Trial of Armenian opposition figures in deadlock

The seven prominent opposition figures, arrested in conjunction with the violence on the streets of Yerevan that erupted after Armenia’s February 2008 presidential election, were ordered out of courtroom as the defendants refused to stand up and respect the judge. The hearing was postponed for the 5th time.
Citing “disrespect to the court” the judge Mnatsakan Martirosyan ordered the 7 defendants out and postponed the trial for the 5th consecutive time since the trial began on December 19. Next hearing is set on January 16.
Over a hundred protesters waited outside the courtroom amid tight security, held off by a barrage of metal bars. Many held up posters and chanted “Freedom to political prisoners!”

(Source: RFE/RL, original reporting by Anush Martirosyan and Karine Simonyan)

FIFA: Fair Play for Armenia, Turkey

Armenia-Turkey Match in Yerevan
Armenia-Turkey Match in Yerevan

The FIFA Fair Play Award for 2008 has gone to the Football Associations of Armenia and Turkey for their part in encouraging dialogue between two countries which otherwise do not have any form of diplomatic relationship.
On 6 September 2008, the President of Turkey, Abdula Gul, spent eight hours in Yerevan, on the invitation of Armenian President Serzh Sargsian, in order to attend the two countries’ encounter in a qualifier for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™.
French President Nicolas Sarkozy, whose country was holding the EU Presidency at the time, dubbed the meeting a “historic and brave initiative”. The visit was also heartily applauded by the international press, while 70 per cent of the Turkish public expressed their approval in opinion polls.
As a result, sport, and more specifically football, has helped alleviate a situation where traditional diplomacy had failed since 1991, the year Armenia gained independence. Indeed, President Gul’s trip was backed by nearly two-thirds of the Turkish population, according to a poll carried out by the research centre MetroPOLL, who found that six out of ten members of the Turkish public were in favour of re-establishing diplomatic relations between the two countries.
As for the match itself, 10,000 fans were in the stands to witness this historic encounter first-hand. Visitors Turkey came through to win the game 2-0, but more importantly the match passed by without crowd trouble.
The Turkish President announced that he did not wish the dispute between the two nations to be part of his legacy for future generations. President Gul also invited his Armenian counterpart to attend the FIFA World Cup qualifying match between the two sides in Istanbul on 14 October 2009.
It is also worth noting that two other meetings between nations that do not currently enjoy diplomatic relations took place on 6 September 2008, both of which were also part of the South Africa 2010 preliminary phase. These were Cuba-United States in the North, Central America and Caribbean Zone and Sudan-Chad in the African Zone, two further examples of how decisive a diplomatic role football can play.
The award was presented by UEFA President and FIFA Executive Committee member Michel Platini and his fellow FIFA Executive Committee member Senes Erzik.

Transit of Russian gas to Armenia to resume fully today

Russian gas deliveries to Armenia via a pipeline passing through the territory of Georgia, which were suspended on Friday due to repair works, will resume to full capacity today.

RFE/RL learned yesterday from Armenia’s national gas distribution company, ArmRosGazprom (ARG), that repair works of the Ghazakh-Sagoramo 1000 millimeter pipeline in the territory of Georgia are nearly complete.
“According to our information the works are nearly complete and according to preliminary data gas deliveries to Armenia will start tonight and resume to full capacity tomorrow morning”, – ARG press officer Shushan Sardarian said on Monday.
ArmRosGazprom specialists taking part in repair works are still in Georgia, Sardarian informed.
The pipeline passing through the Azerbaijani-populated Gardabani district of Georgia is the key source of natural gas supplies to Armenia. Gas is the main source of winter heating for Armenian households and generates roughly one third of the country’s electricity.
Georgia suspended on January 9 the transit of Russian natural gas to Armenia through its territory, citing emergency repairs on the key pipeline which officials in Tbilisi said will take several days.
Georgian Energy Minister Aleksandr Khetaguri was reported to say that a section of that pipeline passing through the Azerbaijani-populated Gardabani district has been seriously damaged by increased gas pressure. He attributed it to a seasonal rise in gas consumption in Armenia.
While repair works are underway gas is supplied to Armenian consumers from underground gas reserves of ArmRosGazprom. The underground gas reserves were also instrumental in avoiding a serious energy crisis in Armenia in January 2006, when gas deliveries were halted for 10 days due to an explosion in southern Russia.
Armenia can now also guard against such emergencies by importing gas from neighboring Iran. The final Armenian section of a gas pipeline connecting the two countries was inaugurated in December.
Unlike Armenia, Georgia imports the bulk of its gas from Azerbaijan, rather than Russia.

(based on original reporting by Ruben Meloyan and Emil Danielyan, photo by Photolur)

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