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COUNTRY BRIEFS


INTRODUCTION

Armenia is a land-locked country located in south-western Asia, bordering Georgia to the north, Turkey to the west, Iran and Azerbaijan to the south and east. The country's total land area is roughly 30,000 square kilometres, and its population is estimated at 3.5million. The capital of Armenia is the city of Yerevan.

Armenia's national day is celebrated on 21 September.

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POLITICAL OVERVIEW

The Republic of Armenia became independent on 23 September 1991, following a national referendum establishing independence from the former USSR. It is a Presidential Republic. The executive branch consists of the President (head of state), the Prime Minister (head of government), and a Council of Ministers, the members of which serve five-year terms.

President Serzh Sargsyan won the February 2008 presidential election with the backing of the conservative Republican Party of Armenia, a party in which he serves as chairman, and took office in April 2008. Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan also took office in April2008. He is no relation to President Sargsyan.

The legislative branch consists of the unicameral parliament (also called the Azgayin Zhoghov), and is controlled by a coalition of three political parties: the conservative Republican party, the Prosperous Armenia party, and the Rule of Law party. The Armenian Revolutionary Federation left the ruling coalition in early 2009. The main opposition party is Raffi Hovannisian's Heritage party.

Since independence Armenia hasmade steady progress in its efforts to integrate with the international community. In 1992, it became part of the Commonwealth of Independent States (CIS); joined the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD); was admitted to the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE); and became a member of the United Nations. In February 2003, Armenia achieved full membership of the World Trade Organisation. Armenia is also a member of the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, the Council of Europe and NATO's Partnership for Peace. Armenia signed onto the European Union’s Eastern Partnership Initiative in May 2009.

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ECONOMIC OVERVIEW

After a difficult period from 1991 to 1993, during which time Armenia fought a war with Azerbaijan and began the transition to a market based economy, the Armenian economy grew at an average rate of 5.4 percent from 1994 to 2000 and at 12 percent from 2001 to 2007. Real GDP is expected to slow to 1-3 percent in 2009-10. Inflation is forecast to shrink to 3.6percent.

Agriculture is still the largest employer, with other significant sectors including construction and mining of non-ferrous metals (Armenian mines produce copper, zinc, gold, and lead). Remittances from the Armenian diaspora have played a major role in driving economic growth. The current world economic slowdown is affecting Armenia primarily through reduced remittances and lower demand for exports.

The vast majority of Armenia’s energy is produced with fuel imported from Russia, including gas and nuclear fuel for its nuclear power plant located at Metsamor (a new plant, to replace Metsamor, is due to start construction in the next few years). In 2009, following completion of a pipeline, Iran began exporting gas to Armenia.

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BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP

Australia recognised Armenia on 26 December 1991 and established diplomatic relations on 15 January 1992.

Migrants of Armenian ancestry have come to Australia from a number of countries other than Armenia itself, such as Egypt, Lebanon, Syria, Jordan, Israel, Turkey and India. Migration to Australia began in the second half of the nineteenth century. The peak period of migration occurred a century later in the 1960s, with numbers growing steadily. Today, the community includes people born in 43 different countries. The 2006 census recorded almost 16,000 people in Australia who claim Armenian ancestry.

Australia’s Ambassador to Moscow is accredited to Yerevan. There is no Armenian Government representation in Australia. The then Minister for Human Services, the Hon Mr Joe Hockey MP, visited Armenia in November 2005, and the Hon Joel Fitzgibbon MP visited in 2006. The then Australian Minister for Immigration and Multicultural and Indigenous Affairs, the Hon Philip Ruddock MP, visited Armenia in September 2003. In October 2005, the Armenian Foreign Minister, H.E. Mr Vartan Oskanian, visited Australia.

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BILATERAL ECONOMIC AND TRADE RELATIONSHIP

Two-way trade between Australia and Armenia has so far remained at very modest levels due to Armenia’s small size and geographic distance from Australia. In 2007-08 total merchandise trade was worth approximately $8million. In recent years, Austrade has supported a small number of Australian companies that are successfully doing business in the country, notably as suppliers of technology, equipment and raw materials in the resources sector and within Armenia's grape-growing industry (grapes are used for Armenia's famous cognac and for local wine production).

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Last Updated: May 2009

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