The opposition Armenian Revolutionary Federation (Dashnaktsutyun) has secured a crucial government endorsement of its proposal to essentially ban Turkish and other foreign companies from buying land in Armenia’s border regions, it emerged on Wednesday.
The Armenia constitution and other laws do not allow foreign citizens to own land anywhere in the country. However, the ban does not extend to companies and other legal entities owned by foreigners.
Under a package of amendments to the Armenian Land Code drafted by Dashnaktsutyun, those entities would need a special permission from the government and the Defense Ministry to buy plots of land located up to 25 kilometers from the borders.
Dashnaktsutyun lawmakers acknowledged on Wednesday that the amendments are connected with the possible reopening of the Turkish-Armenian border. The nationalist party has long warned that an open border could hurt the Armenian economy and jeopardize the country’s national security.
“It’s not just about Turkey and Turks,” said Ruzan Arakelian. “It’s a matter of national security. A country is protected by its border regions, and our border regions can be at risk at any moment. You can acquire land not only through war.”
Another Dashnaktsutyun deputy, Ara Nranian, said Turkey itself restricts foreign ownership of land. “In Turkey, ownership of land by foreign organizations is not allowed without the military’s permission,” he told RFE/RL. “Things are even stricter there.”
In a letter sent to the National Assembly last week, Prime Minister Tigran Sarkisian described the Dashnaktsutyun bill as largely “acceptable” but said the Armenian government believes the proposed restrictions should be even tighter. He said they should cover not only land but also all “facilities needing special protection.”
What is more, that would apply to such facilities located all over the country and not only border areas, according to a copy of the letter obtained by RFE/RL. Sarkisian also confirmed that the government is now looking into relevant Turkish legislation.
In an interview with RFE/RL late last month, Justice Minister Gevorg Danielian said the increasingly real prospect of border opening necessitates changes in Armenia’s criminal, civil and land codes. “When we study [Turkey’s] domestic legislation, we understand that whether we want it or not, from the viewpoint of a proper protection of the country’s security and citizens’ rights and freedoms, there will emerge a need to revise legislation,” he said.