Libmonster ID: KZ-1596
Author(s) of the publication: Volodymyr TIAHLO

Volodymyr Tiahlo, Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of Ukraine in the Republic of Armenia, answers the questions of our correspondent Volodymyr Muzyka

* * *

Q.: Having over 1200 kilometers of borders, Armenia abuts upon Azerbaijan, Georgia, Iran and Turkey. Are there any border problems with these countries? What are relations of Armenia with its neighbors?

A.: Armenia has no boundary problems with neighbor countries. However, there remains the issue of Nagorny Karabakh that determines relations of Armenia and Azerbaijan.

We expected no serious changes in the settlement of conflict in connection with elections in Armenia and Azerbaijan in 2003. However, the meeting of presidents of the two countries in Geneva at the end of the last year raises hope of the renewal of dialog.

The good-neighborly relations of Armenia and Georgia remain an important component of regional stability. The priorities include further development of political dialog and economic cooperation, safe and stable exploitation of communication of Armenia via Georgia with an outer world, and promotion of economic and cultural relations with Armenian community in Georgia.

We actively develop bilateral relations with Iran in the field of energy, exploitation of communication facilities and promotion of trade.

Periodic meetings of foreign ministers refurbished relations of Armenia with Turkey.

Q.: The OSCE Mission has been long monitoring the Nagorny Karabakh developments. Do you think it may take

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time? Are there ways for the final solution of this problem? To what position does Ukraine adhere in this conflict?

A.: The conflict lasts from 1988 and is already past the category of frozen ones. I would like to use this occasion and express the position of Ukraine once more.

The position of Ukraine in relation to the Nagorny Karabakh problem is determined by the fact that the Karabakh problem is geopolitically important for subsequent development of South Caucasian situation; we account for factors which have aggravated the Karabakh problem.

International mediators-Russia, the USA, and France-avoid taking sides and try to tackle the Karabakh problem by means of conventional norms and principles of international law. Therefore, while confidential negotiations are under way, the tactful neutrality fully answers the general line of world community.

Thus, the balanced position of Ukraine in relation to the Nagorny Karabakh dispute includes the following points which were worded by President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma during his official visit to Armenia in October, 2002:

* Ukraine expresses support for the efforts of OSCE Minsk group and will welcome any settlement acceptable for both conflicting parties.

* Ukraine is for the settlement of this regional problem with peaceful means and is against any military actions.

* If there is a request of the administration of Armenia and Azerbaijan,

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Ukraine is ready to come forward and organize the next meeting of the presidents of two countries.

The Ukrainian side hopes that the settlement of Karabakh conflict will take place in complete accordance with conventional norms and principles of international law.

Q.: How can we estimate the level of relations between Ukraine and Armenia from the point of view of integration processes within the CIS?

A.: Armenia takes an original stand in relation to the CIS economic projects. On the one hand, the official Yerevan is for the CIS free trade zone. At the same time Armenian realizes that present regional problems (above all things, the unsettled Nagorny Karabakh conflict) and their consequences-communication blockade by Azerbaijan and certain obstacles in transportation with Georgia-does not allow it to take practical part in the multilateral free trade in the CIS.

There is a characteristic Armenian response to the forming of Common economic area. The government considers this initiative untimely for Armenia, because initiators of the CEA have common borders and transport communications, each of them has developed internal market, their economies are interrelated and are at the similar stage of development.

Armenia has a small internal market, its liberal economy is export-oriented. In addition, Armenia does not border on these countries and has no common transportation network with these countries, without which the CEA is unthinkable. There is another substantial obstacle: Armenia is already a WTO member (early past February), while CEA countries are still under way.

Q.: The chronicle of mutual visits (especially at the top level) is rather uneventful. Or is it a deceptive impression?

A: The bilateral contacts at the level of presidents and ministers for foreign affairs between Ukraine and Armenia are active enough. Unfortunately, it escapes the attention of mass media.

President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma paid an official visit to Armenia in October, 2002, Foreign Minister Anatoliy Zlenko came on a visit in October, 2001. In 2003 both presidents and foreign ministers met during international forums and CIS meetings.

Q.: What is the contract and legal basis of Ukrainian-Armenian relations? What is the percentage of agreements that have gone into effect? Which of them are especially important?

A.: We had 55 documents (6-international, 30-intergovernmental, 19-interdepartmental) in December, 2003. 48 documents have gone into effect. It is difficult to prioritize them. Although, according to the practice of intergovernental relations the main is the Agreement about friendship and cooperation between Ukraine and Republic of Armenia, signed on May 26, 1997. It contains the principles of bilateral cooperation. However, other agreements based on it are no less important.

Q.: Armenia is considered the leader in economic development among

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the CIS countries. Is it true?

A.: Our macroeconomic indexes improved in 2003. Indeed Armenia is a leader among the CIS countries in the GDP growth rates. The last year GDP growth made 13.9%, over 80% of which is produced in the private sector.

The GDP structure is as follows: industry-21%, agriculture-23.6%, construction-12.8%; transport and communication-6.7%.

In 2003 the industrial production growth rates reached 14.9% due to the increase in mining industry-2.4% and processing-20.3%.

In agriculture the GDP increased by 4.3%, in capital development-by 40.0%. Pursuant to the program of the government of Armenia the specific weight of industry in the structure of GDP will be higher, than that of agriculture in the nearest future.

In 2003 the real average monthly wages per one worker made $68, which is 20.1% higher, annual capita income made $737 against $557 in 2002. It entitles Armenia to the IMF promotional credits.

At the same time the government of Armenia is actively sponsored by the World Bank, EBRD, UNO, American fund LINSI within the framework of TANIS, USAID, and International Red Cross to name a few.

Q.: What is the basis for economic cooperation of Armenia and Ukraine?

A.: According to the National Statistical Service of the Republic Armenia, the part of external trade of Ukraine with Armenia among the CIS countries makes 11.8%. Only Russia is ahead with its 70.0%. Georgia, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, Byelorussia are basic partners of Armenia in foreign trade.

I think that the interregional cooperation is an important direction in the development of trade and economic relations. With the help of the Embassy the delegation of Kyiv oblast state administration came to Armenia on official visit in November 2003. The Protocol was signed about intentions of the administrations of Lori, Shirak, Tavush, Vaiotsdzor oblasts of Armenia and Kyiv oblast state administration of Ukraine. In addition, the Agreement was signed among the said oblasts about trade and economic, scientific and technical and cultural cooperation. The embassy also initiated presentation of the passenger airplane AN-140 and first flight of the new airline Kharkiv-Yerevan-Kharkiv at the international air-port Zvartnotz in Yerevan in May 2003.

The priority branches of Ukrainian-Armenian trade and economic cooperation include energy, transport, building, finances, agroindustrial and machine-building complexes, information technologies. Unfortunately, scientific and technical cooperation, investments are still draggling behind.

Meantime the embassy is working to creation the Trading house, warehouses, joint ventures etc.

Q.: What are the volumes and pattern of trade in Ukrainian commodities with Armenia?

A.: According to the Derzhcomstat of Ukraine, in 2003 the Ukrainian-Armenian external trade made $59.7m, that is 1.5 times higher. The 1.6 times Ukrainian export

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increase followed. Now it makes $53.4m. At the same time Ukrainian import from Armenia dropped by 15.2% down to $6.3m. The trade balance of Ukraine increased by $21.1m making the total of $47.2m.

The structure of the Ukrainian export commodities group in 2003 was as follows: ferrous metals and wares-20.0%, tobacco-19.6%, electric machines and equipment-11.6%, dairy products, eggs, honey-7.9%, boilers, machines, instruments and mechanical devices-5.8%, power materials and products of their processing-4.6%, fat, oil and butter-3.7%. The export increased due to an agroindustrial complex, black metallurgy, and machine building.

The leading Ukrainian export/import enterprises in dealings with Armenian entrepreneurs included the metallurgical combine Kryvorizhstal, Mariupol Metallurgical Combine Public Corp., Dniproshyna Public Corp., Kupyansk Dairy Cannery Closed Corp., JTI International Ukraine Closed Corp., Philippe Morris Ukraine Closed Corp., Ukrprominvest - Auto Ltd., Ukrtatnafta Closed Co., Azot Public Corp., Prodservice Ltd. ", Ltd. And Derhachiv Fat Combine Ltd.

Q.: The last year the commodity turnover with Armenia was to reach $50m. Did it hit the mark?

A.: The mutual cooperation got a new start after signing the Agreement between Ukraine and Republic Armenia about economic cooperation in 2001-2010, which helped to develop and realized common projects and programs, enlargement of production cooperation, and creation of joint ventures.

The Ukrainian-Armenian trade has been on the rise for four years now.

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The official visit to Ukraine of the Prime Minister of Armenia in 2004 is expected to promote positive tendencies in economic cooperation of two countries.

Commodity turnover

Year

2000

2001

2002

2003

$, million

15.5

32.6

40.8

59.7

From now on the Joint Commission should work on the permanent basis in order to expand bilateral trade.

Q.: It seems, transportation problems are of major importance here. Can you comment on it?

A.: Communication problems are very important for Armenia. The land communication with foreign countries is carried out through Georgia and Iran. The basic cargo transportation is done by ferriage. Therefore the Illichivsk-Poti-Banumi ferry is very important. This route of transportation is the most effective both by volume of cargo and prime cost. The Ukrferry Co. transported 2.1% more goods in 2003 than in 2002. About 163,000 tons of cargos were transported to Armenia in 2003.

Armenia believes in restoration of railroad connection via Abkhasia.

Q.: For the recent decade about one million Armenians abandoned their country. Is it true and what is the cause of migration of Armenians?

A.: There is no official statistics of departure in Armenia. According to experts, migration peaked in 1993-1996. In 1991-2001 the population of Armenia decreased by one million. The main reason is economic crisis, jobs cut and mass unemployment characteristic for all post-Soviet space. The situation in Armenia was complicated by the presence of refugees from Azerbaijan, power and transport blockade by neighboring countries. Labor migration is by far the most actual problem for Armenia, as well as in other CIS countries.

However, lately the political will of the government of Armenia became stronger. Now migration is influenced by such developments as new enterprises, large-scale construction, new jobs, rising small and medium business. In 2002 there was zero migration balance. Recently media have started to write about the immigrants' investments into the economy of Armenia.

Q.: Armenia has honorary consulates in Donetsk and Simpferopol. Why?

A.: The opening of extra consular establishments and appointment of honorary consuls takes place on initiative of the accrediting party and consent of the state of stay. Granting consent to opening of the Honorary consulate of Armenia in Donetsk (the consular district covers the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts) and Simpferopol (the consular district is the territory of the ARC) the Ukrainian party took into account the presence in these regions of populous Armenian Diaspora, which is interested to preserve ethnic consciousness, develop cultural and economic relations with Armenia. The honorary consuls in the said cities are known Ukrainian businesspersons of Armenian origin.

According to the 2001 population census, there are 100,000 Armenians in Ukraine-citizens of Ukraine, excluding Armenians on temporary stay in Ukraine

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(guests, temporary workers etc.). Today the situation is about the same.

Q.: Everybody knows about the famous Armenian lobby. What is the contribution of Armenians staying abroad into the development of their ethnic motherland?

A.: I think this question deserves special scientific investigation. There is the history of persecution of Armenians which were forced to scatter around the world. The most powerful Armenian Diasporas are in the USA (about 1m) and in France (about 500,000) which makes one half of present population of Armenia. The experience of many generations of Armenians and their historic memory taught them the timely and adequate response. There is an old Armenian saying-"You should stay there, where your bread is"; it is not pragmatism but a question of survival.

But Armenians in other countries do not forget their historical motherland and render it assistance. As Garegin Nzhdie, prominent Armenian national figure, put it, "...you'd rather keep silence about your Motherland, if you're not sure that after your words it will become still better..." This aid consists of relative's investments into booming private house building and lobbying of Armenian interests in the government organizations of other countries. The Armenian Assembly of America (AAA) initiates passing of bills by the US Congress granting public aid to Armenia. The U. S. aid after 1991 made about $1.5bn or the world highest per capita index. Besides the AAA there is the Armenian National Congress of America (ANCA) in the USA promoting financial aid to Armenia.

Kirk Krkorian, the known American multimillionaire, patron of art and do-gooder of Armenian origin, organized the Linsey Fund to finance Armenian development programs; it is an excellent example of diaspora's participation in the restoration of Armenian economy. The country got $165m for the construction of footbridges, highways, tunnels, Yerevan roads reconditioning, stepping-up of construction in the area of Spitak earthquake, including schools, museums, and theaters.

The EU is also among donators. The realized programs are worth ?330m. Those are considerable sums for a small country.

Q.: Can you explain the party infrastructure of modern Armenia?

A.: The very complex re-registering of political parties of Armenia is underway now. 36 political parties participated in parliamentary elections in Armenia in June 2003. The winners included the Republican Party, headed by present prime minister A. Margarian, Orinats Yerkir Party headed by present chairman of the National Assembly A. Bagdasarian, which together with the Armenian Revolutionary Federation Dashnaktsutiun created the ruling coalition and coalition government.

The opposition parties try to unite, but the process is hampered by the ambitions of their leaders.

Q.: The ethnic composition of Armenia is diverse. Ukrainians make only 0.3%. How are they settled and how are their ethnic interests satisfied?

A.: There is hardly another such mononational state as Armenia. According

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to the National Statistics Board, there are over twenty nationalities in Armenia that makes 3% of the title population.

Yezyds make the biggest community of 80,000 persons; Jewish is the smallest one-about 700 persons, there are also Assyrians, Byelorussians, Greeks, Georgians, Kurds, Germans, Poles, Russians, Ukrainians, Central Asians, Baltic nationals etc.

There are about 2,000 Ukrainians in Armenia. They mostly take interest to Ukraine, its language, culture, history, and traditions. There is the National Program Ukrainians Abroad for up to 2005 intended to back the development of Ukrainian Diaspora, its ethnic identity, and evoke interest in Ukraine.

There are two registered Ukrainian associations: the Federation of Ukrainians of Armenia and Union of Ukrainians. Recently there have been no traces of the activity of the latter. While the former one formed in 1995 is active among the community members. The Federation manages the chorus "Dnipro" (Yerevan), vocal ensemble Verbychenka (Vanadzor) and child's ensemble Dzvinochok. The embassy helped to get national dresses for the ensemble. For three years now the children from ensemble and children from the community spen summertime in Artek. The Federation opened the Sunday school. There is the library regularly replenished by fiction, textbooks, dictionaries and manuals sent by the State Committee for information, book-printing, radio and television, State Committee for nationalities and migration, and Ministry of education and science of Ukraine. They replenish libraries of Ukrainian communities in Vanadzor, Giumra, Razdan, Idzhevan, and Sevan. The Federation of Ukrainians of Armenia has its own magazine "Dnipro Slavutych", which is published in Ukrainian and Armenian.

The initiative of Federation to erect the monument to Taras Shevchenko in Yerevan deserves special attention. The Yerevan Administration passed a decision on the site allocation, put up a commemorative sign in the place of construction of the monument, and the sculptor went down to develop the project.

Q.: What about our cooperation in education and culture with Armenia?

A.: The legal basis for cooperation in the field of education was created. The Agreements on cooperation in education, and mutual acknowledgement and equivalence of documents about education and academic status between the Cabinet of Ukraine and Government of the Republic of Armenia were signed.

The two-side agreements on education have brought about concrete results already.

On the basis of the said agreement the Ministry of education and science of Ukraine provides state grants for education at Ukrainian colleges for the citizens of Armenia of Ukrainian and non-Ukrainian origin. Those are Kharkiv National University, Ivan Franko Lviv National University, Kyiv National Economic University, Dnipropetrovsk National Metallurgical academy of Ukraine, Donetsk National University, and Zaporizhia National Technical University. In addition, the Yerevan Branch of the Ternopil Academy of National Economy was inaugurated in 2001, where the children of Ukrainian community can study free of charge. This is the first public educational establishment of Ukraine in the Southern Caucasus. This branch is very

стр. 83


popular with both young Ukrainians and Armenians.

The embassy spares no efforts to implement the agreements reached within the framework of official visit of President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma to the Republic of Armenia (October, 2002), which enlivened the development of humanitarian cooperation between two countries.

Moreover, there will be considerable activation of cultural interchange. Last July the ensemble of 25 Armenian children participated in the Third Open Festival of Creative Work for the children from the OBSEC member countries "Let us change the world for the best!" in Artek. The embassy sponsored the exhibition of the works of Ukrainian children from the Kharkiv Lyceum of Arts at the museum of child's creative works of Armenia. In August, 2003 the laureates of international competition, trio of bandura-players Kupava from the Yaroslav the Wise National Law Academy of Ukraine, Kharkiv, participated in the Ukrainian Independence Day festivities and inauguration of the new premises of the Embassy of Ukraine in Armenia.

The Dnipro Publishers brought out the Armenian epic David Sasunsky translated by Victor Kochevsky, the Kameniar Publishers are printing the book of Grigoriy Narekatsi translated into Ukrainian by Myron Nesterchuk.

Q.: According to some accounts, Armenia was the first to adopt Christianity as a state religion. Is there anything new in this domain?

A.: The Armenian Apostolic Church is one of the branches of ancient eastern churches; it goes back to the apostolic times. In 301 Armenian King Tiridates III proclaimed Christianity a state religion, much earlier, than in some other countries of the world. The acts of the first Armenian Patriarch-Catholicos St. Gregory the Illuminator-were of decisive importance.

Acceptance of Christianity had a dramatic impact on the development of literature, culture, sacral art and architecture of Armenians. In 403 Saint Mashtots (also called Mesrop or Mesrob) invented a 36-letter alphabet and translated Bible into Armenian which strengthened the Christianity in Armenia. The Armenian church is headed by its Catholicos, who resides at Echmiadzin, which monastery has been the ecclesiastical metropolis of the Armenian nation and the spiritual center of the Armenian Apostolic church since the olden times.

The Armenian Church became the important factor of preservation of national

стр. 84


identity of Diaspora; in the course of time the church was a suprastate institute that united Armenians. The same is true for the Armenian Apostolic Church today.

On occasion of the 1700 Anniversary of proclamation of Christianity the state religion of Armenia the government and church conducted proper observances in 2001 including various actions at home and abroad-concerts, exhibitions, theatricals, sports competitions etc.

Q.: What about mass media in Armenia? How does the opposition press fare and who is behind it?

A.: To my mind, there is freedom of speech in Armenia. Opposition has its publications which come out without censorship. The ruling coalition is criticized in all kinds of media both on the left and right.

The only remark during the PACE session in January, 2004, considering the implementation by Armenia of its obligations before the CE, was about the necessity of passing the mass media bill.

Q.: During the referendum about the independence almost 95% of the citizens of Armenia were in favor of quitting the FSU. Is there any nostalgic "recoil" now?

A.: As you know, the disintegration of the FSU was accompanied by slumping GDP, reduction of industrial and agricultural output, job cuts in the NIS, including Armenia that is a necessary attribute of transitional period and results in inevitable decline of standards of living, which is especially hard for seniors, pensioners, invalids. Psychologically they were not ready to accept the liberalization of economy. Armenia is not an exception; certain layers of population still feel nostalgia for the guaranteed though low living standards, typical of Soviet times.

However, the mentality of the younger generation is different. Having hit the bottom, the economy is on the uptrend, wages rise, social guarantees improve. But the main thing is the initiative is not blocked. Therefore there is no ground for nostalgia. It simply expires.

Q.: Your predecessor, former Ambassador of Ukraine to Armenia Olexandr Bozhko was an expert in Armenian language, history and culture. What do Armenians think about him?

A.: President of Ukraine Leonid Kuchma made an excellent choice appointing Olexandr Bozhko the first Ambassador of Ukraine to Armenia. He was an expert armenologist: he had studied Armenian language and literature in Yerevan, had family ties with this wonderful country, published wonderful translations from Armenian into Ukrainian. His knowledge of literary Armenian remains a standard both for the diplomatic corps and Armenians themselves.

Sure, linguistic abilities of the first Ambassador of Ukraine played its positive role in the establishment of mutually beneficial cooperation. But time is on the move. The embassy has new tasks. Our long-term interests are proved by acquisition in 2003 of new premises together with a plot of land for the Embassy of Ukraine. We are here for the development of mutually beneficial cooperation.


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