By Ruzanna Stepanian
The EU and UN will provide Armenia with special equipment worth 140,000 euros ($173,661) for the Bavra, Bagratashen and Meghri border checkpoints and Zvartnots International Airport to stop the possible smuggling of drugs from Armenia to Western Europe.
Since 2001 the EU has allocated the three South Caucasus states 5 million Euros within the special program designed to fight illegal drug trafficking. Armenia alone has received over 1.5 mln euros from EU funds.
"Though Armenian officials do their best to prevent Armenia from becoming a transit country for drug trafficking, this doesn't mean that those involved in drug trafficking will not use Armenia for this purpose," said the Paris Customs Service deputy chief Joel Mencue, who met journalists today in Yerevan. Mencue is visiting Armenia to help organize training courses for Armenian customs officers.
An official from the Armenian Police Drug Fighting Department, Artyom
Azoyan, told RFE/RL heroin and opium are being smuggled to Armenia mostly from Turkey, Iran, Russia, and Central Asian countries such as Uzbekistan and Turkmenistan.
There has been only one case of heroin seizure in Armenia this year. Armenian custom officials recently seized at least one kilogram of Iranian heroin. Armenian cannabis and hashish, which are the most popular drugs among Armenian drug addicts, are not in demand on the foreign drug market because of their poor quality. "The quality of Armenian cannabis is too poor for buyers abroad," Azoyan told RFE/RL." Up to 100 kilograms of hashish and tens of tons of cannabis are seized annually in Armenia. According to Armenian officials, these drugs are mostly produced in the Armavir, Gegharkunik and Ararat regions.
According to the police officials, a matchbox of cannabis is worth 5 thousand drams (about $10) in Armenia, while a gram of heroin can be purchased for no less than $150. According to official data, there are about 20,000 drug users in Armenia, though police officials believe that real number of drug addicts is 10 times higher than the official statistics. On the other hand, Armenian officials insist that the figure of 200,000 is too high and unrealistic.