2021 May 26

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Contents

Daily news wrap-up

May/26/2021: (1) Pashinyan shares new details about border conflict & demarcation (2) UN Sec. Council vs CSTO? (3) Armenia to have national airlines (4) Polls: public opinion on Russia, USA, etc. (5) Bills: legalize hemp, cement tariff, lawyers' transparency (6) Free speech report (7) Infrastructure
by ar_david_hh


Your 13-minute Wednesday report in 3432 words so you won't claim you didn't know.

Armenia will have a low-cost "national" airline carrier: FlyOne Armenia

Armenian and Moldovan companies cooperated to create Armenian airlines. The Moldovan company started off small and studied the market. "We found that strangely, Armenia does not have its national carrier that can provide low-cost flights to its citizens or be part of a global network," said the Moldovan co-investor.

Armenian co-investor: with the creation of a national carrier, we hope to restore Armenia's pilot institute we had in the Soviet era. We can create aviation jobs and help our experts return and work in Armenia. We will create 135 new jobs in the first phase.

This will be a low-cost airline geared towards the general population and local businesses. It can also help tourism with low fares. No longer will you have to travel only once a year in certain directions due to high costs.

We expect to enter the market this summer. www.flyone.am or www.flyone.eu //

The airlines had earlier contacted the Armenian Civil Aviation for licensing. They imported the first Airbus A320 today.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053507.html

polls: what do Armenians think about foreign relations, 2019-20 vs 2006

Relations are good with Russia...

2006: 95% agree

2019: 93% agree

Relations are good with Iran...

2006: 86%

2019: 94%

Relations are good with the USA...

2006: 67%

2019: 88%

Relations are good with the EU...

2006: 85%

2019: 91%

Relations are good with Georgia...

2006: 43%

2019: 94%

Relations are bad with Azerbaijan and Turkey...

2008: 90-97%

2019: 98-99%

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053528.html

Tags: #ForeignRelations #ForeignPolicy

polls: do you support membership to the following blocs?

66% supported joining EAEU.

52% support improving relations with EAEU.

19% prefer the EU.

59% have a relative(s) living abroad; 70% of them said they receive remittances from Russia.

80% of work migration was to Russia in the past 30 years.

Remittances from Russia accounted for 15.5% of GDP in 2012, and 7.7% in 2019-2020.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053528.html

Foreign Minister of Iran visits Armenia

MFA Ayvazyan met MFA Zarif in Yerevan. Ayvazyan presented details about borders. "With the sense of impunity, Azerbaijan is trying to create new geopolitical realities that are not in the interests of countries who want regional stability."

Pashinyan met with Zarif and discussed issues relating to trade and borders.

Iran's Zarif: an Armenia-Iran railway connection through Nakhijevan, and the Meghri free trade zone, can be very beneficial for boosting trade. I hope we will be able to ensure an active presence in Syunik in the near future.

We hope there will be peace in the region. Iran has always emphasized the importance of preserving territorial integrity, sovereignty, and peaceful resolution of conflicts. To help resolve the latest tensions, we made three visits to Armenia in a recent period.

I regret that you sustained a casualty as a result of the recent escalation. I spoke with the Azerbaijani president in detail yesterday. I hope my trips to Armenia and Azerbaijan can help resolve the crisis. //

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053448.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053474.html

Armenian MOD denies firing shots towards Azeri troops

Azeri MOD claimed Armenians opened fire between May 24-26. Armenian MOD said it's a lie and a "pathetic attempt to justify Azerbaijan's ceasefire violation on May 25 which resulted in the death of Armenian serviceman."

Armenian MOD found it suspicious that "Armenia has been firing at Azeri positions since May 24 but Azeris only now decided to speak about it."

The MOD called for Azerbaijan to immediately withdraw its forces from Armenian territories to avoid military response.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053476.html

Defense Minister of Armenia and Russia discussed border issues

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053452.html

to Article 4 or not to Article 4?

Various opposition figures criticized the authorities for not opening fire at Azeris who intruded into Syunik on May 12. They said that having an armed confrontation on the border would have allowed CSTO and Russia to intervene military. Counter-argument was made that a military clash would have made the situation worse, and that diplomacy should be exhausted before the military is used.

Ruling QP MP Rubinyan: regarding why we haven't opened fire before contacting CSTO. First of all, it was our allies who urged us not to aggravate the situation and to try to solve the problem through diplomatic means.

And second, the military alliance formats, in which we are involved, have clearly defined articles on specific cases. We aren't sitting with the arms folded while asking for help. A specific procedure was initiated to utilize CSTO Article 2 and the Armenia-Russia military agreement.

We expect our allies to help resolve the situation. I don't rule out the Article 4 application considering the latest developments.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053451.html

Russian ambassador Kopyrkin about the border situation:

Russia is making active efforts to resolve the situation in Syunik. The trials that the Armenian people are going through fully show the quality of our allied relations. Russia is the only country that has provided practical assistance to Armenia in a difficult situation to stop the Artsakh war.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053487.html

Pashinyan: the speed of CSTO operations does not satisfy Armenia, we don't rule out contacting UN Security Council

Pashinyan in Parliament: if it turns out that the tools provided by CSTO or Armenia-Russia agreements are insufficient to remove Azeris from Armenia, we will contact UN Security Council instead.

The Azeris' goal was to incite a military conflict near Sev Lake, and as their president said, to create a corridor to Nakhijevan. This is why we decided to contact CSTO.

At the moment, we are not satisfied with the speed of CSTO response, but we will continue to work in this area because the threat isn't gone. Our partners must be aware of the threat and express a clear position.

CSTO countries and CSTO itself have not made a clear statement urging Azeri withdrawal. They make such statements during work meetings but not publicly. [likely referring to his recent conversation with Putin]

Their argument is that this section of the Armenia-Azerbaijan border is not yet demarcated. But the same can be said about the Russia-Azerbaijan border. What does this mean? We need clarity here.

The issue of contacting the UN Security Council has been internally discussed from the beginning. The peculiarity here is that you have to have certain predictability and field of vision here by making preparatory work.

Ind. MP Urikhanyan: if we fire shots at the Azeri troops, are you concerned that Russia and CSTO would break their agreements and not help Armenia?

Pashinyan: No. That would be the same as self-dissolution by not fulfilling international obligations. Russia's stance remains the same: Armenia's borders are a red line for Russia. Unfortunately, Azerbaijan has crossed that red line.

I rule out the possibility of Russia not fulfilling its contractual obligations. It's stated in the document that an attack on Armenia is an attack on Russia. If anyone can attack Armenia with impunity that means they can attack Russia, too.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053511.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053533.html

Pashinyan provides details about the border demarcation process & Azeri withdrawal proposal

Pashinyan: [after receiving the demarcation document from Russia], we submitted two proposals but have not yet received any response. I will not sign any document until Azerbaijan withdraws its troops.

Our proposals are: either Azeris withdraw now and I sign the document [to form demarcation commission], or I sign an amended version of the document which states that Azeris have a few days to withdraw.

Before the [demarcation commission] document was leaked [by Mishik], we made written proposals about the repatriation of all POWs and gave the specific coordinates from which Azeris soldiers must withdraw. No response yet. There have been no further developments around the demarcation document since then.

We will not discuss any scenario that does not envision Azeri withdrawal.

Azerbaijan would not dare to do this alone. I don't know if they agreed with others. I think that these actions were agreed upon with someone in advance. If we learn details about such pre-agreement, we must be transparent and tell our public about it.

And maybe we should be transparent and tell our public the truth about the past 3-10 years. It's important to understand what happened around the Karabakh conflict in the past 15 years.

In this phase, we continue to work with CSTO colleagues. Our MOD will visit Russia soon to get answers to some questions. We should continue to deepen the cooperation with our primary ally Russia.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053518.html

landmine explosion in occupied territories

An Azeri family visited occupied territories in Aghdam and exploded on a landmine. The rescuers also triggered an explosion. "The mines are everywhere," complained a rescuer, urging everyone to stay out of such areas.

https://factor.am/374730.html

bill approved: cement and clinker tariffs will change

The government believes the local cement production is strategically important, and to save it from going bankrupt, it wants to set import tariffs, as it has been done since 2018. Full context in April 28 news.

Economy Ministry: we want ֏25k tariff on cement and ֏9k on clinker (which can be used to produce cement). It will save the two Armenian cement factories.

QP MP Tunyan: due to certain events in Iran, in 2018 their cement became orders of magnitude cheaper. It began replacing Armenian cement rapidly.

At the time, the government proposed import tariffs to protect the two Armenian cement factories, but it was later amended and the ֏14k tariff was only imposed on cement, but not clinker.

Those tariffs ended on Dec/31/2020. It raised the concern of Armenian cement producers. As of 2021, you could import cement and clinker without tariffs. To save local producers, the government decided to restrict cement import but clinker was allowed.

The government believes Parliament's proposed ֏14k cement tariff is too small, they want ֏25k. While the Parliament doesn't want a clinker tariff, the government wants ֏9k.

After the implementation of the first tariff in 2018, [Tsarukyan's] AraratCement factory increased its production from 443,000 tons to 534,000 tons. Hrazdan Cement factory increased from 30,000 to 90,000.

As expected, the tariffs had also reduced cement imports and the use of clinker to produce cement.

Economy Minister: the Parliament rejected our [Government] bill so we agree to the one offered by Parliament. The amended bill is similar to the one that we had prior Dec/31/2020 with the only difference that clinker import will become slightly more expensive. //

Today the Parliament voted 72-7-3 to approve the bill. ֏14k tariff on cement and ֏2k on clinker.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1051612.html https://factor.am/368128.html https://factor.am/368330.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1052995.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053435.html

Tags: #cement

bill approved: can't pledge a vehicle as collateral then sneakily export it

Parliament voted 71-0-4 to approve the Government bill that will require you to obtain permission from your debtholder if you are trying to export a vehicle that you had earlier pledged as collateral. Effective January 1st.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053434.html

bill approved: officials will receive salaries for the period they spend fighting in the war

Parliament voted 75-0-2 to approve the Government bill that treats the time spent by officials in the front lines similarly to being at work. The same set of rules about salaries, bonuses, etc. It will retroactively apply to 2020 participants.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053433.html

bill proposed: unified register of real beneficiaries of legal entities

As part of the anti-corruption campaign, the bill wants to establish transparency on the real identities of those using lawyers' services in Armenia. The Parliament gave preliminary approval to the Justice Ministry bill.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053437.html

bill proceeds: legalize hemp for industrial use

Parliament held a preliminary vote to approve the Government bill to amend the narcotics law to allow licensed growing and sale of hemp. 10-year licenses will be issued.

The government believes hemp is suited for the Armenian climate, can help address the issue of unused lands, and cannabis oil can bring extra revenues.

The bill requires another vote to pass.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053447.html

2020 media freedom report: public TV regulator presents details

Television and Radio Commission chief Tigran Hakobyan: towards the end of each year, we ask media outlets to tell us all the negative encounters and instances of pressure they encountered.

They complained that some officials and MPs ignored some media requests and displayed discriminatory behavior, sometimes with threats. While any instance is unacceptable, we found that such negative manifestations were not systematic and did not endanger media freedoms.

What had a negative effect on the media's independence is the economic hardships of 2020. It made outlets more dependent on various political forces and financial groups.

It's difficult to preserve media freedom during emergencies. This overall positive rating does not mean there is no room for improvement. Our Commission needs broader legal reach, combined with clearly defined media policies in Armenia.

Often when we think about media independence, we only think about their independence from the government and state. But that's not the full picture. While the improvement is obvious, media independence is still in danger due to shadowy financing and political forces making editorial decisions.

In 2019-2020, the government stayed mostly true to the proclaimed principles. We have no recorded instances of intervention in editorial or publishing policies or preventing broadcasting.

The free sale and purchase of media companies continue. This was not possible before; it used to be under strict monitoring.

Most issues reported by outlets were relating to the media restrictions in the early days of the COVID pandemic. For example, journalists were fined and forced to wear masks while in studios and during interviews.

There were rare instances when the authorities attempted to guide our Commission but we ignored it. There was no interference in our activities or decision-making.

Ind. MP Taguhi: why does public H1 TV ignore independent opposition figures? Our recent activities were ignored by H1.

Commission chief: that's not what the data shows. I can send you statistics about who was invited for interviews and the topics that were discussed. As of right now, H1 is the most balanced and free outlet we have. No other outlet covers the same spectrum of officials and topics. H1 has significantly improved in this regard. You can compare the coverage from 10 years ago. Any complaints can be discussed with their commission.

Ind MP Bagratyan: 90% of media outlets are busy terrorizing the public by portraying everything in a grim light. They spread fake news. What can MPs do to have more responsible media? There are often slurs used.

Commission chief: unfortunately sometimes it's the members of authorities who use slurs... The state institutes often respond too slowly which helps the spread of misinformation. They often chase and respond to rumors rather than setting the agenda.

There are no structures and independent analytics groups to have proper media. You've been complaining about misinformation for 2 years but you haven't done anything about it so far legislatively.

Full: https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053475.html https://factor.am/374680.html https://factor.am/374702.html https://youtu.be/W_tq1qy94YE https://factor.am/374708.html https://youtu.be/SLumGo11f4k

https://factor.am/374733.html

Tags: #FreeSpeech

deadline: political parties must submit a top list of MP candidates

23 parties and 4 alliances will compete in elections.

BHK, Kocharyan, ARF, QP, and others submitted the list of their top candidates. They include familiar former and current officials and businessmen.

These lists do not necessarily show the full list of party members. A person can be a party member and later take a position but not be included on this list.

QP was asked to comment why businessman Khachatur Sukiasyan was on their list, which "contradicts Pashinyan's 2018 claim that the businesses should be separate from politics". QP responded saying it is normal for a businessman - who could be anyone from a kiosk owner to a large business owner - to decide to switch his career to politics, but the important thing is they should put the business interest aside, and if they don't, "there is a Parliamentary ethics committee and also the Corruption Prevention Commission which can take action."

Flashback: Businessman Khachatur Sukiasian was a Levon Ter-Petrosyan ally and had his businesses raided over his public support for Levon in 2008. He had to flee Armenia amid persecution. His "Bjni" company was bankrupted and appropriated by HHK oligarch Nemets Rubo. Sukiasyan became publicly more active after the 2018 revolution that ousted Serj Sargsyan.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053444.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053470.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053459.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053466.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053489.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053497.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053499.html https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053556.html https://fip.am/15713

authorities investigating 3 instances of voter bribery attempts

LHK MP: there are rumors about briberies

Pashinyan: I have been informed that there are already 3 investigations. The circles have been revealed. They may not suspect that they are being monitored. I do not recommend anyone attempt to restore the old traditions of bribery.

You will not see us distribute bribes, such rumors come from circles familiar to you.

LHK MP: I never said it was the government that was distributing the said bribes.

Pashinyan: We do not suspect LHK and few other opposition parties of distributing bribes, and LHK does not suspect us of distributing bribes. A significant portion of government and opposition trust each other when it comes to bribery. This is one area where the govt and opposition can build trust.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053523.html https://factor.am/374957.html

Armenian and Iranian businesses held a forum in Tehran

Armenian IRS boss was also present. Iranian businesses want to learn about the Armenian tax code, customs regulations, etc. The IRS boss presented recent reforms aimed at helping the business.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053440.html

Shirak province infrastructure: water reservoirs, railways, water network, preschools, roads

Minister Papikyan: thanks to decentralized management in the past two years, various settlements of Shirak province show a great performance indicator. There is a ֏7.3 billion project to revamp the water delivery network in Gyumri and 12 other settlements.

railways

[covered in yesterday's post]

preschools

The issue of having vitally important preschools in Gyumri has been resolved. I promised 3 years ago that there will be no preschools in [post-earthquake-tyle] temporary houses. The last remaining contract was signed recently to begin new construction.

North-South highway

107km roads were repaired in 2018-20. Despite the recent construction slowdown due to the ongoing legal arbitrations by embattled construction companies, we were able to preserve the continuity of construction thanks to successful negotiations with Chinese firms. They resumed their work this year. We expect another 46km road from Talin to Gyumri.

investments

Capital investments have increased in the past 3 years. This year there will be ֏40.6 billion in capital investments in urban development, housing construction, educational facilities, healthcare facilities, roads.

֏310 million is being spent to house dozens of homeless families in rural areas.

Modular schools and preschools are being built in several small settlements that currently lack buildings.

Subsidized infrastructure programs rose ten-fold in the past 3 years. There will be 70 programs this year.

reservoirs across Armenia

In Vayots Dzor's Yelpin village we have many arable lands but no water. We plan to build ~15 water reservoirs within the next 10-15 years. Four of them will be in Vayots Dzor. The plans will be drawn soon.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053426.html https://www.armtimes.com/hy/article/214767

Armenia is revamping the garbage collection and storage network

Official: as of 2017, Armenia had 2,030 landfills. In the following few years, steps were taken to close ~1,780 of them, leaving only 297 landfills today.

None of them meet the facility, sanitary, and environmental standards. They are just garbage accumulation areas. A new startegy has been developed to reform the system.

All settlements were examined to learn about their equipment fleet, fee collection stats, collection costs, etc.

The construction began to build Armenia's first sanitary-friendly landfill. It's for Kotayk and Gegharkunik for now. There will be stations where the garbage will be compressed before being taken to a landfill. Expert organizations will be involved.

The garbage collection fees are insufficient to cover costs. Provinces collected ֏2.4b but spent ֏5.5b in 2019. Villagers only pay ֏50/month, while urban population ֏100-150. The methodology will change.

The new garbage network will be split into 5-6 zones. There will be 10 landfills in Armenia.

We need investors to simultaneously develop recycling. There are ongoing discussions.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053503.html https://factor.am/374601.html

Tags: #GarbageReform #landfill

COVID stats

3901 tested. 130 infected. 323 healed. 11 deaths. 4822 active.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053439.html

Armenia is relaxing mask rules

No masks required in open areas beginning June. Fully vaccinated people can take it off while indoors [unless the business requires].

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053453.html

fewer personal loans, more mortgage loans

Central Bank chief says the banks will be conservative this year when it comes to issuing personal loans because of 2020's economic developments. On the other hand, he predicts that mortgage loans will increase.

More about economic recovery in yesterday's post.

https://armenpress.am/arm/news/1053490.html

in case you missed yesterday's report

https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/nkxe75/news_may252021_1_border_argument_leads_to/

In Russian (by Impossible-Ad-)

https://www.reddit.com/r/ArmDailyReports_RUS_/comments/nldo8a/все_новости_за_25_мая_2021/

end of report

The accused are innocent unless proven guilty in the court of law, even if they "appear" guilty.

News archive: http://www.armeniapedia.org/wiki/Daily_Anti-Corruption_Reports

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Link to original report and comments: https://www.reddit.com/r/armenia/comments/nlpfxk/may262021_1_pashinyan_shares_new_details_about/

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