields, including the economy, trade and investment, Xinhua news agency reported.

During the meeting, Rashid stressed the importance of intensifying international efforts to "continue combating the threat of terrorist organisations and extremist ideology that target the security and lives of everyone without exception, " the statement said.

Rashid also commented on the tension between Armenia and Azerbaijan, stressing Iraq's position calling for dialogue and adopting political solutions to settle their differences.

Later on Tuesday, the two Presidents held a joint conference, during which Rashid welcomed Khachaturyan and expressed his readiness to "work with his Armenian counterpart to make this visit an essential milestone in improving relations between the two countries".

For his part, the Armenian President told the press conference that the talks discussed ways to develop bilateral relations and many issues related to regional developments.

"We stressed the need to reach a peaceful settlement of existing conflicts based on the rules of international law and respect for the principles of sovereignty, territorial integrity and equality among all countries, " Khachaturyan added.

Forging Alliances: India’s Path to Strengthening Ties with Armenia Muskan

Feb 28 2024
India’s strategic engagement with Armenia amidst the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict presents a crucial opportunity for bolstering its influence in the South Caucasus region. By providing significant military assistance to Armenia, India aims to not only enhance its defence industry’s market but also counterbalance the influence of regional powers like Turkey and Pakistan. This proactive involvement underscores India’s commitment to promoting stability and security in the region while positioning itself as a key player in shaping geopolitical dynamics beyond its immediate neighborhood.

The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict has deep-rooted historical origins, with tensions between Armenia and Azerbaijan over the region tracing back to the early 20th century. Nagorno-Karabakh, predominantly Armenian but located within the borders of Azerbaijan, has been a focal point of contention. The conflict escalated in the late 1980s when Nagorno-Karabakh sought to join Armenia, leading to violent clashes and eventually a full-scale war.

The Soviet Union’s policies and borders significantly influenced the conflict dynamics. The region was established within Azerbaijani borders by the Soviets in 1923, despite its Armenian majority population. With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, the conflict intensified as both Armenia and Azerbaijan asserted their claims over Nagorno-Karabakh, leading to a devastating war that resulted in significant casualties and displacement.

In recent years, the conflict experienced renewed escalations, culminating in the 2020 Nagorno-Karabakh war. Azerbaijan, bolstered by its oil revenues and modernization efforts in its military, particularly in drone technology and loitering munitions, achieved significant military successes against Armenian forces. This conflict highlighted Azerbaijan’s adoption of modern warfare tactics and equipment, which outmatched Armenia’s older, Russian-made military arsenal.

In response to Azerbaijan’s advancements and Armenia’s military needs, India emerged as a significant arms supplier to Armenia. Over the past four years, Armenia has procured a substantial amount of weaponry from India, including Swathi Weapons Locating Radars, Pinaka multiple-barrel rocket launchers, anti-tank missiles, artillery guns, anti-drone systems, and surface-to-air missile systems. These arms sales have bridged critical gaps in Armenia’s military inventory.

India’s motivations for arms sales to Armenia are multifaceted. Firstly, India seeks to expand its defence industry’s market and enhance its defence ties with Armenia, a strategically located country in the South Caucasus region. Additionally, by supporting Armenia, India aims to counterbalance the influence of regional powers like Turkey and Pakistan, which have supported Azerbaijan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Furthermore, India’s engagement with Armenia aligns with its broader foreign policy objectives of promoting stability and security in the region.

Also Read: From Mines to Grassland: Miyawaki Plantation Revolutionizing Coal Sector

India’s arms sales to Armenia have significant implications for regional dynamics. They signal India’s willingness to assert its influence in regions beyond its immediate neighborhood and challenge the dominance of other regional players. Moreover, these arms sales could potentially exacerbate tensions between India and Azerbaijan, as evidenced by Azerbaijan’s objections and warnings against India’s support for Armenia. However, they also present opportunities for India to strengthen its diplomatic ties and strategic partnerships with countries like Armenia and Greece, which share similar concerns regarding Turkish expansionism.

Russia has historically played a significant role in the South Caucasus region and has maintained close ties with both Armenia and Azerbaijan. However, its ability to assert influence in the region has faced limitations, particularly in the context of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Despite being a key ally of Armenia and providing military support, Russia’s perceived neutrality during the 2020 conflict and its inability to prevent Azerbaijan’s military advancements have raised questions about its effectiveness as a security guarantor for Armenia. Moreover, Russia’s preoccupation with other geopolitical crises, such as the conflict in Ukraine, has diverted its attention and resources away from the South Caucasus, creating opportunities for other players like India to fill the void.

Azerbaijan has reacted strongly to India’s arms sales to Armenia, viewing it as a challenge to its security interests. President Ilham Aliyev and Azerbaijani military officials have issued warnings to India, urging it to cease its support for Armenia to avoid further escalation. Azerbaijan’s close alliance with Turkey and Pakistan, both of which have provided military and diplomatic support during the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, strengthens its position in the region. The alignment of these countries poses challenges for India’s engagement in the South Caucasus and underscores the importance of strategic diplomacy and coalition-building to mitigate tensions and maintain regional stability.

India’s growing engagement with Armenia has broader implications for regional balance and stability. By providing military assistance to Armenia, India aims to bolster its strategic presence in the South Caucasus and counterbalance the influence of Turkey, Pakistan, and other regional actors supporting Azerbaijan. However, India must navigate carefully to avoid exacerbating existing tensions and conflicts in the region. India’s support for Armenia could strain its relations with Azerbaijan and potentially affect its ties with other countries in the region. Therefore, India must balance its strategic interests with the imperative of maintaining diplomatic relations and stability in the South Caucasus.

One of the primary challenges for India is to navigate the complex regional dynamics of the South Caucasus while advancing its strategic interests. India must carefully balance its support for Armenia with its broader diplomatic engagements in the region, including maintaining constructive relations with Azerbaijan and other key stakeholders. Achieving this balance requires nuanced diplomacy and strategic decision-making to mitigate potential conflicts and promote stability.

India can leverage its partnerships with countries like Greece to strengthen its position in the South Caucasus and counterbalance the influence of regional rivals. Greece’s historical tensions with Turkey and its shared interests in promoting stability in the region make it a valuable ally for India. By deepening cooperation with Greece and other like-minded countries, India can enhance its diplomatic leverage and bolster its strategic presence in the South Caucasus.

India must address concerns and counterarguments raised by regional actors, particularly Azerbaijan, regarding its support for Armenia. India should engage in transparent and constructive dialogue to clarify its intentions and emphasize its commitment to promoting peace and stability in the region. Additionally, India can explore diplomatic channels to mitigate tensions and build trust with all stakeholders, emphasizing its role as a responsible global actor committed to upholding international norms and principles.

India’s strategic engagement with Armenia amidst the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict presents a crucial opportunity for bolstering its influence in the South Caucasus region. By providing significant military assistance to Armenia, India aims to not only enhance its defence industry’s market but also counterbalance the influence of regional powers like Turkey and Pakistan. This proactive involvement underscores India’s commitment to promoting stability and security in the region while positioning itself as a key player in shaping geopolitical dynamics beyond its immediate neighborhood.

Germany mediating peace between Armenia and Azerbaijan

First Post
Feb 28 2024

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has become more antagonistic toward outside intervention in attempting to mediate a settlement, charging that the US is endangering relations by supporting Armenia

Five months after Azerbaijan reclaimed its Karabakh region from its majority-Armenian population, causing a large-scale exodus of ethnic Armenians, Germany is hosting two days of peace talks between Azerbaijan and Armenia.

President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan has become more antagonistic toward outside intervention in attempting to mediate a settlement, charging that the US is endangering relations by supporting Armenia.

However, in November, German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock visited both nations. Additionally, on the fringes of the Munich Security Conference this month, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz had meetings with Aliyev and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan.

In December, the South Caucasus neighbours issued a joint statement saying they want to reach a peace deal.
Christian Armenia and mostly Muslim Azerbaijan first went to war over the breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh in 1988. After decades of enmity, Azerbaijan in September recaptured Karabakh, controlled by its ethnic Armenian majority since the 1990s despite being internationally recognised as part of Azerbaijan.

The offensive prompted most of the region’s 120,000 ethnic Armenians to flee to neighbouring Armenia.
Armenia described the offensive as ethnic cleansing. Azerbaijan denied that and said those who fled could have stayed on and been integrated into Azerbaijan.

The German Foreign Ministry is hosting the talks. Baerbock will meet separately with her Azerbaijani and Armenian counterparts on Wednesday before hosting a trilateral meeting.

Germany hosts the foreign ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan for peace talks

Feb 28 2024
Associated Press

BERLIN (AP) — Germany sought to move forward talks on a peace treaty between Armenia and Azerbaijan on Wednesday, welcoming the two countries' foreign ministers to Berlin.

German Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock hosted her counterparts, Armenia's Ararat Mirzoyan and Azerbaijan's Jeyhun Bayramov, at a secluded government villa for what was billed as two days of talks.

The latest talks followed a meeting on Feb. 17 between German Chancellor OIaf Scholz, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference. Scholz underlined Germany's willingness to help conclude peace talks, along with that of European Council President Charles Michel.

“We believe that Armenia and Azerbaijan now have an opportunity to achieve an enduring peace after years of painful conflict,” Baerbock, who visited both countries in November, said ahead of a three-way meeting. "What we’re seeing now are courageous steps by both countries to put the past behind and to work toward a durable peace for their people."

Armenia and Azerbaijan have a long history of land disputes. The most recent border skirmish left at least four Armenian soldiers dead earlier in mid-February.

Azerbaijan waged a lightning military campaign last year to reclaim the Karabakh region, which Armenian separatists had ruled for three decades.

The region, which was known internationally as Nagorno-Karabakh, and large swaths of surrounding territory came under full control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia at the end of a separatist war in 1994.

Azerbaijan regained parts of Karabakh and most of the surrounding territory in a six-week war in 2020 that ended with a Russian-brokered truce. In December 2022, Azerbaijan started blockading the road linking the region with Armenia, causing food and fuel shortages.

It then launched a blitz in September 2023 that routed the separatist forces in one day and forced them to lay down arms. More than 100,000 ethnic Armenians fled the region, leaving it nearly deserted.

With political momentum from the successful military operation, Aliyev won another term in a snap election on Feb. 7.

Armenia and Azerbaijan have pledged to work toward signing a peace treaty, but no visible progress has been made, and tensions have continued to soar amid mutual distrust.

"Direct dialog like today and tomorrow is the best way to make further progress," Baerbock said.

Iraqi PM, Armenian President discuss investment opportunities in Iraq

Feb 28 2024

Baghdad ( – The Iraqi Prime Minister, Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani, said that Armenian companies can contribute to investment opportunities and important projects in Iraq, especially the Development Road and the Al-Faw Grand Port.

Al-Sudani’s remarks took place on Tuesday during his meeting with the Armenian President, Vahagn Khachaturyan, where he expressed appreciation for the Armenian government’s directions towards developing bilateral relations, according to a statement released by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO).

Khachaturyan, who was accompanied by a delegation of Armenian businessmen, confirmed that his visit to Iraq aims to explore the available opportunities and expand the economic partnership between the two countries.

The Armenian President also expressed his country’s eagerness to cooperate with Iraq in the fields of information technology, banking, and clean and renewable energy.

In a separate meeting with the Iraqi President, Abdul Latif Rashid, Khachaturyan discussed strategies to promote bilateral relations and collaboration in various fields, including the economy, trade, and investment.

During a visit to Armenia in late November, the Iraqi President indicated that Iraq had become an attractive country for foreign investments, particularly in areas such as infrastructure, tourism, and trade exchange.

The two leaders addressed the importance of regulating flights between Baghdad and the Armenian capital, Yerevan, as well as between Erbil and Yerevan, to boost tourism activities between the two countries.

Both sides also discussed the cancellation of entry visas between the two countries, in addition to operating direct flights between Iraq and Armenia.

The Surprises in “Armenia, My Home”

Cynopsis Media
Feb 27 2024

“Armenia, My Home” celebrates the modern-day Armenian Republic and its people, and explores the nearly 3,000-year-old  past of the world’s first Christian nation. The documentary from filmmaker Andrew Goldberg, narrated by Andrea Martin (“Only Murders in the Building”), is airing on PBS Stations this week (check local listings) and here, Goldberg explains what makes to project special.

What will viewers of  “Armenia, My Home” be surprised to learn about the Armenian culture?

I think anyone who has never been to Armenia will be most surprised by just how beautiful the country is. It’s got a striking landscape — very ancient monasteries surrounded by totally untouched hills and valleys and cliffs. It’s a hiker’s paradise.

But in terms of the culture, I think one of the most interesting things is the Armenian language. It’s not really related to any other language unless you go back thousands of years, and it has a very distinct and beautiful written alphabet that dates back to the fifth century. You’ll see this script throughout the film — the legend has it that it came to its creator in a dream.

How was Andrea Martin chosen to participate?

I first worked with Andrea in 1999 on another PBS project and she was just an incredible person and a huge talent. When we approached her for this film, we wanted someone who could bring a certain warmth and humor to the script, and she just exudes that naturally. She came to the table with an understanding of the country because she herself is Armenian and has traveled there, and I really do think her love for the place comes through in every line.

What is cutting edge about the documentary’s cinematography?

We were lucky enough to have almost unlimited access to fly drones wherever we wanted in Armenia, and we had some of the best aerial cinematographers in the world to capture it. The drones themselves are the most technologically sophisticated available and they were actually released for purchase just two days before we began filming. We used Guy Alexander and Nathan Richards to film. They are based in Australia. They usually shoot major features like Thor and Mad Max, but can truly do almost anything. Somehow with their footage they managed to capture the soul of Armenia. There’s an expansiveness to their aerials — you can really get the sense of hope and aspiration that Armenians have for the young and growing independent country they now have.

Juliana Grigoryan Wins Hildegard Behrens Prize

Opera Wire
Feb 26 2024
By Francisco Salazar

The Hildegard Behrens Foundation has announced that the 14th annual Hildegard Behrens Prize was awarded to Metropolitan Opera Lindemann Young Artist Program soprano Juliana Grigoryan.

Grigoryan is in her first year of the program and received the prize at a ceremony in the Metropolitan Opera Grand Tier on February 9th, 2024, in celebration of the 87th anniversary of Behrens’ birthday.

In a statement, the soprano said Grigoryan said “I was truly surprised when Mr. Gaston Ormazabal told me I had received this incredible prize. It is an honor to be recognized by your esteemed organization. I am humbled and deeply touched that one’s art is appreciated by the world of classical music. Organizations like the Behrens Foundation are a source of great inspiration for any young artist. It is very important to feel this support in the first steps of your career.”

Grigoryan makes her Met debut this season in a production of “Turandot.” The soprano recently won the Operalia competition and has performed at the Teatro alla Scala, Teatro Comunale Alighieri, and the Dutch National Opera.

She joins past prize recipients which include Layla Claire, Emalie Savoy, Ying Fang, Michelle Bradley, Hyesang Park, Gabriella Reyes, Mario Chang, Kang Wang, Jonah Hoskins, and Matthew Cairns, among others.