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ARMENIA


  
  



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Key Economic Data 
 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
GDP
Millions of US $ 2,797 2,367 2,100 139
         
GNI per capita
 US $ 950 790 570 143
Ranking is given out of 208 nations - (data from the World Bank)

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REPUBLICAN REFERENCE

Area (sq.km)
29,800

Population
2,991,360

Principal ethnic groups
Armenian 93.3%
Azeri 2.6%
Russian 2%

Capital
Yerevan

Currency
Dram

President
Robert Kocharian


 


Update No: 290 - (25/02/05)

Russian blockade of south Caucasus leaves Armenians fuming
Russia's decision to close border-crossing points with Georgia and Azerbaijan, purportedly to frustrate movements by Chechen militants, has produced widespread discontent, even anger in Armenia - Moscow's long-time strategic ally in the Caucasus. 
Some in Yerevan suggest the move may prompt a reassessment of Armenia's special relationship with Russia. But this is not very likely. The Armenians have more serious foes than the Russians.

The 90th anniversary of the Armenian genocide
The Armenian government has begun the yearlong commemorative activities planned for the 90th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, that took place in 1915 in the Ottoman Empire. Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian spoke on January 24 during the Special Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations to mark the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Nazi death camps. Mr. Oskanian's remarkable statement, along with several others, was broadcast live in Israel. Here are excerpts from his remarks that were delivered extemporaneously withevery appearance of a heavy heart and profound passion:
"On behalf of the people and government of Armenia, and as a descendant of genocide survivors, I feel compelled to be here today, to join other survivors and descendants of both victims and perpetrators, to take part in this commemoration....In the 20th century alone, with its 15 genocides, the victims have their own names for places of infamy. What the French call 'les lieux infames de memoire' are everywhere. Places of horror, slaughter, of massacre, of the indiscriminate killing of all those who have belonged to a segment, a category, an ethnic group, a race or a religion. For Armenians, it is the desert of Deir-El-Zor, for Cambodians they are the killing fields, for the children of the 21st century, it is Darfur. For the Jews and Poles and for a whole generation of us growing up after The War, it is Auschwitz...."
"After Auschwitz one would expect that no one any longer has a right to turn a blind eye or a deaf ear. As an Armenian, I know that a blind eye, a deaf ear, and a muted tongue perpetuate the wounds. It is a memory of suffering unrelieved by strong condemnation and unequivocal recognition. The catharsis that the victims deserve, which societies require in order to heal and move forward together, obligates us here at the UN, and in the international community, to be witness, to call things by their name, to remove the veil of obfuscation, of double standards, of political expediency...."
"Recognizing the victims and acknowledging them is also to recognize that there are perpetrators. But this is absolutely not the same as actually naming them, shaming them, dissuading or warning them, isolating or punishing them...."
"The Spanish-American philosopher George Santayana admonished us to remember the past, or be condemned to repeat it. This admonition has significance for me personally, because the destruction of my people, whose fate in some way impinged upon the fate of the Jews of Europe, should have been more widely seen as a warning of things to come."
"Jews and Armenians are linked forever by Hitler. 'Who, after all, speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians?' said Adolf Hitler, days before he entered Poland."
"Hitler's cynical remembrance of Armenians is prominently displayed in the Holocaust Memorial in Washington because it is a profound commentary about the crucial role of third parties in genocide prevention and remembrance. Genocide is the manifestation of the break in the covenant that governments have with their peoples. Therefore, it is third parties who become crucial actors in genocide prevention, humanitarian assistance and genocide remembrance."
"We are commemorating today, because the Soviet troops marched into Auschwitz 60 years ago. I am here today because the Arabs provided sanctuary to Armenian deportees 90 years ago."
"Third parties, indeed, can make the difference between life and death. Their rejection of the behaviours and policies which are neither in anyone's national interest nor in humanity's international interest, is of immense moral and political value."
"What neighbours, well-wishers, the international community can't accomplish, is the transcending and reconciling which the parties must do for themselves. The victims, first, must exhibit the dignity, capacity and willingness to move on, and the perpetrators, first and last, must summon the deep force of humanity and goodness and must overcome the memory of the inner evil which had already prevailed, and must renounce the deed, its intent, its consequences, its architects and executors."
It is noteworthy that during a press conference recently, when the Secretary General of the UN, Kofi Annan, was asked if holding a Special Session of the General Assembly for the Holocaust "may open the gate for other groups such as the Armenians... to demand a similar treatment," he appeared to leave the door open for a UN commemoration of the Armenian Genocide by saying: "It is possible that, in the future, Member States would want to commemorate other events."

The predatory victims
Everybody knows the biblical adage that it is easier to see the mote in another's eye than in one's own. Armenians were certainly the victims in 1915 at the hands of the Turks. But much more recently in 1988-94 they were meting out their own condign version of justice to another Turkic people, the Azeris. Some 30,000 civilians died, as well as innumerable soldiers, in the secessionist war waged by the Armenian inhabitants of Karabakh against Azerbaijan. More than a million became refugees.
Armenia remains in occupation of 20 per cent of Azeri territory, where it is carrying out a systematic eradication of Azeri cultural and historical traditions - ethnic cleansing in other words. Thus do the victims become the victimizers - the predatory victims!

Armenia in profile by ICG report
Azerbaijan and Turkey operate a trade blockade against the Armenians as a direct consequence. This is certainly stunting its economic growth.
Armenia faces instability unless it takes quick steps to improve relations with its neighbours, including the Turks, and fosters the rule-of-law at home, according to a new study that examines the Caucasus nation's political and economic prospects. The report, prepared by the International Crisis Group (ICG), urges Armenia to approach the Nagorno-Karabakh peace process "realistically." It adds that President Kocharian's administration should "supplement economic success with robust democratization." 
Since its publication at the end of last year has come the Orange Revolution in Ukraine. This gives its conclusions new force.
The report, titled Armenia: Internal Instability Ahead, says the stalemated Karabakh peace process "looms over all aspects of Armenia's political life and compounds its instability." A lasting Karabakh settlement is needed to secure Armenia's long-term economic security, the report maintains. Yet, Armenian leaders have little room for diplomatic manoeuvre in their negotiations with their Azerbaijani counterparts, it adds. Yerevan is under heavy popular pressure, especially from the Armenian Diaspora, to make no concessions on Karabakh's independence from Baku.
"The [Karabakh] issue previously helped unify Armenia's political elite, but ultimately, it may polarize popular opinion and society," the report says. While nearly all Armenians believe that the country should defend Karabakh's interests during peace negotiations, a growing number in Yerevan seem to feel the territory's priorities have already eclipsed Armenia's own needs, including regional economic integration. The Karabakh issue, at the same time, has become so politically sensitive that Armenian officials are afraid of disturbing the status quo. The report cites a poll conducted in August 2004, which shows that almost 50 per cent of Armenians believe war with Azerbaijan is the country's most serious threat in the coming five years. "Today, the issue is perceived as dangerous, if not suicidal for Armenian politicians," the report said. 
The Karabakh dilemma threatens to upend Armenia's economic development, which is the key to long-term security. Over the past decade, the country has experienced "substantial macroeconomic growth," with GDP now rising at a 10 per cent annual rate, the report says. Growth has been unevenly distributed, however, with per capita income still standing at only US$80 per month. The lack of a Karabakh settlement may bring economic progress to a halt, the report stresses. "The Southern Caucasus badly needs economic integration to sustain its nascent growth," the report states. "Yerevan is excluded from participation in all major regional trade and East-West pipeline projects, mostly as a consequence of the unresolved conflict." 
The report indicates that achieving a Karabakh breakthrough will require a re-evaluation of Yerevan's current negotiating stance. "Despite rhetoric, Armenians acknowledge they share many experiences and interests with other Caucasian nations," the report says. "They know the future can improve only if old relations with Azerbaijan - which means addressing the Nagorno-Karabakh issue realistically - and Georgia are renewed," the report says. 

Boycott of Parliament
Complicating efforts to promote economic growth is the "frozen" state of domestic politics, in which Kocharian's opponents maintain a boycott of parliament. The report characterizes Armenia as internally unstable "because many basic safeguards of a participatory democracy do not function. ... Elections have been invariably rigged, causing political unrest and violence." 
The presidential and parliamentary elections of 2003, widely condemned for widespread irregularities, led to a sharp increase in domestic political tension. Opposition leaders refused to recognize the voting results and pursued a protest strategy, leading to a confrontation in April between pro-Kocharian police and opposition demonstrators in Yerevan. Though the popular protests have abated, the political atmosphere remains polarized. 
The report places the main burden for fostering domestic tranquillity on the Kocharian administration. Incumbent authority's apparent desire to monopolize political power is distracting from efforts to improve living standards, it adds. "Corruption and violations of democratic procedure have disillusioned a population, half of which still lives below the poverty line," the report says. "Good governance is perhaps the most important element for fighting poverty and achieving sustainable development." 
Events in Armenia may take a violent turn unless Kocharian takes quick steps to redress his opponents' grievances. "The number of persons ready to act outside the law to advance political aims is likely to grow if the government continues to repress peaceful protests violently and to rig elections - especially should a charismatic [opposition] leader appear on the scene." The spectre of an Armenian Yushchenko looms large!

Economy in trouble
With output in Armenia still only about 65 per cent of its level in 1990 when it gained independence from the former Soviet Union, the United Nations is granting a new US$15.3m loan to help boost the economy of rural areas, which cover about 80 per cent of the impoverished Caucasus country. 
Armenian President Robert Kocharian visited the Rome headquarters of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to mark the agreement, which was being signed by IFAD President Lennart Båge and the Armenian Agriculture Minister Davit Lokyan. 
The loan, on highly concessional terms, will support the Rural Areas Economic Development Programme, building on the progress made by IFAD's three previous initiatives in Armenia, which involved total financing of US$36.5m to improve food security in rural areas and meet the challenges of a market economy. 
The new programme targets unemployed men and women, small and medium farms, rural entrepreneurs, agro-processors and traders. It consists of a package of measures, including: loans for investment and working capital; grant-financing of small-scale infrastructure; and training in developing a business. It is expected that thousands of small- and medium-sized enterprises in rural areas will be created or enlarged as a result. 
The programme also aims to increase returns from farm labour, bringing higher levels of disposable income and to facilitate farmers' access to markets. Most of the funds will be channelled through private banks and other financial institutions by means of an innovative refinancing facility. 
IFAD is a specialized UN agency dedicated to eradicating rural poverty in developing countries. Seventy-five per cent of the world's poorest people live in rural areas and depend on agriculture and related activities for their livelihoods. Through low-interest loans and grants, IFAD works with governments to develop and finance programmes and projects that enable rural poor people to overcome poverty themselves. 

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ENERGY

Armenia and Iran forge energy ties

A final report of Armenian Foreign Minister, Vardan Oskanyan, for 2004 reads that the main achievement of the Armenian-Iranian relations in 2004 was the beginning of the construction of the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline's Armenian section, as well as the commissioning of the second high-voltage transmission line Agarak-Shinuair, New Europe reported recently. 
This report was provided by the Armenian Foreign Ministry information and press department. The report notes that among the priority tasks of Armenia-Iran relations in the sphere of the economy is the construction of the Kajaran tunnel, a hydropower plant on the border river Araks, as well as boosting cooperation in the field of the alternative power industry.

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FOREIGN RELATIONS

Yerevan-Moscow relations deepen in all spheres

Armenian Foreign Minister, Vardan Oskanyan, recently said the development and strengthening of relations with Russia was a priority in Armenian foreign policy in 2004, New Europe reported.
The minister wrote in a document that Moscow and Yerevan continued to develop and expand bilateral cooperation in the military-technical, economic and humanitarian spheres, and in the framework of the Commonwealth of Independent States and CSTO.
2004 was marked by 3 working visits of Armenian President, Robert Kocharian, to Russia, an official visit of Armenian Prime Minister, Andranik Markaryan, to the Russian Federation, visits of the Russian State Duma and Federation Council Chairmen, Sergei Mironov, and Boris Gryzlov, to Armenia.
The sides discussed mutual cooperation on the global arena and the issue of the Nagorno-Karabakh settlement. During the 6th meeting of the Russian-Armenian intergovernmental committee, the participants discussed issues of bilateral economic cooperation, Interfax reported. They reached an agreement on Armenia's participation in the construction of the international transportation corridor North-South, which has strategic importance for Armenia as an alternative route to the outside world through the territory of Iran.
A railroad ferry between the ports of Poti (Georgia) and Kavkaz (Russia) would also play an important role in the increase of trade turnover between Armenia and Russia.

Yerevan, Tehran take a better look at labour

Iranian labour and social Affairs Minister, Nasser Khaleqi, and his Armenian counterpart, Aghvan Vardanian, have decided to expand ties between the two countries in labour affairs, Interfax News Agency reported.
Iran and Armenia have had cordial relations for many years and has decided to increase cooperation in other areas as well. Cooperation in employment and labour affairs, technical and vocational training, research and other industrial sectors can improve the quality of goods in both nations. 
Experts from the labour ministry are ready to hold discussions with their Armenian counterparts, Khaleqi added. For his part, Vardanian recalled that the two nations have had over 2,000 years of friendly relations. He pointed out that Armenia's labour laws have been rewritten in the post-Soviet era and Yerevan is eager to cooperate with Iran on employment and labour affairs. "Tehran and Yerevan have good cooperation in the energy and transportation sector," he added. The two ministers also initialled a draft agreement, which will be further discussed and if both sides agreed then it would also be signed. The two nations are also engaged in various industrial projects.

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