US names new special envoy for Nagorno-Karabakh, Caucasus

US names new special envoy for Nagorno-Karabakh, Caucasus

AFP
WASHINGTON, April 16

The United States on Friday named a new special envoy for the
Nagorno-Karabakh dispute between Armenia and Azerbaijan and other
conflicts in the Caucasus region, the State Department said.

Secretary of State Colin Powell appointed veteran diplomat Steven
Mann, who delivered the note establishing US relations with Armenia in
1992, to be “special negotiator for Nagorno-Karabakh and Eurasian
Conflicts,” it said.

Mann, who is currently US pointman in dealing with Caspian Sea energy
issues, including construction of the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline,
replaces Rudolf Perina as the special envoy for Nagorno-Karabakh, the
department said.

Mann will retain his responsibilities for the pipeline in his new
position, it said.

Mainly because of energy issues, Washington has taken a keen interest
in Nagorno-Karabakh, a mainly ethnic Armenian enclave claimed by
Azerbaijan but which is currently ruled by a self-styled independent
government recognized only by Armenia.

Azerbaijan and neighboring Armenia went to war in the early 1990s when
Nagorno-Karabakh, mainly populated by Armenians, seceded from
Azerbaijan at the time of the Soviet Union’s collapse, and the two
Soviet Caucasian republics became independent.

More than 30,000 people were killed before a ceasefire was agreed in
1994 but Azerbaijan and Armenia remain in an undeclared state of war
over the enclave.

The United States, along with France and Russia, is a co-chair of the
Minsk Group, a 13-nation within the Organization for Security and
Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) that has been seeking to mediate between
Armenia and Azerbaijan.

One of US President George W. Bush’s first diplomatic initiatives
after taking office was to bring the leaders of Armenia and Azerbaijan
to the United States for Minsk Group negotiations in Key West, Florida
and Washington in April 2001.

Armenia’s opposition protests to demand president’s resignation

Armenia’s opposition protests to demand president’s resignation

BY CHRISTIAN LOWE

AFP YEREVAN, April 16

An estimated 6,000 protesters gathered in Armenia’s capital on Friday
to call for the resignation of President Robert Kocharian, defying a
government ban on opposition protests in the poverty-stricken former
Soviet republic.

The protest was a show of strength by Kocharian’s opponents, after
police used water cannon and stun grenades to break up the last mass
demonstration earlier this week.

Opposition parties in Armenia, a nation of three million people in the
Caucasus mountains, have been staging a wave of protests, drawing
comparisons with last year’s “rose revolution” which ousted the
leadership in neighbouring Georgia.

There is widespread discontent in Armenia over low living standards
and flawed elections, but analysts say Kocharian is too strong, and
the opposition too weak, for the Georgian scenario to be repeated
there.

The atmposphere in Armenia’s capital, Yerevan, was tense on Friday,
with many people fearing a repeat of the clashes with police earlier
this week which left dozens of people injured.

There was only a handful of police in evidence at the protest, in a
park at the end of Mashtots Avenue, Yerevan’s main thoroughfare.

But outside the nearby government compound, which houses the
parliament building and Kocharian’s office, there were busloads of
interior ministry troops, military ambulances and trucks carrying
rolls of razor wire.

The compound was the scene of this week’s clashes with police and
Kocharian has warned the area is strictly off limits to protesters.

Protesters at Friday’s rain-soaked rally chanted “Kocharian out!” and
waved placards claiming the 50-year-old Armenian president was at the
head of a military junta.

“There is no place for Robert Kocharian any more in Armenia’s
political life,” said opposition party leader Artashes
Geghamian. “What sort of leader is he if he can only talk to his own
people from behind police barricades?”

The wave of protests has been fuelled in part by opposition claims
that Kocharian rigged a presidential election last year to secure a
second term in office.

“I came here to defend my rights and to help remove this illegitimate
leader,” said Ayk Mkhrtchian, a 23-year-old unemployed man. He had
come to the protest with a European Union flag, because, he said:
“Europe stands for humam rights and so they are on our side.”

The protests’ leaders said they would not be calling on their
supporters to march on the government compound this time but they
promised another mass demonstration for next Wednesday.

Kocharian has called the opposition protests “extremist” and vowed to
take firm action. But he has been chided by the US State Department,
which has said the police’s strong-arm tactics are “not conducive to
dialogue”.

Armenia’s economy is almost crippled by an economic blockade imposed
by two of its neighbours, Turkey and Azerbaijan, because of historical
disagreements.

Although Kocharian has won plaudits for some economic improvements
during his time in office, critics say he has trampled on democratic
freedoms and surrounded himself by corrupt cronies while ordinary
people struggle in poverty.

Kocharian’s supporters meanwhile, say the opposition is recklessly
trying to provoke a confrontation to revive its flagging popularity.

“Of course there are problems and people are not living as well as we
would like,” Tigran Torosian, the pro-government deputy speaker of
Armenia’s parliament, told AFP. “But… holding protests is not going
to improve peoples’ lives.”

Armenia, the world’s first state to adopt Christianity, has a history
of political violence. The speaker of parliament and prime minister
were killed in 1999 when gunmen burst into the parliament chamber.

Western governments are anxious to see stability in the region. The
Caucasus is becoming a strategic crossroads for oil exports from the
landlocked Caspian Sea to western markets.

Armenian rebel found dead in jail cell

Armenian rebel found dead in jail cell

AFP
YEREVAN, April 16

One of the men who attacked Armenia’s parliament, killing eight people
including the prime minister in 1999, was found dead in his jail cell
Friday after apparently committing suicide, the justice ministry said.

“This morning around 11, Vram Galstian, who was convicted in the
attack, committed suicide in his jail cell. He was found hanging from
a sheet,” justice ministry spokesman Ara Sagatelian told AFP.

Galstian is the uncle of former Armenian journalist Nairi Unanyan, who
led a group of rebels into parliament on October 27, 1999 in a
dramatic siege broadcast on national television and later aired across
the globe.

They shot dead prime minister Vezguen Sarkissian and the parliament
speaker, along with six deputies in parliament, before giving up after
an extended siege.

Their demands were never clearly spelled out, but analysts at the time
believed that they opposed Armenian efforts to strike a peace deal
with its neighbor and arch-foe Azerbaijan.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Armenia Sees Russian Diamond Supplies Resuming Soon

Armenia Sees Russian Diamond Supplies Resuming Soon

TASS
April 16, 2004 Friday

Russia is expected to resume rough diamond supplies to Armenia in the
near future, First Deputy Economic Development and Trade Minister,
Ashot Shakhnazaryan, said.

Since December 2003, there haven been no supplies from Russia, but
corresponding agreements to resume imports have already been signed by
Armenia’s four major diamond-cutting companies.

Only 130,000 carats were imported into Armenia in 2003 out of the
planned 400,000 carats, he said.

Analysts said the decrease in diamond imports from Russia was caused
by liberalization of the Russian market, which made Russia’s rough
diamond monopoly ALROSA hike prices.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Armenia working to upgrade ANPP safety level – Kocharyan

Armenia working to upgrade n-plant safety level-Kocharyan

By Tigran Liloyan

TASS YEREVAN, April 16

Work is in progress to enhance safety at the Armenian nuclear power
plant, which the European Union wants to be closed down, Armenian
President Robert Kocharyan said at a meeting of the Council on Safe
Nuclear Power.

He said nuclear power specialists had recently taken a number of steps
to raise the safety level at the plant in accordance with the
recommendations issued by the Russian Atomic Energy Ministry and the
International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA).

Armenia used its own funds to implement the program of upgrading the
plant safety level, while technical assistance came from the United
States, Great Britain, the European Union and the IAEA.

In 2003, an IAEA mission conducted an independent expert assessment of
the safety level at the Armenian nuclear plant at which work related
to the introduction of IAEA design standards has since been completed
or nearing completion, the president said.

The Armenian nuclear power plant, which became operational in 1979,
now meets 40 percent of the country’s demand for electric power.

From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress

Ambassador to Armenia On Bilateral Relations

Ambassador to Armenia On Bilateral Relations

Angola Press Agency (Luanda)

April 16, 2004 Posted to the web April 16, 2004

Luanda

The Ambassador of Angola to Armenia, General Roberto Leal Ramos
Monteiro “Ngongo” on Wednesday called in Erevan city for the
strengthening of the relations between the two countries in the areas
of economy and commerce.

Speaking at the handing over ceremony of his credential letters to the
local President, Robert Kotcharian, the diplomat said that this
country has modern technologies for polishing of stones and use of it
in the field of science for treatment of cardiac sicknesses.

According to him, the President of Armenia revealed that his country
is the ninth at the world level at diamond’s lapidation, being opened
for initiatives of bilateral cooperation at firm-related level.

President Robert Kotcharian expressed his country’s availability for
the training of Angolan students in cardiology and other fields of
medical science in that former Russian Republic.

The Angolan Ambassador met with the Deputy Foreign Minister, Fatou
Markarian, the Deputy President of the Chamber of Commerce and
Industry, Andranik Aleksayan, and visited the diamond polishing firm
Dca, owned by Gagik Abrahamyan.

Roberto Leal Monteiro presented a week ago his credential letters to
President Ilkham Aliev, of Azerbadjan.

In that country, the diplomat discussed with Aliev and his Foreign
Minister, Elmar Mamediarov, matters relating to the possible opening
in Angola of a brench of the Academy of Oil and Gas of Baku city,
where the Angolan Head of State, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, graduated in
1969.

Roberto Leal Monteiro “Ngongo” is also Ambassador to Bielorussia,
Ucrania, Moldavia and Russia Federation, where he resides.

Kocharyan Again in “Aragast”

A1 Plus | 20:21:51 | 16-04-2004 | Politics |

KOCHARYAN AGAIN IN “ARAGAST”

While the participants of joint Opposition meeting demand for Robert
Kocharyan’s resignation, he spends time in “Aragast” Cafe with US
Ambassador in Armenia.

It is to remind in 2001 Kocharyan’s bodyguard beat up Poghos
Poghosyan, citizen of Georgia, to death in “Aragast” Cafe.

FM: Regional Security, Karabakh, Armenia’s Foreign Policy Priorities

REGIONAL SECURITY, KARABAKH, ARMENIA’S FOREIGN POLICY PRIORITIES – MINISTER

Hayots Ashkarh, Yerevan
15 Apr 04

Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan has listed economic development,
regional security, European integration and a Karabakh settlement as
Armenia’s foreign policy priorities. He told a seminar in Yerevan that
there were “numerous uncertainties” in the Karabakh settlement
process. He said that if Azerbaijan insisted on starting the talks
from scratch, Armenia would not take part and would ask the OSCE
mediators to hold talks instead between Azerbaijan and Nagornyy
Karabakh. Oskanyan said that Armenia should not be in a hurry to join
NATO, but should strengthen cooperation with it in parallel with
cooperation with the CIS Collective Security Treaty and with
Russia. The following is the text of Vahan Vardanyan’s report in
Armenian newspaper Hayots Ashkarh on 15 April headlined “There is no
need to play diplomacy”, subhead “There is only one solution on
Karabakh”; subheadings inserted editorially:

Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanyan made a report on Armenia’s current
foreign policy at a seminar in the Congress Hotel yesterday. Oskanyan
noted four main areas of foreign policy: maintaining and increasing
the level of economic development; ensuring a positive regional
security atmosphere; speeding up Armenia’s integration into European
structures; and settlement of the Karabakh issue.

In connection with prospects for an NKR (Nagornyy Karabakh Republic)
settlement, Oskanyan said: “At present I should say that there are
numerous uncertainties, there is no certainty in what direction these
processes will go. Tomorrow in Prague my first meeting will take place
with the newly appointed foreign minister of Azerbaijan. The OSCE
Minsk Group co-chairmen invited us. The goal of the meeting is to hold
discussions with the co-chairmen and to try to specify the parties’
positions and approaches to the development of the process.”

Touching on Armenia’s position on the settlement issue at present, the
foreign minister said in particular: “There are two approaches,
depending on developments. It is good if Azerbaijan agrees to continue
along the way that (former Azerbaijani President) Heydar Aliyev and
(Armenian President) Robert Kocharyan were going and to reach any
level. If they are ready to continue on this basis, Armenia is ready
to be involved in the talks at the level of the presidents of the
republics and to try to lead the process forward. But if Azerbaijan
insists on starting from scratch, in that case Armenia will not take
part in these talks and will ask the co-chairmen to hold talks between
the authorities of Azerbaijan and Nagornyy Karabakh.”

The foreign minister thinks that this position is justified, as the
dialogue between the presidents was mainly about a future status of
Nagornyy Karabakh that was directly connected with Armenia. “For this
reason the participation of our president without the NKR president,
but with his agreement, is fully justified. But if this content
changes today, it means that the rules of the game should also be
changed. If Azerbaijan insists that the problem of status should be
delayed, and they continue with the stage-by-stage option for the
return of territories and refugees, in that case only the NKR
authorities have the right to be involved in the talks if they
want. As before, Armenia will ensure its participation in the
framework of the OSCE Minsk Group, but it will not be the main party
in the talks.”

Oskanyan said that a “fair” and a “pro-Armenian solution” were
different. He said that talking about a fair solution, in fact means
saying nothing. “The Karabakh process has passed so many stages and
today the situation is such that we do not need to play diplomacy in
this problem. Today a pro-Armenian solution, acceptable for us, is
that Karabakh fully defines its position on joining Armenia, and the
world community, including Azerbaijan, recognizes this. Today this is
a solution for us,” Oskanyan said.

Touching on regional security problems, in particular on NATO
enlargement and its possible consequences, the foreign minister said
that Armenia should cooperate with NATO in the framework of its
national interests, but it should not be in a hurry to join NATO. He
said that it was necessary to strengthen in parallel Armenia’s role in
the CIS Collective Security Treaty (CST) and Armenian-Russian
relations and this complementary policy would increase Armenia’s role
for the West, as well as for its strategic partner Russia.

Oskanyan thinks that dividing lines may be created in the region if
Georgia and Azerbaijan join NATO and Armenia does not. He said that
Georgia in particular is demonstrating a definite tendency in this
sense, but it is early to make radical predictions, as the diplomacy
of words and actions differ from each other. “During (former Georgian
President Eduard) Shevardnadze’s tenure there was the diplomacy of
words. Every other day Shevardnadze would say that Georgia was joining
NATO. In some sense (President Mikheil) Saakashvili is continuing this
diplomacy of words, but understands that action lags behind words.
Because the situation in his country and in the region is such that
NATO would not want to be involved in the country. Until the Abkhazia
problem is settled, until Georgia’s relations with Russia are
specified and Russian military bases are withdrawn, it is too early to
speak about Georgia’s joining NATO.”

So the foreign minister thinks that Armenia does not have a problem in
going ahead.

BAKU: Azeri, Armenian Foreign Ministers Meet in Prague

AZERI, ARMENIAN FOREIGN MINISTERS MEET IN PRAGUE

Azad Azarbaycan TV, Baku
16 Apr 04

The meeting between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers
started at the Hotel Savoy in the Czech capital Prague at 1500 Baku
time (1000 gmt) today. This is the first meeting of Azerbaijani
Foreign Minister Elmar Mammadyarov with his Armenian counterpart.
Along with the ministers, the meeting in the Czech capital is attended
by the OSCE Minsk Group co-chairmen. According to a report from
Prague, the co-chairmen first took part in the talks. But a short
while ago, they left the room where the talks are being held. A
tete-a-tete meeting between Elmar Mammadyarov and (Armenian Foreign
Minister) Vardan Oskanyan is taking place at the moment.

The ministers and co-chairmen refused to speak to journalists as the
talks are being held in an atmosphere of full confidentiality. Although
Vardan Oskanyan first gave his consent to speak to Armenian journalists,
he refused to do so after the break. He said that the sides had
decided not to make any statements to the press. The talks are
expected to end after 2100 Baku time (1600 gmt).

Karabakh Denies Role in Quelling Rallies in Armenian Capital

KARABAKH DENIES ROLE IN QUELLING RALLIES IN ARMENIAN CAPITAL

Mediamax news agency
16 Apr 04

YEREVAN

The government of the Nagornyy Karabakh Republic (NKR) made a
statement today denying reports that the law-enforcement units of the
republic headed by the chief of the NKR police, Armen Isagulov, were
involved in quelling the demonstration on Yerevan’s Bagramyan Avenue
on the night of 12-13 April.

The statement says that “the NKR government denies using the Karabakh
factor in Armenia’s domestic political life”, Mediamax reports.

“The NKR government is stating that the rumours about the involvement
of the republic’s law-enforcement bodies in the Yerevan developments
are wide of the mark and are being spread deliberately. Not a single
law-enforcement unit of the NKR was deployed outside the republic and
all members of staff, including the chief of the police, are
fulfilling their duties on the spot as usual,” the statement says.

“The NKR government is calling on all political forces and mass media
to refrain from spreading unverified reports, which may harm the
implementation of common national tasks,” it says.