Negotiations With ArmenTel Most Likely to Continue

YEREVAN (Armenpress)–Armenia’s justice minister David Harutunian–who leads the government delegation that has been negotiating with the management of the sole telephone operator Armentel for virtually 60 days in a bid to overcome a bitter stand off between the company and the government after the former announced the introduction of per minute billing for domestic calls–said today that the parties have not yet arrived at a conclusion.

The 60-day term set forth to limit the negotiations will expire on January 19 and the two sides are expected publicly announce the achievemen’s made during the negotiations. However–the minister added that negotiations might take longer than they hoped.

Last year–the government threatened to strip the company of its operating license if it tried to enforce per-minute billing on September 1.

Minister of Transport and Communications Andranik Manukian and other top officials urged Armenian citizens to disregard their new phone bills received starting October. They argued that ArmenTel’s parent company–the Hellenic Telecommunications Organization (OTE)–failed to honor its investment commitmen’s and therefore could not raise telephone charges.

However–OTE consistently denied the charge–insisting that it already invested $125 million in Armenia’s telecom sector–more than what was required by the terms of its 1998 contract to purchase ArmenTel. The state-controlled Greek firm also argued that the purchase of ArmenTel allows the OTE to decide on new telephone rates unilaterally.

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