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ARMENIA


  
  



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)

Books on Armenia

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: 306 - (29/06/06)

Some nations are defined by their people having been victims of genocide. The two most notable instances in the modern world are Israel and Armenia. Hitler linked his coming genocide of the Jews to that of the Armenians by the Turks in 1915-16 by saying in 1938: "Who now remembers the Armenian genocide?"
Actually the Armenians still do the Turks of necessity, and the Armenian diaspora are making the facts, or at least their version of them, known to a wider world.

Armenians Mark 90th Anniversary Of Start Of Massacres 
Armenians from around the world have commemorated the 90th anniversary of what they call "Genocide Day" -- the start of mass deportations and killings of their ethnic kin during the final years of the Ottoman Empire. For decades, survivors of those events and their descendants have lobbied for international recognition that "genocide" occurred. But successive Turkish governments have denied the killings were aimed at exterminating the Christian Armenian population.
It was a sombre occasion as Armenians from all over the world gathered in Yerevan to commemorate the 90th anniversary of what they call "Genocide Day." On April 24, 1915, Ottoman authorities arrested some 250 Armenian community leaders in Yerevan.
It was the start two of years of mass expulsions and killings of Christian Armenians by Ottoman authorities. Ceremonies in Yerevan on April 24 included the laying of a wreath at the "genocide memorial" by Armenian President, Robert Kocharian. Memorial masses also were being celebrated at Yerevan's Saint Gregory cathedral, as well as in churches all over Armenia. 
Armenians say up to 1.5 million of their kinsmen perished as a result of orchestrated killings as the Ottoman Empire -- the predecessor of modern Turkey -- was crumbling. Authorities in Ankara have consistently denied that version of events. Turkey says about 300,000 Armenians and thousands of Turks were killed as a result of "civil strife" when Armenians rose against their Ottoman rulers and sided with invading Russian troops, which event, at least, can hardly be denied. 
In Yerevan on 23 April, more than 10,000 people marched with torches to demand that Turkey recognize the killings as genocide. Armenians say they hope their mass demonstrations will increase the pressure on Turkey. There are some signs that the effort may be working. 

Europe Urges Turkey to recognize the genocide
Also on 23 April, the Conference of European Churches called on Turkey to recognize the genocide claim. On 22 April, French President Jacques Chirac accompanied President Kocharian to a Paris monument for victims of the massacre. And in Germany, members of parliament from across the political spectrum appealed to Turkey to accept the massacre of Armenians as part of its history, saying the move would help Ankara's EU aspirations.
Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan also says recognition of genocide will help Turkey's bid for European Union membership. Whilst this might be considered as impertinence by some, it could be right nevertheless, as Armenia famously has an international 'lobby' considered second only to that of Israel.
"Genocide today is still a threat for the international community. That issue has been addressed by the UN and others. Secondly, there is the issue of Turkey's accession into the European Union. That's why this issue has also come to the forefront. Because if Turkey would like to join the European Union, the EU must ask. That's what they are doing now -- so that Turkey comes to terms with its past," Oskanyan said. 
Polish Nobel laureate and former president Lech Walesa has gone further. He says Armenians have the right to demand that the European Union bar Turkey from joining the bloc unless it admits to genocide. 
On 19th April, Poland joined a list of 15 countries that have officially acknowledged the killings as genocide when its parliament passed a resolution condemning the Armenian massacres. The Polish decision has drawn protests from Ankara. Turkish officials call the move "irresponsible," and say it will hurt relations. 

A Moral Issue 
Armenian President Kocharian has been making some conciliatory gestures toward the government in Ankara. He says Yerevan will not ask for financial compensation if Turkey recognizes the killings as genocidal. Kocharian says recognition is a "moral issue" rather than a financial one. 
Many members of the Armenian diaspora worldwide converged on Yerevan to take part in the ceremonies. Among them was Rubina Pirumyan, a Los Angeles resident of Armenian descent who took part in the demonstration marches: "Today for me is a very special day. I've been doing this for years and years -- commemorating the memory of the genocide, of the victims of the Armenian genocide. And I am excited today because I am walking with the youth of Armenia," said Pirumyan. 
Turkish Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, recently proposed the creation of a joint Armenian-Turkish commission to review the historical dispute. Several Turkish officials have said they think the study will confirm Turkey's arguments. To establish the historical facts certainly seems a reasonable way forward, and represents progress from the point of view of the international community.

Kocharian in Brussels
Armenian President, Robert Kocharian, went in early June on a two-day visit to Brussels to press the European Union for a quicker rapprochement with the south Caucasus countries despite recent problems between the EU and Baku. Azerbaijan has angered EU member state Cyprus by allowing commercial flights to the internationally unrecognized Northern Cyprus. The tussle has thrown a spanner into EU preparations to extend neighbourhood policy "action plans" to the region.
The problems between Azerbaijan and EU-member Cyprus, indeed, come as a very unwelcome development for Armenia. For the EU is in the habit of preferring to deal with entire regions, not single countries at a time. As a result, both Armenia and Georgia have discovered that their EU neighbourhood "action plans" -- paving the way for closer political cooperation and greater economic aid -- are held hostage to the spat between Baku and Nicosia.
Initial hopes that the "action plans" could be negotiated and signed by the end of the year have begun to recede. 
"It would be strange if the start of the planned talks between the [European] Commission and Armenia on the draft action plan remained blocked by the dispute between Cyprus and Azerbaijan over flights to Northern Cyprus, since that dispute does not concern Armenia."
The unhappiness in the reactions of Armenian diplomats has been palpable in recent weeks. Kocharian made sure that that unhappiness was felt by his hosts.
EU foreign policy chief, Javier Solana, offered solace, but no guarantees of a quick breakthrough. "I hope very much that the neighbourhood policy that we have established in the European Union will be a constructive and positive help for Armenia in their relations with the European Union," he said. "As you know still we have not completely started the negotiations, but we hope very much that will be done in the foreseeable future."
EU member states retain full sovereignty in the area of external relations and a single country can theoretically block any decision. The Greek government of Cyprus held out for a long time before giving its consent to EU membership talks with Turkey. Nicosia is likely to face far lesser pressure in the EU in its dealings with Turkey's more remote ally Azerbaijan.
Privately, EU diplomats have said that no decisions on the south Caucasus "action plans" will be made before Azerbaijani elections in November. Even so, officials indicate there are no guarantees of a breakthrough for Armenia and Georgia before the end of the year.
Kocharian told EU officials that "no country should pay the price for the problems of others." It would, indeed, be an unkind cut if Azeri misdeeds rebounded against Yerevan's EU aspirations.
Kocharian did draw support from Josep Borrell, the president of the European Parliament. "It would be strange if the start of the planned talks between the [European] Commission and Armenia on the draft action plan remained blocked by the dispute between Cyprus and Azerbaijan over flights to Northern Cyprus, since that dispute does not concern Armenia. We have been talking about that with the president and I told him [of] my strong commitment that these talks should be starting at the planned [time]."
However, Borrell's support is of little practical value to Kocharian, as the parliament has no say in EU foreign policy decisions.
Nevertheless, the parliament has a role to play in shaping the political climate in the EU and thus indirectly helps shape longer term decisions. Borrell pointed to earlier efforts by the parliament that helped secure the southern Caucasus an EU special representative, and forced the EU to include the three countries in the neighbourhood policy.
The European Parliament has also been vocal in calling on Turkey to open its border with Armenia and recognize the Armenian genocide. Borrell recalled that the parliament had adopted a resolution calling for the steps before EU entry talks were launched with Turkey. "The parliament has already set out a declaration on the opening of negotiations with Turkey," Borrell said. "We have already said whatever we think we should have said. And the opening of the border and the recognition of the Armenian genocide was [mentioned] in that resolution, that the parliament strongly requires these as a condition. But this is the point of view of the parliament, we will have to see."
Again, the European Parliament has no formal powers to affect the decision on Turkey. Its approval will be needed before Turkey can accede to the EU, but that vote is unlikely to take place before the middle of the next decade.
Kocharian asked the EU to bring its influence to bear on Turkey to reopen the railroad to Georgia -- which passes through Armenia -- instead of building a new, direct link.
Solana told Kocharian the EU will "do its best." 
However, last year diplomats said that the EU was inclined to agree with Azerbaijani claims that the Armenian-Turkish border is one of the very few levers the international community has on Yerevan in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

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CREDIT RATINGS

Fitch assigns foreign and local currency ratings 


Fitch assigned the Republic of Armenia foreign and local currency Issuer Default ratings (IDR) of BB- (BB minus) with a Stable Outlook, the agency said in a press release. At the same time Fitch has assigned a Short-term rating of B and a Country Ceiling of BB- (BB minus), the release read. "Armenia's sovereign credit ratings are supported by prudent macroeconomic policies and a declining public and external debt burden that compares favourably with rated peers," said David Riley, managing director of Fitch's Sovereigns Group, New Europe reported.
Impressive economic performance has been underpinned by a robust and coherent macroeconomic policy framework and wide-ranging structural reforms that have enhanced the capacity of the economy to absorb ad-verse shocks. Armenia's public finances are a rating strength. Fiscal deficits have been contained at below three percent of GDP since 2002 and are forecast to remain so, aiding a continued reduction in the general government debt burden, which at 21 percent of GDP in 2005 already compares well with its rated peers.

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FOREIGN INVESTMENT

Foreign investment in economy soars 57% in Q1 

Foreign investment in the Armenian economy increased 56.7 per cent to 94.3 million Euro in the first quarter of 2006, a source in the Armenian National Statistics Committee said, Interfax News Agency reported.
Direct foreign investment amounted to 45.4 million Euro in the first quarter, up 27.4 per cent. Most investment - 47.6 million Euro went to the communications sector, including 14 million Euro in direct foreign investment. There was total direct foreign investment of 12.3 million Euro in the mining sector. The main foreign investor in the Armenian economy in the first quarter was Lebanon at 26.9 million Euro, up 18.6-fold. Specialists at the trade and economic development ministry tied this to increased activity by second cellular provider K-Telecom (the VivaCell trademark), which is part of Lebanese investment group Fatush Group. Greece invested 21.1 million Euro in the economy, down 44.7 percent. This was due to ArmenTel activity, in which Greece's OTE owns 90 per cent. Russia invested 9.3 million Euro, up 380 per cent.

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TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Vimpelcom submits bid to take part in Armentel tender 

Russia's second cellular operator VimpelCom has submitted a bid to take part in a tender to sell Armenian telecommunications company Armentel, the company's press service said, Interfax News Agency reported.
Greece's Hellenic Telecommunications Organisation SA (OTE) announced plans earlier to sell its 90 per cent stake, ArmenTel. Russia's leading cellular provider Mobile TeleSystems (MTS) has also submitted a bid. The remaining 10 per cent in ArmenTel is held by the Armenian government. Renaissance Capital analysts said these two operators are the most likely contenders to buy ArmenTel. Besides VimpelCom, seven more companies have filed bids for ArmenTel, including Russia's MTS and MegaFon. "Expansion on the Armenian market, which has a low level of mobile phone penetration, could be good for MTS and VimpelCom, which we think are the most likely candidates to acquire the asset," Renaissance Capital said in a report. ArmenTel has a monopoly on fixed-line and long-distance services in Armenia.

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