By Emil Danielyan
Senior Armenian and U.S. officials met in Washington last week to discuss their efforts to prevent possible transfer of sensitive equipment and technology from Armenia to third countries, the Foreign Ministry in Yerevan announced on Monday.
A ministry statement said the meeting was part of “periodical consultations” between the two governments relating to exports of goods that could be used in the manufacturing of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). It said the Armenian side was represented by officials from several government agencies, including the National Security Service and an exports control body.
The statement said their counterparts from the U.S. Department of Commerce praised relevant steps taken by the Armenian authorities, notably a law regulating exports of “goods and technologies of dual use” and their transit through Armenian territory which was passed by the National Assembly last September.
The U.S.-Armenian talks were apparently necessitated by a May 2002 scandal over the transfer of sensitive Armenian technology to neighboring Iran, which is high in the U.S. government’s list of countries keen to develop WMD. In a major embarrassment for Yerevan, Washington imposed sanctions on an Armenian businessman who had allegedly sold the technological equipment of a local biochemical firm to an Iranian-linked trading company registered in the United Arab Emirates.
The company, based in the central town of Charentsavan, used to grow special bacteria for the production of lysine, an amino acid added to animal fodder. Scientists say they could also generate other biochemical substances. The businessman, Armen Sarkisian strongly denied having any links with the now defunct firm called Lizin.
Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian admitted at the time that the Americans had warned Yerevan in 2001 that Lizin’s exports could be used for military purposes. He said the Armenian government had no authority to block the deal.
The scandal prompted the government to tighten export controls on Armenia’s border crossings.