Weekend Update: Armenian Army turns 21, Armenian Jews Community on genocide, attacks on Turkey, Chakhalyan’s message to Georgian government

Armenia celebrates the 21th anniversary of the formation of the RA Armed Forces today, January 28. As Armenian Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan said last week Armenia has created all the necessary preconditions for the second decade of the Armenian Armed Forces' history to become a decade of great achievements, enhancement of the Armenian army's international reputation and consolidation of peace and security in the homeland and entire South Caucasus. As Armenia celebrated its national holiday yesterday, sport, cultural and entertainment events, intellectual games, awards ceremonies and parades, accompanied by military marches were held in all military units. A concert dedicated to the Armenian Army was held at Aram Khachaturyan concert hall, attended by the senior military officials including some from Diaspora.

French President François Hollande is planning to visit Armenia on April 24, the date Armenians commemorate the Armenian Genocide. According to Hürriyet Turkish daily, citing sources in the Elysee. Hollande accepted the invitation of Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan in November 2012 to visit Armenia in 2013, the report said, adding that Hollande aims to issue a "strong genocide message" to the Armenian community living in France before local elections in 2014. However, the French president will not bring forth the bill that criminalizes denial of Armenian genocide to the Senate due to "technical difficulties" in the Constitution. The French Constitutional Council annulled the bill last year.

Turkish Organization for Human Rights published a report on violence against Samatia's Armenians, Istanbul district, claiming that violence was carried out on racist motives and demanding the Turkish police to extend the investigation. The report says the victims of the attacks are elderly Armenians and it is obvious that the aim of the attacks was not a robbery. Elderly and feeble women who can easily be "disarmed" became victims of violence and beatings. The report cities Samatia’s residents as saying that in Turkey the word "Armenian" is used as a curse. "Such attacks and killings will continue as long as the name of our nationality is used as a dirty word.”

The Nagorno-Karabakh airport issue hopefully will be discussed this week in Paris at the meeting of Armenia and Azerbaijan foreign ministries, the US ambassador to Azerbaijan Richard Morningstar said in Baku. "We are encouraging both sides not to make steps that will increase tensions in the region and jeopardize the peace process. Such steps cannot be useful," the ambassador said.

Vahagn Chakhalyan, a political activist from Javakhk, who spent four years in prison and was amnestied by Georgian authorities last week says attempts by Georgian authorities to integrate Javakhk in Georgia's social-political life will be in vain unless they make the local residents feel that they are full citizens of their country. In a statement Chakhalyan says the Javakhk Armenians still have lots of unresolved problems and hopes the new Georgian authorities will give Armenians the status of an official regional language, will return Armenian churches, and open an Armenian university in Akhalkalaki.

The Armenian Diocese of Georgia spread a statement which says that the release of the political prisoners including Vahagn Chakhalyan by the Georgian authorities angered President Saakashvili's led "United National Movement", party whose representatives in the last few days made incorrect statements attempting to spread anti-Armenian sentiments in a multicultural Georgia. According to the Armenian Diocese statement the Georgian president and Secretary General of the party called Chakhalyan a separatist, an agent of foreign intelligence agencies and the enemy of the Georgian state. "This kind of statements of the Georgian officials admitted that at times, the “United National Movement” party was in power, justice was missing. If in fact Chakhalyan was a separatist and agent, then why has he not been convicted under the relevant articles of the Criminal Code? The explanation for this is one: the previous government used the justice system in a special way against its political opponents.”

The head of the Jewish community of Armenia Rimma Varzhapetyan urged Armenians around the world to strengthen public diplomacy in the process of recognition of the 1915 Genocide of Armenians in Ottoman Turkey. Varzhapetyan says Armenians are too passive in this matter and gave an example of what the Jews do in the direction of "lessons of the Holocaust" in the world. The Jewish people, she says, more than any other people, understand and recognize the Armenian Genocide, but the official Israeli position on this issue is related to possible political, military and economic threats from Turkey. She noted, fortunately, there are some politicians in Knesset, who recognize the Armenian genocide.

Presidential candidate Arman Melikyan wrote in his Facebook page that Armenian Police’s visas and passports department gave him the quantitative data on people who received Armenian citizenship in 2007-2013, along with data on people who lost their citizenship in 2008-2013. Melikyan writes although these data are not sufficient in ensuring fair elections, however, he greatly appreciates the response of the Central Electoral Commission and the police. Melikyan had applied to the Central Election Commission two weeks ago demanding to publish a list of the RA citizens, who are currently outside the country, however, CEC refused to give any information on the matter.

Presidential candidate, National Accord party leader Aram Harutyunyan declared on Saturday he will withdraw his candidature on February 8 and the remaining two weeks he will use to bring his message to people and other candidates. Harutyunyan believes campaigning is meaningless and said those candidates who remain on the ballot are legitimizing the status quo. Withdrawal of their candidacies will mean that they are independent and Harutyunyan’s main hope is that other candidates will follow him, leaving Serzh Sargsyan alone on the ballots. He also hopes his move will shake up PAP, ARF and ANC parties who refused to participate in elections.