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Armenia’s national airline warned on Wednesday that it could file for bankruptcy because of its continuing financial dispute with Yerevan’s Zvartnots international airport managed by an Argentine operator.

Mikhail Bagdasarov, the owner of the Armavia airline, said it can no longer afford what he called exorbitant fees charged by the Zvartnots management for airport ground services.

“The economy was on the rise [in the past] and we could put up with this,” Bagdasarov told reporters. “Now the economy is down and we can’t get by anymore. That is why we are saying, ‘Either we declare bankruptcy or Zvartnots Airport lowers its tariffs by 25 percent.”

Bagdasarov claimed that some of those tariffs are two and even three times higher than at much larger airports in Russia and Europe. He said this is the reason why Armavia has run up $6.2 million in service debts to Zvartnots.

He said his company was ready to halt its flights this week but decided to carry on with them for now after the airport management promised to officially respond to his demands by next Tuesday. The two sides will meet on that day discuss the situation, added the Russian-Armenian tycoon.

Zvartnots, which is run by the Corporacion America group of Argentine-Armenian billionaire Eduardo Eurnekian, and Armavia have for years wrangled over the airport fees. In March last year, the airport delayed several Armavia flights because of the airline’s failure to repay its outstanding debts. The two sides reached a compromise deal at the time.

Armavia is also locked in a similar dispute with Russia’s Rosnavigatsia air navigation agency. The state-run agency refused to authorize Armavia flights to Russia on Tuesday morning, citing the Armenian carrier’s failure to pay for navigation services provided to it from December through February.

The flight ban was lifted several hours later after Rosnavigatsia received written debt repayment assurances from Armavia. A Rosnavigatsia spokesman told RFE/RL’s Armenian service (Azatutyun.am) that Armavia pledged to repay part of the December debt totaling $178,000 by March 20. Bagdasarov essentially confirmed the information.
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