RFE/RL Armenian Report – 11/30/2021

                                        Tuesday, 


Regulators Limit Water Price Rise


Armenia -- Water meters manufactured in a local factory, Yerevan, 10Aug2018


Public utility regulators on Tuesday allowed a French company managing Armenia’s 
water distribution network raise the price of drinking water in the country by 
11 percent.

The price has stood at 180 drams (37 U.S. cents) per cubic meter ever since the 
Veolia utility giant took over the network in 2017 after signing a 15-year 
management contract with the former Armenian government.

The company’s Armenian subsidiary, Veolia Djur, requested in August this year 
permission to raise it to almost 224 drams per cubic meter. It cited, among 
other things, higher-than-expected inflation and the increased cost of 
electricity in the country.

The Public Services Regulatory Commission (PSRC) decided to scale back the price 
hike effective from January 1. It said the water tariff will remain unchanged 
for low-income households and be set at just over 200 drams for other consumers.

The PSRC linked the decision to the Armenian government’s November 10 agreement 
with Veolia Djur which amended some terms of the French company’s operating 
license.

The government has shed little light on the agreement so far. It is not clear 
whether it made financial concessions to Veolia in exchange for limiting the 
price rise.

Veolia had managed the water and sewerage network of Yerevan from 2007-2016, 
phasing out Soviet-era water rationing in the vast majority of city 
neighborhoods.



Minister Defends COVID-19 Health Pass

        • Marine Khachatrian

Armenia - Health Minister Anahit Avanesian holds a news conference in Yerevan, 
.


Health Minister Anahit Avanesian defended on Tuesday the impending introduction 
of a mandatory coronavirus health pass for entry to cultural and leisure venues 
in Armenia.

Under a directive drafted by the Armenia Ministry of Health, starting from 
January 1, only those people who have been vaccinated against COVID-19 or have 
had a recent negative test will be allowed to visit bars, restaurants and other 
public venues. The new requirement is part of government efforts to boost the 
country’s vaccination rate, which remains one of the lowest in Europe and 
Central Asia.

The measure has prompted strong criticism from some of the entities that will be 
affected by it. In a statement issued on Monday, the Armenian Restaurant 
Association said that many restaurants have already suffered massive losses due 
to the coronavirus pandemic and would now be dealt a further financial blow.

Ruben Babayan, the director of Yerevan’s Hovannes Tumanian Puppet Theater, added 
his voice to the criticism. He rebuked the government for not consulting with 
the entertainment sector.

“Theaters are not the main venues for people’s gatherings,” Babayan told 
RFE/RL’s Armenian Service. “A typical spectator visits a theater two or three 
times a year at best, whereas many people use public transport twice a day.”

Avanesian insisted that the health pass, which is obligatory in many Western 
countries, must be introduced because it will help to save lives. The minister 
also claimed that the number of vaccinated Armenians is already large enough to 
allow cultural and entertainment venues to avoid major losses of revenue.

According to the Ministry of Health, only some 436,400 people in the country of 
about 3 million were fully vaccinated as of Sunday. Nearly 345,000 others 
received one dose of a vaccine in recent weeks.

Critics also complained about a lack of clarity about how the measure will be 
enforced by relevant authorities.

“What if a customer shows a fake [vaccination] certificate?” asked Arsen 
Hovannisian, the founder of several restaurants in downtown Yerevan. “What will 
be our responsibility?”

“Or suppose that our employee sees a [certification] document and lets a 
customer in. Who will be verifying [their compliance?]”

Avanesian said in this regard that her ministry and other government agencies 
are still discussing enforcement mechanisms.



Armenian Military Denies No-Shoot Orders

        • Naira Nalbandian

Armenia - Soldiers and a guard dog at an Armenian army post on the border with 
Azerbaijan, October 15, 2021.


A senior military official dismissed on Tuesday continuing opposition 
allegations that Armenian soldiers were ordered not to open fire on Azerbaijani 
troops accused by Yerevan of violating Armenia’s territorial integrity.

Azerbaijani forces reportedly advanced a few kilometers into Armenian territory 
at several sections of the border between the two states in May. Despite a 
resulting tense standoff with Armenian army units deployed there, there were 
initially no reports of armed clashes between the two sides.

Amateur videos circulated online in the following weeks showed instead armed 
Armenian and Azerbaijani soldiers coming to blows and chasing each other away 
from contested border posts without firing gunshots. Prime Minister Nikol 
Pashinian spoke of a series of such incidents when he addressed the Armenian 
parliament later in May.

The incidents fuelled opposition claims that Armenian soldiers were ordered not 
to shoot at advancing Azerbaijani forces. They were stoked by a November 14 
incident in Armenia’s Syunik province where Armenian troops were reportedly 
forced to vacate two border outposts without putting up any resistance. 
Pashinian fired Defense Minister Arshak Karapetian the following morning.

At least 13 soldiers from both sides were killed in heavy fighting that broke 
out at a nearby border section on November 16. About three dozen other Armenian 
soldiers were taken prisoner as a result.


ARMENIA -- Azerbaijani (L) and Armenian checkpoints at the Sotk gold mine on the 
Armenian-Azerbaijani border, Gegharkunik province, June 18, 2021

Speaking in the National Assembly on November 17, Pashinian insisted that 
neither he nor any other official had ever issued no-shoot orders. He insisted 
that such orders would be tantamount to high treason.

Deputy Defense Minister Arman Sargsian echoed those assurances on Tuesday during 
a meeting of the parliament committee on defense and security. “No-shoot orders 
were definitely not issued by any official,” he told opposition members of the 
committee.

At least one of the opposition lawmakers, Gegham Manukian, remained unconvinced. 
He said the fistfights on the Armenian-Azerbaijani border suggest that the 
Armenian military was indeed ordered not to open fire.

Meanwhile, the Armenian Defense Ministry pointedly declined to confirm or deny 
reports that Azerbaijani troops have pulled back from one of the contested 
border areas occupied by them in May.



Yerevan Again Rules Out ‘Corridors’ For Azerbaijan


Russia - Russian President Vladimir Putin, Azerbaijani President Ilham Aliyev 
and Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian make statements to the press after 
talks in Sochi, November 26, 2021.


Armenia’s government insisted on Tuesday that it will not cede any 
extraterritorial land corridors to Azerbaijan as a result of the latest talks 
between the leaders of the two states hosted by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Putin, Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham 
Aliyev met in the Russian city of Sochi on Friday one year after a 
Russian-brokered ceasefire that stopped the six-week war over Nagorno-Karabakh. 
They reported further progress towards the opening of transport links between 
Armenia and Azerbaijan envisaged by the ceasefire.

In particular, Putin said a trilateral task force dealing with the matter will 
meet in Moscow this week to announce “decisions which we agreed today.” He did 
not elaborate.

The truce accord commits Armenia to opening rail and road links between 
Azerbaijan and its Nakhichevan exclave. Armenia should be able, for its part, to 
use Azerbaijani territory as a transit route for cargo shipments to Russia and 
Iran.

Aliyev has repeatedly claimed that the deal calls for a special “corridor” that 
will connect Nakhichevan to the rest of Azerbaijan via Armenia’s Syunik 
province. Commenting on the Sochi talks over the weekend, he declared that the 
“Zangezur corridor is becoming reality.”

The Armenian Foreign Ministry effectively denied that on Tuesday. The ministry 
spokesman, Vahan Hunanian, said a joint statement issued by Aliyev, Pashinian 
and Putin at Sochi “refuted propaganda notions about a ‘corridor’ or the logic 
of a corridor.”

Deputy Prime Minister Mher Grigorian, the Armenian co-chair of the 
Russian-Armenian-Azerbaijani task force, likewise insisted that the three 
leaders discussed conventional cross-border transport links, rather than 
“exterritorial roads” implied by Aliyev.

“In case of the unblocking of roads, both the railway and highways [passing 
through Armenian territory] will be under Armenia’s full jurisdiction and 
control,” Grigorian told the “Hraparak” daily.

Accordingly, he said, cargo shipments to and from Nakhichevan will be subject to 
Armenian customs controls and other border checks.

The assurances came amid continuing Armenian opposition allegations that 
Pashinian agreed to make more concessions to Baku at the expense of Armenia’s 
territorial integrity. A senior opposition lawmaker, Armen Rustamian, suggested 
on Monday that Aliyev’s latest statement about the “Zangezur corridor” is the 
result of his unpublicized “oral understandings” with Pashinian.

Visiting Yerevan on November 5, Russia’s Deputy Prime Minister Alexei Overchuk 
said the trilateral working group has agreed that Armenia and Azerbaijan will 
“retain sovereignty over roads passing through their territory.” The Russian 
Foreign Ministry also reported such an agreement.


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