RFE/RL Armenian Service – 01/11/2024


Government Funds New Plant Moved Away From Azeri Border

        • Nane Sahakian

Armenia - The site of an industrial plant built in Yersakh, June 15, 2023.

Armenia’s government approved on Thursday a concessional loan worth 3.5 billion 
drams ($8.6 million) to a U.S.-Armenian joint venture that relocated, for 
security reasons, a metallurgical plant which it began building on the border 
with Azerbaijan last year.

The construction site in Yeraskh, a border village 55 kilometers south of 
Yerevan, came under fire from nearby Azerbaijani army positions on a virtually 
daily basis in June.

The automatic gunfire, which left two Indian workers seriously wounded, began 
one week after the Azerbaijani government protested against the $70 million 
project. It claimed that building the industrial facility without its permission 
is a violation of international environmental norms. The Armenian Foreign 
Ministry brushed aside Baku’s “false” environmental concerns, saying that they 
are a smokescreen for impeding economic growth and foreign investment in Armenia.

Despite making defiant statements, Armenian and U.S. investors behind the 
project suspended work on the plant and started moving construction and 
industrial equipment from the site later in the summer.

In a statement issued after its weekly meeting in Yerevan, Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian’s cabinet confirmed that the facility is now being constructed just 
outside the town of Ararat, several kilometers from Yeraskh.

It said that the investors wasted 2 billion drams on the construction work in 
Yeraskh and now need additional funding. The low-interest government loan, 
repayable in four years, will be channeled into the project through a state 
investment fund, added the statement.

The plant is to process scrap metal, employ up to 500 people and have an annual 
turnover of at least $200 million. Its owners plan to finish the construction by 
the end of this year.

Areg Kochinian, a political analyst, believes that the plant’s relocation set a 
dangerous precedent for Armenia, meaning that Azerbaijan is in a position to 
disrupt economic activity in Armenian border regions by force.

“This situation could and should have been avoided. It’s a classic example of 
irresponsible administration which we have seen many times,” Kochinian said, 
commenting on the initial site of the plant located just a few hundred meters 
from an Azerbaijani army post.

Armenia’s largest gold mine also located on the border with Azerbaijan was 
likewise targeted by systematic Azerbaijani gunfire last spring. The Russian 
owner of the Sotk gold mine announced in June that it has no choice but to end 
open-pit mining operations there and put many of its 700 workers on unpaid leave.

Breach Of Armenia’s Territorial Integrity ‘Unacceptable’ To Iran

        • Ruzanna Stepanian

Armenia - Iranian Ambassador Mehdi Sobhani speaks to journalists, January 11, 

The Iranian ambassador in Yerevan, Mehdi Sobhani, on Thursday reaffirmed Iran’s 
strong support for Armenia’s territorial integrity, saying that any violation of 
it is unacceptable to Tehran.

“We have always supported Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity and 
anything that causes a violation of Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial 
integrity is not acceptable for us,” Sobhani told reporters.

Asked what concrete action Iran will take in case of such a violation, he said: 
“It won’t be violated.”

The remarks came amid Azerbaijan’s renewed demands for an extraterritorial 
corridor to its Nakhichevan exclave that would pass through Syunik, the sole 
Armenian province bordering Iran. Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev said on 
Wednesday that people and cargo transported to and from Nakhichevan must be 
exempt from Armenian border controls.

Last week, a Turkish government minister said that new roads and railways needed 
for the functioning of that corridor should be built by 2029. The Iranian 
Foreign Ministry responded by repeating its strong opposition to “geopolitical 
changes” in the South Caucasus.

Iran has repeatedly warned against attempts to strip it of the common border and 
transport links with Armenia. Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi reportedly told a 
visiting Azerbaijani official last October that the “Zangezur corridor” sought 
by Baku is “resolutely opposed” by the Islamic Republic.

Raisi spoke less than two weeks after Azerbaijan’s recapture of Nagorno-Karabakh 
which raised more fears in Yerevan that Baku will also attack Armenia to open 
the corridor.

Andranik Kocharian, the chairman of the Armenian parliament committee on defense 
and security, did not rule out the possibility of such an attack when he spoke 
to RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Thursday. He said the Armenian government is 
reinforcing “every day” the county’s capacity to repel it.

Yerevan Keeps Linking Peace Deal With Border Delimitation

        • Shoghik Galstian

Armenia - A soldier at a new Armenian army post on the border with Azerbaijan, 
June 16, 2021.

Armenia continues to believe that its peace treaty with Azerbaijan should spell 
out a mechanism for delimiting the border between the two countries, a senior 
Armenian lawmaker said on Thursday, reacting to Baku’s efforts to delink the two 

“If this principle is not adopted and implemented, it will be unclear how the 
delimitation process will take place,” Sargis Khandanian, the chairman of the 
Armenian parliament committee on foreign relations, told reporters.

Khandanian also made clear that Yerevan insists on using the most recent Soviet 
military maps printed in the 1970s as a basis for ascertaining the long and 
heavily militarized Armenian-Azerbaijani border.

The leaders of the European Union and its key member states, France and Germany, 
backed this stance in a joint statement with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian 
issued after their meeting in Spain last October.

Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev reiterated Baku’s rejection of the proposed 
mechanism for border delimitation on Wednesday. He said that it favors the 
Armenian side.

“They [the Armenians] want to put aside maps of the 1960s, 1950s and 1940s and 
refer to the 1970s because our historical lands had been given to them by that 
time,” Aliyev said in a televised interview. “Therefore, we strongly opposed and 
oppose that.”

Echoing statements by other Azerbaijani officials, Aliyev said that the border 
should be delimited after the signing of the peace treaty. He did not cite any 
concrete delimitation mechanism acceptable to Baku.

Armenian analysts and opposition figures believe that Aliyev wants to leave the 
door open to Azerbaijani territorial claims to Armenia. They say this shows that 
Pashinian’s “peace agenda” regularly touted by him and his political allies 
cannot guarantee the country’s territorial integrity even after the September 
2023 fall of Nagorno-Karabakh.

The Azerbaijani leader on Wednesday again accused Armenia of occupying “eight 
Azerbaijani villages.” He referred to several small enclaves inside Armenia 
which were controlled by Azerbaijan in Soviet times and occupied by the Armenian 
army in the early 1990s. For its part, the Azerbaijani side seized at the time a 
bigger Armenian enclave.

Aliyev said that the return of those enclaves will top the agenda of an upcoming 
joint session of Armenian and Azerbaijani government commissions on border 
demarcation and delimitation. The office of Deputy Prime Minister Mher 
Grigorian, the chairman of the Armenian commission, declined to comment on 
Aliyev’s claim. Meanwhile, some opposition lawmakers in Yerevan demanded 
explanations from the government.

Armenia To Attend Another ‘Anti-Russian’ Meeting On Ukraine

MALTA – Delegates attend a meeting organised by Ukraine to discuss its peace 
formula for ending the war with Russia in an unnamed hotel in St Julian's, 
October 28, 2023.

Risking further condemnation by Russia, the secretary of Armenia’s Security 
Council will fly to Switzerland this weekend to take part in a new round of 
multilateral peace talks initiated by Ukraine.

Armen Grigorian’s office announced on Thursday his participation in the 
conference that will take place in the Swiss resort town of Davos on January 14.

Grigorian already attended the last such meeting held in Malta in October. 
Security officials from more than 60 countries converged on the island to 
discuss Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy’s plan to end the war with 
Russia. Grigorian met with Zelenskiy’s chief of staff during what Moscow 
condemned as a “blatantly anti-Russian event.”

Grigorian’s trip to Malta contrasted with Armenian leaders’ boycott of 
high-level meetings of Russian-led groupings of ex-Soviet states and highlighted 
Yerevan’s mounting tensions with Moscow. The Russian Foreign Ministry called the 
trip a “demonstrative anti-Russian gesture” and accused Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian’s administration of systematically “destroying” Russian-Armenian 

Despite the angry Russian reaction, Armenia kept up diplomatic contacts with 
Ukraine. The foreign ministers of the two states held talks in Brussels on 
December 11 on the sidelines of an annual meeting of the top diplomats of 
European Union member states and ex-Soviet republics involved in the EU’s 
Eastern Partnership program.

Beglium - Armenian Foreign Minister Ararat Mirzoyan and his Ukrainian 
counterpart Dmytro Kuleba meet in Brussels, December 11, 2023.

Pashinian did not boycott fresh ex-Soviet summits that were hosted by Russian 
President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg two weeks later. But his attendance 
did not seem to ease the unprecedented rift between the two longtime allies.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said later in December that Armenia is 
reorienting its foreign policy towards the West at the expense of its alliance 
with Russia. He warned that the South Caucasus country cannot successfully 
confront its grave security challenges with the help of the United States and 
the European Union.

Citing an unnamed “informed source,” Russia’s main official news agency, TASS, 
claimed on Wednesday that Germany is pressing Pashinian’s government to force 
Russian border guards out of Armenia and purge the Armenian state apparatus from 
pro-Russian elements in return for greater economic aid.

There was no official reaction to the claim from Berlin or Yerevan. While 
pledging to “diversify” Armenia’s foreign and security policy, Pashinian has so 
far indicated no plans to demand the withdrawal of Russian border guards or 
troops from Armenia.

Reposted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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Emil Lazarian

“I should like to see any power of the world destroy this race, this small tribe of unimportant people, whose wars have all been fought and lost, whose structures have crumbled, literature is unread, music is unheard, and prayers are no more answered. Go ahead, destroy Armenia . See if you can do it. Send them into the desert without bread or water. Burn their homes and churches. Then see if they will not laugh, sing and pray again. For when two of them meet anywhere in the world, see if they will not create a New Armenia.” - WS