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Armenia/Kazakhstan: Aviation A Priority In Armenia; Transport Deteriorating In Kazakhstan

  • Ron Synovitz



Prague, 29 June 1998 (RFE/RL) -- Although Armenia shares borders with Georgia, Iran, Turkey and Azerbaijan, the only road connections now in use lead to Georgia and Iran. Reconstruction of a bridge over the Araks River two years ago has improved road access to Iran. This has helped increase the supply of consumer goods in Armenia. In 1996, the United Nations also funded the reconstruction of a railway bridge on the main line between Tbilisi and Yerevan.

The EBRD says 40 percent of Armenia's roads are in need of immediate repair. About $35 million in credits have been provided by international lenders. The money would help upgrade existing roads as well as to build new ones.

The government in Yerevan considers aviation to be a priority area for development. The EBRD says much of Armenia's airport equipment must be replaced. The purchase or leasing of aircraft also is needed. Only the three largest of Armenia's six civilian airports are operating -- Erebuni and Shirak, and the international Zvartnots airport near Yerevan.

Armenia is seeking international loans to finance airport improvements. The government also is telling potential foreign investors that its dispute with Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh will soon be resolved, and that the issue is no longer a threat to their investments.

But President Robert Kocharian has opposed a "Declaration on Further Equal Partnership and Co-operation in the Commonwealth of Independent States. (CIS)." That agreement would have affirmed the territorial integrity of member states, which would have implied recognizing Nagorno-Karabakh as part of Azerbaijan.

Yerevan also has rejected proposals put forward by the president of Kazakhstan, Nursultan Nazerbayev, for the creation of a single economic space and free-trade zone in the CIS.

Kazakhstan: Government Plans To Improve Transport By Air

The Economist Intelligence Unit describes Kazakhstan's transport and communications infrastructure as "underdeveloped and deteriorating." Kazakhstan has five times the land area of France, but less than 30 percent of the population. It is heavily dependent on aging and badly maintained railways. Railroad cars and spare parts, mostly imported form Russia and Ukraine before 1991, are now in short supply.

Roads are falling into disrepair, and lawlessness makes some stretches of highway dangerous for drivers who carry valuable cargo. No major road or rail projects have been launched in Kazakhstan.

Subsidized domestic flights vanished from Kazakhstan with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The Kazakh government failed in its initial attempts to develop efficient and affordable air transport. Kazakhstan Airlines, set up in 1993, went out of business after just three years of operations. It has been replaced by a new airline called Air Kazakhstan. That firm plans to sell off 80 percent of the old fleet to buy new planes. The government also plans to contract out the management of key airports to foreign firms. Almaty airport is now being run by Germany's Lufthansa.

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