MARTAKERT, Artsakh—The highly-anticipated Vartenis-Mardakert highway was officially opened on Friday, during a ceremony attended by the presidents of Armenia and Artsakh, as well as hundreds of local residents, Armenia Fund officials and other gathered on the Artsakh end of the road.
The roughly 71.5-mile stretch of road, which was completed months ago was officially inaugurated as part celebrations dedicated to the 26th anniversary of the Artsakh’s independence.
The $36 million project will become the second road connecting Armenia and Artsakh. Until now passenger and cargo traffic between the two republics was mainly through a highway connecting Goris to Berdzor (formerly Lachin) in what was the first ever project of the Armenia Fund.
Construction began on the Vardenis-Martakert highway in 2011 and was one of the key projects of the Armenia Fund, which through its 2013 and 2014 annual telethons raised the funds to accelerate the project. The governments of Armenia and Artsakh paid for 56 percent of the project costs.
Armenia Fund officials, including last year’s major donor, Antranig Baghdasarian, who donated $5 million to Armenia Fund headed the ribbon cutting ceremony, with presidents Serzh Sarkisian of Armenia and Bako Sahakian of Artsakh on hand for the official ceremony.
During the ceremony, Armenia Fund officials heralded the “strategic significance” of the Vardenis-Martakert highway, which runs through Karvajan (formerly Kelbajar) and significantly cuts travel between Armenia and Artsakh.
The highway runs from Martakert in northeast Artsakh to Vardenis, along the banks of Lake Sevan. Some of the key sites along the route include the first century architectural wonder, Dadivank in Artsakh and the Sarsang Reservoir.
“The construction of the highway is among the largest investment programs realized in Artsakh that was brought to life through the “Hayastan” All-Armenian Fund’s efforts, with the active participation of the worldwide Diaspora Armenians,” Sahakian said during his remarks at the opening ceremony and expressed gratitude to all the organizations and individuals that actively participated in the highway’s construction.
Ahead of the highway inauguration ceremony and accompanied by the Primate of the Artsakh Diocese, Parkev Martirosyan, Sarkisian and Sahakian toured the historic Dadivank Monastery and St. Mary’s Church, which are currently being reconstructed to its original glory.
The leaders lit candles at the church and then headed toward the inauguration ceremony.
Sarkisian arrived in Artsakh on Wednesday to take part in weekend-long celebrations of the 26th anniversary of Artsakh’s independence