President Sarkissian says quit Lydian Int'l five years ago, dismisses rumors on current ties
YEREVAN, MAY 23, ARMENPRESS. Armenian President Armen Sarkissian has once again commented on a question regarding his alleged business ties with Lydian International, the company behind the construction of the massive Amulsar gold mine in Armenia.
During an interaction with protesters who were rallying for environmental-related issues and the gold mine, demonstrators told the president that concerns over the Amulsar gold mine are big because Mr. Sarkissian’s name is circulating over Lydian International.
“Let anyone of you find a fact that me or any member of my family has or had 1 dollar profit from Amulsar. You can look at the documents of Lydian [International] itself, it is a Canadian company, shareholders are international institutions, i.e. nothing can be concealed. I never had that profit, I was among the board of directors only for a few months. It was five years ago, and at that time a great tension existed between [Lydian] and the Armenian government, which could’ve led to court proceedings. I was a member of the board of directors without pay, I’ve been provided with all documents, I had expressed my opinion to the chairman of the board of directors, and after that I resigned, I quit, end, period. What did I say to the chairman? I can’t tell you that. After I quit the company changes happened and I don’t want to comment , after that I didn’t have anything to do with that company,” he said.
The “Amulsar Without Mine” initiative, a protest movement against Lydian’s Amulsar gold mine, rallied today in Yerevan.
The rally began from the Mashtots Park with demonstrators marching towards the Presidential Residence to hand over a letter to President Sarkissian.
Demonstrators claim that the mining industry is being implemented in Armenia with numerous irregularities and violations, and has negative impact on nature and other branches.
The protesters said that their rally isn’t solely against the Amulsar project. They said their goal is to draw the attention of the government on problems in the mining industry. Demonstrators called for a new independent expert group to study the mine.
They said their letter contains evidence regarding the problems related to Amulsar.
Shortly after handing over the letter in the building, the President himself came down to personally speak to the protesters.
“If we view the most important issues of our country, certainly everything is important, however for me, as a citizen and as a president, there are three important problems. One is the security of our country. Security in a broad sense, it isn’t only the army, not only the military industrial complex, but also foreign relations and others. Second is education, eventually the future of our country will depend on the level of the new generation. And it’s not just about academic education, but also civil, which they got on the street. I hope this isn’t en emotional outburst and being a citizen will continue. I hope that the new generation will be citizens in their entire lives,” President Sarkissian said.
The third important issue, according to the President, is nature protection, where numerous unregulated issues exist.
“If Amulsar was our sole problem I would be happy, but our nature preservation issues are a lot bigger, it’s not one mine, but many mines which require studies. The most important issue in nature protection is water, which is our wealth and it must be preserved. Recently I met with Eduardo Eurnekian [Argentine-Armenian business tycoon, owner of many businesses in Armenia], who is cultivating grapes in a 400 ha area, then produces wine and exports it. The man says he can multiply the area if the water issue is solved, whereas a significant part of water gets wasted in the pipes. Therefore, any issue which will impact the water base must be scrutinized. I assure you that Amulsar and other issues will be under our spotlight, “ the President said.
The President vowed to give a quick response to the letter.
In a joyous conclusion of the demonstration, the protesters began dancing under some Armenian music, and the President joined the group.
The Armenian president has personally interacted with protesters in various unrelated instances while in office. Recently the president went outside his residence to talk with protesting staff of a defunct factory. And most notably, perhaps, the President walked through thousands of protesters in Yerevan’s Republic Square earlier in April to negotiate with Nikol Pashinyan, then-opposition leader who is now serving as Prime Minister.
English –translator/editor: Stepan Kocharyan