PEACE PROPOSALS: A senior Russian diplomat confirmed that he and other international mediators are working on a new peace plan that would try to reconcile Armenia’s and Azerbaijan’s dispute over Nagorno-Karabakh, RFE/RL reported.
The Russian co-chair of the OSCE’s Minsk Group said a synthesis of a “step-by-step” settlement of the conflict preferred by Azerbaijan and a single “package” accord demanded by the Armenian side is the only realistic way of breaking the decade-long deadlock in the peace process. “The co-chairs are now trying to propose a variant of the settlement which would literally allow us to synthesize incompatible things, such as these two approaches,” the diplomat said.
AMNESTY FOR REPENTANTS: At least 120 Armenian men who for years evaded compulsory military service have bought a government amnesty since the entry into force on March 1 of a special law allowing the practice, PanARMENIAN.Net reported. The opportunity is offered to those aged 27 before the law was passed by the parliament.
The Armenian military estimates that the amnesty-for-cash arrangement will be applicable to about 5,000 men. The maximum fine is set at 1.8 million drams. ($3200) The government commission has already collected 40 million drams by June 2004.
MILITARY DIPLOMAS: On June 27, Yerevan will celebrate the 10th anniversary of founding the Armenia’s Defense Ministry Vazgen Sargsyan’s Military Institute by organizing an event on the Republic Square.
As it was mentioned in the statement of the Defense Ministry in the course of the celebration, the graduates of the 2004 academic year of the Institute will be awarded initial military ranks and diplomas.
SYSTEMIC EVIL: Armenian Government considers corruption as a systemic evil, President Robert Kocharyan stated at PACE session in Strasbourg this week. He said that Armenia is concentrated on system changes that eliminate the motives of corruption. Among prior measures directed on elimination of corruption in Armenia the President mentioned the necessity of deepening of reform of legal system, improvement of administration in tax and custom bodies, creation of effective state service system,
According to research of international agency Transparency International, in 2003 Armenia placed 78th place among 133 states on the level of corruption. In this list Armenia is between Turkey (77th place) and Iran (79th place), Arka reported.
SIGNATURES INSTEAD OF RALLIES: Senior member of the major opposition Ardarutyun alliance admitted that in an effort to force president Kocharyan into resignation through rallies and marches the opposition made a chain of serious mistakes, Armenpress reported.
Ardarutyun said it would most likely start a campaign of signature collection for the removal of the president. According to the alliance, though the undertaking would have a symbolic significance (as under the law even a petition with millions of signatures in the support of opposition calls does not provide for president's resignation) it would expose the volume of real popular distrust towards the authorities
ECONOMY ISSUES: Trade between Iran and Armenia as part of an agreement for the construction and operation of the Iran- Armenia gas pipeline, involving supplies of Iranian natural gas in exchange for Armenian electricity, will amount to $10 billion over the next 20-25 years, Iranian Ambassador to Armenia said.
Interfax agency quoted the ambassador as saying this agreement will not result in increased competition between Russia and Iran on the gas market, as these countries are not competitors, but partners. "We are cooperating with Russia in the international arena and our cooperation is not restricted to the Caucasus," the ambassador said.
WAGES TO BE INCREASED: Minister of Finances and Economy told of increasing the pension and the wages of teachers, doctors, workers of the cultural sphere and the state employees in the coming 3 years, Azg reported.
The program means to raise taxes each year by 0.4 per cent in correlation with the gross domestic product and to reach the average European standard by 2015. Expenses will go mainly to the spheres of education, health, and the social sphere The wages of teachers in 2005 will be 50.000 ($90)AMD, in 2006 - 55.000 ($100)AMD, in 2007- 60.000 AMD.
HARD CURRENCY: Armenia’s national currency, the dram, has gained more in value against the U.S. dollar and other major foreign currencies over the last two weeks, continuing a four-month trend which analysts attribute to increased inflows of cash from abroad,RFE/RL reported.
The dram was trading at an average of 538 per dollar in Yerevan’s currency exchange bureaus on Wednesday, its highest market-based exchange rate since September 2000. The dollar was worth 564 drams as recently as last February. The Armenian Central Bank continued to insist that it has no role in the currency fluctuations. “The factor affecting the exchange rate most is a greater influx of foreign currency from private individuals and legal entities,” said its spokeswoman.
TOURISM IN KARABAKH: According to Nagorno Karabakh foreign ministry, tourism industry is booming with an annual 40 percent increase in the number of people wishing to visit. Last year 2,500 people traveled to Karabakh, the majority of them were ethnic Armenians. On the rise is also the number of foreigners.
The foreign ministry said citizens of 70 countries visited Karabakh in 2003. According to unofficial figures, the annual income from tourism is around $1 million, but the biggest portion of this money does not enter Karabakh as travel agencies from other countries are also engaged in this business.