Mher Markossian, director of two companies sanctionted by the U.S., speaks to RFE/RL in Yerevan, August 14, 2019

US Sanctions Two Armenian Firms

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WASHINGTON (RFE/RL) – The United States imposed sanctions on two Armenian companies on Wednesday, August 15, saying that they have acted against U.S. national interests.

The Yerevan Telecommunications Research Institute (YETRI) and the Markel company are among 17 Canadian, Russian, Georgian and other firms blacklisted by the Bureau of Industry and Security (BIS), which is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce. They will now be banned from purchasing U.S. products.

“These seventeen entities have been determined by the U.S. Government to be acting contrary to the national security or foreign policy interests of the United States,” the BIS said in a statement.

The agency explained that YETRI has been sanctioned because it had obtained unspecified sensitive items and re-exported them without BIS licenses. “And the person who is both Executive Director of YETRI and President of Markel has been engaged in a business relationship with a sanctioned Iranian organization,” its statement added without elaborating.

That person, Mher Markosian, described the sanctions as unfair and unfounded. He insisted that YETRI has never sold any equipment to Iranian firms.

“As for Markel, it had signed contracts and done business with Iranian enterprises until 2009,” Markosian told RFE/RL’s Armenian service. “It hasn’t signed any further contracts since 2009.”

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“Any export operation, especially to Iran, is examined under the microscope,” he went on. “If there is even a slight suspicion [of wrongdoing] rest assured that the [Armenian] state will not permit it. Knowing all this, we have never gone down that path.”

Markosian also said that officials from the U.S. State Department have regularly visited and inspected his companies designing telecommunication equipment. “They praised and told us to keep up the good work,” he claimed.

Markosian added that he will therefore appeal to the U.S. Embassy in Armenia to help lift the sanctions.

The Armenian Ministry of Economy said, meanwhile, that it is looking into the U.S. announcement and will comment later on.

U.S. National Security Adviser John Bolton discussed Washington’s renewed sanctions against Iran with Armenian leaders during an October 2018 visit to Yerevan. Shortly afterwards a team of officials from the U.S. departments of state and treasury visited the Armenian capital to give Armenian government officials and business executives more detailed information about the sanctions.

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