Ap photos azerbaijan separatist region aims to end solitude gas 99 cents

In this Friday, May 11, 2018 photo, teenagers take a course at TUMO, an after-school training center, in Stepanakert. Since a six-year separatist war ended in 1994, the mountainous region of Nagorno-Karabakh has been controlled by local ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia, yet the territory continues to be claimed by neighboring Azerbaijan which has fought all attempts by the self-proclaimed Republic of Artsakh for international recognition. For the fiercely proud people of Nagorno-Karabakh, life in political limbo has meant restrictions on travel, trade, economic development and education opportunities for its youth. (AP Photo/Thanassis Stavrakis)

STEPANAKERT, Azerbaijan (AP) — Most of the world is off-limits to Arshak Aghakaryan, a 14-year-old boy in the Azerbaijani separatist region of Nagorno-Karabakh. The rows of gleaming computers at an after-school training center feed his hopes that he has a place in it.

The privately funded TUMO Center for Creative Technologies, which teaches subjects such as robotics and 3-D modeling, epitomizes the aspirations in the region to emerge from the isolation that has cloaked it for more than two decades. Nagorno-Karabakh has been under the control of ethnic Armenian forces backed by Armenia since the end of a 1994 war.

Nagorno-Karabakh’s 150,000 people don’t hold Azerbaijan passports and can travel only to Armenia, unless they apply for Armenian passports. The mountainous region’s self-declared sovereignty isn’t recognized by any country. With trade, travel and educational opportunities limited, the region’s youth are in danger of falling behind.

TUMO’s goal is to “level up an entire generation,” said Korioun Khatchadourian, who moved from France to direct the Stepanakert branch of the Yerevan, Armenia-based center. “They will need to be multi-skilled, and techie and artsy, so that they can compete on the marketplace tomorrow.”

The nonprofit TUMO was founded by an American tech executive of Armenian descent. Such contributions from the Armenian diaspora are vital. But widespread corruption allegations in Armenia have discouraged investment, said Arayik Harutyunyan, the minister of state in the separatist government.

“His statements so far are more those of a member of the Armenian public than of a diplomat,” said Thomas de Waal, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. “This is a challenge to Azerbaijan. Suddenly, the clock is being reset and nothing is clear.”

It also has an international airport, built in 2011, but the one thing missing are the planes. Azerbaijan has warned it can’t guarantee the safety of flights to Nagorno-Karabakh. So, neatly stacked luggage trolleys, check-in desks and an air traffic control tower remain unused.

TUMO’s goal is to "level up an entire generation," said Korioun Khatchadourian, who moved from France to direct the Stepanakert branch of the Yerevan, Armenia-based center. "They will need to be multi-skilled, and techie and artsy, so that they can compete on the marketplace tomorrow."

The nonprofit TUMO was founded by an American tech executive of Armenian descent. Such contributions from the Armenian diaspora are vital. But widespread corruption allegations in Armenia have discouraged investment, said Arayik Harutyunyan, the minister of state in the separatist government.

"His statements so far are more those of a member of the Armenian public than of a diplomat," said Thomas de Waal, an analyst at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. "This is a challenge to Azerbaijan. Suddenly, the clock is being reset and nothing is clear."

It also has an international airport, built in 2011, but the one thing missing are the planes. Azerbaijan has warned it can’t guarantee the safety of flights to Nagorno-Karabakh. So, neatly stacked luggage trolleys, check-in desks and an air traffic control tower remain unused.