Armenia in the League of Landlocked Countries

Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Ph.D., Los Angeles, 7 January 2016

Looking at nature one can see how shapes and colors form patterns. Stripes and spots are such patterns on some animals. Lemurs, for example, hold their striped tail high so that other lemurs can see where they are. In this way, the group can stay together and fend off potential danger.

    
Likewise, landlocked countries have a distinctive characteristic or a "pattern" of being surrounded by land and thus are deprived of direct access to the sea.  Unfortunately for them, they have not yet formed a "group," to hold them together to protect themselves against unfair intercontinental trade practices. Nature's lesson on binding together, on forming a cohesive mass based on sharing some "common patterns" has gone unheeded by them for they are not yet well-organized into an influential force to reckon with.

Z. S. Andrew Demirdjian, Ph.D., Los Angeles, 7 January 2016

Looking at nature one can see how shapes and colors form patterns. Stripes and spots are such patterns on some animals. Lemurs, for example, hold their striped tail high so that other lemurs can see where they are. In this way, the group can stay together and fend off potential danger.

    
Likewise, landlocked countries have a distinctive characteristic or a "pattern" of being surrounded by land and thus are deprived of direct access to the sea.  Unfortunately for them, they have not yet formed a "group," to hold them together to protect themselves against unfair intercontinental trade practices. Nature's lesson on binding together, on forming a cohesive mass based on sharing some "common patterns" has gone unheeded by them for they are not yet well-organized into an influential force to reckon with.

According to the United Nations, there are 195 countries, rather sovereign states, (meaning nations with their own borders and independent governments), out of which 48 are landlocked. That makes about 25 percent of the countries disadvantaged by accident of geography or through political fallout as has been the case with Armenia.

About one out of four countries in the world is landlocked. Twenty of 54 low-income economies are landlocked, the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa, while only three of 35 high-income economies are landlocked, excluding the European microstates and dependencies. The African landlocked nations are hardly able to hold on dear economic life. Despite current trends toward reduction in maritime transport costs and more advanced logistics to compensate for the limitations of intercontinental distance, lack of direct sea access presents growing challenges to the global integration and growth prospects of many landlocked developing countries (LLDCs).

Facilitating trade in LLDCs is of paramount importance because such geographical limitations are the main reason that LLDCs are unable to benefit from trade preferences. Although tariffs are becoming a less important barrier to trade, the contribution of transportation to total trade costs is skyrocketing.

Sadly, research findings show that landlocked countries trade on the average 30 percent less than coastal countries do, experience weaker growth rate by  about 1.5 percent, resort to IMF assistance with longer payment terms, and incur considerably higher transaction costs due to customs and handling charges while crossing a neighbor's  border. Landlocked condition is, therefore, associated with increased import prices and reduced export revenues. By and large, landlocked countries are at a phenomenal disadvantage in the highly competitive world market.

The problem is clearly defined. To mitigate the problem, the landlocked countries should organize to pull themselves out of this huge perennial trade disadvantage. A blanket statement would advocate landlocked countries to form a league for the common goal of reaching markets by sea as efficiently as possible. While Armenia is doing better than most of the landlocked countries, it could still improve its lot by participating in the formation of a league of landlocked countries which would pursue the following goals:

1. Ensuring the recognition of freedom of transit in international agreements;
2. Developing transport infrastructure both at home and in the transit country;
3. Discussing matters of common interest and concern;
4. Encouraging transnational cooperation to alleviate the yoke of landlocked status.

Armenia should spearhead the formation of an association of landlocked countries by calling for an international congress in Yerevan. President Serzh Sargsyan should invite heads of state or delegates from landlocked countries to an international conference for the deliberation and decision on the formation of such a league by emphasizing some of the following points in his letter:

  • Landlocked countries must unite out of common predicament;
  • Landlocked countries should unite by common interests and goals of reaching markets by sea;
  • Landlocked countries ought to unite to gain political clout through numbers;
  • Landlocked countries must unite to find legal ways to share the resources of the sea for transit and for research;
  • Landlocked countries must unite to advance members' social, political, and economic aspirations of the beleaguered non-coastal countries;
  • Landlocked countries should enjoin scholars to study how to find ways for direct access to the through land purchase or exchange with their neighbors.

As a result of a territorial exchange deal (1999) between Moldova (a landlocked republic) and Ukraine, Moldova received a 450-meter access to  the Danube River, Europe's main waterway serving eight countries and connecting all from the North Sea to the Black Sea through the completion of the Rhine-Main-Danube Canal in 1992. Moldova is presently finalizing the building of Giurgiulesti Free International Port to link the country to world markets. By the grace of the Danube River and the sea, Moldova, the poorest country in Europe, is not only surviving but also has begun to thrive.

Armenia, likewise, can get the diplomatic ball rolling on either leasing, purchasing, or exchanging with cash incentives a portion of Tavush or Lori marz (province) with Georgia for a strip of land for a narrow corridor along Georgia's border with Turkey to the Black Sea (599 miles from Armenia and 35 miles from Javakhk). Armenia can build a corridor for mutual use with Georgia retaining sovereignty over the land.

If Armenia succeeded in forming a league of landlocked countries, among the specific benefits for Armenia would be:

  • Bonding with other nations based on common predicament (i.e., no direct access to the sea);
  • Enhanced world knowledge of the Republic of Armenia;
  • Support for the Armenian Genocide recognition quest;
  • Increased trade;
  • Greater numbers of tourists to Armenia;
  • Greater political support in various world organizations.

When the meeting for the establishment of a league of landlocked countries takes place in Yerevan, most likely the organizing committee will be selected from there and the chances of Yerevan being the headquarters of the union would be enhanced since most of the landlocked countries are in Africa, Eastern Europe, the Middle East, and Central Asia. Thus, Yerevan is virtually in the center of these landlocked countries.  

Furthermore, because the initiative to form a landlocked alliance originated in Armenia, the president of the league will be likely elected from Armenia. Thus, there is much to be gained by organizing a conference in Yerevan.

Armenia must take the leadership role to improve its trade options, especially when it is sandwiched by two belligerent neighbors (i.e. Turkey and Azerbaijan). The hostile duo's posture has been in the past, is in the present, and will always be inimical to the progress of our homeland, for it is resolute in maintaining the economic blockade and the threat of war unless Armenia gives Nagorno-Karabakh to its former captors.

Whoever takes the initiative to spearhead the formation of a union of landlocked countries as a pioneer for a good cause will be revered and may even be recommended for a Nobel Prize as a great leader who was able to translate a vision into reality to benefit the geographically disadvantaged landlocked countries. The legacy of that leader would put Armenia on the map in capital letters and his name will live in the memory of many generations.    
 

8 comments
  1. Onto a League of Its Own

    I found this article thought-provoking and onto a league of its own. Landlocked countries–and consequently more a developing country than otherwise–need form a league to assure their fair share of access to air and sea.
     

  2. Caspian Sea Access

    It's interesting that countries with access to the Caspian Sea are still considered to be landlocked despite that it serves as a waterway for commercial and logistical trade and communication.
    1. Just a Minor Note

      The Caspian Sea is geographically considered to be a lake, even though it is the biggest such body of water on the planet.

      It is, of course, a salt-water lake, originally connected to the rest of the planetary oceans; it was formed when the Caucasus rose out of the primordial sea in earlier geological times.

      But since it is a lake, any country bordering it, is still technically land-locked.

      Viken L. Attarian
      Mount Royal QC
       

      1. Lands and Lakes

        Viken is right in his technical description of lakes and seas, but what matters–practically speaking in relation to the points Andrew raised–is the usefulness or lack of seas/lakes for access to the world. The Caspian "Lake" provides international navigation to Russia, Kazakhstan, Iran, and Azerbaijan.

  3. In Search of a Reason for Omissions

    Andrew Demirdjian is certainly much more than a thought-provoking writer. He puts forth ideas that can impact a nation.

    In a sense, landlocked countries also share the fate of small remote island nations.  They too are isolated, to the extreme, but in quite the opposite way, although they also have their unique common economic characteristics and challenges.
     
    On the other hand, here is a list of landlocked countries that Prof. Demirdjian chose to omit. I wonder why?  I am certain that this is not an oversight; perhaps because the cited statistics do not apply to them. It is to be noted that all of them are in Europe.

    Switzerland, Austria, Luxembourg, Hungary, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Belarus, Serbia, FYROM (Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia), not counting a bunch of famous mini-states like Liechtenstein, Andorra, Vatican City and San Marino.

    Most of this group of countries are fairly successful states, some being super-successful modern economies (except Belarus, which is the model of an extractive regime). I would suggest that as important as Prof. Demirdjian's recommendations are, there is an equal opportunity for Armenia to replicate lessons learnt from the historical evolution of this group of countries as well.

    Viken L. Attarian
    Mount Royal, Quebec                                                                                                              
     

  4. Dr. Demirdjian’s Idea

    Dr. Demirdjian has the right sentiment, but, frankly his notion that countries which are landlocked would form  a league of landlocked countries, because the benefit would be  "…Bonding with other nations based on common predicament (i.e., no direct access to the sea);" is not realistic. 

    For example, what does Armenia have in common with Mongolia? Nothing. 
    Zimbabwe? Botswana?

    Sir, you can't possibly be serious. 

    1. Where is Botswana?

      I don't know where Botswana is but will look it up after having responded to Avery's rebuttal of a compelling argument Dr. Demirdjian made about a League of Land-Locked Countries (LLLC).

      I don't know anything about Botswana but would surmise that being land-locked it doesn't have access to sea and consequently is more likely than not, economically-disadvantaged. Because it has no access to sea, it has to rely on land and air transportation for access to the world and thus have its place in the family of nations. Botswana, more likely than a country that has access to sea, is at a  disadvantage for its neighbors may deny it not only access to land but also  to the skies claiming the sky above their borders as their property, and anyone who violates "its sky" will….does that not remind us of the beautiful but idle airport of Stenapakert?

      I would also surmise that the Botswana I don't know and Armenia I know share a common vital  interest that transcends Armenia's relation with its neighbor, Azerbaijan. Consequently, it behooves both to get to know each other and form a league to claim their rights to sea and sky.

      If the internet eliminated borders it's time every country had access to sea and air, lest earthly powers curtail access.

      Vahe

       

  5. Land route to the sea

    The idea of a land route to the sea has been around since the genocide. Unfortunately, it wasn't Turkey or Azerbaijan that killed the idea. I would hope that Dr Demirdjian's omission was done because of political expediency.

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