By Armen Zakarian
The Armenian industry ministry has completed the distribution among local diamond-processing firms of 400,000 carats of Russian uncut diamonds that will be supplied by the end of this year, officials said on Monday.
Under the agreement signed by the two governments in April, Russia will deliver 2.1 million carats of the precious stone to one of the most dynamic sectors of the Armenian economy in the next five years. The Russian diamond quota for last year was 300,000 carats.
Industry and Economic Development Minister Karen Chshmaritian told RFE/RL that the increased supplies are a major boost to 59 private Armenian companies cutting and polishing diamonds. Their products are mainly sold in Western Europe and Israel, making up more than one third of Armenia’s net exports.
Chshmaritian also cautioned that the Russian allocation for 2002 equals only 20 percent of Armenian producer demand, saying that the local diamond-cutting firms should continue to rely on their mainly Western suppliers, many of whom are Diaspora Armenian and Israeli businessmen.
One of the local firms that will use the Russian stones is the British-registered Diamond Company of Armenia managed by Gagik Abrahamian. His Moscow-based influential brother, Ara Abrahamian, is one of Russia’s leading diamond dealers and is believed to have played a major role in the Russian-Armenian agreement.
Ara Abrahamian is a leading shareholder in the Soglasie Russian diamond company and the founding chairman of the Union of Armenians of Russia, the largest community organization. It increasingly acts as a lobbying group, sponsoring visits to Armenia by Russian officials, journalists and other dignitaries.
Industry ministry estimates put the total value of diamonds processed in Armenia last year at least $150 million. Officials expect that the figure will increase to $500 million by 2005. The sector now employs over 4,000 people.