Tensions Rise Over Trees, and the ‘New Armenia’ is Officially Donald Trump-Approved

(Graphic: The Armenian Weekly)

On May 16, U.S. President Donald Trump sent congratulations to Armenia’s newly elected prime minister, Nikol Pashinyan, and said his administration will cooperate with the new Armenian government on “the many areas of mutual interest.” The State Department sent similar remarks hours after the President’s statement. Pashinian’s chief of staff, Eduard Aghajanian, welcomed the congratulatory letter from Trump and told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that a deepening of U.S.-Armenian ties is “inevitable.” “I am confident that our relations with all countries and the U.S. in particular have a very serious potential for development,” he said. Washington had closely monitored the recent dramatic developments in Armenia that led to the resignation of Prime Minister Serge Sarkisian and his replacement by Pashinyan.

The Armenian National Committee (ANCA) took the opportunity to highlight the clear difference between Trump’s message to Pashninyan and an earlier note to Azerbaijani President Aliyev—most notably that Trump’s Armenia letter opens with congratulations, while the Azerbaijan letter (conspicuously) does not congratulate Aliyev. “The meaningful contrast between the White House’s congratulatory letter to Armenia’s Prime Minister Pashinyan and its pro forma note to President Aliyev—which did not even mention Azerbaijan’s deeply undemocratic election—may very well represent progress toward the ANCA’s long-term aim of ending the flawed policy of false parity that has, for far too long, characterized America’s approach to Armenia and Artsakh, on the one hand, and Azerbaijan on the other—on issues of peace, democracy, and development,” said ANCA Executive Director Aram Hamparian in a statement.

(Graphic: ANCA)

Back in Yerevan, more than 30 protesters broke into the capital’s municipality building on Wednesday morning to continue protests against Yerevan Mayor Taron Margaryan. The protests over the past few days were fueled in large part to construction that was taking place in a nearby public park, in which trees were being cut down. Protesters were interrupted by police before reaching the mayor’s office, but sat blocking a corridor for nearly three hours, demanding that the mayor explain what they see as the park’s destruction and resign.

The construction was undertaken by a private charity called Vardanyan Family Benevolent Charity Foundation. The foundation released a video (below) explaining that the area in question will remain community-owned recreational area for Yerevan residents after construction and commercial activity will be prohibited. The maintenance and care of the park will always be implemented by the foundation. They also stated that only old and sick trees have been cut and that 48 healthy trees will be restored and put on the edge of the park.

Alen Simonian, a member of Yerevan’s municipal council representing Pashinian’s Yelk alliance, backed the protesters’ demands when he arrived at the municipality buidding. He said that Margaryan, who is affiliated with Serge Sarkisian’s Republican Party (RPA), must quit because he is part of a “political team” that has lost power in the country. Margaryan insisted that he is not obliged to quit because of the regime change in Armenia. “All over the world it’s not common practice for a political force to try to suppress elected local government bodies after coming to power,” he said. “We will continue our work. We will make Yerevan a better place.”

Pashinyan addressed the issue earlier today in a livestream message on his Facebook page, where he asked protesters, including those opposed to Mayor Margaryan, to bring their demonstrations to an end. “Now that there is a government in Armenia which took over with a popular mandate and for solving the people’s problems it is not quite understandable, to be honest, that we block roads and take other civil disobedience actions on a daily basis,” he said. “Who are we disobeying? … Ourselves? I don’t think it’s a right approach… I am calling on everyone to stop all civil disobedience actions from 3 p.m. today. But I’m not calling on you to go home and just sit there and come to terms with your problems,” he said. He encouraged citizens write messages with their complaints to his government, stating that the government needs time to address them.

6 Comments

  1. Here we go – hope this does not continue. We have a new government in action let’s give them a chance to settle down. Protests are magnified but the incidence of calm and sensible approach might not be. Please consider the country and what the new regime is trying to achieve – it’s not going to be easy.

  2. Write in your complaints, meanwhile the trees are all cut down! Will writing letters magically reverse time and make them reappear? Criminal or socially destructive behavior is not halted by writing letters, it is halted by enforcing laws that restrain criminal behavior and having civic leaders that do not behave like petty tyrants ruling their personal fiefdoms. All the “foundations” run by the oligarchs exist only for their self-aggrandizement and to distract the public from their less salubrious activities. So far, it appears not much has actually changed in Armenia. Write a letter if you disagree.

    • I am becoming pessimistic that substantial change will occur in Armenia. Removed from the immediate presence of hundreds of thousands of supporters on the streets, Pashinian reverts to a position of political weakness. Perhaps that is why his policy appears to be to allow most of those in Armenia who gained their wealth and influence by illegitimate means to retain that wealth and influence as long as they reform their future behavior. This is not a strong incentive for change, and it will guarantee growing disaffection among those wanting to see substantial change arrive quickly. The oligarchs know that crowds cannot be repeatedly amassed on the streets every time such-and-such an oligarch-related issue arises, and probably think all they need do is keep their heads down for a while, allow the reformers to be absorbed into the established system, and then it will be back to business almost as usual. Would Armenia really have been weakened economically or militarily if, when the hundreds of thousands WERE on the streets, a few of the oligarch mansions had gone up in flames and the most extreme corrupt had fled for Russia, never to return?

  3. Have this letter and such become our source of pride and satisfaction? What Trump said to us but not To Azeris?
    Words mean nothing.
    Israel and Russia are selling sophisticated weapons to Azerbaijan. Unless Armenia gets rid of Russian lariat , American promises of economic partnerships means nothing.

  4. That particular park is right next to Children’s Park, over by Shahumyan Square and Khorenatsi Street. Anyway, I don’t find anything wrong with the plan to beautify this particular park, which is being undertaken by the Vardanyan Family Benevolent Charity Foundation. “The foundation released a video, explaining that the area in question will remain a community-owned recreational area for Yerevan residents after construction, and commercial activity will be prohibited. The maintenance and care of the park will always be implemented by the foundation. They also stated that only old and sick trees have been cut and that 48 healthy trees will be restored and put on the edge of the park.”

    On the subject of our “New Armenia,” I really look forward to our homeland improving itself and evolving into a much better Armenia. However, I do have concerns in regard to Armenia. I certainly would never wish for Armenia to become like the filthy melting pots of Western Europe and the United States. Armenia must always be pro-Armenian, and must always be devoted to the Armenian culture. For its own survival, there can’t be any other alternative. Our homeland cannot afford to be infested with foreign cultures. It is only the Armenian culture which must always be the prevailing dominant culture of Armenia. As for religion, there’s absolutely no place for Islam, Judaism, Buddhism, or any other in Armenia other than Armenian Christianity (Armenian Apostolic Church).

    Some people might view all of this as being the equivalent of what the Turk nationalists and Zionists envision for their “homelands.” However, totally opposite of the stolen countries of Turkey and Israel (which were created thru genocides), Armenia, since day one, has always been the land of the Armenians. Furthermore, as a result of our turbulent history in which our enemies frequently attempted to destroy our homeland (and are still attempting to do so), one cannot blame an Armenian for wishing to have an Armenia that will always be Armenian and that will always be fully devoted to the Armenian culture.

  5. This article comparing what Trump said to Armenia vs. Azerbaijan is laughable. The ANCA is really stupid to even waste its time to say, “Oh look! Look at what our letter says compared to what their letter says!”

    HELLO!!! ANCA!!! Are you awake???

    KHRIMIAN HAYRIG! PAPER LADEL! Don’t you morons remember? Words mean nothing!!! Armenia needs hard, cold steel (guns)!!

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