RFE/RL Armenian Report – 07/15/2021


UAE’s Air Arabia To Launch Major Airline In Armenia

        • Nane Sahakian

Armenia - Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al Thani, chairman of the Air Arabia 
airline, at a meeting with Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian, Yerevan, 

The United Arab Emirates-based carrier Air Arabia and an Armenian state agency 
have announced plans to jointly launch a low-cost “national airline” in Armenia.

Under an agreement signed by Air Arabia and the Armenian National Interests Fund 
(ANIF) on Wednesday, the new airline will operate as their joint venture and use 
Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport as its base.

“The new company will adopt the low-cost business model operated by Air Arabia,” 
the two sides said in a joint statement.

“Work on securing the Air Operating Certificate (AOC) – which allows the airline 
to start operating – will commence shortly. More details about the launch date, 
fleet, and destination network will be announced in due course,” added the 

“We see tremendous potential for Armenia in building its airline sector, which 
will add sustained value to the economy through job creation and the development 
of travel and tourism sector,” it quoted Air Arabia’s chief executive, Adel Al 
Ali, as saying.

Tatevik Revazian, the head of the Armenian government’s Civil Aviation 
Committee, also stressed the economic significance of the deal when she spoke 
with RFE/RL’s Armenian Service on Thursday.

“The benefits of this project are very clear,” she said. “A large number of jobs 
will be created directly and indirectly. Aviation is an engine of economic 
development. We will have a very serious instrument for developing our economy.”

Armenia -- An Armenia Airways plane parked on tarmac at Zvartnots Airport, 
Yerevan, May 3, 2019.

Armenia has had no major domestic airlines ever since the state-backed Armavia 
carrier went bankrupt in 2013. The bankruptcy led the then Armenian government 
to liberalize the country’s aviation sector.

The decision allowed local and foreign carriers meeting safety standards to 
carry out flights to and from Armenia without any restrictions. The South 
Caucasus country’s air traffic with the outside world grew rapidly in the 
following years.

Revazian insisted that the new national airline will not be in a privileged 
position vis-à-vis small private carriers currently operating in Armenia. Nor 
will it prevent more foreign airlines from launching flights to Armenia, she 

“Competition is a healthy thing for everyone,” said the official. “It makes 
everyone work better.”

Air Arabia already operates a regular flight service between the Emirati city of 
Sharjah and Yerevan. Its chairman, Sheikh Abdullah Bin Mohammed Al Thani, 
attended Wednesday’s signing ceremony in Yerevan.

Al Thani also held separate meetings with President Armen Sarkissian and Prime 
Minister Nikol Pashinian.

"Armenia is currently going through a rather difficult period,” Sarkissian told 
Al Thani. “We appreciate our friends who are by our side, especially at this 
stage, starting new cooperation with a new project in Armenia.”

Armenian Mining Giant Hit By Tax Hike, Crackdown

        • Artak Khulian

Armenia - An ore-processing facility of Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine in 
Kajaran, February 6, 2016.

Armenian lawmakers approved on Thursday a government proposal to impose a new 
tax on exports of copper and other metals one day after law-enforcement officers 
raided the offices of Armenia’s largest mining company partly controlled by an 
opposition leader.

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian’s government announced plans to introduce the 15 
percent export duty at an emergency meeting held on Monday. It said that 
international prices of copper and molybdenum, Armenia’s number one export item, 
have risen significantly over the past year, allowing mining companies to make 
excessive profits.

Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian objected to the measure during the cabinet 
meeting, saying that its implementation would be fraught with “risks” to the 
domestic economy. Pashinian dismissed Grigorian’s concerns.

The outgoing National Assembly promptly adopted relevant government-drafted 
amendments to an Armenian law on state duties.

Economy Minister Vahan Kerobian said the tax hike is expected to earn the 
government about 35 billion drams ($70 million) in additional tax revenues in 
the second half of this year.

Kerobian denied that the main purpose of the measure is to hurt owners and 
senior executives of the Zangezur Copper-Molybdenum Combine (ZCMC), the 
country’s largest industrial enterprise based in Kajaran, a town in southeastern 
Syunik province.

ZCMC’s board of directors comprises Vahe Hakobian, a senior member of the 
opposition Hayastan bloc led by former President Robert Kocharian. The mayors of 
Kajaran and several other communities of Syunik are also affiliated with the 
bloc that finished second in the June 20 parliamentary elections.

During the election campaign Pashinian vowed to crack down on ZCMC’s “corrupt” 
owners and wage “political vendettas” against local government officials 
supporting the opposition. He claimed that the mining company banned its 
employees from attending his campaign rally in Kajaran.

Over the past week, the elected mayors of Kajaran and the towns of Meghri and 
Agarak and two local government officials from another Syunik community have 
been arrested on different charges denied by them. Law-enforcement authorities 
moved on Thursday to arrest two other Syunik mayors affiliated with Hayastan.

Kocharian’s bloc has strongly condemned the arrests, saying that Pashinian’s 
administration is trying to suppress the country’s leading opposition force. The 
authorities deny any political motives behind the arrests.

Anna Grigorian, a Syunik-based parliamentarian representing Hayastan, insisted 
the new mining tax is part of the government crackdown. “During the election 
campaign they [the authorities] made no secret of their plans to go down this 
path,” she said.

On Wednesday masked officers of the National Security Service reportedly 
searched and sealed ZCMC’s administrative offices in Kajaran and detained three 
company executives. The NSS did not comment on the raid as of Thursday evening.

Earlier this week, ZCMC said that the Armenian customs service is refusing 
without any explanation to allow more than 70 rail cars laden with its copper 
and molybdenum ore concentrates to leave the country.

According to the State Revenue Committee, the mining giant employing more than 
4,000 people paid 41.7 billion drams ($84 million) in various taxes last year, 
making it Armenia’s third largest corporate taxpayer.

Pashinian Rejects Aliyev’s Threats

Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian speaks at a cabinet meeting in Yerevan, 

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian condemned on Thursday Azerbaijani President Ilham 
Aliyev’s latest statement on the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict as a threat to 
Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.

He said Armenia will use its military alliance with Russia to neutralize such 

Speaking on Wednesday, Aliyev complained that Yerevan is reluctant to sign a 
“peace treaty” with Baku eight months after a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped 
the war in Karabakh. He said such a treaty must commit the two sides to 
recognizing each other’s territorial integrity.

This would presumably mean a formal Armenian recognition of Azerbaijani 
sovereignty over Karabakh.

“The Armenians must think carefully about that because it could be too late for 
them in the future,” said Aliyev.

In that context, he again referred to much of Armenia’s territory, including the 
capital Yerevan, as “historical Azerbaijani lands” and said Azerbaijanis will 
eventually “return to their ancestral lands.”

Pashinian hit back at Aliyev as he opened a weekly meeting of his cabinet in 
Yerevan. He said Baku is hampering regional peace and stability with “statements 
threatening Armenia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity.”

“Armenia will defend its sovereignty and territorial integrity by all possible 
and impossible means, including the mechanisms of the joint Russian-Armenian 
military contingent and the Collective Security Treaty Organization, something 
about which we have been holding consultations with our partners,” he said.

Pashinian also pointed to Aliyev’s repeated threats to forcibly open a 
“corridor” connecting Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave via Armenia’s Syunik 
province. He said they run counter to the terms of the truce agreement brokered 
by Russian President Vladimir Putin on November 9.

The agreement commits Yerevan to opening rail and road links between Nakhichevan 
and the rest of Azerbaijan. Armenia should be able, for its part, to use 
Azerbaijani territory as a transit route for cargo shipments to and from Russia 
and Iran.

At a January meeting in Moscow, Putin, Aliyev and Pashinian agreed to set up a 
trilateral working group tasked with working out practical modalities of 
reopening the transport links. The group co-headed by deputy prime ministers of 
the three states held several meetings in the following months.

Pashinian claimed that Aliyev’s threats are aimed at disrupting the group’s 
“quite constructive and productive activities.”

Citing statements made by the U.S., Russian and French mediators co-heading the 
OSCE Minsk Group, he further disputed Aliyev’s fresh claim that Azerbaijani 
“unilaterally” resolved the Karabakh conflict with its victory in the six-week 
war. He made clear that Yerevan will continue to pursue “the realization of the 
Karabakh people’s right to self-determination.”

Armen Grigorian Tipped To Become Armenia’s New FM

        • Astghik Bedevian

Armen Grigorian

Former secretary of Armenia’s Security Council Armen Grigorian has been 
appointed first deputy minister of foreign affairs in a move that ruling party 
representatives see as a prelude to his appointment to the currently vacant 
ministerial position.

Grigorian, 38, is a member of the ruling Civil Contract party. He graduated from 
the Department of International Relations of Yerevan State University and later 
from the American University of Armenia, but has no experience of diplomatic 

Grigorian coordinated electoral programs for the anti-corruption organization, 
Transparency International, before becoming one of the key figures of Armenia’s 
2018 “Velvet Revolution.” He was appointed secretary of the Security Council 
after the revolution.

Chief of Pashinian’s staff Arayik Harutiunian introduced Grigorian to the staff 
of the Foreign Ministry on Wednesday. In his remarks he expressed confidence 
that Grigorian will encompass the tasks set to him by the government.

Grigorian, for his part, said that he was convinced that “we will jointly 
implement all the tasks outlined in the electoral program of the Civil Contract 
party that will also be reflected in the government’s program.”

Armenia has had no foreign minister since May 31. In his farewell speech to the 
ministry staff former Foreign Minister Ara Ayvazian made it clear that he had 
resigned because of policy disagreements with Pashinian.

“The reason for my decision to resign was to make sure that there are never any 
suspicions that this ministry could take some steps or agree to some ideas, 
initiatives going against our statehood and national interests,” he said.

Later it was Grigorian who accused Ayvazian of torpedoing the government work on 
the repatriation of Armenian prisoners of war from Azerbaijan by lying that 
Yerevan had no minefield maps that it could pass on to the Azerbaijani side.

Ayvazian’s resignation was followed by the resignations of all four of his 
deputies. The resignation of one deputy minister, Armen Ghevondian, was not 
accepted by the government and he continued to serve not to leave the ministry 
without the leadership altogether.

Lawmaker Artur Hovannisian, a member of the Civil Contract party, confirmed that 
Grigorian is also their candidate for the post of foreign minister. He said that 
there was a discussion within the party on this issue. “There are difficult 
processes that we must go through, and, yes, we need people who can make 
decisions in difficult situations based on the interests of the Republic of 
Armenia and implement these decisions,” he said.

For the first time since coming to power Pashinian has made an appointment in 
the Foreign Ministry, bypassing the diplomatic corps. Acting Deputy Prime 
Minister Tigran Avinian said that “the political appointment is needed for 
establishing a certain connection between the diplomatic corps and the political 
leadership in order to remove the differences that have existed to some extent.” 
“I think that on the whole this is a positive appointment,” Avinian said.

Grigorian was one of the few officials who criticized the decision of the 
Russian-led Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) not to support 
Armenia in its current border standoff with Azerbaijan, advising that the CSTO’s 
secretary-general show restraint in his public remarks.

Political analyst Armen Baghdasarian believes that if Grigorian is appointed 
foreign minister, there will be drastic changes as Armenia will start pursuing a 
pro-Western foreign policy.

“Considering his track record, his numerous statements, I think it will be very 
difficult for him to pursue a pro-Russian foreign policy. In case of a sharp 
change in Armenia’s foreign policy, Russia will try to react as harshly as 
possible,” Baghdasarian said.

Baghdasarian believes that career diplomats would not agree to cardinal changes 
in Armenia’s foreign policy, so Pashinian has been looking for a candidate for 
the top post outside the Foreign Ministry.

“It is searching for and finding allies that is the main task of diplomacy. But 
Armenia’s dependence on Russia today in all respects, and primarily in the 
security sphere, is so great that I think it would not be a reasonable decision 
to appoint someone whom Russia absolutely does not trust,” he said.

Reprinted on ANN/Armenian News with permission from RFE/RL
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