By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenia’s Greek-owned telecommunications operator, locked in an acrimonious dispute with the Armenian government, has accepted its offer to try to sort out differences through negotiation, a senior official said on Friday.
“I have an unofficial information that ArmenTel is prepared to show a good will and engage in negotiations,” Justice Minister David Harutiunian told an ad hoc parliamentary commission investigating alleged abuses in the telecom sector. He added that their possible failure could leave the parties with no option other than putting their dispute before a court.
Harutiunian proposed on behalf of the government on Monday two-month marathon talks with the ArmenTel management on all sticking points, including the highly controversial introduction of per-minute billing for domestic phone calls. The government -- which also wants representatives of ArmenTel’s parent company, OTE, to attend the discussions -- has threatened to strip the telecom monopoly of its operating license if it tries to enforce the measure, effective from September 1.
An ArmenTel spokeswoman told RFE/RL that the negotiations will start only after OTE’s formal approval. The company’s chief executive, Nikos Georgulas, is currently in Greece, holding consultations with top OTE executives.
Meanwhile, Minister of Transport and Communications Andranik Manukian on Friday again urged Armenians to ignore per-minute phone fees charged by ArmenTel. He said no phone user in Armenia has had their phone connection cut off by the company yet for refusing to comply with the new billing system.