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Monday, April 21, 2014
 

1997

1998 1999 2000 2001 2002 2003 2004

XII
April 2003
4

Republic of Armenia

Total area: 29,800 sq. km Slightly larger than Maryland Bordering states: Azerbaijan (east) 566 km Nakhichevan (south) 221 km Georgia 164 km Iran 35 km Turkey 268 km Population: 3.6 million 68% urban 110.5 persons/sq. km Ethnic composition: 93.3% Armenian 1.5% Russian 1.7% Kurdish 3.5% Assyrian, Greek, other

Leadership: Kocharian, President; Andranik Markarian, Prime Minister; Vardan Oskanian, Foreign Minister; Armen Khachatrian, Parliamentary Chairman.

Independence: Armenia established its independence in September 1991.

CIS membership status: Armenia joined the CIS in March 1992 and CIS Defense Treaty in May 1992.

Constitution: A constitution was adopted by national referendum in July 1995.

Elections: Parliamentary elections were held in May 1999. A two-round presidential election was held in February and March 2003. The next election, for a new parliament, will be held in May 2003.

Diplomatic representation: The U.S. representative to Armenia is Ambassador John Ordway. The Armenian representative to the United States is Ambassador Arman Kirakossian. The Armenian representative to the United Nations is Ambassador Movses Abelian.


MONTHLY CHRONOLOGY

Armenia

Incumbent Armenian President Reelected in Second Round Vote
5 March:second round of presidential elections, incumbent President Robert Kocharian secures a second five-year term with 67.5 percent of the vote. Opposition challenger Stepan Demirchian, leader of the People's Party of Armenia (HZhK), garners 32.5 percent of the vote. Voter turnout is estimated at nearly 66 percent, slightly higher than the February 19th first round vote. The opposition adamantly maintains that the election was fraudulent and points to several reports of voting irregularities and inconsistencies affirmed by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE).

Suspects Arrested for Suspected Role in Murder of State Media Official
5 March: Police officials reveal that their investigation of the December 2002 murder of State Television and Radio chief Tigran Naghdalian has resulted in the arrest of six suspects. Among those arrested is a cousin of former Prime Minister Aram Sarkisian, leading some opposition leaders to accuse the authorities of trying to unfairly link the opposition with the murder.

Opposition Demonstrators Protest Election Results
6-7 March: Between 10-15,000 demonstrators rally to support defeated presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian and demand that the election be annulled for the "massive falsification" of the vote. The opposition vows to force President Kocharian to resign and dismiss his reelection as having nothing to do with the real choice made by the Armenian people. The demonstrations continue with tens of thousands reportedly turning out the next day. The U.S. Department of State adds to the criticism, affirming that Washington is deeply disappointed and explains that the Armenian government missed an important opportunity to advance democratization by holding a credible election.

Central Election Commission Releases Official Vote Results
11 March: The Armenian Central Election Commission releases its official results from the March 5th second round of presidential elections. The results report that incumbent President Robert Kocharian secured 67.44 percent of the 1,548,570 total number of votes cast, defeating opposition candidate Stepan Demirchian who received 32.56 percent of the vote. In line with the opposition's strategy to maintain their rejection of the results, two opposition members of the nine-person Central Election Commission refuse to endorse the official figures.

Opposition Parties Agree to Form New Electoral Bloc
13 March: Several Armenian opposition parties announce an agreement to forge a new electoral bloc in preparation for the parliamentary elections set for May. The opposition parties, comprising more than a dozen parties and groups united in support of defeated People's Party of Armenia (HZhK) presidential candidate Stepan Demirchian, reveal plans to present a single slate of candidates led by Demirchian, fellow presidential candidate Aram Karapetian, and former Prime Ministers Vazgen Manukian of the National Democratic Union and Republic (Hanrapetutiun) party leader Aram Sarkisian. The new bloc's composition is to be revealed by the 16 March deadline for official candidacy nominations for the 75 seats to be elected by party list and the 56 individual constituency seats. Although the opposition is now concentrating on the parliamentary election, they are still contesting the recent presidential election results, pursuing a formal appeal to the Armenian Constitutional Court seeking an annulment of the presidential contest. According to supporters of failed opposition candidate Stepan Demirchian, if the court fails to overturn the results, they will appeal to the European Court of Human Rights.

ARF Allies with Business Tycoon
13 March: The Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF), an influential party in strong support of recently reelected President Robert Kocharian, forms a new political alliance with a small party led by wealthy business tycoon Hrant Vartanian. According to ARF parliamentary faction leader Aghvan Vartanian (no relation to the tycoon), the ARF will include a number of parliamentary candidates from the smaller party in its electoral list. The ARF is actively engaged in negotiations with other pro-government parties, including Orinats Yerkir and Republican Party (HHK) as well as other leading businessmen close to the Armenian president. The alliance with Hrant Vartanian, a tobacco magnate reportedly controlling some fifty percent of the domestic tobacco market, provides the ARF with an important link to Armenia's business elite, united in their strong backing for the president.

Foreign Ministers Admits Problems over Recent Election but Pledges Improvements
20 March: Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian admits that there are real serious problems with the Council of Europe over the recent voting irregularities in the presidential election but notes that the Kocharian government is still resolute in its commitment to democracy and promises to correct all the mistakes that happened during the election.

Armenia Set to Transfer Six Key Power Plants to Russia
20 March: The Armenian government issues a statement confirming reports that it is set to transfer full control of six key hydroelectric power plants to Russian ownership in exchange for the cancellation of $25 million of Armenia's total $40 million debt to Russia for supplies of nuclear fuel for tits Medzamor nuclear power plant. The six power plants along the Hrazdan River provide more than 15 percent of the country's total energy needs.

Constitutional Court Dismisses Several Challenges to Presidential Election
24 March: The Constitutional Court issues a ruling to dismiss a court motion filed by opposition candidate National Unity Party leader Artashes Geghamian challenging the results of the recent presidential election. The court challenge is the first of several similar motions seeking an annulment of the election results currently pending before the court. Geghamian received 17.7 percent of the first round vote, placing him in third place in the field of nine candidates.

Justice Ministry to Defy Council of Europe
24 March: A statement is released by the Armenian Ministry of Justice stating that it will reject a demand by the Council of Europe for the annulment of a Soviet-era law allowing for the arrest and short-term detention of persons determined to have disrupted public order. The issue stems form the recent arrests of opposition activists by the authorities in an attempt to end opposition demonstrations and public rallies.

Parliament Begins Debate of New Draft Media Law
26 March: The Armenian parliament begins debate of the government's latest version of the draft media law as a group of three dozen journalists stage a picket outside the building to draw attention to several controversial measures reflected in the bill. The government has significantly revised the bill, removing some of the most controversial elements, including a measure that would create a new state agency empowered to issue and revoke licenses for all media outlets.

Republic of Georgia

Total area: 69,700 sq. km Slightly larger than S. Carolina Bordering states: Armenia 164 km Azerbaijan 322 km Russia 723 km Turkey 252 km Population: 5.57 million 56% urban 78 persons/sq. km Ethnic composition: 69% Georgian, 9% Armenian, 6% Russian, 6% Ajarian*, 5% Azerbaijani, 3% Ossetian, 2% Abkhazian. Georgia includes the autonomous republics of Abkhazia and Ajaria and the South Ossetian Autonomous Region. *- The Ajarians are a distinct ethnographic group of Georgians.

Leadership: Eduard Shevardnadze, President; Avtandil Jorbenadze, State Minister; Irakli Menagarishvili, Foreign Minister; Nino Burjanadze, Parliamentary Chairman.

Independence: Georgia established its independence in April 1991.

CIS membership status: The Georgian government joined the CIS in October 1993.

Constitution: A constitution was adopted in August 1995, which reinstated a presidential form of government and provides for a strong executive branch and a unicameral 235-seat parliament. The constitutional status of the regions and republics remains undetermined, stipulating an official clarification of their legal status only after the resolution of all internal conflicts.

Elections: Presidential elections were held in April 2000. Parliamentary elections were held in October 1999.

Diplomatic representation: The U.S. representative to Georgia is Ambassador Richard Miles. The Georgian representative to the United States, as well as to Canada and Mexico, is Ambassador Levan Mikeladze. The Georgian representative to the United Nations is Ambassador Revaz Adamia.


MONTHLY CHRONOLOGY

Georgia

Controversial Warlord Politician Dies in Tbilisi
4 March: Hospitalized after suffering from a serious stroke, 76-year old Djaba Ioseliani dies in Tbilisi. Ioseliani, a former poet and convicted bank robber, led the outlawed paramilitary Mkhedrioni (Horsemen) militia that, with the help of former National Guard commander Tengiz Kitovani, deposed former President Zviad Gamsakhurdia in January 1992. After seizing power, Ioseliani invited current President Eduard Shevardnadze to return to Tbilisi in March 1992 but was then forced into an internal power struggle with Shevardnadze that culminated with Ioseliani's arrest in November 1995. He was also sentenced to 11 years in prison on a conviction charge for complicity in the 1998 failed car bomb assassination attempt directed against Shevardnadze. Ioseliani was later released from prison under the general amnesty of 2000.

Georgian and Russian Presidents Meet in Sochi
6-7 March: President Eduard Shevardnadze meets with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Russian resort city Sochi for discussions on a wide-ranging set of bilateral issues including the Abkhazian conflict, the status of Russian military bases in Georgia and the situation in the volatile Pankisi Gorge. The two presidents reach an agreement on advancing the mediation process seeking a negotiated resolution to the Abkhazian conflict. Russian President Putin agrees to assist in securing the return of the several hundred thousand Georgians forced from their homes in Abkhazia during the height of the conflict in 1992-1993. The Russian plan is to focus on an incremental return of the internally displaced persons starting in Abkhazia's southern Gali district. Following the initial return, the railway connection between Sochi and Tbilisi that passes through Abkhazia is to be restored and the Inguri hydroelectric power plant will then be modernized. The breakthrough is accomplished after Abkhazian Prime Minister Gennaddi Gagulia meets with the presidents.

New Electoral Bloc Formed
7 March: Deputies from the former ruling Union of Citizens of Georgia (SMK) party enter into a new tactical alliance with the Socialist Party and agree to form a new bloc in preparation for the upcoming parliamentary elections. Leaders of this new bloc vow to improve Georgia's strained relations with Russia and to seek political stability. The alliance, to be called For A New Georgia, follows a related cooperative agreement reached between these two parties last year.

Prosecutor-General Lodges Charges Against Three Opposition Leaders
10 March: Following a summons to attend a meeting at the Prosecutor-General's office, three opposition leaders are charged with violating public order and organizing public disturbances. The charges, brought against Koba Davitashvili, Petre Tsiskarishvili and Vano Merabishvili, stem from an unsanctioned rally held last fall to protest the Central Election Commission's handling of the vote count in the June local elections.

Regional Governors Warn of Impending Unrest
12 March: A group of regional governors, meeting with President Eduard Shevardnadze and senior government officials, report that if the energy crisis continues, the mounting shortages will lead to unrest and mass disturbance in several key parts of the country.

Interior Ministry Reveals Plan for the Pankisi Gorge
13 March: Georgian Interior Ministry Kakheti Regional Chief Zurab Tushuri announces a new plan calling for local ethnic Chechens living in the Pankisi Gorge (locally known as "Kists") to assist Interior Ministry troops in an effort to secure villages in the Pankisi Gorge. The joint patrols are part of the broader campaign to police the volatile Pankisi Gorge, near the northern Georgian border with Chechnya, which served as a refuge for a number of armed groups of Chechen rebels. The Interior Ministry has been under pressure in recent weeks from Russia to complete its earlier attempt to secure the region and prevent the return of any threat of Chechen cross-border attacks.

Georgian Delegation Meets with NATO Officials
13 March: A delegation of senior Georgian official led by Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili began two days of meetings with officials of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) in Brussels. The Georgian delegation briefs NATO Secretary-General George Robertson and other officials on the state of Georgian defense reforms and discusses the Georgian desire for a greater official role within the alliance. Georgian officials complained to NATO about the stalled talks over Russian military withdrawal from the country.

U.S. FBI to Open Office in Tbilisi
13 March: In an announcement by a spokesperson for the Georgian Interior Ministry, the U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) will open an office in the Georgian capital Tbilisi next month. The announcement follows a recent training seminar conducted by the FBI for senior Georgian law enforcement agencies. The FBI has conducted a number of official investigations and operations in Georgia over the past several years, but the formal opening of an FBI office in Tbilisi is seen as a significant demonstration of the U.S. effort to combat crime and corruption in the region.

National Guard Veterans Occupy Military Base Outside of Tbilisi
23-24 March: A group of homeless National Guard veterans seize control of the Isani military base outside of Tbilisi to protest the Georgian government's failure to provide adequate pensions and benefits for veterans. Former Defense Minister and commander of the National Guards Tengiz Kitovani states that the action was a natural response to the severe living conditions and lack of state benefits facing veterans, but denies any role in the seizure. The incident is only the latest in a series of similar actions, as more than 60 Interior Ministry troops staged a similar protest in May 2002 and several hundred National Guard and regular Army troops occupied a military barracks in May 2001. In July 2002, a group of over 100 young military officers resigned their commission to protest a lack of adequate financing and over the serious incompetence of their senior officers.

South Ossetian Leader Seeks Increased Russian Military Presence and Offers Basing Rights
24 March: South Ossetian President Eduard Kokoyty announces his intention to seek an increase in the number of Russian troops deployed in the region as peacekeepers under a mandate of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS). The South Ossetian leader also reaffirms his desire to have South Ossetia join the Russian Federation as an associate member and offers basing rights to the Russian military in the event that Russia withdraws from its remaining bases in Georgia.

New Accord for Wages for Russian Military Bases
24-26 March: Georgian national Bank chairman Irakli Managadze concludes a formal agreement with Russian National Bank deputy chairman Oleg Mozhaiskii to coordinate the move from Russian rubles to Georgian laris for all future wages for Russian military personnel stationed at the Russian bases at Akhalkalaki and Batumi in Georgia. The switch to payments in Georgian laris involves a total sum of 15 million laris (roughly $6.89 million) and is to take effect in early April. Following the agreement, Georgian Defense Minister David Tevzadze tours the Russian military base at Akhalkalaki, located in the Armenian-populated southern Georgian region of Javakheti. The defense minister also meets with regional Governor Teimuraz Mosiashvili and other senior local officials in Akhaltsikhe to discuss the situation in the region.

Republic of Azerbaijan

Total area:
81,800 sq. km
Slightly smaller than Maine

Bordering states:
Armenia (West) 566 km
Armenia (southwest) 221 km
Georgia 332 km
Iran (south) 432 km
Iran (southwest) 179 km
Russia 284 km
Turkey 9 km

Population:
7.3 million
54% urban
89 persons/sq. km

Ethnic composition: 71% Azerbaijani, 11% Talish, 6% Russian, 4% Lezgi, 3% Daghestani, 3% Kurdish.
The autonomous republic of Nakhichevan (pop. 350,000; 5,500 sq. km) was placed under Azerbaijani administration in 1921.

Leadership: Geidar Aliyev, President; Artur Rasizade, Prime Minister; Vilayet Guliev, Foreign Minister; Murtuz Aleskerov, Parliamentary Chairman; Shamshaddin Khanbabayev, Premier of
Nakhichevan (Azerbaijani exclave).

Independence: Azerbaijan established its independence in August 1991.

CIS membership status: Azerbaijan joined the CIS in September 1993.

Constitution: A new constitution was passed by referendum in November 1995.

Elections: Parliamentary elections were held in November 2000. Presidential elections were held in October 1998.

Diplomatic representation: The U.S. representative to Azerbaijan is Ambassador Ross Wilson. The Azerbaijani representative to the United States is Ambassador Hafiz Pashayev. The Azerbaijani representative to the United Nations is Yashar Aliyev.


MONTHLY CHRONOLOGY

Azerbaijan

Parliamentary Committees Push Forward Draft Electoral Law
5 March: Several key committees in the Azerbaijani parliament adopt the government's draft electoral laws governing the upcoming presidential, parliamentary and local elections. Despite the more than 135 objections to the draft law by the opposition, the pro-government parliamentary majority adopts only one change, raising the minimum requirement for voter participation from 25 to 50 percent. The most significant issue dividing the authorities and the opposition is the composition of the new 18-member Central Electoral Commission which, according to the draft law, will comprise six deputies from the ruling Yeni Azerbaijan Party (YAP), six from the various opposition parties, and six members to be selected from the traditionally pro-government independent deputies.

Three New Deputies Elected in By-Election
5 March: In a special by-election to fill three vacant parliamentary seats, pro-government "Yeni Azerbaycan" newspaper editor Algysh Musayev is elected in Garadag, former opposition Yeni Musavat Party member Gudrat Gasankuliyev is elected in Ismailly, and former opposition Azerbaijan National Independence Party figure Shadman Husein is elected in Khanlar-Dashkesan.

Azerbaijan Secures Release of $17 Million IMF Loan Package
6 March: After several weeks of intense negotiations between the Aliyev government and officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), a $17 million loan installment of a larger package is released. The funds were frozen since last summer but released after several key concessions by Azerbaijan. The Azerbaijani government specifically agrees to raise domestic oil and gas prices to world levels, promises to establish a more open and transparent procedure for utilizing funds from the state oil fund, and advances plans to privatize two state-owned banking institutions.

Opposition Party Holds Demonstration in Support of Exiled Leader
9 March: Several thousand demonstrators rally in Baku to show their support for exiled opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (DPA) leader Rasul Guliev. The demonstrators demand that the Azerbaijani government facilitate the return to Azerbaijan of Guliev, a former parliamentary chairman convicted in absentia for corruption.

Ilham Aliyev Meets with French President
11 March: Presidential son and heir Ilham Aliyev meets in Paris with French President Jacques Chirac and discusses the status of mediation efforts attempting to negotiate a resolution to the Nagorno Karabakh conflict. Aliyev, in his capacity as Vice President of the Azerbaijani State Oil Company SOCAR, also discusses plans to expand bilateral trade and investment in Azerbaijan's Caspian energy.

Parliamentary Debate on Electoral Law Degenerates into Heated Confrontation
11 March: Attempting to end the parliamentary debate of the draft electoral law begun several days earlier, deputies from the pro-government majority clash with leading opposition members over the government's draft law and its failure to meet several fundamental concerns advocated by the opposition. Deputy Ali Kerimli, the chairman of the reform wing of the Azerbaijani Popular Front, confronts pro-government deputies with charges of planning to usurp power by falsifying the upcoming elections and warns that such a move would lead to civil war. The debate soon degenerates into a heated shouting match before order is finally restored in the chamber.

Foreign Minister Sees Role in Post-War Iraq
25 March: Foreign Minister Vilayet Guliev announces that Azerbaijan will offer to dispatch a number of technical oil industry experts to Iraq in order to assist in the post-war reconstruction of the country. The foreign minister also adds that Azerbaijan will seek to protect Islamic shrines in Shi'ite Iraq and may send a small peacekeeping force to assist the coalition in stabilizing the security situation.

Azerbaijan Expands Energy Relationship with Iran
26 March: Representatives of the Azerbaijani state-owned Azenergo energy concern conclude a new agreement in Tehran with the Iranian state Tavanir energy group. The new agreement calls for the expansion of Iranian electricity through the construction of a second power transmission line to allow for an increase in Iranian electricity supplies to Nakhichevan. Currently, Nakhichevan consumes roughly 130-150 megawatts of electricity, with Iran providing 70-80 megawatts through the existing Imishly-Parsabad line.

Republic of Nagorno Karabagh

Total area:
4,800 sq. km
Slightly smaller than Delaware

Bordering states:
Azerbaijan

Population:
150,000
31 persons/sq. km

Ethnic composition:
95% Armenian
5% Assyrian, Greek,
Kurdish, other

Leadership: Arkady Gukasyan, President; Anushevan Danielian, Prime Minister; Ashot Ghulian, Foreign Minister; Oleg Yessayan, Parliamentary Chairman

Independence: The Republic of Nagorno Karabagh was established in September 1991 and declared its independence in January 1992.

CIS membership status: Nagorno Karabagh is not a member of the CIS.

Constitution: The Parliament approved a constitution in June 1992.

Elections: Parliamentary elections were held in June 2000. Presidential elections were held in August 2002.

Diplomatic representation: The Nagorno Karabagh representative to Armenia is Arman Melikian. Artak Haroutiunian is the representative of Nagorno Karabagh to the European Community and the European Parliament. Vardan Barseghyan is the representative of the Office of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic in the United States.


MONTHLY CHRONOLOGY

Nagorno Karabagh

U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Vows Washington will be 'More Energetic' on Nagorno Karabakh
13 March: U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Ross Wilson announces that Washington will redouble its efforts to help resolve the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. The Ambassador states that the Bush Administration's priority... will be a more energetic effort by the US and its partners... to prepare the ground for progress when the two countries are ready, adding that we understand that the situation is not stable and that it is dangerous for both Azerbaijan and Armenia, and to some extent for our own interests. The Ambassador also added that President Bush is personally resolved to accelerating the peace talks after Azerbaijan's President Geidar Aliyev met with the president and Secretary of State Colin Powell during a visit to Washington late last month. The announcement is seen as a signal that the U.S. will reengage itself in the mediation effort more actively but not until next year once elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan are over.

OSCE Delegation Conducts Inspection amid Sporadic Small Arms Fire
13 March: A delegation from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) conducts its regular inspection of the Nagorno Karabagh border with Azerbaijan to verify the continued adherence of both sides to the ceasefire agreement in place since May 1994. Several hours before the inspection, sniper fire from the Azerbaijani side of the border near the town of Agdam confirms the OSCE delegation's concerns that the ceasefire is increasingly threatened by sporadic small arms fire and shootings. The OSCE delegation, led by the Personal Representative of the OSCE Chairman-in-Office Andrzej Kasprzyk, also meets with representatives form the Karabagh defense and foreign ministries before proceeding to the Azerbaijani side.
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