By Hovannes Shoghikian
The government will ask Western donors to provide more than $38 million for its new plan to rehabilitate Armenia’s border regions severely damaged during the war with Azerbaijan, a senior official said on Wednesday.
Gagik Yeganian, head of the State Migration Agency, said the government has drawn up a three-year program that envisages the reconstruction and repair of more than 18,000 homes and the resettlement of more than a thousand internally displaced persons (IDPs) in those areas. “This is a rather ambitious but substantiated program,” he told a news conference.
The 1991-1994 war in Nagorno-Karabakh rapidly spread to Armenia’s long border with Azerbaijan. The fighting inflicted serious damage on villages and towns on either side of the heavily militarized frontier, forcing thousands of their residents to flee their homes. Regular exchanges of automatic and sniper fire between Armenian and Azerbaijani forces have kept many of them from returning home after a Russian-mediated truce halted the large-scale fighting in May 1994. Thousands of hectares of scarce agricultural land remain uncultivated in the border regions for the same reason.
According to Yeganian, more than 2,000 Armenian IDPs are now ready to return to their pre-war homes. Under the government program, each returning family would get a one-time payment, equivalent to more than $700, to buy crop seeds and farming equipment, he said.
Yeganian added that those families whose houses were completely destroyed by shelling would be paid $7,700 each to rebuild them. There are almost 1,700 such houses across the country, he said.
Yeganian said another 16,500 homes were damaged to varying degrees during the fighting. The government wants to pay their owners $1,500 each. “This will be done not only for the returnees but those who actually live there,” the official said.
Yeganian did not specify which concrete donor agency would be approached for funding. Negotiations with potential donors have yet to begin, he said.