Books on Armenia
Update No: 319 - (26/07/07)
The Ottoman hang-over
Robert Kocharian, the president of Armenia, has rightly enough called relations
with Turkey 'complicated.' Speaking through the German publication Spiegel's Web
site, he stated that "neither the United States nor Russia can aid us in
overcoming the barriers between us and Turkey." Insisting that Armenia's
relationship with Turkey was anything but simple, Kocharian said that direct
talks were the only solution, but that "the light at the end of that
tunnel" was not in sight.
Touching on the issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, an Azerbaijani territory occupied by
Armenian troops, Kocharian warned that there was great danger of armed warfare
flaring up in the region once again, but that they would not be the first to
resort to a military solution.
The border gate between Turkey and Armenia has been closed for more than a
decade. Turkey closed the gate and severed its diplomatic relations with Armenia
when Armenian troops entered Nagorno-Karabakh after Yerevan in November 1989
declared the enclave part of its territory and under its sovereignty. Ankara now
says normalization of ties depends on Armenian withdrawal from Nagorno-Karabakh,
as well as on progress in resolution of a series of bilateral disagreements.
Among the demands is the discontinuation of Armenia's support for Armenian
diaspora efforts to get international recognition for an alleged genocide of
Armenians at the hands of the late Ottoman Empire in 1915. The problem is that
the evidence points to a ferocious act of genocide, killing one and a half
To go or not to go
Kocharian has a personal problem on his hands. He has had two terms as president
and is debarred by the constitution from a third. So is Putin in Russia, who
appears to be abiding by the rules. How can Kocharian do differently in a
country espousing liberal-democracy and aspiring to EU membership one day? To
bend them would be to join Lukashenka of Belarus in villainy and disrepute.
He appears to be ready to step down, making way for his new premier, a former
minister of defence, a very key post in Armenia, Serzh Sarkisyan. His Republican
Party won one third of the votes in parliamentary elections in May, which were
accorded international recognition. Armenia wants to maintain a sound reputation
abroad. Everything depends on that.
Sarkisyan will make sure that his former boss never wants for anything in the
material line, that's for sure, with a thought to his own eventual elevation to
elder statesman status. Kocharian was born in 1954, which means that his
fifty-fourth birthday comes next year. He is still young in political terms and
has had the taste of real power all right. It is possible that he will try and
pull a fast one to stay in situ. An emergency is required. Maybe it will turn
Armenia/Azerbaijan: Separatist Saakyan wins Nagorno-Karabakh poll
It has not turned up in Nagorno-Karabakh - yet, although events could see it
happen. Bako Saakyan, a former security chief, has won 85 percent of the votes
in a leadership election in the Azeri breakaway region of Nagorno-Karabakh, the
central election commission said on July 20th.
Karabakh declared independence from Azerbaijan in the 1990s but no country has
recognised it. The 46-year-old Saakyan says he wants full independence for the
enclave from Azerbaijan, and has vowed to make the sliver of land and its
140,000 people "an example of democratic rule". But the EU immediately
declared that it would never recognise it as an autonomous state.
Muslim Azerbaijan, which lost control of Nagorno-Karabakh after a war against
Armenia in the early 1990s, has denounced the election as illegal under
Nevertheless, the forces on the ground are those that matter and the vote could
be used by the ethnic Armenian enclave to affirm independence from Azerbaijan.
If Azerbaijan then declares it void, Kocharian could then have on his hands the
crisis that would justify him in reconsidering his position. Everybody in
Armenia knows that he was once president of Nagorno-Karabakh himself.
Karabakh leader Arkady Gukasyan, who is stepping down after holding the post for
two five-year terms, has tried to make a parallel with the Serbian province of
Kosovo, saying that if Kosovo gets independence then Karabakh should have it
The election was largely personality driven. Saakyan's main rival, the
39-year-old Masis Mailyan, who also wants full independence, won just over 12
percent of the vote.
Russia and Armenia to build NPP
A Russian-Armenian group working on new nuclear power infrastructure for Armenia
recently met in Yerevan to discuss security guarantees for the country's
existing nuclear power station and cooperation in constructing new units,
Interfax News Agency reported.
The Armenian side elaborated on their plans to develop their energy grid, while
Russian representatives presented project details for a new nuclear power plant.
During an April visit to Yerevan, the head of Russia's Federal Atomic Energy
Agency, Sergey Kiriyenko, stated that Russia was ready to provide both technical
and financial assistance in constructing a new nuclear power station for
Armenia. According to Regnum, the new 1,000 MW (megawatt) station will cost US$
two billion to build. US$ 240 million will be needed to decommission Armenia's
aging Metsamor nuclear power plant, which is slated for closure by 2016. The
plant, built in 1975, was initially closed following the devastating 1988
earthquake. One of two units, with a 400 MW capacity, was reactivated in 1995.
Metsamor produces 40 percent of Armenia's electricity.