Armenia’s state television did not broadcast this year’s New Year’s Eve address by His Holiness Catholicos of All Armenians Karekin II, breaking with three decades of tradition. Since 1990, the head of the Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin, the prime minister and the president of Armenia have delivered televised addresses shortly before midnight on New Year’s Eve. The Public Television Company reportedly offered to broadcast the message during the evening news, which Etchmiadzin refused. The address by the Catholicos focused on the “occupation and depopulation of Artsakh” and the “relentless pain of the immense losses in our hearts.” In contrast, Pashinyan’s speech did not make any direct references to the fall of Artsakh, instead, praising his administration’s response to the refugee crisis and calling for the normalization of regional relations.
Water levels fell significantly in Armenia in 2023 due to climate change, threatening the country’s agrarian economy. Much of Armenia’s farmland is irrigated by artificial reservoirs that are sustained by rivers fed by snowmelt from the surrounding mountains. However, snowfall has steadily decreased over the last decade due to rising global temperatures. According to Gagik Surenian, deputy director of Armenia’s Center for Hydrometeorology and Monitoring, the average temperature in December 2023 was 5-6 degrees Celsius higher than usual. Water levels among Armenia’s reservoirs fell by 35-percent in 2023, according to official data. When water levels decrease, authorities use water from Lake Sevan, which has also been in decline. In 2023, Lake Sevan water levels fell by 11 centimeters.
Bidzina Ivanishvili, billionaire and founder of the ruling Georgian Dream party, has announced his return to political life as the party’s honorary chair. This is the former prime minister’s second time publicly returning to politics since his announced retirement in 2013. Ivanishvili is widely regarded as Georgia’s informal ruler, wielding immense influence over authorities. The European Union has said that Georgia must embark on de-oligarchization, in reference to Ivanishvili, to successfully advance toward EU membership. Ivanishvili has denied that his announced return is connected to the upcoming parliamentary elections in 10 months.
Turkish authorities have detained 33 people suspected of spying for Israel. The suspects were allegedly recruited by Israel’s Mossad security service to spy on Palestinians and Israeli activists living in Turkey. They allegedly planned activities included reconnaissance and pursuing, assaulting and kidnapping foreign nationals. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has been an outspoken critic of the Israeli government in response to its war on Gaza.