PEACE-TALKS: Armenian Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian does not deny reports that Armenia and Azerbaijan are discussing a major change in their strategy of resolving the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict that would require Armenian troop withdrawals before an agreement on the disputed region’s status, RFE/RL reported
Oskanian hinted strongly that the so-called step-by-step resolution of the dispute was on the agenda of his meeting in Strasbourg last week with Azerbaijan’s Foreign Minister. “Since we agreed not to disclose the issues which we discussed, I would refrain from confirming or refuting anything,” he told a news conference in Yerevan.
STRONG ARMY: Nagorno Karabakh army is the most efficient army in the region while Azerbaijani Armed Forces are still in a sad state, Director of "Central Asia and Caucasus" Sweden based Center of Strategic Research told RBC newspaper.
In his opinion, Azerbaijan will not dare to launch a war against Nagorno Karabakh and Armenia at present. "During the recent 10 years there were no fundamental changes in the Azeri army and its military efficiency remained at the same level. The Karabakh army, on the contrary, is noted for its skillfulness and combatant value,” the expert said.
EU EXPECTS BETTER RESULTS: The president of the European Union’s executive Commission, Romano Prodi said May 18 that the conflict in Nagorno-Karabakh has gone on too long and strongly hinted that greater EU involvement may be needed to resolve it, RFE/RL reported.
“We're worried that the peace process has stopped since 10 years. Clearly, the EU doesn’t want to interfere with the Minsk Group, but we're urging and pushing that the Minsk Group has some result. I expressed my will to be at the disposal of the two nations in order to help the Minsk Group under the aegis of the OSCE find a solution,” he said.
ARMENIA-TURKEY: The speakers of the Armenian and Turkish parliaments met in Strasbourg May 19 to discuss possibilities of improving relations between their estranged nations.
Armenia’s Artur Baghdasaryan said the meeting marked a “positive step” towards the normalization of Turkish-Armenian ties, even though it did not result in any formal agreements. He also said he and his Turkish counterpart agreed on “the need to develop Turkish-Armenian dialogue,” adding that he urged the Turkish Speaker to press the Turkish government to adopt an “impartial position” on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the main obstacle to the reopening of the border between the two neighboring states.
PROMOTING ECONOMY: In year 2004 the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) will invest 10-12 million euros in the Armenian economy, EBRD President Jean Lemierre told journalists in Yerevan.
He noted that the major part of the investments will be directed to the purchase of a number of Armenian entities, the other funds will be rendered as credits. According to Lemierre, the EBRD is planning to invest about 20 million euros in Armenia in 2005. At the same time he noted that the special stress will be laid on the development of small and medium business, consolidation of the banking system and export stimulation.
TRADE DIALOG: Boosting trade between the two former Soviet republics topped the agenda at a meeting between Russian and Armenian Presidents in Moscow May 14 RFE/RL reported.
Robert Kocharyan welcomed recent years’ increase in bilateral commercial ties which is epitomized by the Russian-Armenian equities-for-debt deals. "Until recently, we only talked about military cooperation while mentioning that economic interaction is lagging behind," he said. "Now I can state with full confidence that we began to move in all directions very synchronously.”
POLITICAL HUNGER-STRIKE: The member of Republic opposition party Suren Surenyants who was arrested in early April "for the calls to turn down the constitutional regime by force and outraging the authorities", went on termless hunger strike, PanARMENIAN.Net reported.
Surenyants's attorney said his client undertook the extreme measure to protest against last week's resolution of the Appeal Court, which upheld the arrest. In the statement,
Surenyants is demanding the immediate release "of all the political prisoners and meet the commitments of the recent PACE resolution on Armenia”.
POLITICAL DUELLISTS: Aram Karapetyan, leader of Nor Zhamanakner (New Times) party is going sue the leader of National Unity party Artashes Geghamyan, for conducting “obviously assaulting policy” towards Karapetyan during the public speeches and in the press, Azg daily reported.
Karapetyan said that Geghamyan should come to the court and try to explain the insults hurled at him. “If Geghamyan doesn’t come to the court, I will consider that he is a liar," said Karapetyan, reminding that it will be an unprecedented case in the political life of Armenia, when a famous political figure will institute a suit against another one. Both men are former presidential candidates and represent the country’ opposition.
RUSSIAN-ARMENIAN GAS: HayRusGazArd, a joint Russian-Armenian company and the sole natural gas supplier to Armenia, denied media allegations that president Kocharyan discussed during his weekend visit to Moscow with the chief manager of Russian Gazprom the question of handing over 45 percent of HayRusGazArd shares to the Russian company.
A spokeswoman for HayRusGazArd, said 45 percent of the company's shares belong to the government of Armenia, another 45 percent to Gazprom and 10 percent to Itera.
She said that Kocharyan discussed the current situation with Russia's gas supplies to Armenia and issues connected with the condition of the gas network in Armenia.
DRUGS CONTROL: US Ambassador John Ordway and Prosecutor General of Armenia signed on May 19 Amendment Two to the existing Letter of Agreement (LOA) between the U.S. and Armenia on Narcotics Control and Law Enforcement, Armenpress reported.
The LOA is the framework for the provision of the Department of State's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs assistance to Armenia. Amendment Two covers the provision of an additional $2,158,000 assistance which includes technical assistance and training contracted through U.S. government agencies.
HEALTH ISSUES: Studies conducted by the Yerevan based US-Armenian Mammography Center revealed that each 18th examined woman suffers from mammary gland cancer, commonly referred to as "breast cancer", Armnepress reported.
The center has examined so far 56,000 women in Armenia since its inception in 1997, of whom 2,000 were found to have breast cancer. Some 11,000 women are examined at the Center annually.
NEW MONUMENT: A monument, dedicated to Prisoners of War from nations that allied with the fascist Germany during World War II and who were brought to Armenia to work here after the war, may soon be erected in Yerevan, Armenpress reported
The monument that may be set up at the end of central Abovyan Street has been initiated by Alexan Avanesyan, the chairman of the Union of Armenians in Hungary. He said the monument to Armenian soldiers killed in the liberation of Hungary from fascism was built in 2000 in Budapest. "I think that Armenians whose beloved are buried in Hungary will come and put flowers at this monument, as they cannot afford traveling to Hungary often," he said, adding that around 500 Hungarian POWs were brought to Armenia after WW II, who worked in Spitak and Sevan.
US CITIZEN MURDER VICTIM: Joshua Heglund, an American citizen living in Armenia was murdered Monday night in Yerevan. Heglund, 33, died of stab wounds and injuries inflicted from an apparent beating. The attack apparently took place in Heglund’s apartment, from which he fled, collapsing near his residence on Sayat Nova Avenue. Heglund was an English instructor at the State Linguistics University and was scheduled to leave Armenia at the end of this month. He is believed to the first American citizen to have been murdered in Armenia.