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May 22, 2009

1. Gloomy forecast: IMF predicts deeper decline, slow recovery for
Armenia's economy**

2. Politics in Eurovision: The contest is over, but not the debates

3. No cinema, no medical center: Crisis freezes large construction
projects in Vanadzor

**4.** Grow roots: While peace process goes on, Karabakh focuses on
demographic and social issues

5. Frontrunners and Underdogs: Different forces solve different
tasks in Yerevan elections **

6. **Reality Check: How real are the "roadmap" and "basic ideas"

7. Weathering the Storm: Statistics don't lie**

8. Chemical concerns: Nairit workers' lingering questions over
explosion at their plant

9. Eurovision 2009, the Debate continues: the rich vocal of Arshakyan
sisters fails to eclipse the gloomy performance and gothic make up

10. No trespassing: Opening of National Assembly park still debated

11. Nocturnal display: Museums in Armenia offer free late evening
entrance as part of international campaign **

12. Striking a balance: Turkish journalists in Armenia to promote
information exchange **

13. Sport: Armenia hosting AIBA world junior boxing championships

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1. Gloomy forecast: IMF predicts deeper decline, slow recovery for
Armenia's economy

By Sara Khojoyan

ArmeniaNow reporter

Armenia will see an even deeper slump in economy and a slow recovery
process, according to a forecast by specialists of an international

Deputy Director of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for the Middle East
and Central Asia Ratna Sahay and Head of the IMF mission to Armenia Mark
Lewis in the report called 'Regional Economic Outlook' predicted the highest
decline in Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for Armenia during the upcoming
years, and the slowest recovery process.

The IMF report included forecasts for eight countries in the Caucasus and
Central Asian regions, including Armenia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Kyrgyzstan,
Tajikistan, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Among these countries Armenia will register the biggest decline in economic
growth. Moreover, the IMF has revised and presented a more negative outlook
for Armenia.

Thus, whereas in March it predicted a three percent fall, now thÅ negative
prediction reached 5 percent. Moreover, only Armenia and Kazakhstan (2
percent decline) have a negative economic growth prediction among the
regional countries. According to the IMF, Azerbaijan is likely to have a 2.5
percent growth and Georgia's economy is likely to grow by only one percent.

According to the same forecasts, next year Armenia will at best manage to
post a zero growth, while Azerbaijan's economy is likely to expand by 12.3
percent and Georgia's by 3 percent.

Manuk Hergnyan, head of the Economy and Values research center, explains
such a negative forecast for Armenia mostly by the dependence of Armenia's
economy on Russia's.

"Since quite negative predictions are made this year for all the spheres in
Russia (oil market, financial sector), the prognosis for largely
Russia-dependent Armenia's economy is as negative," says Hergnyan,
emphasizing that Armenia, most probably, won't avoid economic recession, and
by the most optimistic scenario will show positive indicators in 2010 only.

In conditions of the 6.1 percent GDP fall in Armenia in the first quarter of
the year, the IMF predictions seem quite real. A few weeks ago, Armenian
Economy Minister Nerses Yeritsyan considered this fall to be irreversible
due to the rules of economics.

"History shows that it will, in fact, be very difficult to turn back the 6.1
percent decline in GDP during the first quarter of the year," said Yeritsyan
in presenting his personal estimation rather and avoiding making

The economy minister considers the funds that Armenia expects to receive
starting in July, as well as livelier economic activities in summer months
as possible means for alleviating the GDP fall.

As Mark Lewis estimates, the abrupt fall in construction and mining industry
will further deepen the economic crisis.

According to the economic showings for January-March 2009 posted by the
National Statistical Service, the highest reduction during the first quarter
of the year was registered in construction - 21.9 percent.

As for the mining industry, a 11.4 percent fall was registered during the
first quarter of the year, even though during January-March more copper and
molybdenum ore was produced than during the same period of the previous

Artak Baghdasaryan, head of the department for economic policy and strategy
development at the Armenian Ministry of Economy, told ArmeniaNow that the
IMF forecast is based on the current indicators, however, they are expected
to change for the better, taking into consideration the measures taken by
the government.

"It'd be quite difficult to say how realistic the predicted minus 5 percent
is - equally difficult either to deny or to confirm. The forecast is based
on the current trends, however, anti-crisis projects are being initiated now
to overcome all that, including major investment projects in road
construction, energy production, which can spur and alter the situation,"
says Baghdasaryan.

In Hergnyan's assessment, there isn't much the government can do about the
mining industry, as in that sphere the international market prices for
nonferrous metal are decisive.

"In the construction field the government has more flexibility, and the plan
to establish a mortgage fund can be viewed as an important initiative. The
issue here is that in order to succeed the level of construction has to be
increased countrywide, on the other hand, though, the government resources
are limited," he says.

"Allocation of handsome amount of money to construction would limit the
chances to finance other stragetic and innovative fields. In the long run,
it's better to direct finances to other spheres, in order to diversify the
Armenian economy, which has a low level of diversification," adds Hergnyan.

Nonetheless, he is convinced that it won't be possible to create diversified
economy in Armenia in three years, despite Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan's
statement on doing so.

"The fundamental reasons preventing Armenia from having a diversified
economy would not be possible to change in three years," says Hergnyan.

Head of the 'Polit-economy' Research Center Andranik Tevanyan says that the
state must take steps to maintain economic activeness in these two spheres.

"Initial steps have been taken in these spheres: 20 billion drams (about
$53.5 m) have been allocated as credit guarantee for construction companies,
and the same amount is envisaged for the mortgage market: it may contain the
slump in construction," says the economist.

The Government has also allocated credit totaling $10 million to the mining
industry, mainly to the Kajaran Copper-Molybdenum Plant.

However, Tevanyan doubts economic recovery in the mining industry and
construction may be enough for reviving Armenia's economy.

"I would not take into consideration only these two components; there is a
decrease in total consumption, as well as a 25 percent reduction in cash
remittances from abroad compared to the same period last year, which results
in a falling solvent demand," says Tevanyan.

"If payments are decreased, it is natural that inflation should slow down,"
says Tevanyan, considering the 0.7 percent inflation posted by the
statistics service for the first quarter of 2008 credible. "Meanwhile, in
terms of boosting the economy, it is better for people to have at least
small incomes and see prices rising, than not to have incomes and see a
reduction in prices."

As a result of the deepening impact of the crisis, consumer prices are
expected to rise this year and beyond. The IMF predicts a 3.6 percent
consumer price inflation this year, and a 7.2 percent inflation for 2010.

Experts say reforming tax and budget policy as a main means for overcoming
the crisis.

Tevanyan says that the current tax and budget policy is one of the main
obstacles for economic development in Armenia.

"The 2009 budget was increased by $700 million compared to 2008 on the basis
of the then exchange rate of 305 drams per one US dollar. This is mainly
thanks to companies, particularly small and medium-sized enterprises," says
the economist. "As decline has been registered in the economy, the main
burden of filling the budget will be put on taxpayers."

"And even though the tax rates have not been increased, it is already being
done through imposing fines on economic entities, like those imposed for not
giving receipts to customers," adds Tevanyan.

************************************* ***************************************

2. Politics in Eurovision: The contest is over, but not the debates

Aris Ghazinyan

ArmeniaNow reporter

Some episodes of backstage life of Eurovision-2009 held in Russian capital
Moscow last week can develop into a real political scandal. Last Saturday
saw a grand finale of this popular pan-European song contest in which
Armenia was voted by the continent's viewers and national juries into the
top ten among 25 finalists.

But the scandal had already burst out with no connection to the outcome of
the contest. Not surprisingly, the Armenian-Azerbaijani standoff has stepped
onto the show biz domain. Azerbaijan, the eventual third place finisher in
the contest, that set the row going.

It started in the buildup to the final when, under pressure from
Azerbaijan's Foreign Ministry, the organizing committee of the contest
removed the image of the monument by Armenian sculptor Sargis Baghdasaryan
called "We Are Our Mountains", one of the symbols of Nagorno-Karabakh, from
the presentation video preceding the performance by the Armenian duo. The
Azeri Foreign Ministry declared that the monument is located in the
territory of Nagorno-Karabakh =80 "an integral part of Azerbaijan". The
organizing committee of Eurovision, trying to avoid a scandal, immediately
accepted Baku's argument.

Nonetheless, the scandal was inevitable.

The Union of Armenians in Russia made a statement: "For a wonder, that
absurd demand was met. Even if we disregard the fact that it is a major
violation of the contest rules and infringes upon the contestants' rights,
the mere fact that the organizers were ready to fall so easily for the
ridiculous reasoning brought by the Azeri side famous for its Armenophobia
(fear of Armenians) is perplexing."

While presenting the results of the Armenia tele-voting, singer Sirusho was
demonstratively holding a clipboard with the image of the monument on its
back, which she exposed to viewing several times. During the presentation of
the Armenia vote tallies broadcast live from Yerevan, the image of the
monument could also be seen on a background screen.

Azerbaijan was quick to react. Political analyst Fuad Akhundov stated: "That
monument, installed in 1997, is quite conspicuous by itself. Meant to depict
elderly people "grown into earth" who themselves as if have become
mountains, but built with rose tufa stone brought from Yerevan is a perfect
demonstration of how Armenian ultranationalists have been and are still
trying to catch hold of a foreign land and present it as theirs."

It is noteworthy, however, that the Azeris are winking at a different fact.

It turned out that the presentation video preceding the Azeri participants'
act had a picture of the Mausoleum of Poets in the Iranian city of Tabriz.
The Mausoleum of Poets is where many Iranian poets, scientists, visionaries
are buried, including Hagani Shirvani, Asadi Tusi, Gatran Tebrizi,
Shahriyar. The Mausoleum has an unusual design: it is an underground hall
with modernist structure built on top of it. There used to be a traditional
dome instead, but it collapsed in consequence of an earthquake. The
tombstones with the mosaic depictions of poets are in the underground hall.

Azerbaijan has always made claims for the northern part of Iran (Iranian
Azerbaijan), calling its capital Tebriz "an ancient Azeri city" and by that
evoking a hostile reaction from Iranian authorities.

The Armenian side has already turned to the Iranian Embassy in Yerevan
inviting its attention to the presence of the Iranian architectural complex
in the Azeri participants' presentation video.

Young people started sending messages to Iranian mass media saying that
while blaming others Azerbaijan itself appropriated Iran's cultural

The Iranian Embassy has taken interest in that message and intends to ask
for explanations from the contest organizers.

It became known that Azerbaijan did not broadcast the Armenian contestants'
number so that nobody could vote for Armenia. And that is a major violation
of contest rules.

For example, in 2005 Lebanon's television networks could not assure that
they would broadcast the entire contest, including the Israeli entry,
without interruption, citing Lebanese legislation prohibiting the broadcast
of Israeli content and decided to withdraw. But they were given a three year
ban since they withdrew almost three months after the 'no consequence'
withdrawal deadline.

According to the head of the voting project of Armenia's Public TV Ruben
Muradyan, "a complaint with a demand to penalize Azerbaijan's broadcaster
has been sent to the organizing committee of Eurovision-2009". Muradyan
says that if found at fault, Azerbaijan will face at least a fine, and
possibly disqualification.

Consequently, given the consistent steps on Armenia's part, Azerbaijan might
face sanctions imposed by the organizers of Eurovision.

The repercussions of Eurovision-2009 might still produce a loud political
echo in the region...

It should be noted that there were conflicts between the Armenians and Azeri
last year as well, when the duet with Samir Javadzadze (native of
Nagorno-Karabakh) and El'nur Guseinov was representing Azerbaijan at
Eurovision-2008, and Sirusho was representing Armenia.

Right after the end of the contest in Belgrade, where Armenia finished
fourth, and Azerbaijan eighth, Javadzadze stated: "The fact that Azerbaijan
is four steps below Armenia has upset us most of all. I am from Karabakh.
Even if this is just a contest, still, they are our enemies. After the
finale, we couldn't calm down till morning =80 we couldn't stop crying."

"Most of all Armenians wanted to infuriate us and get in our way. They were
laughing at us, making remarks and even offended one of the members of our
delegation during a dinner, but then calmed down. It's a trait
characteristic of their nation, it's their national peculiarity =80 they are
Armenian, that says it all. They have to demonstrate their bad manners in

It was then that the Azeri structures promised "to gain a victory over
Armenia in Eurovision-2009". El'nur Guseinov openly declared: "I am
convinced that next year Azerbaijan won't be facing this problem anymore.
Our country has collected enough information about the contest."

******************************** ********************************************

3. No cinema, no medical center: Crisis freezes large construction
projects in Vanadzor

By Naira Bulghadaryan

ArmeniaNow Vanadzor reporter

The construction of a new medical-rehabilitation center in the center of
Vanadzor was to have been completed in May and the construction works of the
cinema were to have started at the beginning of the year.

But the global economic crisis upset all the plans in the third largest town
of Armenia and the works over two construction projects have stopped now.

Tigran Papanyan, Head of the Town Planning and Architectural Department of
Vanadzor's Municipality, says that the crisis, in fact, entered Vanadzor
with all its manifestations and consequences.

"There was an agreement that construction works would start as soon as the
weather gets warmer. But later we found out that they cannot start the works
because of the crisis. And there is no hope that the works will start till
autumn," Papanyan says, referring to his conversation with the owner of the
'Paradise' Company about the construction of the cinema in the town's
central 'Artsakh' park.

Yet three years ago - in 2006, the authorities of Vanadzor sold half of the
'Artsakh' park to 'Moscow Cinema' LLC belonging to 'Paradise" company (which
owns the Moscow Cinema House in Yerevan). They hoped that three years later
the territory would turn into a theatre area, with a cinema halls and a
well-preserved park.

'Paradise' promised residents of Vanadzor that they would construct two
halls - a big one (with 250 seats) and a small one (with 50 seats), and that
they would be provided with modern digital equipments.

Martun Adoyan, General Manager of 'Moscow Cinema' LLC, says that the crisis
upset everything. "We should have already started the works connected with
the land, but we can probably start them only in autumn," says Adoyan.

He adds that even if they do not manage to lay down the foundation of the
cinema in autumn, then in spring, next year, they will do everything
possible to carry out works connected with the land.

Construction stopped also in the territory not far from the park. Workers
were last time seen in the construction site of the medical-rehabilitation
center at the end of last year.

Papanyan connects this with the crisis, too; whereas the owner of the center
and the land, a businessman from Yerevan, Rafael Manucharyan, stopped the
construction for reasons other than the crisis.

He says that the construction of the center is not his only business, and
that he will manage to finish the construction works till the end of this
year. Under the construction permit, Manucharyan was supposed to finish it
this month. But taking into consideration the fact that the construction
works started almost six months later, the deadline was also postponed by
half a year.

Though it is already a year since the construction works of the center in
the 600 sq. meter territory started, even the roof of the three-storied
building isn't ready yet. Papanyan, referring to the 'Armenian Law on Urban
Development' says that the constructor has the right to finish the work even
two years after the fixed deadline.

People in Vanadzor, however, hope that the incomplete construction projects
in their town, whose suspension is mainly blamed on the world crisis, one
day will eventually be finished.

Owners of elite construction projects in the center of the town are also

Arthur Vardanyan, Head of 'Vipmerg' LLC, suspended construction
indefinitely. However, he does not lose hope to resume work soon.

"The crisis has affected construction," say Vanadzor Municipality
representatives, citing the auction statistics.

Papanyan brings as an example the recent auction announced by the
Municipality. Only two of the 17 auctioned lots were sold.

"There was no one wishing to participate in the auctions for those 15 lots,"
says Papanyan and adds that previously there were only one or two lots left
without bidders. Now the situation is completely different, even though the
auction prices are rather low.

Though looking for ways to end the crisis, the Vanadzor municipality has
decided to increase tenfold the price of land of up to 100 square meters in
order to fill the local budget. Otherwise, the economic crisis would hit
hard the town's budget as well.


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4. Grow roots: While peace process goes on, Karabakh focuses on
demographic and social issues**

Naira Hairumyan

ArmeniaNow Karabakh reporter

Every time after the co-chairs of the OSCE Minsk group on the Karabakh issue
settlement make statements that the Armenian armed forces have to withdraw
from the territories surrounding the former Autonomous Region of Nagorno
Karabakh, the authorities of the Nagorno-Karabakh Republic visit either
Kashatagh (former Lachin) or Shahumyan (former Kelbajar) regions.

Despite the confidentiality of the negotiations, it is well known that
Azerbaijan is demanding the return of all the seven regions, however, the
mediators are more inclined to see the two of the regions - Kashatagh and
Shahumyan - under Armenian control. Armenia isn't making any official
statements in this regard, and Karabakh insists on preserving its
territorial integrity.

Early in May, following the Prague meeting of the leaders of Armenia and
Azerbaijan, the head of the Karabakh government called an urgent session
during which the unsatisfactory rate of the Shahumyan region's development
was discussed.

The NKR jurisdiction proclaimed in 1991 applies to the 12,000 sq km area,
only 4.4 thousand sq km of which makes former ARNK- a part of the
Azerbaijani SSR before the collapse of the Soviet Union. The future of the
regions around the former ARNK, consolidated in the Constitution of the NKR
as a part of the state territory, is being disputed in the course of

After the conclusion of armistice in 1994, the now disputed territories were
gradually made habitable. However, until now they are in deplorable
condition: the infrastructures destroyed during the three-year war, the
housing resources are in need of major reconstruction which in its turn
needs major investment. Such investment is promised by international
organizations and the mediating countries but only after the withdrawal of
Karabakh Armenian armed forces and placement of peacekeepers instead.
Karabakh is not in favor of that option and is trying to handle the recovery
of those regions on its own.

"It is not Azerbaijan's territory, and the sooner the political powers of
the neighboring country recognize that, the sooner the final settlement of
the issue will be reached," said NKR president Bako Sahakyan on May 9 in
Stepanakert. NKR parliament factions released a statement saying that the
territorial integrity of Nagorno Karabakh, as provided for by its
Constitution, is not subject to bargaining.

By the NKR government decree a standing commission on development and
implementation of demographic policy was created in February 2009. At the
first session of that commission the concept paper of the state demographic
policy was discussed. According to its author, Minister of Social Welfare
Narine Azatyan, NKR's demographic policy is also aimed at migration control
particularly referring to the settlement of the territories.

The repatriation program started in Karabakh in 1995, right after the
establishment of the ceasefire regime. Ever since people who had lost their
homes and belongings in Azerbaijan as a result of the war, have been moving
to Karabakh as well as those who wanted to live in their ancestors' land.
There are people wanting to move to Karabakh now as well, with immigration
requests from Georgia, Russia, Middle Eastern countries, and Greece. The NKR
Ministry of Social Welfare says they are considering those applications and
once the mechanisms for implementation of the Concept of Demographic
Development are specified, Karabakh will be able to accept the applicants.

As Azatyan says, the scale of aid to the repatriates is being reconsidered.
In particular, it's been determined to allocate 1 million drams ($2,700) to
a migrant family through benefits, loans, equipment, instead of the current
200-230 thousand drams ($540-620).

The migration process in Karabakh during the past 15 years has had its ups
and downs.

Up to 12,000 people currently reside in the Kashatagh region alone. In 2008,
47 families (462 people) moved to the region. The reason for such a low rate
of settling this land famous for its favorable conditions for agribusiness
is the lack of proper roads, housing, electricity and water.

In 2008, Kashatagh farmers were given up to 70 million drams ($190,000) in
agricultural loans, due to which 9,500 hectares of fields were sowed. In
2009, 16 irrigation channels are to be restored with public funds,
agricultural equipment will be leased. Two multi-apartment residential
buildings are being constructed in the regional center Berdzor, 10 houses
for large families with many children have been built.

There are those who are willing to move to these lands even now, but
Karabakh authorities have decided not to rush with the settlement and rather
take their time to create conditions for people, so that they could earn
their own living.

The fact that when meeting the authorities people raise social rather than
political issues speaks about one thing - both those who want to move to
these lands and those who are already residing there are not afraid of the
rumors on the withdrawal of those lands from under the control of the
Armenian armed forces.

Nonetheless, international structures prefer not to work on these lands.
Several Diaspora organizations are operating here, assisting the residents
of these lands with humanitarian aid.

Both the administration of the region and the NKR authorities, however,
admit that humanitarian aid alone is not sufficient to achieve full
absorption of these lands.

**************************************** ************************************

5. Frontrunners and Underdogs: Different forces solve different tasks in
Yerevan elections

By Gayane Lazarian

ArmeniaNow reporter

For the third week political parties taking part in the Yerevan City Council
elections have been holding their election campaigns, using all the 'playing
cards' at their disposal to reach the desirable victory.

Analyst Andranik Tevanyan, Head of the "Polit-economy" Research Center, says
the main players will be the Republican Party, the Armenian National
Congress (ANC), the Prosperous Armenia Party, and the Armenian Revolutionary
Federation (ARF) Dashnaktsutyun.

"After May 31 a new political situation will be created in Armenia," he

Do these elections have a political significance for all forces? According
to Tevanyan, for the ANC these elections have super-political significance;
however the same ANC promoted its de-politicization. The thing is, as
Tevanyan says, that addressing his supporters at a rally on May 1, the eve
of the start of the electioneering stage, touching upon many important
issues for Armenia, ex-president Levon Ter-Petrosyan, who is now the ANC's
top candidate in Yerevan elections, gave his consent to the Armenian
authorities in this respect.

"I want to mention that the ANC, excluding one organization that makes part
of it, is for Armenian-Turkish relations to be settled as early as possible,
and the ANC is ready to support all the positive steps taken by the Armenian
authorities in this respect. Our only objection refers to the creation of a
commission consisting of Armenian and Turkish historians for the study of
the Armenian Genocide, because we do believe that it means nothing else than
rejecting the Armenian Genocide," Ter-Petrosyan said.

The most recent developments have proved that the current failure of the
negotiations on Armenian-Turkish normalization is a result of the foreign
policy being carried out by the Armenian authorities, says Tevanyan, who
believes the fact that already during May 15 rally Ter-Petrosyan hurried to
distance himself from that process was not accidental.

"[President Serzh] Sargsyan feels cheated like a child. He was told to "give
up the [recognition of] the Genocide," that is to say, to agree to the
creation of a commission of Armenian and Turkish historians, and they will
open the border. They got [a concession on] the Genocide, but did not open
the border. And now they say "give up Karabakh, and we will open the
border." No other head of state has found himself in such a miserable
situation," the ex-leader asserted.

Tevanyan believes that the ANC response is late.

"They consider the problem of overtaking state power to be primary, but in
order to politicize the problem of overtaking state power, it is necessary
to be a clear 'opponent' of the authorities concerning the issues of
Armenia's national security. But if you are not an 'opponent,' it turns out
that there is a struggle for getting the power. The ideological struggle is
forced out, and a paradoxical situation is created," says Tevanyan.

However, the sections of the public that needs changes see the possibility
of a power change only with the help of Ter-Petrosyan, says Tevanyan. He
Tevanyan believes that Dashnaktsutyun may have placed a serious political
claim over Armenian-Turkish relations by resigning from the governing
coalition; however the short period is not enough for the public to perceive
ARF as an alternative force. Dashnaktsutyun is trying to politicize the
elections; however it does not raise the issue of a power change, the
analyst says.

According to the analyst, the Republican Party has the problem of getting 40
and more percent of votes to govern Yerevan single-handedly, in which case
it will be possible to make changes in the ruling coalition.

"Prosperous Armenia and [the other junior coalition partner] Orinats Yerkir
have to restrain their ambitions and rely on the generosity of President
Sargsyan. In the event of a landslide victory, the Republicans may even stop
consulting their coalition counterparts altogether," predicts Tevanyan.

The analyst doubts Orinats Yerkir will even manage to clear the seven
percent hurdle to get into the 65-seat municipal assembly, because, as he
says, the party lacks an electorate as such.

During the presidential elections this force relied on representatives of
small and medium-sized businesses, whom it betrayed later by subscribing to
the economic policy of the force it opposed.

"Prosperous Armenia has some claims to that sector. They voted against the
tax package in parliament, they opposed cash registers. The aim of
Prosperous Armenia is to get as many votes as possible in order not to let
the Republican Party to win by a landslide. And Prosperous Armenia's next
goal, if they manage to achieve the primary goal, is to try to strengthen
its position in the governing coalition," says Tevanyan.

As for Dashnaktsutyun, the analyst believes that it will try to clear the
seven-percent hurdle, and with the help of these elections will try to
create its image of an alternative player. The People's Party, and the Labor
Socialist Party of Armenia will settle their local issues. Tigran
Karapetyan (People's Party) may even get more votes than Orinats Yerkir,
adds Tevanyan.

The analyst mentions that the victory of ANC is definitely getting 40 and
more percent of votes.

"If they do not have power in Yerevan, in any case it is already a defeat
for them, because the issue of power change will not be settled again. And
if Ter-Petrosyan's team wins, in fact, we will have two powers, and I do not
exclude that early elections will be held," says Tevanyan. "And if the
Republicans achieve an outright victory, we will pass to a 'Turkmenbashi'
system -stagnation."

In this respect the analyst believes that ARF, Prosperous Armenia and ANC
are 'strategic partners' in not allowing vote riggings, because it is not
favorable for them if the Republican Party sweeps the elections.

"But apart from this, each contestant has its own interest. The ANC cannot
make a coalition with Prosperous Armenia, Dashnaktsutyun, and, especially
with the Republican Party. As for other forces, I do not believe that they
will pass the barrier. And if the ANC does not win, serious vacuum will be
created not only within their team, but also in the political sphere and
especially in the opposition," he says.

Currently, the opposition Heritage Party, which is represented in
parliament, is detached from these processes. Tevanyan predicts that if
stagnation is formed in the opposition sector, Heritage will try to take the
flag of an alternative opposition.

"They are waiting. There is no concrete orientation yet. They got a field of
'maneuvering' between ANC and Dashnaktsutyun. In case of vacuum they are
likely to take up the banner. It is another question whether they will
manage to do that or not," Tevanyan says.

Tevanyan is sure that the new situation in Armenia after May 31 elections
will be determined especially by foreign policy developments.

"I think that beginning from June foreign pressures on the Armenian
authorities over Nagorno-Karabakh will increase. Possible vote rigging and
falsifications may multiply these pressures; however I am far from thinking
we will witness processes similar to those we had during the presidential
elections. Nevertheless, a new place will be opened in the opposition, and
there will be a struggle for this very place to figure out who the real
opposition opponent will be," Tevanyan says.

***************************************** ***********************************

6. **Reality Check: How real are the "roadmap" and "basic ideas"

A commentary by Jirair Haratunian

April and May have been months of intense diplomatic activity concerning
Armenia, Turkey and Azerbaijan, involving summitry among the presidents of
the three nations and a large measure of United States involvement at the
highest levels. As part of his first trip to Europe, President Barack Obama
spoke in Ankara with unusual candor about relations between Turkey and
Armenia, urging reconciliation and the opening of the border between the two
nations. Obama encouraged Turkey to face the dark pages of its history, but
he disappointed many Armenians by avoiding the Genocide label when
referencing the events of 1915.

In what appeared to be a choreographed series of announcements, Armenia and
Turkey agreed to a "roadmap" that established the parameters within which
they will negotiate the many issues that have kept the nations isolated from
one another.

The timing of the announcement, just two days before the April 24th
anniversary of the Armenian Genocide, caused widespread suspicion.

Was this a coincidence? Very unlikely, but it provided an excuse for
President Obama to once again refrain from using the word Genocide, this
time in his April 24th statement commemorating the 94th anniversary of the
Armenian Genocide.

The choreography continued during the meetings that quickly followed the
roadmap announcement. The first of the subsequent meetings was in
Washington, where Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, during separate
audiences with the respective Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan,
urged progress in the negotiations on Nagorno Karabakh.

This was followed by a summit in Prague, under the auspices of the
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), wherein
negotiators made a startling declaration that President Serzh Sargsyan of
Armenia and President Ilham Aliyev of Azerbaijan, had agreed to "Basic
Ideas," which are said to constitute the parameters within which the Nagorno
Karabakh negotiation process will proceed.

Predictably both the "Roadmap" and "Basic Ideas" announcements caused fierce
debate as well as resistance in both Yerevan and Baku. In Yerevan, the
Armenian Revolutionary Federation (ARF) party, objected to the Roadmap
agreement, demanded that its terms be made public and ultimately resigned
from the government coalition.

In turn, the opposition movement, led by former President Levon
Ter-Petrossian and the Heritage Party, also rejected the agreement
announcement. Ter-Petrossian challenged the legitimacy of the Sargsyan
Government to conduct reconciliation negotiations with Turkey and condemned
what he said was acceptance of Turkish demands that a commission of
historians be established to determine the validity of the Armenian
Genocide. He also claimed that a link between the Karabakh and Turkish
negotiations were now established in fact and that the core interests of
Armenia and Karabakh had been undermined.

The Sargsyan Government quickly denied that any preconditions exist in the
negotiations with Turkey and specifically asserted that there is no link
between the "roadmap" arrangements with Turkey and the resolution of the
Nagorno Karabakh problem.

In Baku, there was strong opposition to both agreements. Azerbaijani
officials and political observers denied the existence of a "Basic Ideas"
accord and opposed any end to the Turkish blockade of Armenia before the
Nagorno Karabakh problem is resolved.

Turkish reaction to Azerbaijan's objections were immediate. Prime Minister
Recep Tayyip Erdogan hurried to Baku and repeated over and over that Turkey
would not agree to open its border with Armenia until the Nagorno Karabakh
problem was resolved. He also promised that Baku's demands that all captured
territories be returned to Azerbaijan was fully supported by Ankara.

So where does that leave the status of "Road Map" and "Basic Ideas"? Clearly
their future is in serious jeopardy.

Erdogan insists that a Karabakh settlement is a precondition for the end of
Turkey's blockade of Armenia, while Aliyev insists that Azerbaijan's
sovereignty over Karabakh and all regions occupied by Armenian forces is not

In contrast to Azeri doubts, Yerevan sees signs of progress under the format
of the OSCE negotiations process. On May 16, Foreign Minister Edward
Nalbandian told a regional conference in Yerevan, "Our foreign policy
focuses on developing relations with neighboring countries in a way that
highlights common concerns and interests rather than differences and
disparities." He said that the two main security challenges facing Armenia
are "the peaceful and just resolution of the Nagorno Karabakh conflict and
the normalization of Turkish-Armenian relations."

Both of these objectives are commendable, however, resolving the complex
historic issues with Azerbaijan and Turkey requires more than the eloquent
expression of ideals. There will always be absolutists in each of the three
nations who will challenge any hint of compromise. To overcome internal and
external opposition the Armenian government needs to remain consistent in
pursuing its stated priorities, be flexible in confronting emerging
geopolitical circumstances and exercise a high level of diplomatic skill.
Success will require the support of the citizens of Armenia and Nagorno
Karabakh. They must have confidence in the fairness of any agreement. In the
end, it is their security and the future of their children that are at

************************************* *************************************

7. Weathering the Storm: Statistics don't lie**

By Richard Giragosian

Speaking at a 13 May conference organized by the Union of Industrialists and
Manufacturers, one of the largest business groups in Armenia, President
Serzh Sarkisian launched a spirited defense of his government's response to
the global economic crisis, minimizing the impact of the crisis on Armenia
and arguing that the economy is set to rebound.

President Sarkisian further argued that due to the government's "anti-crisis
response," the Armenian economy has been able to prevent any "serious
upheavals" through several "especially difficult months." Although
admitting that there were "perhaps visible mistakes," any errors were
quickly corrected and offset by undefined "important and hard work" by the
Armenian authorities.

Unfortunately for the Armenian president, the timing of his speech was not
particularly helpful, as his spirited defense of his government's policies
did little to reassure or refute professional economists at the
International Monetary Fund (IMF), who released their own far more critical
assessment of Armenia less than two days before Sarkisian's confident

The release of the 11 May IMF report details several systemic and unresolved
shortcomings in the Armenian response to the global economic and financial

Statistics don't lie

In general terms, the objective reality of statistics, as numbers without
commentary, is hard to ignore. In this sense, it is fair to say that
statistics don't lie; statistics tend to educate rather than evaluate, and
seek to reveal the full picture rather than obscure it. In economics, this
is perhaps even more true and, as nearly every government has found, are
nearly impossible to ignore.

For the Armenian economy, the statistical record of recent months has been
particularly bleak, with evident decreases in all categories, as several
years of double-digit economic growth have abruptly ended, exports and wages
have both contracted, while poverty and unemployment have only started to

But the discrepancy between the Armenian president's warm words of
reassurance and the cold reality of negative economic statistics raise a
more troubling concern, even beyond the question of sincerity or besides the
issue of who is lying.

More specifically, the Armenian authorities' lack of apparent recognition of
the economic reality provokes fear that this crisis, unlike the country's
earlier political crises, can not be overcome by political statements or
even by ordering a state of emergency. What is needed most, yet is most
absent today, is a state commitment to bolstering the social safety net for
the poor and more vulnerable of Armenian society. This crisis is not the
time to bailout oligarchs or their cartels and semi-monopolies. Rather, the
government must address the crisis honestly but sincerely, and adopt
adequate responses to the needs of the general population.

The imperative is to address the problem

>From that perspective, the imperative is to address the statistics. First,
as the IMF findings point out, the authorities should pursue targeted state
spending capable of aiding the poor and vulnerable groups through this
crisis, especially in light of the shortfall in remittances. Such a step
seems obvious, but after the February 2009 decision to provide $10 million
in state funding for a mining corporation in Syunik, the authorities should
rethink their priorities.

Second, there needs to be more emphasis on community-level development, and
opportunity, beyond a sole focus on business development. And the
government's plan to channel most of the $50 million in World Bank loans to
"small- and medium-sized businesses" through Armenia's commercial banks does
little to provide direct help to communities. The dubious nature and
obscure ownership of some of these "favored businesses" also casts further
doubt on the plan's capacity to create real economic opportunity or even
spur real job growth.

And finally, the authorities, for their own good, given the danger of
mounting socio-economic unrest, needs to recognize the hardship for ordinary
consumers. For the average Armenian consumers, the economic crisis has
generally been an abstract and far-away concern, but only until it impacts
their daily life.

But that impact on their life has started, especially as prices for water,
utilizes, gas and other basic commodities, including food, have begun to
rise significantly. Prices for electricity have risen by 20 percent, gas
prices by some 14 percent and more, as the Russian-set price of its gas is
set to surge by some 40 percent, and even the tariffs on water usage have
begun to rise.

Thus, given the deadly combination of falling living standards and rising
prices, the ordinary Armenian citizens, who are already somewhat
marginalized by the country's closed political system has little recourse
and no patron to protect them. And in terms of Armenian economics, it is
now time to accept that statistics don't lie, no matter how much politicians
may try to ignore that maxim.


R ichard Giragosian is the director of the Yerevan-based Armenian Center for
National and International Studies (ACNIS). "Weathering the Storm" is a
weekly column exclusively for ArmeniaNow.

*********************************** *****************************************

8. Chemical concerns: Nairit workers' lingering questions over explosion at
their plant

Karine Ionesyan

ArmeniaNow reporter

Eight days have passed since the explosion at Nairit plant LLC, however the
cause of the disaster that led to four deaths is still unknown.

On May 14 in late afternoon, a series of explosions rocked the Nairit
chemical plant, a Soviet-era industrial giant specialized in synthetic
rubber production, causing panic among residents in a southern suburb of
Armenian capital Yerevan.

Witnesses in neighborhoods in the area (the sprawling plant is located in
parts of the Shengavit and Noragavit districts of Yerevan and the village of
Aintap) say that the air blast broke the window glasses of nearby buildings
and as well as vehicles.

Early theories that still need corroboration by experts working to produce
an official version of the events blame faults in the technological process.
What is clear at the moment is that experts rule out foul play.

Meanwhile, workers say that different theories are circulating among the
plant staff, but the main reason, they think, is that the obsolete equipment
at the plant.

"They should have suspended the plant's operation and resumed it only after
a major and final renovation, because chemistry is perilous as it is, and
becomes more so when equipment gets old," says Seda Matinyan, 60, who has
been working at Nairit's synthetic rubber workshop next to the one where the
explosions occurred.

One of the Nairit employees, who asked not to disclose his identity, told
ArmeniaNow that often he went to the chloroprene workshop and talked to its
employees. "They kept telling me that there are hundreds of dangerous odds
and sods and they work with great difficulty trying to prevent damage.
Renovation was only cosmetic, because the administration is guided by the
principle of temporality, nobody is thinking of thoroughly repairing the

Other employees think that the administration was probably convinced that
the workshop was flawless, and thus didn't see the need to renovate.

"But the day came when everything came to such an end," says Juliet
Nahapetyan, 60, who left the ill-fated workshop just hours before the

She says that when they finished work that day everything was in order when
the next shift came to work, however, they themselves don't know what
happened afterwards. "We are back to work again, with grief in our hearts
for our men; why did it happen?" says the old woman with her hands

More professional explanation is suggested by Jilbert Muradyan, candidate of
chemical sciences, former head of the laboratory for rubber technologies at
the Nairit scientific center.

"The security level would be much higher if the workshop were renovated by
January 2008 the latest, as provided for by Government Decree #1131 of
August 18, 2006, and if a much safer and more profitable chemical element,
namely butadiene, was used as the base raw material, instead of acetylene
they are currently using. It should be noted that, in fact, in 1984 Nairit
did just that - replaced acetylene with butadiene. But in 1993 it had to
switch back as it wasn't possible to import butadiene because of the
economic blockade of those years," he says.

That hypothesis is under discussion among Nairit employees. "When dealing
with chemical production it is impossible to provide 100 percent safety,"
says Nairit's oldest worker Vardan Muradyan, 84.

"Everything would be different if the workshop had been renovated and if a
less dangerous butadiene were used in rubber production instead of the
highly explosive acetylene," says Ishkhan Vardanyan, 58, a senior scientific

There have been a number of discussions on whether the explosion
consequences are harmful for people's health and the environment.
Environmentalists express controversial opinions:

"It is natural that toxic gases were emitted into the atmosphere (Yerevan's
atmospheric pool), which is harmful. Acetylene itself is a narcotic
substance and affects eyesight, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems.
I don't think all of that can vanish from the air in a day and, besides, the
full consequences will yet come to light later," says chairman of the Green
Union of Armenia Hakob Sanasaryan.

Inga Zarafyan, head of the Ecolur information center, says she cannot give
an accurate assessment of the accident at the moment, but thinks that the
statements in connection with the accident by the Armenian Ministry of
Environmental Protection claiming that no negative changes have taken place
in the composition of the air, match the reality.

"We have been informed that there is another workshop, the explosion of
which could be much more hazardous. We are now thinking of monitoring it to
clarify how safe it is to operate Nairit when there can be a threat of
another explosion," she says.

The Nairit plant LLC press service reported that dismantling works, lead by
the director of the plant, his deputies and the head of the company
services, have started at the damaged workshop to render it completely
harmless. According to the preliminary assessment, the plant will have to
spend 20 million drams ($55,000) to complete the work.

Meanwhile, Nairit keeps operating, but is under a special regime until the
completion of the investigation process and of the plant's expert
commission's work.

The plant administration is planning to give financial support to the
families of the victims. Two bank accounts have been opened at Ararat Bank
for this purpose:

Dram account: 1510001664630100

Dollar account: 1510001664630101

Incidentally, a fire was reported at Nairit-2, a separate company involved
in research and laboratory work but situated in the same industrial area,
exactly a week after the explosions at the main factory. According to a
report by the information service of the Rescue Service of the Ministry of
Emergency Situation of Armenia, polyethylene items of 36 square meters had
been burned in a fire that had broke out at Nairit-2's polyethylene
production on Thursday evening. The company's own service reportedly managed
to fight the fire before the arrival of the rescue service firefighters who
later participated in "cooling" the place.

**************************************** **********************************

9. Eurovision 2009, the Debate continues: the rich vocal of Arshakyan
sisters fails to eclipse the gloomy performance and gothic make up

By Karine Ionesyan

ArmeniaNow reporter

The Eurovision Song Contest held in Moscow last Saturday caused a wave of
distress and frustration in Armenia, raising more questions and new
conjectures about the factual failure of Armenian singers on the most
popular European musical contest.

(And, while an IMF report paints a bleak future for the republic, while a
city council race is reshaping capital politics, and while the Speaker of
the House says amnesty is about to be declared for prisoners held in
connection with March 1, 2008 lawlessness - no topic is being more debated
in Armenia than Eurovision. Example: On its coverage of the contest outcome,
ArmeniaNow readers left more comments on the Eurovision article, than were
inspired in last year's presidential election coverage.)

Inga and Anush Arshakyan sisters took the 10th place among 25 finalists,
while before the contest many in Armenia believed that they would take the
highest position. Even the top place was considered to be possible taking
into consideration the sisters' high-quality voice abilities.

Almost all Armenian TV viewers are unanimous that the low place taken by the
sisters is determined by the bad show and the abundance of dark colors on
the stage, at the same time the sympathy towards sisters did not weaken. The
Moscow-based Fresh Art Company is the one who is blamed for the bad
performance, since they were in charge of the Armenian singers' show on the
stage, the dance, the clothes, and their heavy make-up.

However, Sharm Holding, the producers of Arshakyan sisters does not blame
the Fresh Art Company, saying that such impression from the show was only
seen by TV.

"The first day everything was seen even better from the hall than on TV. But
this problem was settled soon, because the second concert was presented with
brighter colors, the girls were taken a close-up of, the make-up was
soften," says Rudik Ter-Galstyan who was in the Armenian singers' supporting

And Anna Avanesyan, PR Manager at Sharm Company, stated that those who
criticize, mainly do not understand show business.

"It is noteworthy that according to the professional jury Armenia was in the
15th place, and if according to the common voting the result was the
10th place,
it already means something," Avanesyan adds.

According to her data, they get many complaints from the Armenian community
in Greece, where it is mentioned that many people voted, whereas, as a
result, Greece gave 0 point to Armenia.

Armenian pop singer Syuzi believes that Arshkyans are one of the most
professional acts in Armenia and she recalls the previous Eurovision
participants from Armenia

"If Andre made a better show on the stage, Sirusho's song was a hit, Hayko
was more romantic, Inga and Anush, had the strongest voices, moreover if we
take into consideration the fact that they did not have backing vocals at
all," says Syuzi.

Syuzi agrees that it was possible to have lighter and brighter colors, the
clothes of the dancers and the singers could be different, anyway that was
not the most important and decisive point. "The system of voting was
changed, that is why everything happened that way," she says.

In contrast to the previous Eurovision contests, this year the SMS sent by
viewers determined only half of the decision, that is to say, there was also
a professional jury; and the votes of viewers and the jury were counted by
50:50 principle.

Composer Aram Satyan believes that, to its disadvantage, once again Armenia
tried to prove that it a more eastern nation than those living in
neighboring countries.

"It is already the fourth year that we participate in this contest, and the
East has already throttled. Here the Union of Composers has a great role,
which washed its hands, and it does not have any connection with what is
happening with that contest," says Satyan in the press conference this week.

President of the Union of Composers of Armenia Robert Amirkhanyan refused to
provide any comment to ArmeniaNow.

The judging breakdown:

Israel - 8

France - 6

Sweden - 3

Portugal - 4

Iceland - 5

Russia - 5

Turkey - 6

Ukraine - 2

Romania - 7

Finland - 1

Spain - 4

Czech Republic - 12

Belgium - 7

Belarus - 1

Bulgaria - 6

Macedonia - 1

Poland - 2

Cyprus - 4

Slovakia - 3

Netherlands - 5

********************************************* *******************************

10. No trespassing: Opening of National Assembly park still debated

By Karine Ionesyan

ArmeniaNow reporter

The idea of turning the fenced park near the National Assembly building into
a public park has found both support and dissatisfaction among Armenian

The National Assembly was built in 1947; its green area occupies some 1.5
hectares. The National Assembly building is situated on Baghramyan Avenue,
where there are also the Presidential Palace, several embassies and numerous
offices. Not far from the National Assembly is Lovers Park, renovated and
opened to public last year due to the sponsorship of Armenian-American

Some believe the park, which is adjacent to the National Assembly, should be
open to people and should not be separated from them by fences as they
compare it to similar official buildings abroad, for example the park of the
National Assembly of Georgia, which is not fenced. And others, like
architect Mkrtich Minasyan believe that even though such a step is viewed as
democratic, the park still cannot become public.

"If we try to have a similar architecture with foreign countries all the
time, can you imagine what Yerevan would be like? We are not in Tbilisi, and
Baghramyan Avenue is not Rustaveli Street," says Minasyan, Chairman of
Armenia's Union of Architects. "All the buildings on Baghramyan Avenue are
drawn back, and they have parks in front of them which are fenced. Thus it
is a town planning element, and not a means of creating a gap between people
and parliament deputies," says Minasyan.

The idea of making the park public was proposed by Narek Sargsyan, Chief
Architect of the Republic of Armenia, about three months ago. But for now
there is no concrete project and still it is unclear whether the fence will
be taken down.

"I have simply expressed my viewpoint, so that the corresponding bodies
think about its realization, however it is not clear yet whether the park of
the National Assembly will become public or not," Narek Sargsyan told

Arpine Hakobyan, a Yerevan resident, believes that the park should be open
to public.

"Since the deputies do not use that territory, they should open it, so that
we can use it," says Hakobyan, 22, who brings her five-month-old child to
the Lovers Park.

Meanwhile, architect Minasyan fears that opening of the National Assembly
park would lead to cafes and entertainment centers on its territory, as has
been proved in every other Yerevan public space.

"Authorities would better think about preserving the other parks," he says.
"We have already lost Monument's upland, the forest zone of 'Sari Tagh' (an
uphill district) also does not exist; the boundaries of the 'Komaigy' and
'Victory' parks are torn up because of the newly constructed buildings, and
as a result one resident of Yerevan gets less than 6 sq. meters of green
territory instead of 20 square meters."

Architect Albert Zurabyan is also categorically against the chief
architect's suggestion concerning the changes in the National Assembly Park:

"It is senseless to have a widely-used park in the city center, because
there are a few residential apartments nearby. It would be better to create
parks in the yards of those buildings, whereas, they have destroyed already
existing parks there."

Another architect, Alexander Danielyan, thinks the city authorities will
only gain from making such changes in the city center, since the green zone
of Yerevan has already suffered greatly. "They had better think about
creating a national park in the Dalma parks (near Gagarin Street of Yerevan)

Anahit Bakhshyan, NA Deputy and Chairwomen of the Heritage Party's Board,
believes that the opening of the park is a good idea; however she does not
think it is realistic. "In that case they should also take into
consideration the problems connected with security, because none of us has
forgotten October 27," she says, referring to the 1999 assassinations in the
National Assembly chamber in which she lost her husband, Deputy Speaker Yuri

It is noteworthy that the idea of using the yard of the National Assembly
building for different purposes is not new.

Since 2005, Armen Ashotyan, newly appointed Minister of Science and
Education who until recently was a member of parliament and headed its
standing Committee on Science, Education, Culture and Youth Affairs, has
advocated construction of a chapel for parliament deputies in the same

Priest Shmavon Ter Ghevondyan welcomes Ashotyan's suggestion.

"Just imagine that every morning the employees of the legislative body
start their work by praying, by asking for support from God for succeeding
in their legislative activities in order to make laws pleasant for God and
favorable for people. The existence of a chapel in the territory will also
give a chance to state that our officials are also the devout and devoted
sons of the Armenian Apostolic Church," says the priest.

However, this objective has not been realized either, despite the fact that
when Hovik Abrahamyan became Chairman of the National Assembly, he promised
to work on it.

Before the park was built in that territory after World War II, it used to
be Yerevan's largest cemetery. According to a city legend, when that
cemetery was destroyed, it was cursed by the residents of Yerevan.

**************************************** ************************************

11. Nocturnal display: Museums in Armenia offer free late evening entrance
as part of international campaign

By Siranuysh Gevorgyan

ArmeniaNow reporter

Last weekend art lovers in Yerevan and other towns in three provinces of
Armenia had a chance to visit different museums free of charge till midnight
thanks to the 'Museum Night' campaign.

It is the fifth time Armenia joins the campaign that had been organized and
held simultaneously by thousands of museums in 40 countries.

On Saturday, May 16, from 6:00 pm till midnight, 17 museums of capital
Yerevan and six museums from Armenian provinces (Syunik, Shirak and Lori)
were open and free for visitors. According to the Armenian Ministry of
Culture, all museums participating in the campaign presented 48 special
shows, exhibitions, performances and even dances.

As the spokesperson of the Ministry of Culture told ArmeniaNow, the other
museums in other provinces were also open and free but only the above
mentioned six museums presented special shows and exhibitions. In order to
participate in this campaign, the museums must present special shows or

The 'Museum Night' was founded in 1999, when the French Ministry of Culture
suggested announcing a day of 'open doors' for public in France during a
spring Sunday, so that people can visit museums free of charge. The
initiative was named 'Museum Spring'. Later it was renamed 'Museum Night.'
couple of years later it attracted the attention of 39 member states of the
European Cultural Convention (Paris, 1954) and the support of the Council
of Europe. (Armenia joined the convention in 1997)

Ministry spokesperson Gayane Durgaryan says that idea is to give people a
chance to attend museums free of charge as well as to raise interest among
young people towards cultural heritage.

The Council of Europe, which this year celebrates the 60th annive