Wednesday, 26 September

Not Having a Policy, Is In Itself, A Policy

Till today the authorities in the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh have no policy regarding the liberated territories.

According to the Edik Baghdasaryan, Editor-in-Chief of the Hetq online newspaper, not having a policy regarding resettlement is, in itself a policy. On June 7 th a press conference took place at the “Friday” club in Yerevan during which he and Karen Khanlaryan, Editor-in-Chief of the ARF's official journal “Droshak”, expressed the viewpoint that the resettlement issue is not only a problem for the diaspora to address but a priorty issue for the governments of the Republic of Armenia and the Republic of Nagorno-Karabakh, despite the fact that it's mostly been the diaspora that has implemented a number of projects in the region.

E. Baghdasaryan stated that in 1999, as a result of the resettlement program begun in 1994, the population of the liberated territiories was about 17,000.

“The man responsible for executing the resettlement program was Aleksan Hagobyan, head of the Kashatagh Regional Administration. He was able to record some successes, noted E. Baghdasaryan, due to the existence of available credit sources for the purchase of farm animals, free electricity and other subsidies which attracted many poor, patriotic and refugee folk to move there. But in 2002-2003 those who had resettled began to return to their original homes or went abroad. It appeared that the authorities completely forgot about these people and the question as to why they were leaving in droves was never raised. During this period Aleksan Hagobyan was dismissed from his post and replaced by Hamlet Khatchatryan , Kashatagh's Public Prosecutor. He played a large role in the emptying of the villages. The prior grants like the children subsidies were removed and hospital care at the Kashatagh hospital was no longer free. Soon after Hetq began its coverage of the conditions in Kashatagh and Hamlet Khatchatryan's role in this affair, the Coalition in Support of Kashatagh was created in the diaspora. The coalition sent letters of protest, signed by thousands of Armenians, to the Presidents of Armenia and Karabakh. Due to the pressure that the diaspora began to exert on those responsible certain changes took place. Certain allowances were reintroduced, subsidies for children up till the age of sixteen were granted, medical care at Kashatagh Hospital was again free of charge and inter-city transport routes were reestablished. All of this proved a great help to the local residents. They felt a certain change in how they were being treated. This was due to coverage in the press and pressure from the diaspora.”

On March 12, 2007, Hamlet Khatchatryan was removed from office and replaced with Ernest Ghevondyan.

“ How can you expect people to move to those lands when there is talk of returning them as part of a mutual concessions package. We're all aware that mutual concessions are part of the negotiations process, but such talk, in my view, negatively impacts on the resettlement program”, stated Karen Khanlarian, Editor-in-Chief of “Droshak”.

However, both E. Bagdasaryan and K. Khanlaryan agreed that the absence of an effective resettlement program is not due to the possible return of these lands by Armenia.

“ Any talk today about the return of the lands is nonsense. Who can cite an example of any country that has given lands back at the negotiations table that it liberated as a result of being victorious in war. According to E. Baghdasaryan, I don't think anyone will sign such a document since they'll be signing away their own fate by doing so.”

A 2005 the OSCE Fact-Finding Mission to the seven regions in question found that some 12,000 people were living there. The residents of the liberated territories are in need of a more comprehensive official policy. E. Baghdasaryan views the stance of the ARF, which has been a part of the governing coalition and cooperates with it, unclear on this issue.

The Hetq editor-in-chief said, “ it appears that the ARF has no clear position on this topic.” In response, the “Droshak” editor said that, “ During its last general meeting the ARF declared the resettlement issue to be a pan-Armenian concern of primary strategic importance.”

Nevertheless, K. Khanlaryan was at a loss when it came to pointing to the initiatives and proposals the ARF had made on this issue in the National Assembly. His only response was that in Karabakh the ARF was participating in certain initiatives.

“ The President of Nagorno-Karabakh has noted that the resettlement program requires million to be implemented. The diaspora doesn't have these resources but it does what it can.” K. Khanlaryan concluded by saying that, “This issue requires the resources of the entire nation and not the diaspora alone.”

“ The bulk of the work being carried out in those territories is being done by Armenians from the diaspora. They have to be encouraged since the government isn't doing anything, added E. Baghdasaryan. In Stepanakert, a National Aseembly building to house only 33 delegates was recently built to the tune of U.S. $1 million. In contrast, a mere $10,000 is needed build an artesian well in the village of Hartashen. With that $1 million dollars the problems facing scores of villages could have been corrected.”

E. Baghdasaryan is convinced that the positive involvement of Armenian business is needed to revitalize these regions. He cited the example of the MaxWood Company owned by delegate Harutiun Pampbukyan. It's currently cutting down all the healthy walnut trees in Kashatagh and sending the wood to Italy. By destroying all those forest what has Pampukyan contributed to those lands? A leader of one of the coalition's political parties doesn't even know where Kashatagh is on the map. Baghdasaryan declared that, “ Before starting their work, all these delegates should be rounded up and taken on a tour of the region so they have an idea of what's being debated and discussed.”

As to the question, who, specifically is to blame for the poor record of the resettlement program and the myriad other problems in the region, Baghdasaryan answered, the authorities of the ROA and the NKR are equally at fault.

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