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Key Economic Data 
  2003 2002 2001 Ranking(2003)
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

Update No: 316 - (26/04/07)

Coming elections affect Nagorno-Karabakh
Armenia is to have parliamentary elections on May 12th. But it is also having presidential elections in July that are occasioning a change of leadership in the ever-vital Nagorno- Karabakh.The Karabakh parliament set the election date on April 4 after Arkady Ghukasian, in power since 1997, reaffirmed his decision not seek a third term in office. 

Ghukasian has effectively lent support to plans by the chief of his security service to succeed him as president of the unrecognized Nagorno-Karabakh Republic (NKR), it emerged on April 20th. A senior member of Ghukasian's Democratic Artsakh Movement (ZhAM) party said the governing party has decided to back Bako Sahakian, chief of the NKR's National Security Service, during a presidential election scheduled for July 19. "The Democratic Party of Artsakh has approved the idea of supporting Bako Sahakian's candidacy," Vahram Atanesian told RFE/RL by phone. 

Other officials in Stepanakert said Sahakian has already filed for registration as an election candidate. Masis Mayilian, the Armenian-controlled territory's deputy foreign minister, is widely expected to be his main challenger. 

According to Atanesian, the ZhAM is now trying to get the three other parties represented in the Karabakh parliament to also endorse Sahakian. One of those parties, Azat Hayrenik, is a junior partner in Ghukasian's coalition cabinet. The two others, the Karabakh branch of the Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) and the Movement-88 party, are in opposition. 

A local Dashnaktsutyun leader, Artur Mosiyan, confirmed that his party is holding talks with the ZhAM on the issue but would not say whether it is prepared to support the Ghukasian-backed candidate. Dashnaktsutyun issued a statement earlier in April harshly criticizing the Karabakh government's policies. 

Elections to parliament
Samvel Babayan, the Yerevan-based former military leader of Nagorno-Karabakh, dismissed on April 20th widespread suggestions that he was pressured by the Armenian government into bowing out of an election showdown with a brother of Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian. 

Babayan and businessman Aleksandr Sarkisian were the main candidates in a single-member constituency in the southeastern Syunik region, in what many regarded as the most intriguing individual contest in Armenia's upcoming parliamentary elections. Sarkisian is strongly backed by the governing Republican Party (HHK), while Babayan's Dashink (Alliance) party claims to be in opposition to the Armenian government. 

Babayan unexpectedly withdrew his candidacy from the constituency encompassing the town of Goris and surrounding villages in late March, saying that will contest the elections only on the party list basis. 

In an interview with RFE/RL, the once powerful retired general blamed the media for the decision. "The media wanted to personalize things and turn an ideological struggle into a personal one," he said. "I just did not want to allow that and decided to score a team victory [for Dashink] instead." 

Babayan also dismissed speculation that the pullout from Goris was the price he paid for being deemed eligible to stand in the May 12 elections. Under Armenia's constitution, only those Armenian citizens who have permanently resided in the country for the past five years can run for the National Assembly. Babayan moved to Yerevan from Karabakh in 2004. 

"I have not met Robert Kocharian in the past two years," argued Babayan. "We are an opposition, but an ideological, program-based one," he said of Dashink, dismissing lingering suspicions about his secret ties with Armenia's Karabakh-born president. 

Babayan, who commanded the Karabakh Armenian army from 1993-1999, has kept a low profile since he and several of his aides were reportedly taken to Armenia's National Security Service for questioning in early March. But he sounded bullish about taking on the authorities as he kicked off Dashink's election campaign in the southern town of Echmiadzin on Thursday. 

"We must find the strength to remove the government," he said in a campaign speech there. "Otherwise we will be doomed to living in slavery." 

Meanwhile, Aleksandr Sarkisian, notorious for his flamboyant behavior, seems assured of victory in the Goris constituency. The area close to Karabakh has long been considered a de facto fiefdom of Surik Khachatrian, the equally controversial governor of Syunik affiliated with the governing Republican Party of Armenia (HHK). Government critics fear that people there will simply be bribed or bullied into voting for the government-backed candidate. 

Earlier this month, Sarkisian visited the local village of Tegh, the birthplace of the his father, on a campaign trip. "He said, 'People, I don't like making speeches. Just elect me and I'll then tell you how I'm going to support you,'" Laura, a resident of Tegh, told RFE/RL. 

The middle-aged woman admitted that she and two other members of her family would readily accept a vote bribe. "We have three votes and we would sell all of them. He will do nothing for the village anyway," she said. 

But as one man in the neighboring village of Khndzoresk observed, "They don't have to hand out flour or something else. They just show force and you start shuddering." 

He said villagers are too scared to even report inaccuracies in the local voter registry to election officials. "Whatever the governor and the village mayor say has to be executed," he claimed. "If you defy, your end will come." 

A climate of fear is even more evident in the town of Goris where, unlike in most other parts of Armenia, many people avoid speaking out against the government or supporting the opposition loudly. "The governor is intimidating everyone," explained one elderly man. 

In Syunik's capital Kapan and the nearby industrial town of Kajaran, power effectively belongs to another senior member of the HHK. Maxim Hakobian is the chief executive of a German-owned mining giant which is the area's main employer. "Our decision depends on the director," one resident of Kajaran told RFE/RL in reference to the elections. "We do whatever the director tells us to do." 

Hakobian will, no doubt, tell them to vote for the HHK and its candidate in the Kapan-Kajaran constituency. That might explain why local residents showed little enthusiasm when Raffi Hovannisian, the leader of the opposition Zharangutyun party, visited the town on a campaign trip to Syunik this week. Two of them stopped Hovannisian's campaign motorcade on its way out of Kajaran to apologize for not approaching him and shaking his hands. 

"We could lose our jobs because of that," one of the men told the popular opposition politician. "There are no other employment opportunities here." 

Things looked similar in Syunik's most remote district bordering Iran. "If somebody from the Republican Party holds a meeting here, all school students, factory employees, schoolteachers, and other workers will be forced to attend," said one woman in the town of Agarak. "But if the opposition comes to town, you'd better stay away from the square." 

Yerevan and Baku in new talks
Armenia and Azerbaijan are both due to have presidential elections in 2008 - not the best time to make concessions, one might suppose. Yet both sides said on April 19th that they have been presented with new proposals aimed at addressing their remaining differences on the Nagorno-Karabakh peace accord put forward by international mediators. Paradoxically it could just be that the pre-electoral season concentrates the minds of the two presidents and their ministers on ensuring peace.

The foreign ministers of the two countries met in the presence of the American, French and Russian co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group for nearly five hours in Serbia's capital Belgrade on April 18th. The talks took place on the sidelines of a ministerial meeting of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation organization.

"We basically focused on the remaining differences in the co-chairs' document on the basic principles [of a Karabakh settlement,]" Armenia's Vartan Oskanian said the next day. "The co-chairs had some prepared views as to how those differences can be addressed. We've listened and taken note of the co-chairs' views and we will bring those views to the attention of our presidents."

Oskanian declined to go into details. The Azerbaijani side also declined to disclose those proposals, with a spokesman for the Foreign Ministry in Baku telling the Turan news agency that they concerned two of the eight key elements of the proposed peace deal. The official, Khazar Ibrahim, said the mediators are trying to "to bring the sides' positions closer."

Both Oskanian and Ibrahim said the troika will likely visit Baku, Yerevan and Stepanakert after Armenia's May 12 parliamentary elections. "The co-chairs most probably will visit the region and meet directly with our presidents to get their reactions to these particular views," said the Armenian minister. "And on the basis of the results of that visit they will decide when and where to organize the presidents' next meeting."

The mediators hope that Presidents Ilham Aliev and Robert Kocharian will cut a framework peace deal before the start of campaigning for presidential elections due in both Armenia and Azerbaijan next year.

The conflicting parties are discussing a gradual settlement of the Karabakh dispute that would culminate in a referendum of self-determination in Karabakh. The remaining sticking points reportedly include practical modalities of that referendum. Addressing the OSCE Permanent Council in Vienna earlier this week, Oskanian said the parties are as close to resolving the Karabakh conflict as ever.

Oskanian and his Azerbaijani counterpart Elmar Mammadyarov appeared to have failed to make further progress during their previous face-to-face meeting held in Geneva on March 14

"I can simply say that compared to the Geneva meeting the atmosphere of the [Belgrade] meeting was much more relaxed," said Oskanian. "It was well-intended and businesslike. Overall, it was a normal meeting."



Economic growth 9.4% in January-February 

Armenia's economic growth between January and February of this year stood at 9.4 per cent, while the country's GDP totalled 186.8 billion drams (519.1 million Euro), the national statistics service said recently, Interfax News Agency reported.
For the period under review, consumer prices rose 5.1 per cent, year-on-year. Armenia's industrial product prices were down 0.9 per cent, its volume of industrial output was 99 per cent, while its trade totalled 199 billion drams (552.6 million Euro), up 51.5 per cent compared to the same period in 2006. Last year, the country's economic growth was seven per cent. In line with Armenia's 2007 budget, GDP growth is expected at nine per cent, compared with 13.4 per cent in 2006, and inflation should be four percent.



Tbilisi, Yerevan discuss regional issues

Georgian Foreign Minister, Gela Bezhuashvili, and his Armenian counterpart, Vardan Oskanian, met in Yerevan for talks focused on problems in bilateral and regional relations, the Georgian Foreign Ministry said in a statement on March 22, Interfax News Agency reported. 
Georgian President, Mikhail Saakashvili, also visited Armenia on March 22-23, the statement said. The Armenian president's press secretary, Viktor Sogomonian, confirmed that Saakashvili had arrived in Armenia on a private visit at the invitation of President, Robert Kocharian. The two presidents went to the ski resort of Tsakhkadzor where Kocharian usually spends his winter vacation. There they held talks followed by a brief rest and skiing.



Foreigners invest 110m in metallurgical, mining industries

Foreign investment in the Armenian mining and metallurgical industries totalled 110 million Euro in 2006, virtually the same amount as in 2005, Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister, Tigran Davtian, said at a press conference on April 6th, Interfax News Agency reported. 
A total of 66 million Euro was invested in the Armenian mining industry, he said. Of that amount, Germany's Cronimet spent 47 million Euro on upgrades to the Zangezursky Copper and Molybdenum Plant. The remaining investment was spent on Ararat Gold Recovery Company and Kapansky GOK, he said. Davtian said the development trends seen in these industries last year will likely continue in 2007, although investment will be slightly less.

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