Environmental activists holding signs with inscriptions such as "Hands Off Armenia" and "You Mine, We Die" today disrupted an international conference under the rubric “Responsible Mining in Armenia: Opportunities and Challenges” held in the Armenia Marriott Hotel in Yerevan.
Present at the conference were the US, German, and UK ambassadors to Armenia, a Government of Canada representative, Minister of Economy of the Republic of Armenia (RA) Vahram Avanesyan, RA Minister of Nature Protection Aram Harutyunyan, and RA Minister of Energy and Natural Resources Armen Movsisyan, who, as per his modus operandi, quickly left the room once the activists entered.
On the agenda was a speech by RA Prime Minister Tigran Sargsyan, who, however, was not present. Chief of Staff of the RA Government Vache Gabrielyan, however, conveyed the prime minister's offer to the activists: an invitation to come to the government building and have a discussion with the prime minister. Gabrielyan assured them that Sargsyan is expecting them.
One of the activists, Yeghia Nersesyan, told Hetq they won't accept the prime minister's offer. "We won't accept the offer because he is not a legitimate authority," he said, adding that since the movement to save Teghut Forest began, Tigran Sargsyan regularly offered to meet with them, to have a discussion, but they always refused, considering that the meeting would be meaningless. "We always refuse because if you go to the prime minister of an administration that is generally not an elected authority you legitimize him," he said.
Ahead of the economy minister's speech, environmental activist Anna Shahnazaryan and RA Minister of Nature Protection Aram Harutyunyan had a heated argument near the entrance.
Shahnazaryan asked the minister where was the plan for Jermouk National Park, which already existed in 2008.
"I have created the Jermouk Hydrological [State] Sanctuary," he replied. "It was a bad idea to curtail the idea for a national park; you removed Amulsar and named it a hydrological sanctuary," countered Shahnazaryan, saying she can prove that they removed the Amulsar area from the sanctuary project. This, she said, is also enshrined in the documents of the international committee for biodiversity.
"You are lying. For years you wrote that you have to create a Jermouk National Park, which would have included Amulsar," said Shahnazaryan — to which the minister simply said: "You're the one who's lying. You're the liar." RA Minister of Nature Protection Aram Harutyunyan attempted to assure members of the media that nothing Shahnazaryan was saying was true; however, the activist said she could send press releases citing the minister's words and promises.
At the start of the conference, Shahnazaryan offered the minister a glass of water from the Geghi River in Syunik Province, which has been poisoned by toxic materials from a nearby tailings dump. Needless to say, the minister refused to drink the water.