Sunday, 21 July

Hello... Can I Speak to Alexandre Varbedian?

This is what the telephone caller to the ”Hetq” office asked. Our first reaction was that the call was a prank since “Hetq” has published several articles about Alexandre Varbedian and the fact that for the past five years he has been denied an entry visa forArmenia. He has never been told the exact reason why. Mr. Varbedian, a French citizen, has a son and grandchild inYerevanwhom he cannot see.

It was later revealed that the caller was one Minasyan, an employee of the Consular Department of the Armenian Foreign Ministry. In May of this year “Hetq” had sent a letter to Foreign Minister Oskanian requesting the reasons why Alexandre Varbedian was being denied entry intoArmenia. For three months we were bounced from one office to another. Only recently were we able to find out to whom the letter had been entrusted. It appears that the result of all our telephone calls was that Foreign Ministry employee Minasyan decided to give us a phone call and ask to speak to Alexandre Varbedian. A week before receiving this call we again attempted to ascertain the whereabouts of our letter and why no one deemed it necessary to respond to it. An employee of the Foreign Ministry’s General Division again told us that our letter had been forwarded to the Consular Department and that it was no longer their responsibility.

It took us a full five minutes and much effort to get the complete name of the employee at the Foreign Ministry’s General Division with whom we were speaking. When asked to identify himself, the person replied that it wasn’t important. When we said that we were ready to take the matter to court and that we needed to get some answers to our numerous inquiries, he seemed to take a bit more notice. After some more coaxing from us he finally relented and said his name was Vahagn Papoyan.

There are people working at the Foreign Ministry who are adept at the art of deception. They gave us the run-around with answers such as, “We’ll call you back in fifteen minutes” or “That person is away on vacation”. That vacation seemed to have lasted for a whole three months. Other responses to our phone calls included phrases such as, “I won’t answer. I don’t know anything so call the General Division”. And when we did so we were told to “Call such and such a number”. Are these just lies conveyed in “diplomatic guise” to fool the unsuspecting common citizen or a well-honed method the staff uses to do absolutely nothing in the way of real work?

Should we go to the courts based solely on the fact that the Foreign Ministry staff seems to be incompetent? When we picture the years the matter would be dragged out in the court system we remove the thought from our minds. The only recourse left would be to employ our “personal contacts”. If you want to get anything done inArmeniayou must use your “personal contacts”. On August 12th we finally received a reply to our letter sent out at the end of May. This time we didn’t have to play the “personal contacts” card. That can wait till next time.

In his letter dated September 11th, Tigran Seyranyan, Director of the Foreign Ministry’s Consular Division, wrote that, “ We wish to inform you that in accordance with internationally accepted norms, the reasons for denying someone an entry visa are not revealed. We also wish to inform you that the general conditions under which entry visas for theRepublicofArmeniacan be denied and the circumstances involved are clearly spelt out in theRepublicofArmenia’s law entitled “In Regards to Foreign Nationals”.

In previous articles we’ve discussed this law and those aspects of it, which pertain to the case of Alexandre Varbedian. In fact, the few lines that Seyranyan sent to us in response contained nothing in the way of pertinent information. Such a reply could have and should have been sent out back in June in order to comply with the five-day time limit as prescribed by theRepublicofArmenialaw regarding the “Freedom of Information”.

We would strongly suggest that employees of all government institutions, especially the staff at the Foreign Ministry, familiarize themselves with this law, in addition to all other pertinent laws on the books regarding the disclosure of information.

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