Aram Manukyan: "Armenia plays almost no role in Caucasus because of Karabakh issue"
Last week, the first freight train was sent off along the North-South International Transport Corridor from Azerbaijan's Astara to Iran's Astara to test the newly constructed section of the railway. For the first time in history six cars with timber used a single railway route from Russia to Iran, with transit through the territory of Azerbaijan. It was the last step in the construction of the North-South corridor, the official opening of the Astara-Astara road is planned for March, and its launch will made Azerbaijan a key infrastructure hub in the South Caucasus, through which people and goods move from the east to west (the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars road) and from the south to the north (the North-South International Transport Corridor). Thus, the North-South corridor project through the territory of Armenia will be closed, which means that Yerevan won't be involved in both directions of traffic flows in the region. The deputy chairman of the Armenian National Congress party Aram Manukyan told Vestnik Kavkaza about Armenia's current role in the region.
- Aram Vigenovich, in your estimation, what role does Armenia currently play in the picture of regional interstate economic ties?
- It plays almost no role. We are bypassed by all regional and international routes - transport, railway, oil, gas, any others. Armenia is not just under the political blockade, but also under the economic one, it is blocked on every side and not involved in any regional projects. Even our government does not want to participate in regional programs, that is, we simply do not exist in the Caucasus, and this situation has not changed in last 20 years. Over the years, we have been bypassed by a lot of projects, including the Baku-Tbilisi-Ceyhan pipeline and the Baku-Tbilisi-Kars road, which were built through Georgia instead of Armenia, and now these are the North-South International Transport Corridor and China's Silk Road.
We seem to be out of the region. De jure there is Armenia in the Caucasus, but it is not involved in any of the projects passing through the Caucasus. We are at an economic impasse, and therefore no one invests in Armenia. If before we received at least $3-4 billion of investments a year, then last year the republic received only $120 million of investments, it's nothing. The situation is complicated by corruption, because of which any normal person will not risk investing money in Armenia.
- A number of Armenian experts wrote that the uresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict hinders the development of Armenia and its integration into the regional economy. What do you think about this position?
- I could not agree more. The war cannot help the state's development, because the development and growth of the economy requires a calm, stable domestic political and foreign situation. And we do not have this because of the conflict: the situation of semi-war, semi-peace is not an environment where you can invest money. Armenia's very first problem and the biggest challenge is the settlement of the Karabakh conflict. This problem must be solved, and last year we put its settlement at the corner of our political program when we participated at the parliamentary elections. Only our party came up with a program proposing to resolve the conflict. We understand that the end of the war is the only way to contribute the development and integration of Armenia.
- In this regard, what measures could Armenia take to strengthen its positions in regional economic cooperation?
- It must solve the Karabakh problem, intensify its political and diplomatic efforts, resolve the issue of the status quo. I think this is the most important thing that our people need to do - to get out of the current impasse, in which we have been living for 24 years. We can't go on like this. The Karabakh war lasted for only two years, and already 24 years have passed since that time, and there is not progress in the conflict post-war situation. It wears peoples and states out, prevents countries from developing. We must get out of this hole, this situation.
If we could resolve the Karabakh conflict, then the issue of unblocking of our borders with Azerbaijan and Turkey will be resolved. Turkey and Azerbaijan are united in the issue of resolving the Karabakh conflict and lifting of a blockade, they work in a cohesive manner in this direction. The Armenian National Congress stands for good relations with all its neighbors, especially economic ones, since it will ensure the development of our country - that's our party's program.