A group of UAE journalists visited Armenia from 20-25 April 2010.
This was the first press trip organized in UAE by the Armenian National Council (Middle East office) with the participation of 5 journalists representing several well-known UAE dailies.
The journalists had the chance to meet with high ranking officials in Yerevan, such as Hovik Aprahamyan (National Assembly Speaker), Armen Gevorgyan (Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Administration), Arman Kirakossian (Deputy Foreign Minister), Armen Movsisyan (Energy Minister), Ara Bedrosyan (Deputy Minister of Economy and Minister of Tourism) and others. The ministers provided first-hand information about Armenia.
As a result, more than 10 articles and reports were published in the UAE media, covering various fields, including politics, economy, energy, tourism, investments, bilateral relations, etc. This has contributed in creating awareness about Armenia and Armenian issues in the UAE press in the past few weeks.
Jumana Al Tamimi (Gulf News, Dubai)
Dubai based English language daily Gulf News journalist Jumana Al Tamimi started her article on Armenian politics by stating that “Armenia, which changed hands throughout its long and troubled history, has learnt that maintaining a balanced relationship with all nations is essential to its survival”.
According to Arman Kirakossian, Deputy Foreign Minister, “keeping that balance is not only from today but from ancient times? That is why we survived as a small nation.”
“Some Arab analysts believe that the Western powers are using the Turkish-Armenia issue as a pressure tool against Ankara, especially after Turkey's positions vis-a-vis Arab-Israeli peace process were praised by many Arabs as courageous and fair”, Al Tamimi notes without further comment.
“We have diplomatic relations but Israel doesn't have an embassy in Armenia, the relations are in a very passive state,” Kirakossian said, referring to Armenian ? Isreali relations.
Energy Minister Armen Movsisyan assured to the Gulf News journalist that there is no cooperation with Tehran in the nuclear field.
In a full-page article, Armenian tourism present day situation and future prospects were analyzed by Al Tamimi, who finds out that half of the about 500 thousand tourists arriving in Armenia are Armenians living abroad.
Ara Bedrosyan, Deputy Minister of Economy and Minister of Tourism, told Al Tamimi and her colleagues from UAE that the government understands that Armenia still has to invest in infrastructure and in human resources in order to create more demand on Armenia in the international markets. Bedrosyan referred also to the limitations in front of Armenia. “We understand that being a landlocked country and a small country, our success comes from being part of a regional product,” he was quoted saying.
Bedrosyan referred to the Great Silk Road project which is creating interest among tourists visiting Georgia, Armenia, Iran, linking caravan trade routes between Eastern and Western civilisation in ancient and middle ages.
Jumana Al Tamimi prepared a special report on repatriation to Armenia. In the Gulf News Weekend Review (07 Mary 2010) she says: “It is believed that nearly two-thirds of ethnic Armenians live outside their country today, a far-flung diaspora of a troubled people. After being displaced for decades, many Armenians are eager to return to their country”.
Al Tamimi meets with several repatriated Armenians. According to information provided to her, an increasing number of Armenians have returned to Armenia to settle down permanently or for investment. About 20 families from UAE came to Armenia in the past few years. One of the repatriated persons said to her, when there is an investment made by parents, children will have a reason to come back to Armenia.
The journalist refers also to the white genocide. “At present, many Armenians abroad believe they are facing what they call white genocide. This white genocide is the assimilation of the Armenian character with other identities as a result of living for a long time in societies abroad and among people of diverse cultures and backgrounds.” She says, explaining that repatriation is the response against white genocide.
Hamad Salmin (Al Bayan, Dubai)
Hamad Salmin, Al Bayan Dubai based Arabic daily's journalist, had an interview with National Assembly's speaker Hovik Aprahamyan, in which the speaker described his views on bilateral Armenian – UAE relations and talked about the impressions he carried during his recent visits to UAE and other Arab countries.
Aprahamyan explained to the UAE journalist the Armenian position regarding the protocols, highlighting the fact that Armenia chose to stop the process of the protocol ratification temporarily after the insistence of the Turkish government to link the signing of the protocol with Nagorno Karabakh issue, something which is not mentioned directly or indirectly in the protocols. Turkey thus is working against the essence of the protocols.
Aprahamyan expressed his belief that international pressure might force Turkey to ratify the protocols. “We are not going to ratify the protocols before Turkey”, he said, arguing that “we cannot be a toy in the hand of Ankara. The Armenian president was courageous in initiating the normalization process and he invited the Turkish President to visit Armenia, despite the internal criticism…”
He expressed hope that Turkey will recognize the Genocide in the future. Regarding Karabakh he informed the UAE journalist that Armenia is ready for concessions, contrary to Azerbaijan who is refusing any concessions and is using national resources in the armament course instead.
Hamad Salmin published on 02 May 2010 another interview with Armen Gevorgyan, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Territorial Administration, who briefed him about investment opportunities in Armenia, specially in tourism, real estate, technology and other sectors. The Minister said that a joint inter-governmental committee on investment is in formation process between Armenia and UAE. According to Gevorgyan, there are investments in Armenia from the Emirate of Ras Al Khaimah, especially in residential construction projects. In the technology field ten students from Armenia will come to Abu Dhabi to do their Masters degree in Masdar Academy in Abu Dhabi (specialized in energy). He invited Arab investors to open an Arab university in Armenia.
Tamsin Carlisle (The National, Abu Dhabi)
Tamsin Carlisle, a journalist for Abu Dhabi based English daily “The National” signed a series of articles related to Armenia, some on current issues and others on specific subjects.
Carlisle quotes Armen Movsisyan, Energy Minister of Armenia, saying “The number one problem for us in Armenia is the energy problem.? The Minister says that Armenia is looking at developing wind and geothermal power to augment its hydro-powered renewable energy sector. In the medium term, Armenia's energy options are nuclear and gas. The remaining option for Armenia is to build a nuclear plant, which is planned for to be ready by 2017. The European Commission funds a website (renewableenergyarmenia.am) under a project aimed at promoting renewable energy development in Armenia.
Carlisle was in Yerevan during the Armenian Genocide commemoration. “It nearly always rains on April 24, say residents of the Armenian capital who host an annual pilgrimage of hundreds of thousands of their countrymen and international visitors to a monument on a hilltop overlooking the city. The pilgrims come to pay respect to the victims of mass killings of Armenians by Ottoman Turks… The overcast sky on Saturday contributed bone-chilling drizzle to the sombre mood of the massacre?s 95th anniversary. This failed to deter rain-soaked visitors from depositing a mass of red and white flowers in the inner sanctum of the starkly sculpted monument.” Carlisle fails to mention the word Genocide, most probably for reasons beyond his control (some media are afraid to upset the Turkish Embassy).
In a separate report Carlisle discusses Armenia – UAE ties. He points out that Dubai has been an important trade and commerce route for Armenia. ?Products bound for Armenia, from machinery to paper, are shipped from the Jebel Ali container port across the Gulf to the Iranian port of Bandar Abbas, from where lorries carry them onwards?.
Carlisle posted also a report about tourism, where it is mentioned that since 2000, the number of visitors per year to Armenia has increased more than twelve times from just 45,000 to more than half million. The number of hotels also has risen from 3 to 16.
According to Ara Bedrosyan (Deputy Minister of Economy and Minister of Tourism), most tourists visiting Armenia are ?financially secure? and inject an average of $1,000 per person per stay into the local economy, not including air fare.
To attract more visitors, Armenia is spending on international advertising campaign. It has also decreased the visa fees from $50 to $7 only.
The Minister admits however that the country?s infrastructure is not in a shape to accept more tourists.
The visit of UAE journalists to Armenia gave the readers the opportunity to know more about Armenia. It would be good to repeat this experience with new groups of journalists and press specialists in the future. Creating awareness about Armenia will increase the number of visitors and investors.