By Emil Danielyan
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian said on Friday that Armenia is continuing what he called a “dialogue” with the United States over U.S. sanctions imposed on one of its chemical firms accused of transferring sensitive technology to Iran. But he indicated that official Yerevan plans no specific policy measures driven by the embarrassing penalties.
“This is a fairly serious issue which is already on our agenda,” he told a news conference. “We are in a dialogue with the United States in connection with that.”
He refused to give any details of that dialogue which was announced by the Armenian foreign ministry on May 10. It came the day after the U.S. State Department confirmed that it will punish Armenian, Chinese and Moldovan companies and individuals for allegedly helping Iran develop weapons of mass destruction in breach of international regulations.
The Armenian entities were later identified as the Lizin biochemical company and Armen Sarkisian, the brother of Armenia’s two former prime ministers. They both have denied supplying any equipment or technology to Iran that is included in multilateral export control lists that seek to prevent the worldwide spread of weapons of mass destruction.
Oskanian said the Armenian government was not responsible for their activities and does not intend to take any concrete steps stemming from the U.S. non-proliferation concerns. He said: “The State Department has made it clear that there will be no sanctions against [the government of] Armenia. On the contrary, they are very happy with Armenia’s cooperation in that area. So we are only talking about that firm.”
Oskanian had said earlier that the sanctions will not sour U.S.-Armenian relations.
The sanctions apparently result from last year’s sale of Lizin’s technological equipment to a trading company registered in the United Arab Emirates. The Soviet-era facilities used special bacteria for the production of lysine, an amino acid added to animal fodder. Scientists say they could also generate other biochemical substances.
According to Oskanian, the Americans warned last year that Lizin’s exports could be used for military purposes. But he said the Armenian government had no authority to block the private firm’s deals.