AAA: Armenia This Week – 08/02/2004

Monday, August 2, 2004

In a special statement issued last week, the Armenian Foreign Ministry
warned Azerbaijan that it would face “disastrous consequences” should its
leaders again resort to military force in the Karabakh conflict. The warning
came after President Ilham Aliyev told his diplomatic envoys posted abroad
that should Azerbaijan fail to regain Karabakh through negotiations, it
would “use… the military option.” The Armenian statement further
questioned Azerbaijan’s commitment to ongoing negotiations, with yet another
summit between Aliyev and Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian planned for

Similar threats have been coming from Baku for years and many observers have
began to ignore them. Last week, the Azeri daily Zerkalo cited one unnamed
Western diplomat in Baku as saying “militant calls of your leader are at
odds with the real situation in your army, attitude of your society and
moral parameters of your ruling class.” The source added that the threats
are no longer taken seriously in the West.

But Armenian officials chose to react this time since unlike typical war
rhetoric for domestic consumption, the most recent threat came in what was
supposed to be President Aliyev’s policy speech to the Azeri diplomatic
corps. It also appears that Azerbaijan is beginning to accelerate its
military preparedness. Last month, Aliyev gave an average of a 50 percent
salary raise to the Azeri military and security forces. Azeri officials have
also indicated plans to begin new weapons purchases in Russia, Ukraine and

Separately, Azerbaijan is beefing up its border security forces, which
received a $19 million aid package from the U.S. last week. The program,
known as the Caspian Guard, focuses on Azeri ability to defend the Caspian
oil infrastructure and on counter-proliferation. But it does appear to have
special operations and air components that could potentially be used against
Armenia, which would in turn violate U.S. law.

The Azeris have also stepped up provocations along the Line of Contact this
year. The Armenian army reported six deaths from enemy fire so far this
year, with Azeris reporting about a dozen. This week, Karabakh forces began
their annual maneuvers, which this year will also test their
inter-operability with forces from Armenia proper. (Sources: Armenia This
Week 7-19, 26; Ekho 7-20, 29; Arminfo 7-23; Azg 7-23; Zerkalo 7-23; Armenian
Foreign Ministry 7-28; U.S. Department of Defense 7-29; RFE/RL 7-30, 8-2)

Armenia’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by more than nine percent in the
first half of 2004, the National Statistics Service reported this week.
While below the record-high 2002-2003 growth of 12 and 14 percent
respectively, the increase was well above the six to seven percent
anticipated by the government and international financial institutions
earlier this year.

Significantly, this year’s robust growth comes after completion of
infrastructure projects funded by the U.S.-based Lincy Foundation, as well
as an 11 percent decrease in diamond-processing and jewelry production,
which had been one of the fastest growing sectors in recent years.
Industrial output was up 4.5 percent, driven by growth in generation of
energy (up 17 percent) and mining and metallurgy (up 46 percent). Textiles
production was up 2.2 times, with garment / leather and rubber / plastics
up 1.4 times each. Investments in construction increased by 12 percent, with
agricultural production up 8.5 percent.

In January-June 2004, the volume of Armenian exports grew by over 7 percent
to $340 million and imports by 4 percent to $625 million. Dependence on
outside supplies of energy and fuel, and raw materials imported for
processing in Armenia, kept the trade deficit large. The list of main export
destinations for Armenian goods continued to be topped by Belgium (19
percent of all goods), Israel (12), Russia (11), the United States (10),
Germany (9) and Switzerland (6). Most imports arrived from Russia (18
percent), Belgium (11), the United States (8), Israel (7) and Great Britain

The Armenian government also reported to be on track with a projected
increase in revenue collection to reach $450 million this year. Combined tax
and customs revenue in the first half of 2004 reached $211 million, up 17
percent year-on-year. Nevertheless, the State Taxation Service chief
estimated that the so-called shadow sector continued to account for 30
percent of economic activity, with an equivalent portion of profits and
incomes remaining officially untaxed. At the end of June 2004 the average
private sector monthly salary was estimated at $100, up 28 percent
year-on-year, while average public sector wages stood at a meager $50,
despite a 46 percent increase. The unemployment rate remained largely
unchanged at 9.3 percent of the adult population. (Sources: Armenia This
Week 2-6, 4-30; Arminfo 7-31, 8-2; Golos Armenii 7-31)

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August 2, 2004


On Sunday, August 1, 2004 Iraq’s Christian communities were the targets of
unprecedented violence. Five bombs exploded nearly simultaneously at four
churches in Baghdad and one in Mosul. The bombings claimed the lives of at
least seven people and dozens were wounded. Among the churches targeted was
an Armenian Catholic Church in Baghdad.

Christian Assyrians and Arabs make up the largest Christian groups in Iraq.
Since the Saddam Hussein take-over in the 1970s and due to subsequent
oppression and wars with Iran and the U.S. and coalition forces, many Iraqi
Christians have emigrated. Today, their number is estimated at about 500,000
people out of Iraq’s twenty seven million.

The Armenian presence in Iraq dates back centuries. But the largest group
arrived during and after the 1915 Armenian Genocide in the then Ottoman
Turkey. Today, the number of Armenians has decreased to under 20,000 people,
but a large community infrastructure remains, including some ten churches.
Most Armenians live in Baghdad, with communities in northern Iraq and Basra
in the south.
Below are the major landmarks sustained by the Armenian community in Iraq:

路 Built in 1640, the St. Mary’s (Sb. Astvadzadin) Armenian Church is
the oldest in Baghdad. Reconstructed in 1967, it has been closed through
most of last year. It is also known locally as St. Meskenta (Shirin), named
after a 5th century female martyr. During its annual August 15 festival, the
church draws Christians of all denominations.

路 Our Lady of the Roses’ Armenian Catholic Church, built in 1884 and
located in Baghdad’s Karrada district, was one of the targets of the August
1 bombing. As a result, three people were injured and the nearby
headquarters of the Armenian Catholic Church office destroyed. The church
itself sustained comparatively less damage. The Armenian Catholics, who also
maintain the newer St. Mary’s Armenian Catholic Church in Baghdad, are led
by His Grace Antoine Atamian.

路 The Holy Martyrs’ (Sb. Nahadangats) Armenian Apostolic Church is
located at the Armenian cemetery in Baghdad and is used for observance of
last rights during funerals.

路 St. Gregory the Illuminator (Sb. Grigor Lusavorich) Armenian
Apostolic Church in downtown Baghdad’s Younis al-Sabaawi Square was built in
1956. It also houses the Armenian Church headquarters, headed by the Most
Rev. Archbishop Avak Assadourian. Since 2003, the church has been closed for
services as “unsafe.”

路 St. Karapet Armenian Apostolic Church, built in 1973 in Baghdad’s
Christian Camp Sarah neighborhood has remained open throughout the war and
continues to function attracting some 1,000 Armenian families from
throughout Baghdad.

路 Outside Baghdad, there are functioning Armenian Apostolic Churches
in the southern city of Basrah, home to some 300 Armenian families, and
northern cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, with 300 and 120 families respectively.
The St. Mary and St. Vartan Armenian Apostolic Churches serve the largely
Kurdish-speaking Armenian communities in Zakho and the nearby village of
Avzrug, respectively, which comprise over 200 families.

Since 2003, the Armenian General Benevolent Union (AGBU) and the Eastern
Diocese of the Armenian Church in the United States have provided modest aid
to the Iraqi Armenian community’s neediest families. Armenians, along with
other Iraqis, have faced a precarious security situation over the past year
and a half. Dozens have become victims of ongoing violence. Until the August
1 attacks, none of the Armenians were targeted because of their faith or

The Armenian Assembly of America information 8/2/04
Mother See of Holy Etchmiadzin Press Release 8/2/04
Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern) 7/7/04
Radio Free Europe / Radio Liberty 7/6/04
Atlas Travel & Tourist Agency (Jordan)

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From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress