According to Countryaah, since 1995, the economy has been oriented towards the processing of precious stones, the manufacture of jewelry and the development of tourism. This opened up loans from the IMF and the World Bank and from abroad. The international lending institutions now demand that the country reduce the government deficit, stabilize the currency and focus on agricultural development, food processing and transport and strengthen the health and education sector.
By 92 votes to 1, the Armenian parliament abolished the death penalty in September 2003, thus ratifying the 6th protocol of the European Convention on Human Rights. For the Council of Europe, this was an important step forward. 41 of the Council’s 45 member states have so far ratified the protocol. President Kocharian changed the death penalty for 42 prisoners to life in prison.
In December 2003, 6 people were sentenced to life imprisonment for their participation in the armed attack on Parliament in 1999. MPs and Prime Minister Vazgen Sarkisia were killed.
In April 2004, several hundred supporters of the opposition parties in Yerevan demanded Kocharian’s departure on the grounds that he had manipulated the election results in 2003 to his advantage. Dissatisfaction was further exacerbated by the poor living conditions most of the population lives under. Political observers, however, stated that Kocharian is strongly opposed to the increasingly weak opposition. The president declared that the opposition should curb its demands so as not to aggravate the situation: “If the opposition tries to attract attention by blocking the road, then the police will have to take the necessary action.”
In late May, Foreign Ministers of Armenia and Azerbaijan met in Stirin, Czech Republic, to negotiate a peaceful settlement to the Nagorno Karabaj conflict. The meeting had been organized by Russia, France and the United States within the framework of the OSCE.
In June, the EU froze 100 million. US $ in aid to Armenia because the country still refused to give an exact date for the closure of the old Russian nuclear power plant. The Metsamor plant is located 40 km west of Yerevan, closed in 1988 and reopened in 95. It is located in one of the world’s most active seismic zones.
Hundreds of thousands of Armenians took to the streets in April 2005 to mark the 90th anniversary of the Ottoman Empire massacre of Armenians, and to demand that the world recognize that Armenians were the first victims of genocide in the 20th century. President Kocharian led the effort to recognize the massacre as a genocide, but Turkey stubbornly insists that the war alone was a fall. France, Russia, Poland and Germany met with 15 other countries to put pressure on Ankara to recognize the genocide. Armenia’s border with Turkey remains hermetically sealed, which is a major strain on its economic development.