To take and cut down the Internet? What threatens the Yerevan sale of shares Baku Caucasus Online

YEREVAN, August 6 – Sputnik, Laura Sarkisian. Selling 49% of the shares of the main channel of Internet connection Caucasus Online Azerbaijani businessman was summoned to Armenia’s concern. According to experts, the deal will give Baku the opportunity to become a regional hub where there tend to than one year. Moreover, this will allow the Azerbaijani side to monitor if not, then at least analyze the Armenian Internet traffic.

In an interview with Sputnik Armenia is an expert in the field of information security and technology on condition of anonymity said that the purchase of Caucasus Online provides a strategic point of view a lot of opportunities to Azerbaijan, roughly speaking, unleashes Baku hands.

Agree also experts in Georgia. Many have criticized Internet Communicator. Meanwhile, in propose to minimise the risks together, in cooperation with the Georgian side.

What happened?

Georgian company Caucasus Online operator optic cable running along the bottom of the Black sea from Georgia to Bulgaria. It is the largest channel of the Internet traffic between Europe and the South Caucasus. The main shareholders of the company – Georgian investors, some of which was in Europe.

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On 17 July, the Georgian Parliament with 88 votes “for” adopted initiated by the government and the national communications Commission of Georgia amendments to the law “On electronic communications”. The changes entitle the regulator (the national Commission) to appoint a special governing those companies that fail to comply with its requirements.

This Georgian media was followed by “drain” of transaction information to the bypass controller. In particular, there was the news of the sale to Azerbaijan 49% of the shares of wholesale Internet company Caucasus Online. Moreover, according to former U.S. Ambassador to Azerbaijan Matthew Bryza, the shares were sold for 61 million US dollars.

According to the same media, the stock got close to the leadership of Azerbaijan entrepreneur Nasim Hasanov. He is also the owner of the largest holding in the oil business – the company NEQSOL. According to information of the Georgian side, their share of the Internet company sold close to the former authorities of Georgia (we are talking about the period of the reign of Mikhail Saakashvili – ed.) businessman Khvicha Makatsaria.

Meanwhile, the deal and the sale of Caucasus Online has not informed the regulator, the National communications Commission of Georgia, which in fact is a violation of the law “On electronic communications”, according to which in case of sale of 5% or more of the shares, the regulator needs to be supplied notify.

Earlier, Caucasus Online has been fined for violations in the sale of its stake in the company “Telecom Railways”. The company acquired “railway Telecom of Georgia” in 2010. This allowed her to enter the South Caucasus region and go to Iran and Iraq.

In Georgia against

This went unnoticed by the expert community of Georgia, which has criticized the sale of assets. Many recalled the types Baku on Internet communication and single cable, which is from Europe, Georgia, Armenia and Azerbaijan get online in 2016. The cable runs along the Black sea.

At the time the sale was closed at a political level after the statement of the former Prime Minister of Georgia Giorgi Kvirikashvili on the cable and the company not sold, as they have strategic importance for Georgia.

Doctor of political Sciences Vakhtang Maisaia in an interview with Sputnik Armenia noted that Baku is trying to play the role of the Internet hub in the region.

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As for possible risks in the field of information security, he noted that they can be, but first we need to understand how extended the powers of the Azerbaijani side.

Meanwhile, some Georgian experts fear that it will untie the hands of Azerbaijan, and he will dictate the rules of the game in the region.

The former owner of Caucasus Online, mamia Sanadiradze the TV channel “Imedi” also pointed to the vital necessity for Georgia independent cables to Europe, calling it an axiom. According to him the safe receipt of the Internet is of strategic importance for the country.

How would this affect Armenia?

News of the deal could not become a matter of concern in neighboring Armenia. The Armenian expert in the field of Internet communications, noted in an interview with Sputnik Armeniathat the sale of the shares does not mean that the Azerbaijani side “will take and cut the” Internet of Armenia.

“First, this is 49% of the shares and the absolute controlling stake, second, Caucasus Online is still located on the territory of Georgia and it is unlikely that the Georgian authorities will allow the blockade of their lines,” he said.

However, on a technical level it will allow Azerbaijani partners to analyze the traffic, find some patterns and on this basis to draw definitive conclusions. It is definitely beneficial to their side.

On the other hand, this situation could affect the competitive component and to thwart the plans of Armenia in the region.

“We’re definitely going to use Telecom infrastructure to promote their projects and to “crush” our”, he said.

Assessment of the Armenian expert, the purchase of shares Caucasus Online will allow Azerbaijan to accelerate the progress of the project TASIM (telecommunications transit from Western Europe to East Asia). It brings together telecommunications of Europe, Georgia, Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, with further access to Central Asia and China.
Thus, strengthening this part may interfere with the plans of Armenia to strengthen its transit role of traffic in the middle East, Central Asia and beyond.

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According to experts, to this end, Armenia has already established an informal group (composed of representatives from Internet companies, the Association of operators and the Ministry of high technologies), which will deal with the development of plans for the development and promotion of regional Telecom infrastructure of Armenian companies, local interests on the axis North – SOUTH.

He advises Armenia to take advantage of the discontent in Georgia and to create cooperation. It is important to promote their interests, regional plans.

“At the same time, we have with the Georgian regulator and the Ministry in the framework of the strategy of development of broadband Internet services to arrange consolidated efforts to establish a regional infrastructure that objdist Armenia and Georgia”, – he said.

We will remind, in November of 2019 in an interview with Sputnik Armenia Deputy Minister of economy and sustainable development of Georgia Nikoloz Alavidze said that the action of the main channel of Internet connection Caucasus Online will not be sold without thorough discussions.

On Georgia, according to various estimates, accounts for about 80% of the international Internet traffic of Armenia. Besides him, Armenia still uses two cables in Russia – one black and one ground. About 20% of traffic falls on the cables going to Iran.

And here Armenian operators act as the transit of the Internet in Iran, Afghanistan and more recently in Qatar.

Read original article in Russian language here.