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Seda Hergnyan

Coronavirus Fallout: Armenian Trucks Carrying Iranian Goods Stopped at Georgian Border

Several Armenian truckers carrying goods of Iranian origin have been unable to cross the Armenian-Georgian border for the past four or five days.

Georgia has temporarily banned imports of Iranian-origin products due to the spread of coronavirus in that country.

Some Armenian companies and individuals regularly export Iranian products, mainly fruits and vegetables, to Russia, using Armenia and Georgia as a transit route. The goods are imported from Iran to Armenia, loaded onto trucks in Armenian and transported to Russia via Georgia.

However, since the end of last week, Georgia has temporarily banned imports of Iranian products.

Vahram Mirakyan is one of the victims of this ban. He claims that some sixty trucks loaded with goods of Iranian origin destined for Russia have been stopped at the Armenia-Georgia border.

Mirakyan told Hetq that he’ appealed to the authorities, but to no avail

“It’s still a waiting game. There has been no official response. The shipments have piled up since last Thursday. A few days before that, a certain amount of cargo crossed the Georgian border. We import Iranian goods to Armenia, load it into Armenian trucks and export to Georgia via Russia. These goods do not reach Yerevan. The goods are loaded into Armenian trucks in the Ararat Province and transit via Russia to new Georgia. The certificate, of course, shows that it is a product of Iranian origin,” says Mirakyan.

The importer/exporter says the Georgian restriction is illogical since the virus disappears on the surface of objects after 48 hours.

“We change the driver and the truck. There is no danger,” Mirakyan says.

He fears that if the goods remain in Armenia, in addition to damaging the exporting companies, it will also hit local businesses.

We are talking about several types of fruits and vegetables: kiwi, apples, cauliflower, etc. If the products intended for the Russian market remain in Armenia, such surpluses could drive prices down, hurting domestic growers.

 “We also lose in the form of unpaid taxes. Iranian goods going to Russia clear customs in Armenia, and the taxes remain here. In this case, those taxes are not paid,” Mirakyan says.

Karen Baghdasaryan, Director of Sustainable Development at Spayka Shipping Company, confirmed the Georgian ban of Iranian goods. 

 “Many products come from Iran to Armenia, are cleared here and exported to Russia via Georgia. Georgian authorities have imposed barriers both to the entry of Iranian citizens to their country and to goods of Iranian origin,” Baghdasaryan says.

He says it’s up to Georgia to resolve the matter.

 “We have informed our Ministry of Economy that such a problem exists. I cannot say what talks are taking place at the state level and the significance of the Armenian position here. This is a purely economic problem caused by security measures on the Georgian side. Of course, it would be desirable for Armenia to continue to have the status of a transit country,” Baghdasaryan says.

Armenian government aware of the problem

The Customs Service of Armenia says the issue lies outside its scope of operation.

 State Revenue Committee Spokesperson Lusineh Mkrtchyan advised Hetq to contact the foreign ministry for answers.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded that the relevant decisions of the Georgian and Armenian governments were based on the need to prevent the spread of the coronavirus infection.

Armenia’s Ministry of Economy is also aware of the problem.  Ministry spokesperson Anna Ohanyan told Hetq they could not say more. She noted that they are verifying all the information they have received. One question that needs to be answered is there a right to export Iranian products imported from Iran to Armenia or not?

Arriving in Georgia today for an official visit, Armenian PM Pashinyan posted the following on his Facebook page.

“After the welcoming ceremony we will discuss the agenda of Armenian-Georgian friendly relations with Prime Minister Giorgi Gakharia."

Government press releases do not specify what that agenda entails and whether the issues at the border will be discussed.

Hetq has asked the Pashinyan’s office to find out whether this issue on the Armenian-Georgian border is being discussed with the Georgian side.

We will publish the answer as soon as we receive it.

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