Merkel Visits Armenia, Bilzerian Gains Citizenship, Lake Sevan Water Changes

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan greeting German Chancellor Angela Merkel (Photo courtesy Press Office of the Government of Armenia)

YEREVAN—German Chancellor Angela Merkel arrived in Armenia on Aug. 23 for her first ever official visit. Upon arrival, Merkel visited the Armenian Genocide Memorial, Tsitsernakaberd.

“We understand what atrocities were committed against countless Armenians,” Merkel said after laying a wreath at the memorial. “This suffering should not and will not be forgotten.”

In June 2016, the German parliament passed a resolution recognizing the mass killing of Armenians by Ottoman Turks during World War I as genocide. It also acknowledged that Germany, a military ally of Ottoman Turkey, was complicit in the killings.

After meeting with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Merkel highlighted “Armenia is a good example of how one can simultaneously cooperate with Russia and the European Union. Our relations are very good but can deepen further.”

Pashinian said that just like the former Armenian government his administration is committed to stepping up cooperation with the EU while remaining part of the Russian-led alliances and the Eurasian Economic Union (EEU) in particular. The Armenian foreign policy strategy is “totally understandable” to Berlin, he said.

At his meeting with Merkel, Pashinian was reported to renew his calls for the EU to reward the new Armenian government’s ambitious reform agenda and anti-corruption efforts with greater financial assistance. Earlier this summer he criticized the EU for not rushing to do that.

More News from Armenia in Brief:

  • Bilzerian gains Armenian citizenship. YEREVAN—Dan Bilzerian, internet celebrity and professional poker player with reported net worth of over $100 million, officially became an Armenian citizen on Monday, Aug. 27. Bilzerian’s brother, Adam, was with him and also took his Armenian citizenship oath. It was reported that both brothers had been granted citizenship in 2014, but that it was not official until the oath taking ceremony. The Bilzerian brothers can trace their roots back four generations to the village of Keserig in the Kharpert region.
  • Additional Lake Sevan Release Proposed. YEREVAN—The Armenian Parliament approved this week a measure that will increase the draw from Lake Sevan to 210 million cubic meters of water. The current law mandates a maximum of 170 million cubic meters. Lake Sevan is a key source of irrigation water supplied to the fruit-growing Ararat Valley west and south of Yerevan through the Hrazdan river flowing out of it. Environmental groups have denounced the proposal. It claimed that the bulk of the additional water would only benefit hydroelectric stations and fish farms operating in the Ararat Valley. The measure was proposed by the Ministry of Agriculture. Agriculture Minister Artur Khachatrian warned of water shortages that could have “devastating” consequences for tens of thousands of farmers. “This solution may not be desirable but it has no alternative,” Khachatrian said at a cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. “We arrived at it as a result of lengthy joint discussions.” Government officials indicate that austerity measures over the past two months have reduced the need from 120 million to 40 million cubic meters, but that Lake Sevan offered the only solution at this point to close the gap.

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