Isolated Armenia leans on Iran

BBC has a very interesting article on Armenia-Iran relations. A highly recommended read. Here are a couple of interesting points:

Iran does not have too many friends these days, but in a far corner of the Caucasus, on the edge of Europe, it is forming a special relationship.

The story further goes on to tell about Omid Mojahed, a 28-year-old student and entrepreneur, who has started tourism business working in the Iranian market, as well as a restaurant. Omid speaks about attractiveness of Armenia for Iranian tourists and businessmen, and the freedom enjoyed by them:

“In summer I think that 90% of tourists are Iranian. Armenia is so close by and has attractive things – cafes and nightclubs, and beautiful Lake Sevan.”
Omid has also just opened a Persian restaurant, catering for locals as well as Iranian expats, keen for some home cuisine.
Part of that freedom includes an increasingly liberalised economy, and that makes Armenia attractive to foreign investment.
The Armenian capital is hardly an international economic powerhouse, but there are signs that Iranian investors sense an opportunity.

Interestingly, The Armenian Economist has covered the unsatisfactory level of trade turnover between Armenia and Iran, given the huge potential.
The story also explores US discontent with warm Armenia-Iran relations, and explains the situation of blockade the country is in.
PS: My special thanks to Patrik for always sending very interesting info and links to my email address. Duly appreciated!

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Visits Armenia

Armenia was once again in the world headlines owing to Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s two day visit which started on October 22, 2007. Interestingly, the bloggers here paid close to zero attention to the major event – which is surprising, given the anti-Bush sentiment in recent days resulting from US President’s negative attitude towards Armenian genocide resolution in US Congress. The visit of the Iranian President was mostly a working one, although some media are trying to see connections with Russian president V. Putin’s visit to Iran a week ago and building various conspiracy theories. Continue reading “Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad Visits Armenia”

Politics of The Armenian Nuclear Power Plant

The Republic of Armenia identifies the need to implement reforms focused on individual branches of industry and sets the following priorities:
– to pursue greater energy independence through a diversification of energy supplies and production, the creation of new sources of energy, including nuclear energy, and to develop a stable and reliable export-oriented energy system;
National Security Strategy of the Republic of Armenia
National Security Strategy
of the Republic of Armenia

Fear of the return of dark years in 90’s, when there was no electricity in the country in many ways defines the domestic and foreign politics in Armenia today.
The dark days, conditioned by war, economic collapse and severe blockade of Armenia by Azerbaijan and Turkey as well as lack of infrastructures to compensate the negative consequences of the blockage via energy import routes through Iran and Russia (through Georgia), followed the closure of the Soviet-build Metsamor nuclear reactor, located about 30 kilometers west of capital Yerevan and taken out of operation after the devastating earthquake of 1988. The Nuclear Power Plant returned to service in 1995, and although it currently supplies only 40 percent of the country’s power, for many people its possible closure is directly associated with the darkest days in Modern Armenian history. It won’t be an exaggeration to state, that there is no single politician who would risk bringing up the issue of shutting down the Metsamor NPP without being thrown out of politics altogether.
Having this background it is not much of a surprise to hear, that Armenia has refused 200 million Euro EU loan for shutting atomic plant (Yahoo! Finance, AP| Sep 25, 2007). PanARMENIAN.Net reports: “The European Union’s stand on the Metsamor Nuclear Power Plant is clear: it should be closed, European Commission’s Acting Director for Eastern Europe, South Caucasus and Central Asia, Mr Gunnar Wiegand told a news conference in Yerevan.” Even if the amount were twice as big, it would be hard to explain to Mr Gunnar Wiegand and the EU just how much the NPP means to Armenia, and why no alternative energy sources can compensate the political significance of the Metsamor reactor at this point.
And it is not just the dark years and energy security behind the reluctance to give up the NPP – it is a major strategic resource. A simple look at what Iran is suffering to establish its right for possessing nuclear technology would have been enough for Armenians to stand up and say – no way, we are not giving up our Nuclear Power Station!

Photo by PanARMENIAN.Net

U.S. Concerned About Armenia's Ties With Iran

“Iran is planning massive investments into the economies of Georgia and Armenia. We’re talkingof 1 billion dollars for Tbilissi and a analogous offer to Yerevan. For your consideration: the total amount of Russian investments in Georgia in 2006 did not exceed 30 million dollars, as to Armenia, after arrangements made by Vladimir Putin will total to 1,5 billion dollars. In case this plan of capital expansion is put to action Iran may become the most influential actor in the region[i.e. South Caucasus] ” writes Kornelij Glas (ru) following reports about US Concerns by Armenia’s energy ties with Iran.
Elaborating on the situation, whereby a senior American diplomat has voiced concerns, that Armenia’s deepening economic relations with neighboring Iran might run counter to international sanctions imposed on Tehran over its controversial nuclear program Armenia blog comments:

Iran has always been our neighbor and if the U.S. wants greater support for its actions, perhaps it can only be warranted by further aid to Armenia to help offset the natural losses that would occur by turning against our friend. Then again, should a conflict arise in the future, Russia and Iran are Armenia’s two true allies and the United States could not be counted upon, in my opinion, to help matters in our favor.

The world is flat, reiterates Thomas Friedman’s concept Nazarian, looking for Armenia’s place in the Globalized world.

I am still unsure of Armenia’s role and contribution to the global economy. It’s a tiny market. Yerevan is a small city of 1 million people; there are dime a dozen of such cities around the world. Add to that the middle class is a small segment of the population that can afford a lifestyle of a Western citizen, and you see why a foreign corporation may not be interested to have an official presence in Armenia let alone have manufacturing operations.

Notes from Hairenik is even more concerned about Armenia’s economy, despite continuous growth rates recorded here, ensuring annual average real GDP growth rates of more than 10% since the late 90’s, quoting the June 19 edition of ArmeniaLiberty.org about statements by the European Bank for Reconstruciton and Development (EBRD) on continued appreciation of the Armenian national currency (dram) and the dire consequences it will have on the economy sooner or later:

I have concluded, although I do not claim to be an economist by any means, that Armenia’s economy is dollar based and probably always has been. Even though dram is being exchanged on the street people still think in dollars and even quote figures keeping the US currency in mind. In the meantime, money I suppose will keep pouring in from foreign remittances but it won’t circulate here. The continued shortage of dollars on the market is a clear indication that something is dreadfully wrong somewhere. And I would not be surprised if Armenia sees a depression in its “booming” economy in the short-term, God forbid. In fact I am expecting it.

Not all Armenian bloggers are pessimistic however. Levon who has just arrived in Armenia after a couple of years of absence, is deeply impressed upon arrival with rapid changes at the aiport as well as in the center of capital Yerevan.
Narjan has reposted extracts from the Reuters article: “The world leader in natural gas vehicles: tiny Armenia”:

The tiny country of 3 million people in the Caucasus mountains has a strong claim to be a world leader in running vehicles on natural gas: a fuel that produces fewer harmful greenhouse gases than gasoline or diesel.
The transport ministry estimates that between 20 and 30 percent of vehicles in Armenia run on gas. That compares to just over 3 percent in the Netherlands, a front-runner in natural gas-powered transport, according to the World LP Gas Association.

Well, even in a “tiny” country people want to live well, and with all these international pressures on Armenia, when all the big guys, including US, Russia, EU and Iran are too much interested in strengthening their influence in this highly strategic location, all we can do is sit and watch our country being tossed about… or is there something we can actually do?

Uncomfortable Neighborhood: Armenian bloggers about Iran, Turkey, Azerbaijan, Greece

“The possibility of war between the United States and Iran seems more likely by the day…”, Armenia blog reports, citing a Yerkir article about the negative influence such a war will have on Armenia. Hyelog draws reader’s attention to the US Department of Defense strategy for the Black Sea region, the main focus of which is getting individual countries in the area to develop a regional approach on security issues. Interestingly the details about US DoD strategy for the Black See region are “leaked” amid speculations on US wish to expand the surveillance and monitoring in the area by installing its new PRO radar system in the Caucasus as reported by Kornelij Glas. The blogger also notes, that Azerbaijan doesn’t want the radar, while Georgia is ready to discuss the matter. The blogger is sorry for Yerevan’s silence – it would be an interesting experiment to install the American radar next to the Russian C-300 [installed in Armenia] and watching them “surveillance” each other he says.
Ahousekeeper states his point of view on Turkey’s “definite and short-term goal to destroy Armenia“, and asks, why is it, that “ANM (HHSh) party being well informed about this situation, keep telling fairy-tales about the possibility to reconcile with Turkey and try to create a complex among Armenians, that it is because of our stubbornness that those kind-hearted turks dislike us so much.” The blogger further expands his inquiry:

The same question should be directed to many American, British and European organizations, who are so so vigorously involved in “reconcilliation” – as a result the readiness to resist is destroyed in Armenians.

Hakob Gevorgian has found the conclusions made by the ArmenianHouse editor Karen Vardanesyan [Ahousekeeper]  “very interesting” and has republished the whole post to “make it accessible to public.” Armenia blog has also paid a great deal of interest to Armenia-Turkey relations, expressing his disappointment with the possibility of a “light sentence” for Ogun Samast, who is being accused of assassinating “Agos” Armenian-Turkish bilingual weekly editor-in-chief Hrant Dink, who will most likely will escape life imprisonment according to PanArmenian. The blogger also touches on Armenia-Azerbaijan relations, asking “what’s next” as Azeri government decision for “for resettling 30,000 to 35,000 Azeris in Shahumyan, which was once home to 21,000 Armenians who were either massacred or forcibly evacuated from the region during the Nagorno-Karabakh movement” come to be known.
Speaking of Greece, another neighbor from the Black See region, Armenia blog says “Greece is a strong ally that must be kept close. Increasing trade between the two countries is a good start” as details of Greek plans to involve Armenia into its five-year economic development program are discussed by the Armenian press.

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