RFE/RL Armenian Report – 09/15/2021

                                        Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Government Hopes To Prevent Russian Gas Price Hike
September 15, 2021
        • Robert Zargarian

Armenia - Deputy Prime Minister or Armenia Mher Grigorian.

The Armenian government is negotiating with Gazprom in an effort to prevent a 
further rise in the price of Russian natural gas supplied to Armenia, Deputy 
Prime Minister Mher Grigorian said on Wednesday.
“Every year we address this issue and try agree on at least keeping the price 
unchanged, rather than raising it, even though there is an insistence on the 
part of the Gazprom Group that the profit margin set by the 2013 [supply] 
contract does not satisfy them,” Grigorian told lawmakers. “But that is a 
working process, and with your permission I won’t say more because negotiations 
are underway right now.”

“I cannot say what will happen in two or three years’ time. We hope to maintain 
the same price this year,” he added during the government’s question-and-answer 
session in the Armenian parliament.

Grigorian spoke the day after Gazprom Chairman Alexei Miller visited Yerevan and 
met with Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian. Very few details of the talks were made 

The Russian energy giant most recently raised its gas price for Armenia by 10 
percent, to $165 per thousand cubic meters, in January 2019. Yerevan tried 
unsuccessfully to get the Russians to cut it last year, arguing that that global 
energy prices have collapsed because of the coronavirus pandemic.

International energy prices have rallied strongly this year amid renewed 
economic growth around the world. In June, Gazprom set its average gas export 
price for European countries at $240 per thousand cubic meters.

Yerevan Reacts To Azeri Hurdles For Iranian Vehicles In Armenia
September 15, 2021
        • Naira Nalbandian
        • Susan Badalian

An Azerbaijani checkpoint set up at on the main road conneting Armeia to Iran, 
September 14, 2021

Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian reacted cautiously on Wednesday to Baku’s 
decision to check and tax Iranian vehicles using a strategic road that passes 
through border areas along southeastern Armenia controversially handed over to 
Azerbaijan after last year’s war.

Pashinian suggested that the move is aimed at pressuring Yerevan to open a 
transport corridor that would connect Azerbaijan to its Nakhichevan exclave 
through Armenia’s southeastern Syunik province. But he stopped short of calling 
it illegal or demanding an end to what many regard as a serious blow to 
Armenia’s trade and transport links with Iran.

Azerbaijan gained control of a 21-kilometer section of the main Armenian highway 
leading to the Iranian border in December after Pashinian ordered Armenian army 
units and local militias to pull out of the surrounding area. He said it is 
located on the Azerbaijani side of Armenia’s Soviet-era border with Azerbaijan.

The order came weeks after a Russian-brokered ceasefire stopped the 
Armenian-Azerbaijani war over Nagorno-Karabakh. Pashinian and other government 
officials assured critics at the time that travellers and cargos will continue 
to pass through the road section without any problems.

Azerbaijani forces set up a checkpoint there on Sunday to start stopping Iranian 
trucks and buses, checking their drivers’ documents and cargos, and demanding 
cash payments from them. The authorities in Baku said they are enforcing an 
Azerbaijani law that requires foreign vehicles entering the country to pay road 
and transit fees.

An RFE/RL correspondent witnessed on Wednesday the checkpoint manned by armed 
and masked Azerbaijani servicemen. A roadblock set up by them caused a traffic 
jam along the two-lane highway. Dozens of Iranian trucks were parked on the 

“They demanded $260 from me but I didn’t have it,” one Iranian driver bound for 
Yerevan told RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “They told me to pay up on my way back. 
I told my employer to send me the money so that I can return to Iran.”

Two other Iranian truckers were reportedly detained at the checkpoint later in 
the day. The Azerbaijani Interior Ministry accused them of “illegal entry into 
Azerbaijani territory,” an apparent reference to Nagorno-Karabakh.

Earlier this year, Baku demanded that Iranian trucks stop transporting cargos to 
and from Karabakh without its permission.

Armenia - Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian at a session of the Natioanal Assembly, 
August 26, 2021.

In what was the Armenian government’s first public reaction to the road checks, 
Pashinian said that Baku seems to be retaliating against Yerevan’s refusal to 
open the transport corridor sought by it.

“While acknowledging that regional transport links must be opened, Armenia makes 
clear that foreign cargos crossing into Armenian territory, including from 
Azerbaijan’s western regions on their way to the Nakhichevan Autonomous 
Republic, must pass through passport, customs and other checkpoints,” he said.

Speaking in the Armenian parliament, Pashinian also defended the Armenian troop 
withdrawal from the road section running along Syunik’s border areas. He said he 
made the decision, condemned by the Armenian opposition as illegal and 
dangerous, to prevent a “fresh military escalation” in the Karabakh conflict 

Opposition lawmakers continued to accuse Pashinian’s government of jeopardizing 
national security.

“Until when will the Azerbaijanis stay in that area and what steps are you 
taking?” one of them, Hripsime Stambulian, asked during the government’s 
question-and-answer session in the National Assembly.

“The Foreign Ministry is in constant touch with our Iranian partners,” replied 
Deputy Prime Minister Suren Papikian. “We are trying to stabilize the situation 
with joint efforts.”

Papikian stressed the importance of the ongoing reconstruction of an alternative 
Syunik road bypassing the Armenian-Azerbaijani border zone. He said its 
completion will “more or less” solve the problem.

Kocharian Demands More Active Efforts From Political Allies
September 15, 2021
        • Gayane Saribekian

Armenia - Former President Robert Kocharian meets with senior members of ihs 
opposition Hayastan alliance, Yerevan, September 14, 2021.

Former President Robert Kocharian has told senior members of his opposition 
Hayastan alliance to intensify its political activities and public outreach 

Kocharian met with them late on Tuesday to discuss recent political developments 
and lingering challenges facing Armenia. The meeting reportedly brought together 
parliament deputies affiliated with Hayastan and other activists of the 
country’s leading opposition force.

A Hayastan statement on the meeting issued on Wednesday said Kocharian 
instructed them to “increase public activity at this moment fateful for the 
country” and “further step up contacts between the Alliance and the public.” It 
said he also told them to set up “even more efficient organizational structures 
in order to give new impetus to the Alliance’s activities.”

“Members of the Alliance reaffirmed their aim: to achieve as soon as possible 
the ouster of the government wrecking Armenia and leading it to destruction,” 
added the statement. It did not give other details.

Seyran Ohanian, Hayastan’s parliamentary leader, said Kocharian wants his 
political allies to first and foremost improve communication with Armenians 
unhappy with the country’s current leadership. The opposition bloc will at the 
same time remain ready to stage anti-government street protests, he said.

“If the current authorities take actions aimed at the fall of the Republic of 
Armenia and loss of its sovereignty then we will use all tools at our disposal … 
to prevent that,” Ohanian told reporters.

Armenia - Former President Robert Kocharian and senior members of his Hayastan 
(Armenia) bloc hold an election campaign rally in Yerevan's Republic Square, 
June 18, 2021.

Hayastan won almost 22 percent of the vote and finished second in the June 20 
parliamentary elections, according to their official results challenged by it 

Like other opposition groups, Kocharian’s bloc holds Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian responsible for Armenia’s defeat in last year’s war in 
Nagorno-Karabakh. It also accuses Pashinian’s administration of failing to 
adequately deal with the country’s post-war security challenges.

Hayastan lawmakers repeated these accusations last month during the opening 
sessions of the new Armenian parliament marred by bitter verbal exchanges with 
pro-government deputies and even violent incidents.

Arusyak Julhakian, a deputy representing Pashinian’s Civil Contract party, 
claimed on Wednesday that the ex-president, who had ruled Armenia from 
1998-2008, is dissatisfied with Hayastan’s work in the National Assembly. She 
also dismissed the bloc’s fresh pledges to keep fighting for regime change, 
saying that “the public doesn’t trust them.”

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