Armenian serviceman fatally shot by Azerbaijani fire

 18:07, 4 December 2023

YEREVAN, DECEMBER 4, ARMENPRESS. On December 4, around 2:35 p.m., the Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire at the Armenian combat position in Bardzruni village of Armenia’s Vayots Dzor Province.

As a result of the incident Armenian military unit serviceman Gerasim Arakelyan sustained a fatal gunshot wound, the Armenian Ministry of Defense said in a statement.

“An investigation is underway to entirely reveal the circumstances of the incident. The Ministry of Defense extends condolences and support to the family, relatives and comrades of the serviceman,” the ministry added.

Armenian Foreign Ministry condemns Baku’s actions aimed at provoking new escalation

 19:00, 4 December 2023

YEREVAN, DECEMBER 4, ARMENPRESS. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia  has issued a statement strongly condemning Azerbaijani actions aimed at provoking a new escalation, delaying the peace process and bringing it to a deadlock.

The Armenian Foreign Ministry noted that the Azerbaijani side, through provocative actions on the border and rejections of proposals constantly made by various international actors to continue negotiations, tries to impede the peace process and lead it into a deadlock.

"We strongly condemn these actions of the Azerbaijani side aimed at inciting a new escalation, delaying the peace process and bringing it to a deadlock," reads the statement.

On December 4, around 2:35 p.m., the Azerbaijani armed forces opened fire at the Armenian combat position in Bardzruni village of Armenia’s Vayots Dzor Province.

As a result of the Azeri provocation, Armenian military unit serviceman Gerasim Arakelyan received a fatal gunshot wound from a shot fired by the enemy sniper.

Iran’s Navy Chief arrives in Baku

 19:21, 4 December 2023

YEREVAN, DECEMBER 4, ARMENPRESS.  The delegation led by the Chief of the Navy of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Rear Admiral Shahram Irani visits Baku, the Azerbaijani Trend news agency reported.

According to Azerbaijan's Defense Ministry, as part of the visit, the delegation is scheduled to meet with the Azerbaijan Defense Minister, Colonel General Zakir Hasanov, as well as to attend the Azerbaijan Naval Forces headquarters and the Military Institute named after Heydar Aliyev.

Armenia’s Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sport visits "LOFT Meghri" center

 20:51, 4 December 2023

YEREVAN, DECEMBER 4, ARMENPRESS.  During his visit to the Meghri community of the region of  Syunik, Armenian Deputy Minister of Education, Science, Culture and Sports, Daniel Danielyan, was hosted at the "LOFT Meghri" youth center, established with the support of the Ministry of Education, Science, Culture, and Sport of the Republic of Armenia.

During the visit, the minister met with the residents of the community, particularly with young people.

The possibilities of organizing new events and festivals were discussed with those responsible for coordinating cultural and youth activities in Meghri, the ministry said.

Daniel Danielyan presented the concept of establishing a community center with a youth, cultural and educational component in the near future. 

“At the outset we are going to establish a similar community center in each region, which will have a positive impact on the socio-cultural life of the community and will add new quality and color to the community," noted Daniel Danielyan.

It is noted that during the meeting with the youth, Daniel Danielyan considered the possibilities of organizing new, community-specific festivals and large-scale events in Meghri, emphasizing their role and importance in activating Meghri's youth life, developing tourism, providing cultural entertainment and enhancing the attractiveness of the community.

According to the deputy minister, the "LOFT Meghri" youth center could also play a crucial role in this matter with its active involvement and young people.

International support essential for protecting the victims of ethnic cleansing of Nagorno- Karabakh: Mirzoyan

 21:11, 4 December 2023

YEREVAN, DECEMBER 4, ARMENPRESS. On December 4, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Armenia delivered remarks at the intersessional meeting of the Human Rights Council dedicated to the 75th anniversary of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.

The meeting was organized based on the tasking of the Human Rights Council’s resolution authored by Armenia, the foreign ministry said in a statement.

According to the source, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Volker Türk and the Special Adviser of the UN Secretary-General on the Prevention of Genocide and Under Secretary-General Alice Wairimu Nderitu also delivered opening remarks during the event. High-ranking representatives of UN specialized bodies, rapporteurs and well-known experts in the field participated as panellists at the meeting.

In his speech, the Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan said:


Ladies and Gentlemen,

Armenia warmly welcomes the participants and panelists of the Intersessional Meeting on the Prevention of Genocide and extends its gratitude to the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights for the organization of today’s session.

On 9 December we will mark the 75th anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. Today, 153 UN member states are bound by the universal obligation of punishing and preventing this crime of crimes.

Indeed, the Convention is a powerful crime suppression multilateral treaty. But not only. Today, the obligations emanating from the Convention have been well mainstreamed in the resolutions of the Human Rights Council on genocide prevention. 

Against this backdrop, I find it extremely important that the resolutions on Genocide Prevention enjoy wide cross-regional support and consensus in the Human Rights Council. It reflects a larger international consensus on the absolute imperative to prevent genocides through protection of individual and collective human rights of ethnic, religious, racial and national groups.

In this regard, the Human Rights Council is well-placed to be at the forefront of genocide prevention. We hope that the synergies and the cooperation between the Office of the Special Adviser of the Secretary General on the Prevention of Genocide, treaty bodies, and special procedure mandate holders will be further strengthened and institutionalized.

I take this opportunity to highlight the extensive work carried out by Special Adviser Alice Wairimu Nderitu.  


I have no doubt that the deliberations at this meeting will once again demonstrate the relevance of mass atrocity prevention in today’s world. The world we live in today is a dangerous place for many ethnic and religious groups, and the intent to destroy them on a certain territory has been manifested worldwide, particularly now when the international security arrangements and human rights mechanisms are in continuous decline.

The very idea of eliminating right holders as the medium of resolving conflicts has never been so “appealing” for perpetrators of crimes as it is today. The conflict situations provide ample environment for perpetrators, who under the guise of another party to the conflict, claim from the international community a treatment equal to one that should be extended to the victims.

Disparity of force has always been a constant feature of genocide. And by saying force, I did not exclusively refer to the military advantage of perpetrators but their ability to use new technologies in disinformation and misinformation in order to dehumanize victims, prepare grounds for deadly actions with their subsequent justification.  

One year ago, the 4th Global Forum Against the Crime of Genocide organized in Yerevan considered the role of new technologies in genocide prevention both from positive and negative angles. The Yerevan declaration adopted during the Forum acknowledged that the spread of disinformation and misinformation, particularly on social media platforms, can serve as a new propaganda tool to mislead and spread racism, intolerance, xenophobia, negative stereotyping and stigmatization, to violate and abuse human rights and dehumanize groups on the basis of identity.

Dear friends,

The perpetration of mass atrocities, including genocides, continues to take a considerable time in all its phases. As a matter of fact, the collective punishment of targeted groups takes different forms and manifestations, evolving incrementally in its gravity, including through violations of international human rights and international humanitarian laws, disruption of critical infrastructure, siege and massive violence. Needless to say that many mass atrocities could have been prevented once early warning signals were identified during those phases.

Collective failure should not be a justification for individual inaction for each and every UN member state.

Another important dimension of international responsibility is the international protection of victims, including those forcibly displaced.

Two months ago, the Republic of Armenia provided shelter and means of subsistence to more than 100 thousand refugees, the entire population of Nagorno-Karabakh uprooted from its ancestral homeland. Support of the international community is essential in providing international protection for these victims of ethnic cleansing.


Decades ago, when Armenia assumed responsibility in mainstreaming human rights into genocide prevention, we were driven by our moral duty towards the past. Today, we see that it is not merely about the past, rather our joint efforts are aimed at the present and future: a future of humanity free of hatred, racism, xenophobia and intolerance leading to mass atrocity crimes.

Despite all setbacks of the international human rights and security system, we will continue to actively engage in the Human Rights Council and other multilateral platforms for further elaboration of tools and mechanisms for the prevention of genocides and other mass atrocities.

I thank again the OHCHR and High Commissioner Volker Türk for the organization of the meeting and wish every success to panellists and participants.”

Armenpress: Yerevan Deputy Mayor receives MEP Geoffroy Didier

  • ports

 21:37, 4 December 2023

YEREVAN, DECEMBER 4, ARMENPRESS. Armen Pambukhchyan, the first deputy mayor of Yerevan, held a meeting with the member of the European Parliament, Geoffroy Didier, the Municipality said.

Referring to the decentralized cooperation established with various French cities, Armen Pambukhchyan noted that Yerevan greatly values the experience of partner cities and the possibility of using it.

The first deputy mayor of Yerevan noted that such mutual visits present a valuable opportunity to strengthen bilateral relations and gain a clearer understanding of the prospects for cooperation.

MEP Geoffroy Didier, in turn, noted that the European Union will continue to support the agenda of reforms implemented in Armenia and Yerevan.

Padilla, Eshoo Lead Bipartisan, Bicameral Letter Requesting Aid for Armenia in Upcoming National Security Bill

Dec 5 2023

WASHINGTON, D.C. — U.S. Senator Alex Padilla (D-Calif.) and U.S. Representative Anna G. Eshoo (D-Calif.-16) led a bipartisan group of 60 lawmakers in calling on Congressional leadership to request the inclusion of military and humanitarian aid for Armenia in upcoming national security supplemental appropriations legislation.

In September of this year, Azerbaijan launched an unprovoked military offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh (Artsakh), displacing over 100,000 ethnic Armenians from their homeland and ending their more than three decades of self-rule. The assault has resulted in a devastating humanitarian crisis, with Armenia absorbing tens of thousands of refugees.

In their letter, the bipartisan group of lawmakers request that at least $10 million in military aid for Armenia be included in the supplemental appropriations bill to deter further Azerbaijani aggression. The lawmakers also voiced support for including robust humanitarian aid in the legislation and argued that a portion of these funds should be made available to Armenia to meet the needs of the thousands of refugees who were forced from their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh.

“We strongly support the inclusion of funds in any supplemental appropriations bill to strengthen the U.S.-Armenia security partnership and help address the severe humanitarian challenges caused by Azerbaijan’s recent aggression,” wrote the lawmakers. “As a small democracy in a region dominated by autocrats, Armenia is particularly vulnerable. This is especially true now that Armenia has distanced itself from Russia, Armenia’s traditional security guarantor, in pursuit of closer ties with western democracies.”

“At this inflection point for the Caucasus, U.S. leadership is needed to deter further Azerbaijani aggression and enable Armenians to defend their democracy,” continued the lawmakers.

“We thank Congresswoman Eshoo and Senator Padilla for partnering in this bicameral call on President Biden to invest in Armenia’s security and meaningfully support Artsakh’s refugees,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian. “Any spending measure needs to include increased military aid to Armenia and robust humanitarian assistance for displaced Armenians from Artsakh.”

“We commend Senator Padilla and Representative Eshoo for spearheading this bipartisan letter urging security assistance to Armenia as well as humanitarian aid for the Armenian people of Artsakh,” said Armenian Assembly of America Congressional Relations Director, Mariam Khaloyan. “We strongly support the inclusion of funds in any supplemental appropriations bill to strengthen the U.S.-Armenia security partnership and help address the severe humanitarian challenges caused by Azerbaijan’s recent aggression.”

In addition to Senator Padilla and Representative Eshoo, the letter is signed by Senators Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), John Fetterman (D-Pa.), Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), Gary Peters (D-Mich.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.), Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Sheldon Whitehouse (D-R.I.), and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.), as well as Representatives Alma Adams (D-N.C.-12), Gabe Amo (D-R.I.-01), Jake Auchincloss (D-Mass.-04), Joyce Beatty (D-Ohio-03), Donald Beyer, Jr. (D-Va.-08), Tony Cárdenas (D-Calif.-29), Joaquin Castro (D-Texas-20), Judy Chu (D-Calif.-28), Jim Costa (D-Calif.-21), Danny Davis (D-Ill.-07), Madeleine Dean (D-Penn.-04), Dan Goldman (D-N.Y.-10), Jimmy Gomez (D-Calif.-34), Josh Gottheimer (D-N.J.-05), Sydney Kamlager-Dove (D-Calif.-37), Andy Kim (D-N.J.-03), Raja Krishnamoorthi (D-Ill.-08), Michael Lawler (R-N.Y.-17), Susie Lee (D-Nev.-03), Ted Lieu (D-Calif.-36), Zoe Lofgren (D-Calif.-18), Seth Magaziner (D-R.I.-02), James McGovern (D-Mass.-02), Robert Menendez (D-N.J.-08), Grace Meng (D-N.Y.-06), Grace Napolitano (D-Calif.-31), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-D.C.), Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-N.J.-06), Scott Peters (D-Calif.-50), Katie Porter (D-Calif.-47), Jamie Raskin (D-Md.-08), Deborah Ross (D-N.C.-02), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (D-Md.-02), John Sarbanes (D-Md.-03), Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.-09), Adam Schiff (D-Calif.-30), Brad Sherman (D-Calif.-32), Christopher Smith (R-N.J.-04), Abigail Spanberger (D-Va.-07), Haley Stevens (D-Mich.-11), Eric Swalwell (D-Calif.-14), Dina Titus (D-Nev.-01), Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.-12), Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.-20), Lori Trahan (D-Mass.-03), David Trone (D-Md.-06), David Valadao (R-Calif.-22), and Nydia Velázquez (D-N.Y.-07).

Full text of the letter is available here and below:

Dear Speaker Johnson, Majority Leader Schumer, Minority Leader Jeffries, and Minority Leader McConnell,

As Congress considers supplemental funding to enhance the security of our allies, we would like to highlight a vulnerable democracy that warrants American support: the Republic of Armenia.

We strongly support the inclusion of funds in any supplemental appropriations bill to strengthen the U.S.-Armenia security partnership and help address the severe humanitarian challenges caused by Azerbaijan’s recent aggression.

On September 19th, Azerbaijan launched an unprovoked military offensive on Nagorno-Karabakh, displacing 120,000 ethnically Armenian civilians from their homeland and ending their more than three decades of self-rule. The assault was the culmination of a cruel blockade that deprived the region’s population of food, medicine, and other necessities for nearly ten months. Azerbaijan’s aggression has resulted in a devastating humanitarian crisis, with Armenia absorbing tens of thousands of refugees.

Now that Azerbaijani dictator Ilham Aliyev has reshaped the region using military force, we fear that he is emboldened to do so again. We are particularly concerned that Azerbaijan will continue its aggression by invading the sovereign territory of Armenia. Ominously, Aliyev recently referred to southern Armenia as “western Azerbaijan” and called for the “liberation” of eight Armenian villages along the Azerbaijani border.

As a small democracy in a region dominated by autocrats, Armenia is particularly vulnerable. This is especially true now that Armenia has distanced itself from Russia, Armenia’s traditional security guarantor, in pursuit of closer ties with western democracies. We believe the U.S. has an important role to play in ensuring Armenia’s security is not jeopardized because of its decision to break away from Putin’s murderous regime.

At this inflection point for the Caucasus, U.S. leadership is needed to deter further Azerbaijani aggression and enable Armenians to defend their democracy. To this end, we respectfully request that at least $10 million in Foreign Military Financing (FMF) for Armenia be included in the forthcoming supplemental appropriations package. We are also pleased that the President’s supplemental request includes robust funding for humanitarian aid, and we’re hopeful that a portion of these funds will be made available to Armenia to meet the humanitarian needs of the 120,000 refugees who were recently forced from their homes in Nagorno-Karabakh.

Thank you in advance for your consideration of our requests and for your commitment to strengthening American support for vulnerable democracies throughout the world.


IBA World Junior Championships. Armenia, India and Uzbekistan took three gold medals in the last day

Inside the Games
Nov 5 2023



  •  Monday, 4 December 2023

The last day of the 2023 IBA World Junior Championships in Mika sport complex in Yerevan started not the way the home crowd wanted. 

A boxer with a very famous boxing last name – Arno Darchinyan (men’s 46 kg) stepped to the ring to fight against Russia’s Islam Magomedov. The fight was very close but only one judge had a draw in his scoresheet. The other four gave the victory to Magomedov, who claimed Russia’s sixth gold of the tournament.

Right after that another home crowd favourite Heghine Petrosyan (women’s 48 kg) was outboxed by India’s Payal Payal in each round. Payal brought the first but not the last gold medal for India of the tournament.

After two losses, the Armenian crowd was a little bit disappointed, but then came European champion Tigran Ovsepyan’s turn to walk to the ring. And the main contender of the gold medal brought to the public the first joy of the day. He lost a round to Bulgarian Angel Dimtrov a round, but won the other two and at the end of the bout all the judges gave the victory to the Armenian athlete. Ovsepyan added the World champion’s title to his tally.

Then it was India’s turn to have 3 finalists in a row. And they managed to win only one of them. In women’s 52 kg weight category Nisha Nisha defeated Farinoz Abdulloeva from Tajikistan by unanimous decision. Jatin Jatin (men’s 54 kg) lost his bout to Kazakhstan’s Nurassyl Tulebek. It was Kazakhstan’s fourth gold medal in the tournament. They had only four finalists, but all of them managed to win their gold medal bouts. Right after that Vini Vini (women’s 57 kg) stepped to the ring against Sevara Mammatova (Uzbekistan).

Another gold medal for Uzbekistan claimed Firuzjon Sadullaev (men’s 60 kg). His opponent in the final bout was Andranik Martirosyan from Armenia. In the first two rounds Saduellaev’s advantage was big. Martirosyan returned strong in the third round, throwed some good punches, but it was not enough to close the gap, and the Uzbek athlete won by unanimous decision. 

Siofra Lawless (women’s 63 kg) brought a lot of joy to the Irish delegation winning her final bout against India’s Sachin Sathe. Lawless was dominant in all rounds and won the fight by unanimous decision.

Right after the home crowd exploded as Argishti Hakobyan stepped to the ring in the men's 66 kg weight category final bout against Belarus’s Ivan Siniak. He won each round confidently and became Armenia’s third world champion of the tournament. 

The last four bouts of the tournament featured four more Indian boxers. The first of them won her bout and became World champion, the other three lost the decisive fights. In the women's 70 kg weight category Akansha Phalaswal defeated Russia’s Elizaveta Taymazova by unanimous decision.

When it was Armenia’s Albert Harutyunyan’s turn to enter the ring against Indian opponent. Harutyunyan produced some electric fights in the previous rounds, several times storming back from the losses in the first rounds. He ended his great journey in IBA Junior World Championships with a confident win against Sahil Sahil by unanimous decision, and brought the fourth gold to the Armenian National team.

Anna Bazhaeva (women’s 80 kg) from Russia produced the only knockout of the final day. Her heavy punches against Megha Sheokand made the referee stop the bout in the third round.

The second day of the finals ended the same way as the final’s first day. Yesterday it was Uzbekistan’s representative who won the final bout against an Indian opponent in the women’s super heavyweight category. The last day of the tournament was also closed by the Uzbekistan – India rivalry in the men’s super heavyweight category. And again it was Uzbekistan to win the gold medal. Islam Salikhov defeated Hemant Sangwan by unanimous decision and brought the fourth gold medal to his national team.

Russia won the medal competition with 7 gold, 2 silver and 7 bronze medals. Armenia came the second with 4 gold, 5 silver and 1 bronze medal. Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan also claimed four gold medals. Though India had the most number of the finalists – 12, only three of them became the World champion. Russia was the best also in women’s competition with four gold medals and left behind the Indian team (3 gold medals). Armenian boxers were strongest in the men’s competition with four gold medals, Russia was the second with 3 gold medals.

The 2023 was a good sporting year for Armenia, as they have previously hosted the Weightlifting European championship, 2023, EUBC Youth European Championship and the 2023 World Sambo Championship, and the IBA World Junior Championships were the best way to close the year.

Armenian American Museum Welcomes Donors to Reception

Glendale News Press, California
Nov 4 2023

The Armenian American Museum and Cultural Center of California hosted a special brunch reception with longstanding donors of the museum at the Chevy Chase Country Club.
The event provided an opportunity for donors to connect with museum leadership and fellow supporters of the cultural and educational center.
Board of trustees co-chair Archbishop Hovnan Derderian, Primate of the Western Diocese of the Armenian Church of North America, delivered welcoming remarks to kick-off the reception.
“The Armenian American Museum is going to be a vital center for the preservation and advancement of our culture, history, and heritage,” Derderian said. “We are strengthening the future of our children, our community, and our people by supporting the museum’s benevolent mission and vision.”
Board of governors member Kevon Kevonian delivered the keynote remarks at the reception, featuring an exciting progress report on the museum project.
“The brunch reception was organized to bring longtime supporters of the museum together and express our appreciation for your commitment to the project,” Kevonian said. “As we embark on the next exciting chapter of the museum construction, we welcome your contributions, participation, and feedback to help shape the future of the museum.”
The event was generously sponsored by Kevon and Alexia Kevonian.
Executive Chairman Berdj Karapetian led a Q&A session and provided key updates on the construction, programming and development of the museum project. Young Leaders Council chair Aleen Ohanian invited young professionals to join the museum and contribute to its advancement. Architect Aram Alajajian of Alajajian Marcoosi Architects also provided a walk-through of the museum building with a 3D model at the reception.
The Armenian American Museum is a world-class educational and cultural center that is currently under construction in the museum campus at Glendale Central Park. The first phase of construction featuring the museum parking garage and building foundation has been completed. The second phase of construction features the two-level 50,820 square foot museum superstructure. The museum will offer a wide range of public programming through the permanent exhibition, temporary exhibitions, auditorium, learning center, demonstration kitchen, archives center and more.
To learn more about the museum project, visit

First published in the December 2 print issue of the Glendale News-Press.

Armenian Christians battle developer to keep control of their corner of Jerusalem

Dec 4 2023


(RNS) — Amid the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip, another battle is playing out in Jerusalem among its small but storied Armenian Christian community, their own patriarch and an Australian-Israeli businessman who is said to be set on taking over the Armenian Quarter of the Old City. 

Last month, things escalated as Jewish settlers aided by dogs and bulldozers disrupted a long-running sit-in in a site known as the Cow’s Garden, currently a parking lot, where businessman Danny Rothman plans to build his latest hotel.

Rothman’s company, Xana Capital Group, made a secret deal in 2021 with the Armenian Christian patriarchate to lease a swath of the Armenian Quarter, including part of the Armenian Theological Seminary and several family homes. When the deal became public, the local community rebelled, a priest who oversees the church’s real estate was defrocked and Patriarch Nourhan Manougian’s leadership came under question.

“This is land that belongs to the Armenian community for centuries,” Levon Kalaydjian, a Jerusalem-born Armenian, told Religion News Service. “This does not belong to the patriarchate, nor is it for him, the patriarch, to do whatever he wants to do with it.”

Armenians have had a presence in Jerusalem since the fourth century, when Armenia became the first sovereign state to convert to Christianity. Some of Jerusalem’s Armenians trace their heritage to pilgrims who came to the holy city nearly that long ago, while others arrived from the former Ottoman Empire, fleeing the Armenian genocide in 1915 and 1916.

Today the smallest of the four divisions of Jerusalem’s Old City, the Armenian Quarter is considered separate from the larger Christian Quarter, where Palestinian Christians speak Arabic and worship in Greek Orthodox or Catholic churches.

The 2,000 or so Armenians, who speak a unique Jerusalem dialect of Armenian and belong to the Armenian Apostolic Church, are represented by the Armenian Patriarchate and the monastic order of the Brotherhood of St. James, which acts as a mini-welfare state: Most Armenians live in church-owned property and work in a church or monastery. 

In Jerusalem’s tense cultural politics, the Armenians are widely considered the most peaceful demographic in the Old City, maintaining good relations with both Jewish Israelis and Arab Palestinians. That unique status has been complicated by the fact that they are sitting on one of the Holy Land’s most valuable pieces of real estate. 

“The piece of land we’re talking about is one of the most important in the city, if not in the country and the world,” said Setrag Balian, one of the founders of the current protest movement. “Striking as it might sound, it is a fact.”

The Armenian Quarter occupies the highest point in the Old City and lies along the main path from the Jaffa Gate to the Western Wall and Jewish Quarter. It is also situated on one of the few vehicle-accessible roads in the Old City. The Cow’s Garden is one of the few undeveloped spaces inside the walls.

“The Armenian community used to feed off of that land, and Armenian pilgrims used to come camp there and put up their tents and caravans,” Balian said. “Other than the cultural and historic fact that this is the Armenian Quarter, it had economic importance; our life depended on that land.

“And today, even as parking, it depends on it. In modern times, in municipalities all over the world, one of the biggest problems is the matter of parking, so this should also not be underestimated,” he added. 

It’s not the first time someone has tried to wrest control of land from the Armenian community. Enver Pasha, the Ottoman minister of war who was an architect of the Armenian Genocide, once eyed the Cow’s Garden for a summer home, while Jerusalem’s five-time mayor, Teddy Kollek, also pressed for previous patriarchs to allow construction on the land, along with numerous other potential investors. 

None was successful until the deal with Xana, signed in 2021.

The 49-year lease deal will allow Xana to build a luxury hotel complex over not only the Cow’s Garden but the patriarch’s private garden and the seminary’s main hall, where nearly all of the community’s celebrations are held, some four acres in all. The deal also gives Xana the unilateral power to renew the lease for another half century after the initial term is up, for a total of 98 years.

The return for the patriarchate is a lump-sum payment of $2 million and a yearly rent of just $300,000 — less than previous offers and a paltry sum for one of the world’s most valuable properties, leading to accusations of bribery and corruption in the agreement. 

Exacerbating the community’s concerns is the developer’s profile. Though Rothman, who also goes by Rubinstein, has been involved in tourism in Israel for decades, little is known about his company, which is based in Dubai, making inquiries about its history and holdings difficult. 

The deal also came at a time when both Christians and Muslims in the Old City and east Jerusalem are under pressure by Jewish settler groups, attempting to take control of properties for the explicit aim of ‘Judaizing’ the city.

Patriarch Manougian has claimed that the patriarchate’s real-estate manager, Baret Yeretsian, misinformed him about the deal, and he has defrocked and exiled him. Yeretsian had to be removed from the Old City under police protection in May, due to the community protests outside of the patriarchate.

In October, the patriarch canceled the deal, saying it was illegal because it had not been approved by the Synod of the Brotherhood of St. James, but only after more than two years of internal pressure from the Armenian community.

Since the cancellation, the patriarchate has put out a statement stressing the danger to the Armenian character of the quarter, and the patriarch has at times joined the protesters in the Cow’s Garden. 

“Better late than never,” Kalaydjian said.

The controversy has been compared to a 2005 scandal in the Old City, when the Greek Patriarch of Jerusalem was dismissed after signing a deal to give over Christian properties in the city to the far-right Jewish settler group, Ateret Cohanim, which some saw as a concession to Israeli designs on non-Jewish sectors of Jerusalem. Yeretsian pointed out that Rothman is a secular Jew, whose investment partner is a Palestinian Greek Orthodox Christian.

But on Nov. 5 armed settler activists appeared with dogs and bulldozers demanding that construction begin on Rothman’s hotel. Balian accused Rothman and his partner of  “cheap intimidation tactics” using “settler groups that don’t even come from Jerusalem, or the Old City.”

The strategy didn’t work. “We’re a 1,700-year-old presence at least in the Old City. We are not ready to give up just at the presence of armed people or bulldozers,” Balian said.

As important are the internal politics of the Armenian community. He questioned the dismissal of Yeretsian, saying defrocking him only forfeited the patriarchate’s ability to punish him. Before the deal had been formally canceled, Balian said he rejected calls pushing for the resignation of the patriarch, as it would only set a precedent in which the patriarch can walk away from his responsibilities to the community.

Instead he believes the patriarchate, with its power and influence over the lives of Jerusalem Armenians, needs to bring in lay managers and integrate the community into its decision-making process, at least on mundane matters.

“We’re not saying that the community should decide on everything,” said Balian, “because you need that structure, you need that institution. It’s a religious institution, and we all belong to it. But let’s work together as a united front.”

In a divided Jerusalem, Balian said, what’s most important for his community is to stick together, no matter who is trying to encroach on their land. “For us, it doesn’t even matter if it’s settlers or not, or if it’s Jews or Muslims or others. Our goal is to keep that land Armenian,” Balian said.