Thursday, 10 April 2008

Karabagh News

Interfax News Agency
April 7 2008

Armenian President Robert Kocharian has not ruled out the possibility
that Armenia will soon recognize the independence of breakaway region
Nagorno Karabakh.

"Azerbaijan's behavior at the negotiations, its latest steps, are
forcing the Armenian side to take resolute action. What steps these
are going to be - the recognition of independence, an agreement in the
sphere of defense or any other - is for the newly elected president of
Armenia to decide," Kocharian said commenting on the statement made at
the Bucharest summit by Azerbaijani Foreign Minister Elmar Mamedyarov,
that the question of negotiations depends on the views of Yerevan.

Armenian Public TV quoted Kocharian as saying that "lately Azerbaijan
has been trying to use the internal situation in Armenia to influence
the negotiating process."

"This is forcing the Armenian side to be resolute on fundamental
issues. There can be no new concessions or changes of approach,"
he said.

"Stability, the speed of development and the strength of Armenia
are guarantees of its stable approach to the question of Karabakh,"
he said.


April 7 2008

Azerbaijan changes tactic over the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, lashing
out at the Minsk Group and hoping for more pull with the UN, as the
peace process threatens to unwind, Haroutiun Khachatrian reports for
ISN Security Watch.

By Haroutiun Khachatrian in Yerevan for ISN Security Watch (07/04/08)

Recent moves by Azerbaijan to criticize and question the OSCE Minsk
Group, the international mediating force in the Nagorno Karabakh
conflict, have experts and observers concerned that the peace process
may have reached its end along with chances for peaceful resolution

March 2008 was marked with two events related to the conflict of
Nagorno Karabakh, which were unprecedented for at least a decade.

On 4 March, a military incident took place in one of the fragments
of the contact line between the armed forces of Azerbaijan and
the unrecognized Nagorno Karabakh Republic. It differed from other
incidents in that for the first time in over a decade, heavy weapons
were used and more than 15 people were killed from both sides
each side accusing the other of initiating the incident).

The second event, on 14 March, came in the form of a contentious
vote at the UN General Assembly that saw the Assembly call for the
recognition of Azerbaijan's right to territorial integrity and for
the immediate withdrawal of Armenian forces "from all the occupied
territories of the Republic of Azerbaijan."

Thirty-nine countries supported the Azerbaijani draft resolution,
while seven voted against, including the US, Russia and France,
the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk Group.

The UN General Assembly vote has indeed set a precedent, as it was
the first time that an international body outside of the OSCE's Minsk
Group has been involved in the Nagorno Karabakh dispute.

Frozen in bloody time
In February 1988, with the rise of Gorbachev's
glasnost and perestroika, Armenians began demonstrating for the
return of Nagorno Karabakh, an ethnic Armenian enclave that the
Soviet Union had handed over to Azerbaijan in 1923 as an autonomous
oblast within Soviet Azerbaijan. At the time, Nagorno Karabakh was
95 percent ethnic Armenian.

The fallout was devastating, leading to pogroms of Armenians in the
Azeri city of Sumgait and a war that would last until 1994.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, national passions in both
Armenia and Azerbaijan were allowed to surface with all their oppressed
gusto, and the early 1990s proved particularly bloody.

In 1994, the Armenian forces from Armenia proper and ethnic Armenian
forces from Nagorno Karabakh had managed to violently expel the Azeri
Turk minority from Nagorno Karabakh and went as far as to annex parts
of Azerbaijan that bordered the enclave for security reasons.

Today, the de facto independent republic - which was declared
independent after a 1991 referendum but was never recognized, not
even by Armenia - officially remains a part of Azerbaijan, and is
connected to Armenia by the Lachin Corridor, a piece of land the
Armenians forcibly annexed from Azerbaijan in 1992.

International mandate
The adoption of the non-binding resolution by
the UN General Assembly was followed by a rather unexpected turn
in Azerbaijan's policy. Baku officially started an unprecedented
campaign of criticism against the US, Russia and France for their
failure to support Azerbaijan's position both at the UN and in the
mediation process.

Azerbaijan accused the three superpowers of being "unbalanced" in the
negotiation process. Polad Bul-Bul Ogly, the Azerbaijani ambassador
to Russia, was quoted by the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta on
25 March as saying that Azerbaijan may seek other mediators to act
along with or instead of the current ones.

The Minsk Group was formed in 1992 by the Council of Security and
Cooperation in Europe (later reorganized as the Organization for
Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE) with the aim of holding a
conference in Minsk to discuss possible political solutions for the
Nagorno Karabakh conflict. The group consists of Armenia, Azerbaijan,
Belarus, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, Slovakia,
Sweden, Turkey and the US.

In an interview with ISN Security Watch, Vladimir Kazamirov, the
Russian envoy for the Karabakh issue in 1994-1996, pointed out that
the Minsk Group had no formal mandate other than its members were
obliged to attend the conference.

The CSCE December 1994 summit in Budapest established the institute
of the Minsk Group co-chairmen "to ensure a common and agreed basis
for negotiations," as 12 countries could not act as mediators.

Formally, the co-chairmen are appointed by the CSCE/OSCE
chairman-in-office, but in reality, the chairmanship is given to
specific countries ("co-chairs"), and the latter appoint this or
that diplomat to represent the countries. Initially, there were two
co-chairmen (representatives of Italy, and later Sweden, both with
Russia as the second co-chair).

The current three co-chair countries have not been changed since 1997,
but each country - Russia, France and the US - has changed at least
five diplomats as their representatives. During this time, the three
"superpowers" have managed to act as a single team, presenting the
conflicting parties with the necessary support to reach a consensus.

Until now, these chairs have largely been viewed as objective and
equally representing the quarreling parties.

Baku's new tactic Armenia, for one, believes that the ultimate goal
of Azerbaijan is to dissolve the Minsk Group.

Azerbaijan is correct in saying that the efforts of the co-chairs
have been so far fruitless, but a new mediator will not likely bring
any positive change.

"After all, the experience the current co-chairs gained in these
years is valuable," Kazamirov said, mentioning that few have a good
knowledge of the Nagorno Karabakh problem, and a new mediator would
face serious difficulties.

Over the course of the past 11 years, the co-chairs presented many
proposals - all of them rejected by at least one party to the conflict.

Armenia (which in recent years has represented both itself and Nagorno
Karabakh at the negotiations) supports the concept that the people
of Nagorno Karabakh have the right of self-determination, based on
the December 1991 referendum. The Armenian parties claim that the
occupied territories around Nagorno Karabakh will be freed and their
former Azeri inhabitants will be allowed to return if the right of
self-determination of Nagorno Karabakh is recognized.

Azerbaijan claims the region to be an inseparable part of its territory
and is offering a high level of autonomy inside Azerbaijan.

The co-chairs were meant to act as neutral brokers. Under the latest
version of the so-called Basic Principles, presented by the mediators
in November 2007 in Madrid, this right to self-determination is
expected to be realized through a form of plebiscite in Nagorno

However, in recent weeks, Azerbaijan accusations that the Minsk Group
co-chairs are "not neutral" - meaning they do not recognize Nagorno
Karabakh as a part of Azerbaijan, officially - may throw a wrench in
what is already a complicated process.

"Some people in Azerbaijan do not want to negotiate about the
compromise regarding the future status of Nagorno Karabakh. If they
don't want to negotiate about this point, then there is no sense for
negotiations to be continued at all. You can't judge the outcome of
the negotiating process until you go to the negotiation," APA agency
quoted US co-chair Matthew Bryza as saying on 27 March.

But perhaps, as pointed out by Robert D Kaplan in his book, Eastward
to Tartary, Azerbaijan knows that its ship has sailed. "The Armenians
[...] were never going to give up Karabakh in negotiations. No one
gives up what has been captured in battle when the area is occupied
overwhelmingly by one's own ethnic group and the rest of the population
has been violently expelled, with barely a murmur from the Great
Powers or the global media," Kaplan writes.

Azerbaijan's hardening position
The Armenian side believes that there
are two reasons for Azerbaijan's sudden hardening of its position. The
first reason is the fairly wide international recognition of Kosovo's
17 February unilateral declaration of independence.

Indeed, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev on 4 March overwhelmingly
approved a proposal to recall the country's Kosovo platoon. At the
same time, Aliyev confirmed that Azerbaijan was still considering a
military option for the settling of the Nagorno Karabakh issue.

The other reason, according to Armenian officials, is the recent
political crisis caused by the 19 February presidential elections,
which created an impression of instability in Armenia. (Serzh Sarkisian
defeated Levon Ter-Petrosyan and protests turned bloody, leaving at
least eight people dead after an unexpectedly violent crackdown by
security forces.)

"Azerbaijan made an attempt to test our toughness. I do doubt that
if they are convinced that Armenia and Karabakh have weakened, they
will again make an attempt to achieve success," Armenian President
Robert Kocharian told a 20 March press conference.

Kocharian warned that if Azerbaijan continued to undermine the
peace process, Armenia may officially recognize the Nagorno Karabakh
Republic to ensure its security. Bryza immediately reacted by calling
on Armenia not to take such a step, according to the 22 March issue
of the New York-based Armenian Reporter newspaper.

The Armenian side says that Azerbaijan's real aim with its most recent
maneuverings is to halt status negotiations for Nagorno Karabakh.

The mutual trust deficit Kazimirov says the conflict in Karabakh
has several features which increase the risk of stability. First,
there are no separating or peacekeeping forces, and the ceasefire
fully depends on the conflicting parties.

Second, the establishment of the ceasefire was not followed by a
withdrawal of troops to a safe distance, and the positions of the
conflicting parties are sometimes several hundred meters from each

However, the most serious danger is probably the deficit of mutual
trust and war rhetoric.

"In no other conflict in the world can one find such a mood for
a forced revanche that is seen in the case of Karabakh, and it is
declared openly by the top leaders. In no other place can you see
this number of incidents along the contact line as in Karabakh. The
growth of military budgets, especially in Azerbaijan, is also alarming,
as they also can create dangerous illusions," Kazimirov said.

Haroutiun Khachatrian is an editor and an analyst for Noyan Tapan
news agency and editor-in-chief of the Noyan Tapan Highlights weekly.
He is based in Yerevan.


Government in Nagorny Karabakh gives incentives to encourage couples to get married and have children.
by Lusine Musaelian in Stepanakert

After three years of living together as a couple, a young couple is thinking about legalising their union.

"We've decided to register our relationship in order to receive cash assistance from the government," said the husband-to-be.

From January 1 this year, the government of the unrecognised republic of Nagorny Karabakh has handed out a one-off allowance worth 300,000 drams (around 1,000 US dollars) to newlywed couples.

The hope in Karabakh is that the benefit will encourage marriage and boost the population of the territory.

In 2008, the republic's budget is providing 450 million drams (1.5 million dollars) to support about 1,500 new families. This followed a pre-election pledge by Bako Saakian in last summer's presidential contest to help young families with a variety of economic measures.

The new allowance has already prompted many couples to tie the knot. In the first three months of this year, Stepanakert's registry offices recorded 714 marriages - a record high number compared to the same period in previous years.

Ararat and Gayane Hairapetians initially planned to get married last year, but they postponed their wedding till 2008 in order to receive the allowance.

"We knew that we would get the sum if we got married in 2008 and decided to wait for several months," said the new husband. His wife said they would use the money to buy all kinds of household equipment.

"Every day we receive 20 to 25 applications and register the same number of marriages," said Ruzanna Danielian, who is head of one of Stepanakert's marriage registry offices.

The official population of Nagorny Karabakh in 2006 was recorded as 137,700. Some international observers dispute the figures, saying that they are artificially inflated. Another statistic revealed by recent events is that in last July's presidential election, the central electoral commission said that were 92,114 voters, of whom 71,286 had cast a legal ballot

What no one disputes is that the war of 1991-4 upset the demographic balance amongst Karabakh Armenians. By official estimates, 3,150 Karabakh Armenians died in the conflict.

In addition, according to information from Karabakh's statistics service, 1,310 people left Karabakh in 2006, followed by a further one thousand in 2007.

"During the war, many young people left, many died, others became invalids," said sociologist David Karabekian. "Today, invalids in Karabakh have no resources for creating a family and cannot get them, as they are not able to work."

In the Nagorny Karabakh countryside, people still get married at an early age. "Girls in our village wed between the ages of 17 and 22," said Armine Minasian, a resident of the village of Mets Takher in the Hadrut District, who is 22 and pregnant. "You are unlikely to find here a girl of this age unmarried." She said some of the girls she went to school with already had two or three children.

But in the town of Stepanakert there are many single women aged over 30, which is an unusual phenomenon in this traditional society.

Irina Soghomonian is 32 and unmarried. She blames it on the war, in which she says many of the men of her age died, while those who survived have long been married.

Irina says she wants a child of her own so as not to be alone when she grows old, possibly through adoption but acknowledges that it is an expensive undertaking.

"Besides, in Karabakh, people tend to disapprove of adopting a child or having one out of wedlock," she said. "It can become a subject for gossip. That is why one should make serious preparations before daring to take the step."

Relationships in which people live together without official blessing as well as mothers having children outside marriage are not common in Karabakh, being seen as unacceptable, if not amoral, by local society.

Economic considerations way heavily on young people. The average salary in the republic is now 25,000 drams (82 dollars), having grown by 5,000 from last year.

Sasun Petrosian, 30, is a bachelor. He says he wants to have a family of his own, but won't take risks because of the uncertain prospects he faces. "The problem is not the girls, it's that I have no house of my own and no regular job to support a family," said Petrosian, who is a mechanical engineer and receives a monthly salary of 50,000 drams. "What girl will want to date me, with a salary like mine?"

The Artsakh Development Agency is starting to provide mortgages that are repayable over long periods of up to 20 years and bear an annual interest rate of 12 per cent. However, there are worries that not all young people will be able to benefit from the programme.

While the government takes upon itself some of the burden of the interest (new prime minister Ara Harutiunian said the annual rate would be only six per cent), a person applying for a loan to buy a house is expected to earn more than 300 dollars a month, which is a high salary for Karabakh.

Family demands as well as government programmes mean that most Karabakhi girls do get married, if they find the right partner.

"It is commonly held in Karabakh that the average age for a girl to get married is 19 to 21, but I'm not worried that I'm still single," said 22-year-old Lusine Gasparian. "Moreover, I am not going to get married in the next few years. I still need some time to establish myself, though I have decided for me that the latest age [for getting married] is 26. My family is more worried about me being single, and my grandma finds eligible suitors for me almost every week."

Lusine Musaelian is a correspondent with Demo newspaper in Nagorny Karabakh and a member of IWPR's EU-funded Cross Caucasus Journalism Network project. The terminology used in this article about Nagorny Karabakh was chosen by IWPR, not the author.


On March 28-30, 2008, more than 70 representatives of various
organizations came together for a pan-Armenian conference devoted to
the NKR Kashatagh region. Organized by the Tufenkian Foundation under
the auspices of the NKR government, the conference issued an
announcement following its proceedings. The announcement appears

Summary Conclusions

On March 28-30, 2008, the first pan-Armenian conference devoted to
developing the NKR Kashatagh region was held in Berdzor. Organized by
the Tufenkian Foundation and held under the auspices of the NKR
government, the conference reached the following conclusions during
its final session:

Based on the national security interests of the Armenian and Nagorno
Karabagh republics;

with the goal of turning all Armenians' attention toward strengthening
and developing the liberated region of Kashatagh;

well-aware of Kashatagh's immeasurable strategic significance, as the
bridge that ties Artsakh with the Republic of Armenia;

recognizing Kashatagh as a vital and inseparable territory of

acknowledging our duty before the memory and priceless heritage of
those who died for the liberation of Kashatagh;

bowing before the determination and individual sacrifices endured by
the people of this region;

keeping in sight Kashatagh's special situation, which is in a crucial
condition from economic and development standpoints;

acknowledging the laxness of Kashatagh's development in recent times;

with determination to economically bolster those accomplishments made
on the battlefield;

The conference's participating organizations conclude -

The 3-day conference in Berdzor is not a theoretical initiative, but
rather the beginning of an ongoing and uninterruptable process, the
starting point for developing a comprehensive development plan for

The practical decisions reached during the conference's working
sessions provide for the realization of important projects in the near
future; these projects will address the region's infrastructural
needs, especially in the realms of road-building, school-building,
education, spiritual-cultural development, health-care, and others.

With support from the NKR government and the Tufenkian Foundation's
Stepanakert office, these coordinated activities will continue
according to plans already laid out, with the goal of generating a
call-to-action among all Armenians toward the strengthening of

Ararat Heritage Trust, UK
Armenian Educational Foundation, USA
Armenian Health Alliance, Inc. - Carolann S. Najarian, M.D., USA
Armenian Missionary Association of America, USA
Armenian Relief Society
Armenian Revolutionary Federation
Armenian Technology Group, USA
Armenian Tree Project, USA
Artsakh Fund of Lebanon, Lebanon
Canadian Armenian Network, Canada
Catholicosate of the Great House of Cilicia, Abp. Sebouh Sarkissian
Free Fatherland Party, NKR
Friends of Armenia, USA
Gurgen Melikian Foundation, Armenia
Hamazkain Armenian Educational and Cultural Association
Hand in Hand, NGO, Canada
Heritage Party, Armenia
Iranian-Armenian Community, Iran
Izmirlian Foundation, Switzerland
Knights of Vartan, USA
Mother See of Holy Echmiadzin, Artsakh Diocese
National Democratic Union Party, Armenia
National Unity Party, Armenia
Prosperous Armenia Party, Armenia
Provence-Armenie, France
Syrian-Armenian Community, Syria
Tsarukian Foundation, Armenia
Tufenkian Foundation, USA

30 March, 2008
Berdzor, NKR

07-04-2008 16:17:42

Soon the processing facility of the Artsakh Fruit Company opens
in Stepanakert, which will start buying fruits and vegetables from
farmers this spring, said the minister of agriculture of NKR Armo
Tsatryan in an interview with

According to the minister, as soon as the equipment is installed,
the processing facility will be operated. In the beginning it is
foreseen to produce 2.5 million cans.

In answer to the question what assistance the government will provide
to the company, the minister of agriculture said the company will
borrow money from one of the banks based in Karabakh, and part of
the interest rate will be subsidized by the government. According
to Armo Tsatryan, thereby the government stimulates processing and

"It will be a major factory which will produce other production in
future. The factory is ready to buy fruits and vegetables, including
from the remote villages of the south of the region of Kashatagh. There
is a preliminary arrangement that if a major quantity is concentrated
in one of the areas of the region, the factory may transport it,"
Armo Tsatryan said.

He also reminded that the owner of the factory which costs 3 million
dollars is the director of the Armenia-based Biokat Company Garik


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