Gov. resolute to open mobile phone market to competition

June 30 2004


YEREVAN, JUNE 30, ARMENPRESS: Armenian justice minister David
Harutunian said June 29 that the government’s decision to suspend
changes to ArmenTel’s operating license until September 29 “in order
to facilitate the negotiation process with ArmenTel and its Greek
owner OTE in a bid to resolve their long-running disputes,” does not
mean that the government has backpedaled from its plans to open
Armenia’s market of cell-phone and Internet services to competition.
The announcement came after Harutunian’s return from London where
he negotiated last week with senior executives from ArmenTel and its
parent company, the Hellenic Telecommunication Organization (OTE) to
seek an out of court settlement of their dispute. “Government’s plan
to open the market for a second operator of mobile phone
communication and Internet connection is not questioned and will not
be questioned during the talks,” Harutunian told reporters, adding
that that will be the key condition of the talks..
ArmenTel and OTE Greeks filed a lawsuit earlier this year against
the Armenian government at the London International Court of
Arbitration seeking hundreds of millions of US Dollars in
compensation for damages they claim ArmenTel has sustained as a
result of the government’s failure to respect its commitments
contained in 1998 purchase deal. The suit was filed following the
government decision to revoke ArmenTel’s 15-year exclusive rights to
mobile phone communication and Armenia’s Internet connection with the
outside world that was to take effect on June 30.
Harutunian said the government will not suspend its decision after
September 29. “We have three months ahead to negotiate and try to
settle our dispute, a span of time which I think is quite enough and
if we fail to achieve an amicable settlement, the final decision will
be made by the Arbitration Court,” Harutunian said.
Harutunian said the government and ArmenTel’s new management
managed to engage in “constructive” dialogue. “If we succeed in
achieving a mutually acceptable decision the suits will be called
back,” he said. According to the minister, the government will do
everything possible to prevent clashes between ArmenTel and a new
operator of mobile phone communication.
The minister said also that the government will demand that
ArmenTel respect one of its commitments to provide rural communities
with phone communication, lower prices for Internet connection and
stop the practice of telephone conversations eavesdropping.