Friday, 29 August 2008

Armenian News (don't miss the hostile TDN article at the end)

Press and Information Department
of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs
of the Republic of Armenia

Answer of Tigran Balayan, Head of MFA's Press Office to the questions by Regnum News Agency.

Question: What is Armenia's position on the recognition of South Ossetia and Abkhazia independence.

Answer: Armenia has always favored and continues to believe that any attempt for military solution to conflicts is futile. Such conflicts should only be resolved on the basis of free expression of the will of the people.

Tuesday, 26 August, 2008
Armenia's Fuel Crisis Continues
By Shakeh Avoyan

Gasoline remained in short supply in Armenia on Tuesday despite urgent fuel deliveries organized by the government over the weekend and the resumption of the country's rail communication with the outside world via war-stricken Georgia.

Armenia received late Monday the first trainload of wheat and other basic supplies since the August 16 explosion that downed a key rail bridge in central Georgia, all but cutting it off from the Georgian Black Sea ports of Batumi and Poti. The train carried no petrol, leaving the landlocked country to rely on fuel brought in by more than 30 heavy trucks from the port terminals. Thousands of tons of petrol and diesel fuel have been stockpiled there and are awaiting delivery to Armenia.

According to the Ministry of Transport and Communications, another train carrying 10 rail cars of petrol was about to bypass on Tuesday afternoon the damaged section of Georgia's east-west railway through a smaller and hitherto disused rail bridge prepared for temporary use. `Those ten cars of petrol should reach Armenia by tomorrow morning,' a ministry spokeswoman, Susanna Tonoyan, told RFE/RL.

Meanwhile, petrol was barely available for sale in most filling stations in Yerevan. Queues of cars could be seen outside the few functioning stations, most of them belonging to large fuel importing companies. Some of them continued severe fuel rationing introduced at the weekend, while others did not sell fuel for cash, accepting only vouchers sold by those companies to privileged buyers.

Workers at filling stations blamed the crisis on a `panic' among motorists keen to stock up with unusually large amounts of petrol because of the continuing uncertainty in Georgia. `There are drivers who buy 60 liters of gasoline a day,' said Vagho Vanian, manager of a station owned by Flash, the country's number one fuel importer. `Armenians are always quick to panic.'

`People are worried that there might be no petrol tomorrow,' said a seller at another station chain. `That's why we don't have enough of it ¦ Sometimes when you start filling a car tank you see that it's already almost full.'

`There will be lots of gasoline in town on August 29,' predicted another station worker.

Despite the shortages, the prices of various gasoline brands have remained virtually unchanged, hovering between 410 and 440 drams ($1.35-$1.45) per liter. The local market is tightly controlled by Flash and a handful of other firms owned by government-connected persons.

Ensuring continued imports of wheat and other basic foodstuffs has been the Armenian government's main priority so far. Tonoyan said most of the rail cars that have already entered or are on the way to the country are loaded with wheat.

Opposition Protesters Detained, Attacked
By Ruben Meloyan and Anush Martirosian

Police detained several young men at the scene of an ongoing opposition sit-in in Yerevan on Tuesday as they sought to prevent its participants from placing new anti-government posters and other agitation material there. All of them were released later in the day.

The police used force on Monday to remove stands with pictures of detained oppositionists and opposition posters from a section of the city's upscale Northern Avenue where dozens of supporters of former President Levon Ter-Petrosian have been camped since early July.
Law-enforcement officials cited complaints lodged by the owners of street buildings and shops.

Eyewitnesses told RFE/RL that riot police detained at least four opposition supporters on the spot after discovering pro-Ter-Petrosian graffiti painted on the floor. `Three of our young men have just been dragged away, and another ran away. I don't know if they caught him,' one of the protesters, Yelizaveta Tarverdian, said, crying. `How can they do this?'

`We asked the police to explain why they are taking away the guys but there was no reply,' she said.

Colonel Aghasi Kirakosian, deputy chief of Yerevan's police department, explained the detentions as he spoke with protesters shortly afterwards. `We must clarify who wrote this,' he said, pointing to the `Levon president!' inscription written on the pedestrian boulevard's tiled floor.

`Why should this section of Northern Avenue not be clean?' said Kirakosian. `So clean this up and we'll clarify things and free the lads.'

In another Northern Avenue incident, a 17-year-old opposition supporter was reported to have been stabbed and wounded in the arm by a government loyalist late Monday. David Kiramijian described the attacker as an elderly man who shouted abuse at the protesters. `I just told him that there are women and children here and he should stop swearing,' Kiramijian told RFE/RL. `He then came up to me, swearing.

`I was about to respond when he took out a knife and moved to hit me. I raised my arm to shield my body, and so the knife pierced my arm.'

Kiramijian was immediately taken to hospital to have his wound stitched up. The Armenian police said in a statement the next day that his presumed attacker, identified as Volodya Manukian, was detained for questioning and then set free pending investigation.

Northern Avenue, which leads to Yerevan's Liberty Square, has been the scene of daily gatherings of Ter-Petrosian supporters ever since the end of emergency rule imposed by the authorities following the deadly March 1 unrest in the capital. The authorities tried unsuc- cessfully to stop what the opposition has dubbed `political strolls' with random detentions of their participations in late March and early April.

Ter-Petrosian's Armenian National Congress (HAK), an alliance of 16 opposition parties, has condemned the latest police actions there. `Can there be a more miserable thing than a dictator- ship fighting against posters?' Levon Zurabian, a senior HAK member, said on Tuesday. `The
authorities presented no legal grounds for such actions.'

Turkish Daily News
August 26, 2008 Tuesday

Turkey closed its border with Armenia in mid-1993 was due to Armenian aggression and occupation of Azerbaijani territories of Karabakh and seven other regions (total of about 15 percent of Azerbaijan, with over 800,000 Azerbaijanis and Kurds displaced or killed). Inciden- tally, these binding demands on Armenia about withdrawing and ceasing occupation were made not just by Turkey, but by the U.N. Security Council, the U.N.General Assembly, OSCE, PACE and OIC, just to name a few, all of which Armenia ignored

Missed opportunities

What is troublesome is that not only was this worthy initiative of PM Erdogan monopolized by the Armenian lobby, but it also quite overtly attempts to hurt Georgia, by reducing trade turnover of all the regional states with Georgia and redirect pipelines and railroads to be routed through Armenia, instead of Georgia. When PM Erdogan was drafting his proposal, he probably could not have imagined that his idea would be ripped from context and used with such ulterior
motives by one special interest group to the detriment of Georgia, Azerbaijan as well as Turkey.

If Armenia was serious about good neighborly relations, it would have stopped its occupation of Azerbaijan, removed all its troops, and stopped the blockade of Naxcivan region (which has been under Armenian blockade since 1989). This would have definitely improved the situation in the region, and would have placed Armenia on the
right side of economic development and relations with its neighbors

Secondly, what has Armenia done to repay Turkey for its persistent goodwill, to demand yet another expensive gesture? For example, Turkey was among the first states to have recognized Armenia back in 1991,has allowed regular, charter and humanitarian air flights to/from Armenia, welcomed over 60,000 illegal immigrants from Armenia, has cut in half its border and other security personnel on the border, has at least $35 million in official trade turnover with Armenia (unofficially could be as high as $200 million), charges the same tourist visa fee ($12 for one month) as it does on everyone else [eh?] , is among the first to congratulate the new Armenian president on assuming his new office -- the list is long and can go on.
[what an unimpressive list!!]

In return, Armenia attempts to put pressure on Turkey through thirdparties, sometimes resorting to blackmail, such as speculating that the recognition of 1915 events as "genocide" would be "rewarded"with a EU membership, or, as the latest article in The Economist claims, if the land border opens then the U.S. Congress might not adopt its non-binding "genocide" resolution. All these speculations are of course untrue

Border politics and economic impacts

Armenia's remaining population is around 2 million [eh?] and its purchasing power is increasing very slowly, meaning it simply cannot afford to import Turkish goods and prefers less expensive Iranian and Chinese goods. Also, as Armenian economy found ways to cope with trade sanctions, the effect of lifting the Turkish embargo would have almost no positive economic change, although will make the Turkish
market more accessible for illegal immigrants and suitcase traders from Armenia.

Turkey stands to gain much more through increasing trade with the truly booming economies of Azerbaijan and Georgia, than with Armenia, as every dollar invested into Armenia without strings attached currently fuels further groundless claims and occupation, whilst investment to
Azerbaijan and Georgia, along with other Turkic countries, creates economic growth, prosperity and more economic opportunities with positive return on investment

Possible repercussions

Hence, there are simply no real political, economic, trade and monetary benefits for opening of the land border. However, opening of the land border would mean a great symbolic victory by Armenia over both Turkey and Azerbaijan. For starters, it would irreparably damage relations between two brotherly states. It would also greatly damage prospects of Karabakh war settlement. It would show that pushing Turkey around and holding it hostage to never ending demands works, and that Turkey
can be forced to rescind its own words and promises. All this would empower Armenia, but weaken Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey

What would be the right course of action for Turkey in this situation?

1) To be firm and continue demand Armenia to comply
with international law and UN resolutions;
2) To continue and accelerate regional projects with Georgia
and Turkic nations;
3) To promote greater research and awareness of Turkish
history, particularly in the period of WWI, such as through the Azerbaijan Turkey Historical Research Foundation (ATAF); 4) President Gul should accept President Sarkissian's invitation to watch the football match, but travel to Yerevan from Baku, so that the symbolism is not lost on the host, and while in Armenia, to simply enjoy the game, while firmly reiterating point No. 1 as a precondition for CSCP to be viable. The sooner Armenia complies with the international law, the quicker confidence and trust towards it will be built. The region wants and deserves peace, but achieving it requires firmness and honoring commitments.


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