A short statement by Sarkisian’s office said Murad Muradian, the founder and principal owner of the BAMO group, will be based in Baghdad and run the Armenian Embassy there. It did not explain the choice of the ambassador. The presidential press secretary, Armen Arzumanian, did not return phone calls throughout the day.
Armenia opened a diplomatic mission in Iraq, headed by a charge d’affaires, in February 2003 only to evacuate it three months later, the day before the U.S.-led invasion of the country. The embassy has remained closed since then. A diplomatic source told RFE/RL’s Armenian service that Muradian will be tasked with reopening it.
BAMO established its presence in Armenia five years ago when it privatized the country’s largest concert and sports arena for less than $6 million. The group claimed to have invested over $40 million in its reconstruction that ended in 2008.
Muradian appears to have developed a warm personal rapport with Sarkisian in recent years. The Armenian president attended the inauguration of a new school in Muradian’s native Tsovasar village in eastern Armenia last November. It was built by the tycoon and named after his late father.
The reasons for Muradian’s desire to join the Armenian diplomatic service and serve in a volatile country like Iraq are not yet clear. He could not be immediately reached for comment.
A BAMO spokeswoman in Moscow promised on Tuesday to clarify “as soon as possible” whether Muradian’s appointment has any connection with his business activities. The Russian group is not known to have had business interests in Iraq until now.