7 thousand km ring-road to connect Baku-Yerevan-Istanbul

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoghlu has proposed to start parliamentary discussions on the “peace road” project which would connect the Caucasus to Europe, spanning vast 7 thousand kilometers, passing through 12 countries, connecting 24 cities including Baku, Yerevan and Istanbul, Turkish Sabah newspaper reports.

From what little I was able to make of the Google Translator’s English version of the text, it looks like the project has been agreed on by the Black See Economic Cooperation (BSEC) countries back in 2007, and the project called “Black See Ring Road” is waiting for the approval by the parliaments of member countries. Here’s a quote (don’t even hope for it to be an accurate translation):

The “Black See Ring Road” will pass through 12 countries and 24 cities connecting the Caucasus to the Balkans. Each country will meet the cost of construction within its own borders. EU funds could also be used for road construction. According to the agreement the road would link the countries and cities as follows: "Komotini, Alexandroupoli (Greece), Edirne, Istanbul, Samsun, Trabzon (Turkey), Batumi, Poti (Georgia), Yerevan (Armenia), Baku (Azerbaijan), Novorosisk , Rostov-on-Don, Taganrok (Russia), Mariupol, Melitopol, Odessa (Ukraine), Chisinau (Moldova), Bucharest, Constanta (Romania), Haskovo, Sofia (Bulgaria), Nis, Belgrade (Serbia), Tirana (Albania ).

The project looks too unrealistic to be true, especially the funding part. I’m also somewhat worried by the fact, that none of us has heard anything about such a magnificent agreement signed by our country back in 2007.

On the other hand, even if it’s another test of public opinion, as we have seen the Turkish media do from time to time, I’m here to give my very own subjective, non-public opinion – this is a great idea. I like the Baku-Yerevan connection part, and promise to drive on it from end-to-end as soon as the road is completed! Hey, I can even promise to buckle up the whole way and only listen to Armenian Rabiz music throughout the trip!

Armenia Economy

Armenian PM: It is in Armenia's interests to introduce CIS regional currency

Speaking on MIR TV, the Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan said Armenia is interested in using the Russian rouble for transactions with CIS countries.
According to Regnum news agency report, Tigran Sargsyan said “a whole package of suggestions” on this subject has been proposed by the Armenian Central bank three years ago. Notably, three years ago Tigran Sargsyan was the head of Armenia’s Central Bank.

Sargsyan underlined, that a project is on the table of the CIS Intergovernmental Bank. According to him, this bank, where are represented all CIS countries’ Central Banks could be an appropriate instrument.

“In case the Central Banks will use these currencies and consider them as own reserve currencies, it will be the first step towards calculations in rubles between CIS countries, and in its turn, it means, that the Central Bank of Armenia will have to recognize ruble as its reserve currency. Hereinafter, our commercial banks can maintaine a ruble accounts in Armenian Central Bank and so on. It is quite a logical scheme, and Armenia is very interested ruble to become a currency, to carry out a transaction not only with Russia but also with CIS other countries. We will make every effort to turn it to reality”, — said Sargsyan.

Interestingly these words come days after the agreement for Russia to provide Armenia with $500 million loan, and also following the report about Gazprom rising gas prices for Armenia from $110 to $154 per thousand cubic meters starting from April 1, 2009. That is: 1) looks like all transactions between Armenia and Russia at this point are done in US dollars; 2) If Russia wanted to push Armenia into using its weakening rouble – this is just the time.
On another note, this might actually prove beneficial – especially using the rouble as reserve currency. I’d rather trust the authoritarian Russian government and it’s rouble – backed by world’s largest oil and gas reserves, than Armenia’s government with it’s pointless struggle to maintain the Armenian dram rate at an illogically high level because a couple of major importer-oligarchs say so.


Comprehensive news from regions on YouTube

A1plus have started posting comprehensive video news digests from the developments in the regions of Armenia on their YouTube Channel. Below is the 9 minute piece for last week. Very interesting news, and certainly a welcome initiative.

Armenia Economy Society

Gagik Tsarukyan to open world-class casino in Armenia

One of the richest Armenian businessman Gagik Tsarukyan’s Multi Group Company, in partnership with Russian Storm International has constructed the most impressive gaming facility in the region – the Shangri La Casino, which will officially open on April 16th, with the Grand Opening scheduled for May 2nd.

Via: RIA OREANDA | The complex area now is 2400 sq. m with a planned expansion of a further 800 sq.m by the end of the year. The gaming configuration for the main floor is for an initial12 tables (with the possibility to introduce more tables if required) plus a poker room for the increasingly popular game of Texas Hold `em and a multi-level slot area with 85 state-of-the-art machines. There are 3 bars, a restaurant and a fully equipped stage for show programmes and music concerts. It has a parking capacity for 100 cars.
The Grand Opening promises to be one of the most memorable events of the year. World-famous Toto Cutugno will be the headline act, along with other performers including “Blestyaschie” for the benefit of the invited guests.

There are also some unverified reports, that the Storm International have opened a special school in Armenia to prepare qualified staff for the casino business. This is a clear indication of plans to further expand the gaming industry and turn Armenia into a Caucasian Monte Carlo.


Armenia: Picking up the Pieces – New Crisis Group briefing

International Crisis Group have released a new policy briefing, which is available as a pdf document here. Below, I’m posting, without further comments, the media release sent out on this occasion:

Armenia Economy

ENP report positive for Armenia, despite concerns over March 2008 developments

The progress report on implementation of the European Neighborhood Policy Action Plan by Armenia has been released. The document has a generally positive assessement of Armenia’s performance. The memo released on this occasion lists the following major points:

In general, Armenia has demonstrated a strong commitment towards the implementation of the ENP Action Plan, despite some initial delays caused by Parliamentary elections in May 2007 and internal coordination issues.

Good progress was achieved in particular in the areas of judiciary reform , the administration of elections and the Ombudsman institution. Of key importance for 2008 will be proper implementation of recently adopted legislation.

International observers have concluded that the conduct of the February 2008 Presidential elections was mostly in line with international standards. There are however concerns with regard to the declaration of the state of emergency in the aftermath of the elections and related to clashes between police and opposition protesters. The situation has shown that – despite progress achieved in 2007 regarding respect for human rights and rule of law – there is a necessity for further improvement.

Armenia Politics

Armenian Bloggers Protest Against "Week of Azerbaijan" in Armenia

A group of Armenian Bloggers, including: Uzogh, Pigh, Aerial_vortex and Akunamatata_ser carried out an incredible public campaign yesterday, protesting against the implementation of the “Week of Azerbaijan” in Yerevan, organized by Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives (CCPMI) with the support of the UK Embassy in Armenia. At the opening ceremony of the event, which took place in the Mkhitar Sebastatsi educational complex headed by Former Minister of Education Ashot Bleyan, the group of mentioned Bloggers rushed to the speaker – head of the Caucasus Center of Peace-Making Initiatives (CCPMI) Georgi Vanyan and presented him with pieces of soap. This symbolic gesture, which is highly offensive and contains elements of bitter sarcasm, was carried out as a form of protest, for implementing this action, which according to blogger Pigh – posted in the video below, is quite untimely, doesn’t contribute to the promotion of relations between Armenia and Azerbaijan in any way, and is only seen by the Bloggers as a way for Mr. Vanyan, to launder grant money – even at the price of hurting his country’s interests.

It has to be noted, that the announcement last week about the implementation of the “Week of Azerbaijan” in Armenia stirred a lot of emotions, and was seen mostly as a highly negative and useless initiative.
I have already stated my position somewhere on Uzogh‘s blog – and I want to reaffirm again, that I am fully supportive of the views expressed by Mr. Pigh, that this initiative is pointless, does not promote anything, except the interests of ‘earning grant money’, and that the UK Embassy in Armenia should give careful consideration, of what exact type of activities to support, and what is the point, after which the activities become counter productive.
On a related note I have to state, that this has been the most widely publicised initiative so far, which brought massive media attention to the understanding of blogging, and promotion of blogging – as a form of civil activity in Armenia.

Video via Uzogh:


ICG: Nagorno-Karabakh: Risking War

The International Crises Group have published a report on Nagorno-Karabakh, where they warn Azerbaijan and Armenia to “halt their dangerous arms race and restrain their belligerent rhetoric and instead renew efforts to find a negotiated settlement for the Nagorno-Karabakh region”.
While I have serious reservations as to on what authority does this international NGO find it suitable to come in with its advice on a tangled issue of Nagorno-Karabakh, especially as from the media release referenced above one get’s the opinion, that it is a pure territorial conflict between Armenia and Azerbaijan, and the issue of self-determination by the Nagorno-Karabakh Armenians has nothing to do here, demonstrating either a deliberately anti-Armenian position by the ICG or else – a gross misunderstanding of the situation.

Armenia Economy Environment

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

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


Stop Destruction of Christian Cemeteries in Azerbaijan

Following the destruction of Armenian cemetery in Jugha Azerbaijan have turned to the destruction of Molokan (Russian) cemetery.
On September 4, 2007 Katya Karagadayeva was the first to report the tragic news to

“My mother, Antonina Fedorovna Kudelina, is from a Molokan family. She grew up in the ‘Molokanka’ district of Baku. Her parents (my grandparents), grandparents, aunts and uncles are buried in that cemetery. Today I spoke with my cousin, Roman Kudelin, who flew urgently from Moscow to Baku to save our family’s graves. He was able to move three of five coffins.
I realize that a cemetery in a central part of a large city is an inconvenience, I just hate the disrespectful way Baku administration chose to go about getting rid of it. Is there “

Having experienced the same last year, during the destruction of medieval Armenian cemetery, Armenian bloggers were quick to respond, Kornelij Glas being the first to ring the bell. is more eloquent, and calling Armenians, Russians, Greeks, Assyrians, Jews to protest, and expressing surprise at the silence of Russian MFA.
Condemning notes come from Shadows of Moonlight, And nothing else matters…UzoghArmenain Breaking News. The latter writes:

Under the pretext of building a highway Baku demolishes a Christian cemetery (the Nariman cemetery), where Armenians, Jews and Russians were buried.
Every day the Russian Embassy in Azerbaijan received complaint about the decision of Baku authorities to replace the graves of the Nariman cemetery also known as Montinskoe or Armenian cemetery, where Russians, Jews, Tatars, Georgians and Armenians were buried. Nariman cemetery director Kyamran Mammadov assures that “the replacement of graves is conducted at the state’s expense…

The main body of information about the cemetary updated as the issue develops can be found here. I can only add, that despite my firm belief, that the dead should not hinder the live people to live, I am starting to see dangerous tendencies of destroying already second Christian (non-muslim) cemetery in Azerbaijan, and the disrespectful manner in which this CoE member country that at least nominally acknoledges freedom of religion and respect for non-muslims is carrying out such actions is most disturbing.