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Armenian Prime Minister Pledges Support For Nagorno-Karabakh

STEPANAKERT -- Armenian Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian has promised continued economic assistance to the breakaway Nagorno-Karabakh region, RFE/RL's Armenian Service reports.

"The Armenian economy, which stands by Nagorno-Karabakh, can solve any problem," Sarkisian said at a meeting of the Armenian and Karabakh governments in Stepanakert, the capital of the unrecognized republic, over the weekend.

Sarkisian stressed that Armenia last year did not cut its annual financial assistance to Stepanakert. The aid totaled 33 billion drams (about $90 million) and was provided despite a serious shortfall in Armenia's own tax revenues resulting from a sharp contraction in its economy.

Sarkisian said the funding, which is key to Karabakh's budget, will continue this year.

Ara Harutiunian, the Karabakh prime minister, thanked Yerevan for the aid, saying that it has enabled his government to achieve "satisfactory results" in its socioeconomic policy.

He said the Karabakh economy grew by as much as 13 percent in 2009 despite the harsh recession in Armenia and around the world.

Harutiunian also touted an official 16.7 percent surge in the disputed region's birthrate in 2009.

The two prime ministers also inaugurated a hydroelectric station in Karabakh's northern Martakert district on April 12.

Harutiunian told journalists that there are plans for two more hydroelectric facilities to be built by the end of this year and two others in 2011. "Our entire energy potential will be used in full within two or three years," he said.

According to Karlen Petrosian, the head of the region's industrial infrastructure department, Karabakh currently imports electricity from Armenia.

However, energy projects to harness the region's fast-flowing mountain rivers will make Karabakh self-sufficient in energy.

"Within a short period of time, the Nagorno-Karabakh republic will turn from an electricity-importing country into an electricity-exporting country," he told RFE/RL.