Saturday, 24 December 2016

Armenian News ... A Topalian... Ter Petrosian to Bach Karabakh Peace

RFE/RL Report
Ter-Petrosian Vows To Back Government On Karabakh Peace
December 19, 2016

Opposition leader Levon Ter-Petrosian has expressed readiness to help President Serzh Sarkisian achieve a compromise solution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, reaffirming his view that peace with Azerbaijan is vital for Armenia's security and prosperity.

In a weekend speech, the former Armenian president also endorsed a
Karabakh peace plan put forward by the U.S., Russian and French
mediators and voiced support Russia's central role in ongoing
international efforts to end the conflict.

"The main prerequisite for Armenia's and Karabakh's security, economic
development and improved demographic situation is a settlement of the
Karabakh conflict and Turkish-Armenian relations," Ter-Petrosian told
a pre-election congress of his Armenian National Congress (HAK), a
major opposition party.

"On the resolution of a pan-national issue such as the Karabakh
conflict, all political parties, civic organizations and intellectual
circles committed to peace and reconciliation must stand by the
current government, regardless of their attitudes towards it," he

"It is time to finally realize that in order to achieve success in the
Karabakh settlement process Serzh Sarkisian needs to act like a leader
enjoying the backing of the majority of the [Armenian] people,
political forces and non-governmental organizations, rather than a
weak leader having serious problems in his own country," he said. "To
that end, one should encourage him to take a decisive step towards the
Karabakh settlement, rather than upset him with cheap `patriotic'

"There is no solution other than the one put on the negotiating
table," Ter-Petrosian added, referring to the Basic Principles of a
Karabakh peace which were first drafted by the mediators a decade ago
and have been repeatedly modified since then.

The proposed accord calls for Armenian withdrawal from virtually all
seven districts around Karabakh which were fully or partly occupied by
Karabakh Armenian forces in 1992-1994. That would be followed by a
legally binding referendum in which Karabakh's predominantly Armenian
population would determine the disputed territory's internationally
recognized status.

Ter-Petrosian, who served as Armenia's first president from 1991-1998,
claimed that this peace formula is virtually identical with a deal
proposed by the three mediating powers in 1997. He strongly advocated
it at the time and was forced by more hardline members of his
government to resign because of that.

The 1997 peace plan did not call for a referendum of
self-determination in Karabakh or envisage any other mechanism for
eventually determining Karabakh's status.

Sarkisian and Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev came close to signing
a framework agreement based on the Basic Principles at a 2011 summit
in Kazan, Russia. According to Armenian and Russian officials, Aliyev
scuttled the breakthrough with last-minute demands for more Armenian

The United States, Russia and France made a renewed push for an
Armenian-Azerbaijani settlement following last April's four-day
hostilities in Karabakh which nearly degenerated into an all-out
war. Russia's President Vladimir Putin hosted Sarkisian's and Aliyev's
most recent meeting in Saint Petersburg in June. Despite continued
Russian efforts, the Karabakh peace process appears to have
essentially remained in deadlock since then.

Ter-Petrosian said on Saturday that Moscow still "holds the key" to
the conflict's resolution and that the West "appreciates Russia's
special role in this issue."

Significantly, he also insisted that despite his bellicose rhetoric
Aliyev is a "rational statesman who is capable of taking an adequate
step towards peace also extremely necessary for his people." He at the
same time warned that Azerbaijan will suffer a "bitter defeat" and
lose "a few more districts" if it tries to forcibly reconquer

Ter-Petrosian has been a harsh critic of Sarkisian ever since his
return to active politics in 2007. But shortly after the April
fighting in Karabakh, he met with the Armenian president and urged the
Armenian opposition to put aside its differences with the government
in the face of the military threat from Azerbaijan.

The dramatic overtures fueled suggestions that Ter-Petrosian and
Sarkisian could cooperate not only on Karabakh but also domestic
political issues in the run-up to the April 2017 parliamentary
elections. The HAK leader's latest speech -- which focused on the
conflict with Azerbaijan, rather than the upcoming vote -- may well
stoke this speculation.

Ter-Petrosian, who will turn 72 on January 9, clearly sought to quash
it, stressing that his emphatic speech "does not mean cooperation with
the ruling regime" and that the HAK will not cut power-sharing deals
with the ruling Republican Party (HHK) after the elections. He did not
specify his party's potential electoral allies, saying only that the
HAK will put the emphasis on "peace, reconciliation and good
neighborliness" in its election campaign. 

RFE/RL Report
More Homes Built In Armenian Earthquake Zone
December 20, 2016
Satenik Kaghzvantsian
More than a hundred families living in a small town in northwestern
Armenia moved into newly built apartments on Tuesday 28 years after a
catastrophic earthquake that destroyed their homes.

The three apartment blocks in Akhurian were built as part of a
protracted government-funded reconstruction of the country's northern
regions ravaged by the 1988 calamity, which left more than 25,000
people dead. Thousands of local residents still live in shacks and
other temporary homes lacking basic amenities.

Work on the Akhurian buildings took five years -- much longer than
planned -- because of financial problems cited by a private
construction firm contracted by the government. The latter hired
another contractor after the company, Glendale Hills, went bankrupt.

Ownership certificates handed to the 104 local families marked the
completion of the reconstruction process in Akhurian financed by the
Armenian government. The town's mayor, Artsrun Igitian, acknowledged
that some local families severely affected by the earthquake will
still lack adequate housing.

There are at least several hundred such families in the nearby city of
Gyumri, the administrative center of the Shirak province. The
cash-strapped government effectively froze large-scale housing
construction there in 2013 and has indicated no plans to resume it
anytime soon.

The government plans to buy instead apartments for a limited number of
Gyumri residents. Only about 60 such families are due to receive
government funding for that purpose next year.
Iranian gas supply launched in Meghri and Agarak cities

Today the official launch of the gas distribution network in Meghri and Agarak cities bordering Iran has been held. On the day of Iranian President Hassan Rouhani’s visit the symbolic fire was lit and the gas supply was launched. The ministry of Energy Infrastructures and Natural Resources reports about this. 

The Construction program of the gas distribution network to Meghri and Agarak cities became possible to implement due to the direct support provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran. The Iranian government has allocated 2 million USD grant for that purpose. In its turn the government of Armenia assumed the expenditures of customs, taxes and other mandatory payments resulting from the supply of products and services of the loan resources. 

The construction works of the gas distribution network to Meghri and Agarak cities have been carried out by the Iranian company “Synergy”. 

According to the source within the framework of the program over 26.5km long pipeline has been built in Meghri and 4.8km_ in Agarak. 

The program was successfully completed after months of construction works. Due to the program, the entire Meghri City and 50 percent of Agarak City have been provided with gas supply.
Armenia’s economic growth not to exceed 1% in 2016
December 20

Armenia’s economy can grow 0.6% at best in 2016, Gagik Makaryan, head of the Union of Employers of Armenia, told journalists on Monday.

However, he said, this low economic growth will not strike at the country’s population and businesses.

“Economic growth will be slight – it will not exceed 1%, but the population and businesses will not feel that since GDP growth figures before were overblown and they didn’t reflected things in the country,” he said.

Makaryan is convinced that figures of 2016 will be close to the reality, since, the new government is interested in it.

He said that the government is interested in showing low results to present higher figures later, as evidence of its successful work.

The economist said Armenia could have better results than other countries of the region, but two factors – corruption and shadow economy hobbled the country’s development.

In his opinion, the new government will cooperate with communities and combat corruption.

Makaryan thinks the government should pay special attention to development of small and medium businesses and industry.

Speaking about the year 2017, he said that the economy may grow 3% as Russia’s economy may grow 1%.

In the 2016 government budget, GDP in Armenia is projected at 2.2%, and in the 2017 budget at 3.2%.
Armenian PM: Shengavit is 1000 years older 
than Egypt pyramids
December 20,2016 

Armenian Prime Minister Karen Karapetyan has given an intreview to fDi Magazine which is published by the Financial Times Ltd. The interview is presented below.

Karen Karapetyan wants his government to create an environment that welcomes creative and entrepreneurial minds. But, as he tells Courtney Fingar, he is also determined to ensure that the country’s population is on board with whatever changes lie ahead.

Q: What are the immediate priorities that you want to address as prime minister?

A: Frankly, the work of the prime minister assumes that everything is a priority. Economic growth, social issues, healthcare and the fight against corruption: one could not say that this area is a priority and the other one is secondary. Perhaps the difference between the actions and the job of the prime minister and a businessman is that you do not have the luxury of prioritising and focusing only on the most important issues. Here’s what I think is our first major task – we need to establish contact with society so that our nation understands, believes and responds to the signals that we send. This relates to the businesses and larger public. It will be much easier for us to improve the situation, when our nation is our ally and supports the programmes that we propose.

Q: What economic initiatives or plans do you have?

A: We have already presented a government programme where we have outlined what we are going to do. There are a few major topics I want to highlight. Number one, we need to create a truly free, competitive and fair business environment. We are confident that our nation’s potential for creativeness and business acumen would allow our businesses to grow really fast in such an environment. In addition, if we send clear signals, then foreign investors would respond to that as well and would enter our market if they are comfortable with the rules of the game.

Second, considering our current economic condition, we will stimulate the businesses, perhaps not in a very conventional way for the government. We are going to create funds that will be providing financing to different sectors, for example, the agriculture sector, IT, SMEs and so on.

Third, we will create a centre for strategic initiatives, where, with the involvement of talented private and public sector representatives, we will be discussing and developing long-term strategies, programmes and reforms and, ultimately, deciding in which direction Armenia will be moving.

To summarise, we will create the most favourable and comfortable conditions for creative and hard-working individuals and we will demonstrate to them the horizons of our future, so that everyone engages in building that future. We want to show everyone the country of our dreams.

Q: Where does FDI fit into your economic plans and are you planning any privatisations of any industries?

A: FDI is extremely important to us, not only because it will affect economic growth and bring in more investments, but also because it will bring in a new management culture, and demonstrate the openness of our country, which will certainly have a positive multiplying effect on other areas of our life, such as tourism.

When it comes to privatisation, I think Armenia is one of the most liberal countries among the post-Soviet countries. There is really very little state property. However, I am confident that private management is always better than public. It reduces corruption risks, increases efficiency, etc. Therefore, our intention is to transfer everything that has business logic, except for very specific areas such as security and defence, either through privatisation or submission for management.

I think our IT/hi-tech industry is very interesting and attractive – it has fantastic potential and opportunities. Our agriculture, jewellery, mining, light industry, energy and tourism sectors also have big potential of attracting foreign investment.

Q: The geopolitics of the region are tricky. How are you dealing with this delicate situation and how can you increase economic integration despite this?

A: When it comes to our foreign policy, we will definitely send a signal, through our actions and policies, that we are very honest and frank with our partners. We are not going to be co-operating with one country to the detriment of other countries. The size of our country and our neighbouring countries brings us to the idea that we really need to focus on stimulating regional co-operation. From that perspective, I think that regional co-operation will open new opportunities for our businesses.

We also need to convince everyone that we are a very tolerant nation, though everyone knows us as a party to a conflict [a border dispute with Azerbaijan]. I think our lifestyle is proof of that, since about three-quarters of our nation is living abroad and serve as law-abiding citizens of other countries. We have suffered enough from wars to be very sensitive about the value of peace and we are very concerned about our security.

Q: What would you like foreign citizens and companies to know about Armenia that they might not already know?

A: We know the value of peace and we are very thankful to our friends.

We are one of the few oldest nations having a statehood. Yerevan is 50 years older than Rome. An area very close to Yerevan, Shengavit, is 6000 years old – a civilization that is 1000 years older than Egypt pyramids. We are the first Christian nation and we were one of the first nations to start typography. We say to [businesspeople and tourists] to come to Armenia, be our guest and become our friend.
Iranian President Answers Azerbaijan in Armenia
Hakob Badalyan, Political Commentator
 20 December 2016, 00:23

Armenian-Iranian Breakthrough: 
What Will Come Out of This? 
On December 21 the president of Iran Hasan Rowhani will visit Armenia. His visit has been discussed for several times now but despite statements at different levels, Rowhani visits Armenia four years after his election, ahead of the next presidential elections in Iran.

When the Iran-Armenia relations, the mutual political-military importance of the two countries are concerned, the lack of high-level meetings for several years becomes a non-ordinary, strange reality.

On the other hand, the impact of Armenia’s dependence on Russia on the Iran-Armenia relations is obvious. Russia is following these relations attentively to ensure that there are no developments which would foster the weakening and overcoming of economic dependence of Armenia on Russia. This makes the Armenian government cautious in its relations with Iran, which is expressed in the lack of high-level relations between Armenia and Iran because purely protocol meetings are unacceptable to the Iranian side, and Iran expects specific content and follow-up.

In addition, the Iranian president Rowhani announced about the need for proper follow-up immediately after his elections, several times through years.

Now the Iranian president is arriving in Armenia. Does this mean that the substantial content that Iran expects from a high-level Iran-Armenia meeting has come up? At least, no such u-turn or novelty is on the ground.

A few weeks ago Armenia and Iran pre-signed a gas deal under which Armenia can buy gas from Iran and sell to other countries but obviously it cannot be implemented without Gazprom, the owner of the gas network in Armenia.

The situation may change if a new gas pipeline is discussed during Rowhani’s visit, and the presidents of the two countries state having discussed it. Or if there are new developments in the Iran-Armenia railway construction. Will Iran help Armenia to accelerate the construction of the North-South highway, especially in the south which is the most complicated one?

The fact is that the agenda of the meeting is not published ahead of the visit.

Moreover, after a long break the visit of the Iranian president to Armenia seems to be part of the series of Eurasian visits. Rowhani arrives in Armenia for one day. According to the staff of the Iranian president, Rowhani comes to Armenia for a day and he will leave for Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. In fact, he is visiting the three “southern” countries of the five EAEU member states. In this context, it is possible that the Iranian president is visiting Armenia for the EAEU-Iran relations rather than bilateral Iran-Armenia prospects to discuss issues with Armenia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. Apparently, ahead of the visit of Rowhani to Moscow. Recently, official Tehran has stated that Rowhani has accepted Putin’s invitation to visit Moscow.

It is known that the issue of free trade with Iran is being discussed at the level of the EAEU. Armenia may have some interest but it is not the bilateral Iran-Armenia relation and has nothing to do with the political-military importance that it has for Armenia.

At the same time, the spokesperson for Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs, commenting on the visit of the prime minister of Israel to Azerbaijan, stated that Baku should not have accepted that visit. Iran complained that Azerbaijan has gone for Israel’s policy of controversies among Islamic states.

Interestingly, the statement made in this connection and the information of the Iranian side on the visit of the Iranian president to Armenia were on the same day, almost coincided. It is interesting whether Rowhani would have decided to visit Armenia had Baku not received the prime minister of Israel. Is the visit of the Iranian president to Armenia Tehran’s answer to the Azerbaijani-Israeli negotiations?

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