By Hovhannes Nazaretyan
Last week, a controversial public discussion resurfaced in Armenia after an official confirmed that Azerbaijani citizens have been acquiring real estate properties in the country.
Suren Tovmasyan, head of the Cadastre Committee, the state agency that maintains the registry of real estate records, told journalists that Azerbaijani nationals who buy real estate in Armenia receive travel passports after passing a background check.
The contentious statement prompted debate and speculation on social media.
Ruben Melikyan, the former human rights defender (Ombudsman) of Artsakh (Nagorno-Karabakh), said on Facebook that while the National Security Service is busy going after its own citizens for insulting people in power, “citizens of Azerbaijan are already freely acquiring real estate in a country called ‘Armenia’.” His post was republished by some outlets.
The headlines and the stories gave the impression that the acquisitions of real estate by Azerbaijani nationals is a new or recent phenomenon. In fact, the first property acquired by an Azerbaijani citizen in Armenia was about a decade ago in 2012. According to data provided to CivilNet by the Cadastre Committee, since then, Azerbaijani nationals have acquired six pieces of real estate, including five apartments. The properties were acquired in 2012, in 2018 and in 2019.
In February, #CivilNetCheck also wrote about Turkish citizens, who, since 2005, have acquired 83 properties in Armenia and many are involved in numerous businesses in the country. Some of these Turkish citizens are of Armenian ethnicity.
Armenian law does not prohibit citizens of Azerbaijan and Turkey from acquiring real estate in the country. It does not, however, allow the acquisition of land, especially agricultural land, by any foreigners. This law does not apply to the land on which residential or industrial buildings are built.