Stepanakert airport opening postponed for “technical reasons”

Stepanakert airport opening postponed for “technical reasons”


David Babayan

Armenian media on Tuesday quoted a Karabakh official as saying that the opening of an airport in Stepanakert, said to be slated for May 9, will be postponed.

Head of the Karabakh president’s press service David Babayan insisted, however, that the terminal opposed by Azerbaijan will be opened this year and that the postponement was not connected with the reaction of Azerbaijan.

At one point earlier this month authorities in Baku went as far as threatening to shoot down planes carrying civilians from and to Karabakh before going back on their statements amid a strong international reaction condemning such rhetoric.

In his public comments Armenian President Serzh Sargsyan said those making such threats were “sick people” and promised he would be the first passenger on a Stepanakert-Yerevan flight.

Stressing that the opening of the airport will surely take place within 2011, Karabakh presidential spokesman Babayan clarified: “There have been certain wishes for the airport to open on May 9 [around the date celebrated as the liberation of Karabakh’s strategic town of Shushi in the 1992-1994 war], but there was no such official information. This is a very complicated process and we should be fully prepared in order to avoid any technical omissions.”

Babayan reminded that originally the Karabakh authorities had planned the airport’s opening for October-November 2010, but it was postponed then for similar reasons.

Construction on the airport near Stepanakert began in 2009. The facility is meant for civil aviation flights, primarily to connect the Karabakh capital with Yerevan.

Stepanakert-Yerevan-Stepanakert flights are due to be operated by a local airline, Air Artsakh, by means of SRJ-200 planes designed for 50 passengers. The journey is expected to last 35 minutes (compared to a nearly five-hour drive by road) with one-way tickets priced 15,000 drams (about $40).