Republic of Armenia
29,800 sq. km
Slightly larger than Maryland
Azerbaijan (east) 566 km
Nakhichevan (south) 221 km
Georgia 164 km
Iran 35 km
Turkey 268 km
110.5 persons/sq. km
3.5% Assyrian, Greek, other
|Leadership: Robert Kocharian, President; Andranik Markarian, Prime Minister; Vardan Oskanian, Foreign Minister; Serzh Sarkisian, Defense Minister; Artur Baghdasarian, 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.
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 Armen Martirosian.
Yerevan Mayor Dismissed by Armenian President
1 July: President Robert Kocharian issues a decree dismissing Robert Nazarian from the post of mayor of Yerevan, which he had held since January 2001. Nazarian's pro-presidential "Hzor Hairenik" (Mighty Fatherland) party garnered only 3 percent of the vote in the May parliamentary elections, failing to win a single seat in the new legislature. Kocharian appoints Yervand Zakarian, who previously headed the government's tax-collection agency, as the new mayor of Yerevan. Zakarian is succeeded in that post by Feliks Tsolakian, a senior member of the presidential staff.
Armenian University Professor Killed
2 July: Garen Mkrtchian, the dean of the Russian Language Department at Yerevan State University, is fatally shot in a brazen attack in broad daylight on a street in downtown Yerevan. The killer reportedly escapes in a car with foreign license plates. The son of a famous literary critic, Mkrtchian, who was 43, was characterized by colleagues as "a peaceable and polite man" with no connections to either politics or business. Armenian Prime Minister Andranik Markarian expresses outrage at the killing
Parliamentary Speaker and Foreign Minister Call for Expanding Ties with Iran
11-12 July: The recently elected Parliamentary Chairman, Artur Baghdasarian, meets with Iranian Ambassador to Armenia Mohammad-Farhad Koleini and calls for the broadening of mutual cooperation between Armenia and Iran. Baghdasarian states that a new inter-parliamentary group on Armenian-Iranian relations was recently formed in accordance with the Armenia's desire to expand bilateral cooperation in various political and economic fields. The Iranian ambassador calls on the parliamentary speaker to secure approval of new legislation safeguarding Iranian investment in Armenia promised that the Iranian government would accelerate its efforts to improve "regional security and cooperation." Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian holds a separate meeting with the Iranian ambassador and expresses his government's hope that Iranian President Mohammad Khatami would visit Yerevan. The Armenian foreign minister briefs the Iranian ambassador on the status of the international mediation effort negotiating a resolution to the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and reviews plans for further bilateral cooperation between Iran and Armenia.
Russian Military Sentry Thwarts Attempt to Enter Russian Base
11 July: A Russian soldier posted as a sentry at the main entrance of the Russian military base in the Armenian town of Gyumri shoots and kills two and injured another local Armenian man as they attempted to enter the base. A third person involved is not injured and flees the scene. Unlike Russian military bases elsewhere in the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS), security at the Russian base in Armenia has been stable and without incident for much of the past decade.
Organized Crime Groups Clash in Gyumri
11 July: A brazen gunfight in broad daylight between rival organized crime groups leaves two dead and two wounded. The clash occurred in a public park in Gyumri, Armenia's second largest city. Although organized crime has been growing in recent years, such outright violence has only recently become a more common occurrence.
New Parliamentary Deputy Speaker Warns of Danger of Reopening Border with Turkey
12 July: Speaking at a Yerevan press conference, Armenian Parliamentary Deputy Chairman Vahan Hovannisian warns that the opening of the Turkish-Armenian border "places Armenia's interests under direct threat." Hovannisian explains that an unrestricted opening of the border with Turkey would lead to irreparable harm to Armenian agriculture and would spur a "flood of cheaper products in the Armenian market" leading to "serious losses" for Armenian farmers. The deputy speaker recommends that Armenia should place higher priority n the reopening of the railway link through Abkhazia, suggesting that the Abkhaz route would "enable Armenia to export competitively priced products." The Armenian-Turkish border has been closed for a decade after Turkey joined in the Azerbaijani-imposed trade and transport blockade of Armenia.
Prime Minister Opens Republican Party Congress
12 July: Prime Minister Andranik Markarian opened the 8th party congress of his ruling Republican Party (HHK) in Yerevan. After reviewing the party's achievements in the past year, Markarian affirms Armenia's desire for fuller integration with European structures but stresses that he will continue to oppose the passage of Protocol Six of the European Convention on Human Rights which calls for a ban on capital punishment. According to Markarian, the abolition of the death penalty in Armenia "would jeopardize the country's interests." Commenting on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, the premier added that "Karabakh must not be subordinated to Azerbaijan and its population's security must be ensured with Armenia and Karabakh sharing a common border." The Republican Party is the dominant party in the parliament, holding 40 of the 131 seats in the recently elected parliament, and controls the local governments of roughly 400 smaller towns and villages in Armenia.
Embattled A1+ Television Station Renews Bid to Regain Broadcast Frequency
14 July: The independent Armenian television station A1+ renews its application for its broadcast frequency in a new tender. According to Mesrop Movsesian, the head of the A1+ station, the National Commission for Television and Radio is preparing to review proposals from seven private television stations that are competing for five broadcasting frequencies in the current tender. A1+ was forced to cease broadcasting in April 2002 after losing a tender for the frequency on which it broadcast. The frequency once used by A1+ was awarded to Armenia TV, owned by a U.S. Armenian businessman who strongly supported President Kocharian in his recent reelection. An earlier attempt to regain a frequency failed last month after Commission Chairman Grigor Amalian rejected a seven-year, $5 million proposal by A1+.
Constitutional Court Rules that Death Penalty Ban Complies with Constitution
15 July: The Armenian Constitutional Court rules that the restrictions on capital punishment set forth in Protocol 6 of the Council of Europe's Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms are in compliance with the Armenian constitution. The ruling effectively negates any legal justification for not imposing an outright ban on capital punishment and returns the issue to the agenda of the new parliament. The European Convention on the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms' protocol restricts the application of the death penalty to exceptional cases such as in times of war or national emergency. The abolishment of capital punishment is a major obligation under Armenia's membership in the Council of Europe but the Armenian government has repeatedly extended the deadline for implementing a full moratorium, attempting to impose the death penalty on five suspects currently on trial for the October 1999 attacked on parliament that killed several senior government officials. Senior officials have expressed reluctance, including Prime Minister Andranik Markarian who openly derided calls for such a ban, arguing that such a move "would jeopardize the country's interests."
Armenian President on Visit to France
15-17 July: President Robert Kocharian arrives in Paris leading an official delegation including Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian and Armenian Ambassador to France Eduard Nalbandian. Kocharian meets with French Senate President M. Christian Poncelet and reviews bilateral relations. The Armenian president also meets with French President Jacques Chirac, as well as officials from the French ministry of economy, finance and industry and members of the France-Armenia Parliamentary Friendship Group. Additional meetings are held with French Prime Minister Jean Pierre Raffarin and National Assembly President Jean-Louis Debré. The Armenian president hurriedly departed for France after attending his son's wedding to the daughter of parliamentarian Vladimir Badalian.
International Arrest Warrant Issued for Operator of Armenian Airport
17 July: An Argentine judge issues an international arrest warrant for Eduardo Eurnekian, the operator of Armenia's international airport. The Armenian government awarded a thirty-year contract to Eurnekian's Aeropuertos Argentina 2000 consortium to manage Yerevan's Zvartnots airport. The award was criticized for alleged favoritism and for its closed bidding process although the Armenian government dismissed these objections and claimed that group would invest in the modernization and upgrade of the airport facility. The arrest warrant for Eurnekian, suspected of having evaded more than $5 million in taxes, followed his failure to return to Argentina from a vacation in Italy, thereby violating a court summons. Officials of the Armenian justice ministry argue that the incident will have no bearing on the airport management contract.
Central Election Commission to Sue Candidates
18 July: The Armenian Central Election Commission (CEC) adopts a proposal by Commission Vice Chairman Hamlet Abrahimian to file administrative lawsuits against a group of 141 parliamentary candidates. Most of the candidates were defeated in the May election, although five candidates, Hovik Azoyan, Nahapet Gevorgian, Hakob Hakobian, Mekhak Mkhitarian, and Arshak Sadoyan, were elected as deputies in the new parliament. The candidates failed to submit detailed financial statements of their campaign finances, as legally required.
Armenian Foreign Minister Comments on Possible Reopening of Border with Turkey
19 July: Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian states that recent speculation over possible negative economic effects from an opening of the Armenian-Turkish border is incorrect and explains that "in principle, I do not suppose that the possible lifting of the blockade from the Armenian-Turkish border will have any negative consequences for our country's economy..... I am absolutely sure that the opening of the border is beneficial not only to the two countries, but also to the region as a whole." The comments follow recent statements by Deputy Parliament Speaker Vahan Hovannisian warning that the opening of border trade would inflict serious damage on the Armenian economy.
Joint U.S.-Armenian Police Operation Makes Arrests in Child Pornography Case
19 July: Armenian security forces, in conjunction with their U.S. counterparts arrest three men suspected of producing and selling child pornography. The suspects are caught with more than fifty pornographic videotapes containing pornographic material. National Security Service spokesman Armenak Manukian reveals that the group's leader worked for an Armenian-U.S. joint venture and had contacts with criminal groups in Russia and the United States.
Leader of Ramkavar Political Party Resigns
19 July: The chairman of the Ramkavar-Azatakan (Liberal-Democratic) Party, Ruben Mirzakhanian, submits his resignation to a party convention after his party failed to garner any seats in the new parliament elected in May. The convention of the small, center-right party also resolves to replace the chairman position with a new three-member board to lead the party.
Deputy Parliamentary Speaker Comments on Recent Failed A1+ Bid
19 July: Tigran Torosian, the deputy speaker of the Armenian parliament, expresses his surprise at the recent decision by the National Television and Radio Commission to reject three bids for broadcasting frequencies submitted by the independent A1+ television company. The deputy speaker states that it "was clear that the TV companies that will continue broadcasting by the commission's decision are much more inferior to the A1+ TV company both in professional and creative terms" and notes it was "strange" for the commission to justify its denial solely on financial grounds. The A1+ station was stripped of its original broadcasting frequency in April 2002 and lost another bid for an alternative frequency last month.
Government Official Argues that Nuclear Power Plant Operates Safely
20 July: Armenian State Atomic Energy Inspection Service chief Ashot Martirosian announces that the country's nuclear power plant can safely operate for at least another 14 years. The official explains that Medzamor facility, located just outside Yerevan, is subject to constant monitoring and safety inspections. Security at the Soviet-era plant has also been increased in recent weeks. The plant provides more than 40 percent of the country's energy. It was first opened in 1979 but was shut down in 1989 after a devastating earthquake. The European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) financed the reactivation of Medzamor in 1995 on the precondition that the plant close by 2004. In December 1998, Armenian officials confirmed their readiness to comply with the deadline, but have argued in recent years that the plant cannot be shut down until an alternative source of energy is available. The European Union is pressuring the Armenian government to close the aged plant, promising some 100 million euros ($117) to assist in the transition to alternative energy sources.
OSCE Officials Stress Need for Electoral Reform
21-22 July: During talks in Yerevan with Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian and other senior officials, visiting OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice President Giovanni Kessler and Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights Director Christian Strohal urge the Armenian authorities to implement "sweeping reforms" of the election system. The two OSCE officials reiterate earlier criticism of procedural violations during the February-March presidential elections and the May parliamentary ballot. Kessler adds that the OSCE wants amendments enacted to the Election Code and any people responsible for alleged fraud during the two ballots this year to be identified and punished.
Armenian Official Injured in Explosion
22 July: Mher Sedrakian, the prefect of Yerevan's southern Erebuni District, is injured by an explosive device concealed under his Mercedes limousine. Sedrakian was immediately hospitalized. A district prosecutor reveals that the explosion was probably a botched assassination attempt. Sedrakian is a senior member of Prime Minister Andranik Markarian's Republican Party of Armenia and campaigned actively for incumbent President Robert Kocharian's in the recent reelection.
Murder Trial Convenes & Adjourns
29 July: The trial of thirteen men accused of the murder of Tigran Naghdalian, chairman of Armenian National Television and Radio, convenes in a Yerevan district court but is immediately adjourned until 5 August due to the absence of one defense lawyer. Naghdalian was shot to death in a December 2002 attack while leaving his parents' apartment. The defendants include businessman Armen Sarkisian, the brother of former prime minister Aram, and a leader of the opposition Republican party. Prosecutors allege that the two men who actually committed the killing were hired by Hovannes Harutiunian, a distant relative of the Sarkisian family, who has admitted to receiving $75,000 from Armen Sarkisian.
Armenian Border Guard Chief Dismissed
29 July: Major-General Levon Stepanian is dismissed from the position of commander of Armenia's border-guard troops, one day after his deputy, Colonel Vahan Mkhitarian, was arrested on charges of large-scale bribery. Stepanian has served as the head of the border guard force since its formation in 1992.
Government Approves Plan allowing Cash Pardons for Draft Dodgers
30 July: The Armenian government approves a parliamentary bill under which young men aged 27 and over who have consistently avoided military service may obtain immunity from prosecution by paying a large fee. The bill was first passed in the first reading last November, and its author, parliament deputy speaker Vahan Hovannisian, states that he will push for its passage in the second and third readings before the end of this year. A Defense Ministry lawyer, Sedrak Sedrakian, reports that his ministry favors the bill and hopes it will permit a large number of young men who left Armenia to avoid military service to return home.
Casinos and Organized Gambling Expands in Armenia
30 July: The state official overseeing lottery and gambling issues, Manuk Vardanian, reports that since the beginning of the year the number of gambling houses and casinos in Armenia has tripled. The expansion of casinos follows new legislation enacted last year to impose new oversight on gambling in the country and to improve measures to tax these enterprises. With only five such casinos officially in operation in Armenia last year, there are now fifteen currently registered casinos in operation, with their gambling revenue reportedly now comprising over one percent of total external sources of revenue for the state budget.
New Anti-Corruption Center Opens in Yerevan
30 July: A new Anti-Corruption Information Center, a project supported by the Armenian branch of Transparency International and the Swiss Development and Cooperation Agency, opens in Yerevan. The aim of the Center is to raise public awareness and to provide information and analysis of corruption as part of a larger effort to improve efforts to combat corruption in Armenia. The Yerevan Anti-Corruption Center is the seventh such facility in the former Soviet Union and offers the public unfettered access to its library. The center also has a database on corruption statistics and will conduct training courses and seminars for specialists and non-governmental organizations. The Center has also announced an award for the best contribution in the fight against corruption struggle for public servants, political figures, journalists and international organizations. The first award was recently given to outgoing head of the OSCE Yerevan office ambassador Roy Reeve. Another five branches of the center are to be opened in other districts next year.
Republic of Georgia
69,700 sq. km
Slightly larger than S. Carolina
Armenia 164 km
Azerbaijan 322 km
Russia 723 km
Turkey 252 km
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 Menagrashvili, Foreign Minister; David Tevzadze, Defense 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 are set to be held on November 2, 2003
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.
Georgian Defense Minister Denies Alleged Illegal Arms Sales to Abkhazian Forces
2 July: Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze denies reports alleging that Georgian servicemen have illegally sold military equipment supplied by the United States within the framework of the "Train and Equip" program to Abkhazian forces. The allegations stem from an announcement by Abkhazian Defense Minister Raul Khadjimba claiming in an interview published in a Russian newspaper that Georgian troops have sold his men "NATO equipment."
Former U.S. Secretary of State Visits Georgia
5-6 July: Arriving in Tbilisi as special envoy of U.S. President George W. Bush, former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker meets with President Eduard Shevardnadze to discuss the political situation in Georgia, including ways to ensure the upcoming parliamentary elections are free and fair; the fight against international terrorism; and the unresolved Abkhazian conflict. The U.S. presidential envoy also meets at the U.S. ambassador's residence with the leaders of major opposition parties, including Zurab Zhvania (United Democrats), Mikhail Saakashvili (National Movement), Shalva Natelashvili (Labor Party), David Gamkrelidze (New Rightists) and Djemal Gogitidze (Revival Union) to discuss the optimal composition of the new Central Election Commission. Baker reportedly proposes that the government nominate five CEC members and the opposition nine, and that the OSCE should appoint as CEC chairman a respected member of Georgian society who is not politically active.
Georgian Ambassador to UN Accuses Russian Military Bases of Arms Deals in Georgia
8 July: Georgian Ambassador to the United Nations Revaz Adamia accuses the Russian military of engaging in the illegal trafficking of small arms, Civil Georgia reported on 12 July. Ambassador Adamia claimed that the three Russian military bases in Georgia serve as "the major source of arms and weapons for different secessionist, criminal or terrorist groups" and noted that the bases are not "under effective control of their central command and are located in the areas with lucrative black market for illicit arms trade." The Georgian Ambassador concluded that the situation at the "three bases pose major threat to the security of Georgia." Despite a formal agreement concluded at the 1999 Istanbul summit of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to withdraw from Georgian territory, Russia maintains military bases in Batumi, Akhalkalaki, and in Gudauta.
Georgian Defense Minister Warns Funding Cuts will Undermine Armed Forces
10 July: Georgian Defense Minister Lieutenant General David Tevzadze warns that further cuts in defense spending risk inflicting "irrevocable damage" on the Georgian armed forces, adding that it may result in "the collapse of the entire defense system. During the first six months of the year, the armed forces received only 22 million laris ($10.4 million) instead of the planned 34 million. That shortfall necessitated postponing military exercises planned for late June, according to Defense Ministry official Mirian Kiknadze.
U.S.-Trained Battalion to Deploy in South Ossetia
10 July: Approximately eighty Georgian soldiers from a U.S.-trained battalion are dispatched to join a peacekeeping battalion currently deployed in South Ossetia. The U.S. has been engaged in a specialized program, known as the Georgia Train & Equip Program (GTEP), designed to bolster the Georgian military's counterinsurgency capability since April 2002. Officials of the Georgian Defense Ministry report that the commandos will be deployed at the checkpoints in Nikozi and Kurti and will conduct joint patrolling along with the Russian and Ossetian peacekeepers currently in the area.
Georgian and Armenian National Security Council Officials Sign New Agreements
11 July: Georgian National Security Council Secretary Tedo Japaridze signs several agreements on bilateral cooperation with Armenian Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian during a visit to Yerevan. According to the Armenian defense minister, who also serves as the secretary of Armenia's Security Council, the agreements cover "a wide range of issues" and seek to "ensure regional security." Sarkisian adds that "although Armenia and Georgia have different approaches to ensuring their security, we have a lot in common," and notes that both countries "have wide opportunities for cooperation and must use the entire potential of bilateral cooperation." For his part, Japaridze states that the agreement will intensify direct contacts between the two security bodies and will allow Georgia and Armenian security officials to "regularly meet and exchange information." The officials also discuss developments in Turkish-Georgian and Georgian-Russian relations, the mediation process seeking to resolve the Abkhaz conflict, and review the prospects for restoring the railway link through Abkhazia. The agreements follow the Armenian president's recent state visit to Georgia.
Georgian Border Guard Chief Visits U.S.
12 July: Georgian State Border Guard Department chief Valeri Chkheidze departs for the United States on an official seven-day visit. Chkheidze is to meet with American officials to review the work of the newly-established Georgian Coast Guard Department and to discuss plans for expanded U.S. assistance. The Georgian Coast Guard is empowered to patrol and secure the coast line and was created two months ago at the recommendation of the United States. The Coast Guard operates from two divisional headquarters located at the western Georgian city of Poti and Ajarian capital Batumi.
Italian Deputy Defense Minister Arrives in Tbilisi
13 July: Italian Deputy Defense Minister Philippo Berselli arrives in Tbilisi to meet with Georgian officials to discuss a broadening of military cooperation. The visit follows a recent agreement stipulating new military equipment to be provided by the Italian defense ministry. The Italian deputy defense minister meets with President Eduard Shevardnadze, Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili and Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze, as well as his Georgian counterpart, Lieutenant General David Tevzadze.
Georgian Officials Meet with Hunger Strikers
12 July: Parliamentary Chairperson Nino Burjanadze and National Security Council Secretary Tedo Japaridze hold separate meetings with a group of hunger strikers demanding the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping troops from the Abkhazian conflict zone. The parliamentary speaker holds a phone conversation with President Eduard Shevardnadze immediately after the meeting and is informed by the president that he will convene a special session of parliament on 16 July specifically to discuss the Abkhaz issue. The hunger strikers, members of the "Veteran Warriors' Union of Abkhazia," launched a hunger strike nearly two weeks earlier. In his meeting with the protestors, National Council Secretary Japaridze urges them to cease the hunger strike, noting concern for their worsening health. The Georgian authorities have recently agreed to extend the mandate of the Russian peacekeepers deployed in Abkhazia under the auspices of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS) for an indefinite period of time. That decision led to heated protest by leaders of the several hundred thousand ethnic Georgian refugees displaced form their homes in Abkhazia in 1992-1993 and by the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile, comprised of the Georgian deputies elected to the Abkhaz parliament in late 1991. After the meetings, the hunger strikers, protesting in front of the building housing the Tbilisi-based Abkhaz government-in-exile, vow to continue until Georgian President Eduard Shevardnadze secures the withdrawal of the Russian peacekeeping troops.
Ajarian Leader Dismisses Cabinet
13 July: Ajarian Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze dismisses his entire cabinet for failing to overcome a serious budget shortfall in the first half of the year. Abashidze has ruled the Ajar Autonomous Republic since 1991 with a notable disregard for delegating authority or governing beyond a small circle of trusted advisers but also holds national influence beyond Batumi, mainly through his "Revival Union" bloc.
Georgian President Endorses U.S. Electoral Proposals
14 July: In comments in his weekly radio address, President Eduard Shevardnadze affirms his support for a set of U.S.-drafted electoral proposals. The president welcomes the ten-point U.S. proposals, more commonly known as the "Baker Scorecard," after former U.S. Secretary of State James Baker presented the proposals in Tbilisi earlier this month. Shevardnadze dismisses reports that Baker urged him to resign, noting that he will complete his term as president through 2005. Of the ten points in the Baker proposals, the most significant measures include a call for the government to reconstitute the Central Election Commission (CEC) by nominating five members and allowing the opposition to appoint nine, and a recommendation that the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) select a respected, non-political member of Georgian society as the CEC chairman. The engagement of the U.S. in the Georgian electoral process reflects concern over mounting political instability in the face of the November parliamentary election.
Sharp Budget Cuts Submitted to Parliament
14 July: In response to recent recommendations by the International Monetary Fund (IMF), President Eduard Shevardnadze presents a new package of severe budget cuts to the parliament. The 95.5 million Lari ($44 million) spending cuts follow strong pressure by the IMF on the Georgian government to tackle its large budget deficit, now 1.7 percent of the country's GDP. The IMF is also urging Tbilisi to increase revenue by 40 million laris, raise electricity tariffs, and to add the more than 220 million-lari pension and state-sector wage arrears for 1998-2000 to the country's domestic debt.
Georgian Speaker Organizing New Opposition Alliance
14 July: Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze reveals in a television interview that she has initiated efforts to organize a new alliance of opposition political parties. The speaker states that she is seeking to form an "opposition alliance uniting the United Democrats, the National Movement and the New Rights parties" but admits that consultations are continuing as no agreement has yet been reached among the disparate parties. The 39-year old speaker has emerged as a formidable political figure in recent months and is using the government's failure to fulfill its state budget targets as a useful popular issue to unify the opposition.
Pro-Government Bloc Considers Shakeup
15 July: Leading members of the pro-government election bloc "For a New Georgia" convene a meeting and call on President Eduard Shevardnadze to form a new political council to replace the bloc's current leadership. The move is seen as an attempt to reduce the power of Minister of State Avtandil Djorbenadze, a co-chairman and head of electoral strategy for the bloc. Djorbenadze is opposed by several leading members of the bloc and has also faced criticism in recent weeks due to the government's failure to meet budget targets. Supporters of the proposed new leadership council contend that the body would improve preparations for the November parliamentary elections and would curtail Djorbenadze's "unilateral decision making process."
Ajarian Leader Criticizes Central Government
15 July: In a press conference the day after dismissing his entire cabinet, Ajarian Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze strongly criticizes the central Georgian government, condemning the Tbilisi government for failing to effectively govern the country and accusing them of simply "doing their best to stay in power." Abashidze specifically accuses State Minister Avtandil Djorbenadze of failing to transfer promised funds to the Ajarian government and vows to withhold his Revival Union bloc from participating in the coming parliamentary elections unless Tbilisi can ensure "peaceful elections" without resorting to a declaration of a state of emergency."
State Security Minister in Iran
15 July: Georgia's State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania meets with senior Iranian officials during a three-day official visit to Tehran, according to Civil Georgia. The Georgian security minister reviews a number of proposed bilateral measures to improve the two countries' efforts to combat drug trafficking and to ensure greater regional security.
Opposition Party Expands Hunger Strike
18 July: Five representatives of the opposition National Movement party join an ongoing hunger strike by launching their own hunger strike in the western Georgian city of Kutaisi. The hunger strikers are demanding that the government pay the serious pension arrears of public servants in Kutaisi. In Tbilisi, seven National Movement deputies are also continuing a hunger strike in front of the ministry of justice building, demanding from that the ministry abide by a recent court ruling ordering the payment of pension arrears for pensioners in the Samtredia district of western Georgia. President Shevardnadze dismisses the hunger strike, arguing that there is no real ground for protest and stating that the hunger stickers "only want to lose weight." Justice Minister Roland Giligashvili adds that the hunger strikers are not motivated by concern for pensioners but are trying "to attract the public attention" in preparation for the 2 November parliamentary elections.
Parliamentary Chair Resumes Talks with Opposition
18 July: Parliament Chairperson Nino Burjanadze resumes consultations over the election code with representatives of Georgian opposition parties. The Revival Union and the Industrialists boycott the talks, however, and continue to demand four and two seats on the Central Election Commission respectively, while the other opposition parties have agreed to one representative o the commission. The two boycotting parties are also opposed to the U.S.-proposed election guidelines, which call for the Central Election Commission to be comprised of nine opposition representatives and five representatives of the pro-government "For a New Georgia" electoral alliance. Despite the boycott, the negotiations resume on 21 July.
Georgian National Democratic Party Reelects Leadership
18 July: Georgia's opposition National Democratic Party convenes a party congress and reelect party leader Irina Sarishvili-Chanturia. National Democratic Party General-Secretary Bachuki Khardava is also reelected to another leadership term. Party delegates also discuss their preparations for the upcoming parliamentary elections scheduled for November.
Georgia Lobbies for New Oil Pipeline through Abkhazia
29-30 July: The head of the Georgian International Oil Corporation, Giorgi Chanturia, reports that the first stage of a feasibility study has determined that a pipeline to export Russian crude from Novorossiisk via Supsa to Ceyhan would be highly cost-effective. Chanturia states that the planned pipeline would have a throughput capacity of 120 million tons and cost some $600 million to build, with construction estimated at between 2-3 years. According to Chanturia, Georgian officials will discuss the proposal with representatives of the Russian Energy Ministry and Transneft sometime next month. It is not clear what relation the Georgian proposal has to ongoing efforts to resolve Georgia's long-running conflict with Abkhazia, however. An Azerbaijan state oil company (SOCAR) official dismissed the proposal in March 2002 as "absolutely unviable."
President Sets Deadline for Smuggling Crackdown
30-31 July: President Eduard Shevardnadze issues an order to government agencies to adopt measures within the next ten days to prevent the loss of further budget revenues from the smuggling of oil, cigarettes, and flour. The previous day, Shevardnadze approved a program intended to reduce the volume of the shadow economy, which experts estimate accounts for up to 73 percent of all economic activity
Russian Energy Firm Acquires Controlling Share in Tbilisi Power Grid
31 July: A subsidiary of the Russian Unified Energy Systems (EES) company completes its acquisition of a 75 percent stake in the AES-Telasi electricity distribution company from the U.S. company AES Silk Road. Details of the deal have yet been made public. The AES group and the Georgian government have been at loggerheads since late 2001, most recently over the government's refusal to raise electricity tariffs. Georgian Foreign Minister Irakli Menagarishvili comments on the deal, stating that fears expressed by some opposition parties that the sale reflects a revision of Georgia's unequivocally pro-Western foreign policy are misplaced.
Parliament Fails to Adopt Electoral Law
31 July: The Georgian parliament adjourns after 4 a.m. following a lengthy debate, failing to pass amendments to the election code in the second and third reading. Representatives of the opposition Revival Union reject the suggested allocation of seats on the Central Election Commission (CEC) and propos an alternative division that would favor the Revival Union, the Industrialists, and the pro-presidential faction. Parliamentary Speaker Nino Burjanadze telephones President Eduard Shevardnadze and Ajar Supreme Council Chairman Aslan Abashidze in an unsuccessful attempt to break the deadlock. Should the parliament fail to agree by 2 August on the composition of the new CEC, the outgoing CEC, several of whose members have already submitted their resignations, must oversee the parliamentary elections scheduled for 2 November.
Opposition Accuses President of Manipulating Privatization Deal
31 July: The opposition National Movement initiates a lawsuit against President Shevardnadze in a Tbilisi district court, accusing him of condoning legal irregularities during the sale to an Austrian investor of the Zestafon Ferrous Alloys Plant. The opposition party claims that Shevardnadze's daughter Manana and his nephew Nugzar Shevardnadze lobbied the sale on behalf of Austria's DK Ferro AG, which has acquired a 51 percent stake in the Zestafon plant for $7.1 million.
Republic of Azerbaijan
81,800 sq. km
Slightly smaller than Maine
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
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; Col. Gen. Safar Abiyev, Defense 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 are to be held in November 2005. Presidential elections are to be held on October 15, 2003.
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.
Incumbent President's Son Registered as Candidate in Approaching Election
4 July: The Azerbaijani Central Election Commission (CEC) formally registers Ilham Aliyev, the son of incumbent President Geidar Aliyev, as a candidate in the presidential election scheduled for the October 15th presidential election. Five opposition CEC members vote against the registration, with one member arguing that Ilham Aliyev is not eligible to run for president because he holds dual citizenship (Azerbaijani and Turkish) and is facing criminal charges in the United States. The ruling Yeni Azerbaycan Party has already nominated Heidar Aliev as a presidential candidate. The CEC also registers as a presidential candidate Ikhtiyar Shirin of the National Statehood Party, and accepts four other presidential nominations, bringing the total number of registered candidates to eleven.
Baku Police Disperse Protest in Support of Rejected Azerbaijani Presidential Candidate
5 July: Police in Baku forcibly disperse an unauthorized demonstration by several hundred supporters of Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADR) Chairman Rasul Guliev. Initial reports indicate that over fifty party activists are detained and several injured. The ADR pledges to continue staging protests following the Central Election Commission's recent decision to deny registration of Guliev as a presidential candidate.
Azerbaijani and Georgian Security Ministers Meet and Sign Cooperation Agreement
9-10 July: Azerbaijani National Security Minister Namig Abbasov meets with Georgian State Security Minister Valeri Khaburzania met in the western Azerbaijani city of Gandja. The two ministers discuss cooperation in the fight against terrorism, aggressive separatism, organized crime, drug trafficking, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction, and sign a protocol on cooperation. The protocol specifically mentions joint measures to protect the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan oil-export pipeline currently under construction. The first oil is expected to flow via that pipeline in early 2005.
Turkish Interior Minister Meets with Azerbaijani Officials in Baku
10 July: Turkish Minister of Internal Affairs Abdulkadir Aksu meets with senior Azerbaijani officials in Baku during an official visit to Azerbaijan. The Turkish interior minister reaffirms the Turkish government's close alliance with Azerbaijan and stresses the need for stability and security in the country. Aksu briefs the officials on Turkish measures to combat narcotics trafficking and to prevent the proliferations of small arms in the region. He also commends the Azerbaijani government for its commitment to combat the outlawed Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) and calls for greater bilateral coordination in the fight against terrorism. Azerbaijan Interior Minister Ramil Usubov adds that Turkey continues to serve as the model for Azerbaijan in every area, including the modernization of the Azerbaijan army. Commenting on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and Turkey's relations with Armenia, the minister seeks to reassure his hosts by stating that the Turkish position remains unaltered in support of Baku, adding that "the ongoing Armenian occupation of Nagorno-Karabakh is threatening peace and stability of the Caucasus." Some Azerbaijani officials are concerned over recent reports that Turkey was seeking to improve its relations with Armenia.
Council of Europe Legal Experts in Azerbaijan
12 July: The Council of Europe's "Ago Group," led by Piero Ercole Ago, meets with Azerbaijani Parliamentary Speaker Murtuz Aleskerov during a visit to Baku. The head of the "Ago Group" informs the speaker that the Council of Europe feels strongly that the Central Election Commission has failed to conform with the proposals presented by the Council of Europe designed to ensure that the approaching presidential election set for October are free and fair. The Council of Europe officials express serious concern that both the Central Election Commission's chairman and deputy chairman are members of the same pro-government party and suggest that the Commission's composition fails to accurately reflect the political reality by excluding a fair number of opposition members. The delegation also reminds senior Azerbaijani officials of their commitment to establishing a balanced National State Television and Radio Council. The Council of Europe delegation also meets with leaders of several major opposition political parties during their visit to Baku.
OSCE Delegation Reviews Election Preparations
11-13 July: A delegation of officials from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe's (OSCE) Office of Democratic Institutions and Human Right Organization (ODIHR) led by chairman Nikolai Vulchanov meets with the Azerbaijani Central Election Commission in Baku. The OSCE delegation begins to review of the country's new electoral code but immediately voiced concern over the composition of the Central Election Commission, bolstering similar criticism articulated by the Council of Europe's "Ago Group."
Supreme Court Rejects Opposition Bid for Presidential Candidacy
14 July: The Azerbaijani Supreme Court rules against a motion by the opposition Democratic Party of Azerbaijan (ADP) seeking to register its exiled leader, former parliament speaker Rasul Guliev, as its candidate in the 15 October presidential election. The opposition party was petitioning the court to overturn a decision by the Central Election Commission declaring Guliev ineligible as a candidate. The head of the Baku office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), Peter Burkhardt, expresses concern over the ruling. Guliev, a former deputy prime minister as well as parliamentary speaker before resigning in 1996, faces outstanding criminal charges of corruption and embezzlement pending in Azerbaijan. Although Guliev fled Azerbaijan and lives in self-imposed exile in the U.S. to evade the charges, he continues to lead the opposition DPA and seen by some as one of the most formidable opponents to the 80-year old President Geidar Aliyev.
Council of Europe Officials Review Situation in Azerbaijan
14 July: A delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), led by Andreas gross and Martinez Kassan, meets with Azerbaijani officials in Baku. The PACE officials review the Azerbaijani government's progress in fulfilling its obligations to confirm to Council of Europe standards. Kassan and Gross are to present a report to the Council of Europe on specific aspects of the country's electoral code and the status of political prisoners, both issues of serious concern to the European delegation.
Pro-Government Party Opens Campaign Office for Ilham Aliyev
15 July: The Social Prosperity Party opens a campaign office in Baku in support of the candidacy of Ilham Aliyev in the 15 October presidential election. According to Hussein Kyazymly, the leader of the small pro-government party, the new office and its staffing with several dozen campaign volunteers is part of a larger effort to elect Ilham Aliyev that includes organized campaigning in several key regions in the country. The Social Prosperity Party formally endorsed the younger Aliyev at a party congress on 5 July, one day after he was formally registered by the Central Election Commission. Although the candidate's father, incumbent President Geidar Aliyev, remains a candidate in the presidential election, some elements of the government's traditional power base have expressed support for the younger Aliyev. The 80-year old president's fragile health and his recent return to a Turkish military hospital in recent days have contributed to the rather unexpected candidacy of his son.
Deputy Foreign Minister Continues Talks in Iran
15 July: Arriving in Tehran, Azerbaijani Deputy Foreign Minister Khalaf Khalafov continues negotiations with Iranian officials attempting to resolve the disputed determination of the legal status and division of the Caspian Sea. The deputy foreign minister states that the negotiations are an important preliminary step prior to the summit of Caspian littoral states scheduled for Moscow at the end of the month. Khalafov has been handling the negotiations for the Azerbaijani side for some time, although the Iranian position on the Caspian has not significantly changed despite months of talks.
Azerbaijani Official Comments on U.S. Concern over Approaching Election
17 July: The head of the foreign relations department of the Azerbaijani presidential executive staff, Novruz Mammadov, states that the recent U.S State Department statement expressing concern over the upcoming presidential election was "normal" and merely reflects an interest in Azerbaijani affairs. The U.S. State Department specifically noted that although it does not hold "a position or support any particular candidate," it is concerned that the election be "conducted in accordance with the recently adopted unified election code, Azerbaijan's constitution and with international standards," including "registering all qualified candidates, permitting public debate, providing equal access to the media, and ensuring that the balloting is free and fair." The Azerbaijani official adds that the election will be free and fair and pledges the government's commitment to meeting international electoral standards.
Central Election Commission Certifies Azerbaijani President's Candidacy
18 July: Azerbaijan's Central Election Commission formally certifies the candidacy of President Geidar Aliyev for reelection in the presidential election set for October. Commission officials dismiss 1256 of the nearly 52,000 signed petitions in support of the candidacy before registering the incumbent president as the candidate of the "Yeni Azerbaican" Party (YAP).
President's Brother Warns against Speculation over President's Health
18 July: Jalal Aliyev, the brother of President Geidar Aliyev, announces that the president will return to Baku shortly and warns journalists that any speculation over his health is "immoral." The 80-year old Azerbaijani president has been undergoing unspecified medical treatments in Turkey's Gulhane military hospital in Ankara for several days.
Former President Denied Certification as Presidential Candidate
21 July: By a vote of 10 against and five in favor, the Central Election Commission (CEC) rejects an application submitted on behalf of former President Ayaz Mutalibov seeking to register as a candidate for October 15th presidential election. Commission Secretary Inglab Nasirov explains that Mutalibov's supporting documentation contained errors and that Mutalibov is registered as resident in Russia. Mutalibov was forced to resign as president in March 1992 and, after an abortive comeback attempt two months later, he sought refuge in Russia. The CEC postpones a discussion of whether rejected would-be presidential candidates are legally entitled to submit a second registration application.
Azerbaijani Intelligentsia Issues Appeal
30 July: In a statement released in Baku, Amal, a group representing the Azerbaijani intelligentsia, accuses the country's authorities of deliberately exacerbating domestic political tensions in order to create a pretext for police and military intervention in politics with the aim of neutralizing "influential opposition presidential candidates Ayaz Mutalibov and Rasul Guliev." The Central Election Commission has, however, refused to register either Guliev or Mutalibov as a candidate for the 15 October presidential election. Amal calls on the OSCE, the Council of Europe, and the U.S. State Department to take unspecified urgent measures to stabilize the situation in Azerbaijan. Amal Chairman Halid Alimirzoev attributes the recent detentions of journalists and opposition activists to the power vacuum that has emerged as a result of President Aliev's incapacitation, adding that police in rural areas are pressuring opposition sympathizers and threatening to steal their cattle and burn their crops.
Interior Minister Comments on Journalists' Detention
30 July: In a meeting with Aflatun Amashov, chairman of the Press Council, and Arif Aliev, head of the Yeni Nesil journalists' union, Interior Minister Ramil Usubov expresses "regret" over the illegal detention of a number of prominent journalists, including his two interlocutors, a few days earlier. Admitting that the detentions may have been ordered by a senior ministry official, Usubov pledges to investigate the incident and punish those responsible.
Azerbaijani Traffic Police Target Opposition Party Leader
30 July: Traffic police halt a car escorting Azerbaijan National Independence Party Chairman Etibar Mamedov in Baku and detain the driver and three passengers. Cars escorting Azerbaijani Popular Front leader Ali Kerimli and Musavat Party Chairman Isa Gambar have also been halted on several occasions in recent weeks for allegedly violating traffic regulations.
Republic of Nagorno Karabagh
4,800 sq. km
Slightly smaller than Delaware
31 persons/sq. km
5% Assyrian, Greek,
|Leadership: Arkady Gukasyan, President; Anushevan Danielian, Prime Minister; Ashot Ghulian, Foreign Minister; Oleg Yessayan, Parliamentary Chairman, Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan.|
Independence: The Republic of Nagorno Karabagh was established on September 2, 1991 and declared its independence on January 6, 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. Hovanes Guevorkian is the representative of Nagorno Karabagh in France. Vardan Barseghian is the representative of the Office of the Nagorno Karabagh Republic in the United States.
Karabagh President Reiterates Offer to Negotiate with Azerbaijan
1 July: Nagorno Karabagh President Arkady Gukasyan reiterates his long standing proposal to participate in talks between Armenia and Azerbaijan on resolving the Nagorno Karabagh conflict. Azerbaijan has steadfastly refused to consider Nagorno Karabagh a party to the conflict, however.
EU Special Representative Rules out Direct Involvement in Nagorno Karabagh Conflict
11 July: Recently appointed European Union (EU) special representative for the South Caucasus Heikki Talvitie announces in Yerevan that he is not empowered to engage the Nagorno Karabakh conflict settlement process. The Finnish diplomat adds that, if needed, he would be willing to contribute to the OSCE Minsk Group's mediation effort, but stresses that "the solution to the conflict should be found in the region and international organizations can only promote implementation of agreements achieved." The EU special envoy to the South Caucasus served as co-chairman of the OSCE Minsk Group in 1995-1996.
Armenian and Karabakh Foreign Ministers Sign Protocol
30 July: Armenian Foreign Minister Vardan Oskanian and Nagorno Karabagh Foreign Minister Ashot Ghulian formally sign a new five-year cooperation agreement between the two foreign ministries. The signing ceremony is timed with a session of the Karabagh parliament marking the tenth anniversary of the establishment of the Nagorno Karabakh Foreign Ministry. Nagorno Karabagh National Assembly Speaker Oleg Yessayan, Deputy Prime Minister Yurii Gazaryan, and Defense Minister Seyran Ohanyan each speak at the ceremony. Armenian Foreign Minister Oskanian states that "it is time the international community recognized Nagorno Karabagh's de facto independence," adding that the process of negotiating a settlement of the Karabakh conflict has been suspended due to "objective reasons," including uncertainty over the health of 80-year-old Azerbaijani President Geidar Aliyev and the outcome of the Azerbaijani presidential election scheduled for October.
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