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Putin Supports Embattled Armenian President

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  • Putin Supports Embattled Armenian President

    Putin Supports Embattled Armenian President
    BY Clarence Hall The Moscow News

    Moscow News (Russia)
    May 19, 2004

    On Saturday, Armenian President Robert Kocharyan wrapped up his
    three-day official visit that gave the beleaguered Caucasus president
    the first good news he had had in months

    The meeting began as all such meetings do, with the two presidents
    praising cooperation between the two countries. Robert Kocharyan
    was especially pleased with last year's 34% of trade growth seen
    between Armenia and Russia, as well as Russian businessmen's continued
    investment in his country.

    According to experts in Russian-Armenian affairs, the pleasantries
    ceased as soon as the presidents moved behind closed doors, where
    the real discussion, the Iran-Armenia gas pipeline, began.

    On May 13 the final signatures were placed by Iran and Armenia on a
    project to build an oil pipeline from Iran to Armenia with possible
    plans to extend the shipping network to Georgia, Ukraine, and even
    Europe. The United States was the first country to criticize the plan
    and went as far as to threaten economic sanctions against Armenia
    should it finalize the deal with the Islamic republic.

    Russia, too, disapproved of the plan, but for different reasons:
    If a second gas supplier appeared from the East, Russia would lose
    its gas-supply monopoly to Europe. In early March such fears seemed
    to be validated, as Armenia's Energy Minister, Armen Movsisyan, said,
    "After the 'Blue Stream' project is realized, building long-distance
    sea gas pipelines will no longer be a fantasy."

    Experts say that the Armenian administration was able to convince
    President Putin before the trip. "The negotiations for building the
    Iran-Armenia gas pipeline took place over 12 years, and that the treaty
    was even signed is a huge accomplishment - not just economically,
    but politically as well," says Alexander Iskandaryan, provost at the
    CIS Caucasus Institute. He says that the very fact that the treaty was
    signed between Armenia and Iran shows that Moscow had given consent
    to the deal.

    Putin's support for the pipeline can also be viewed as political
    support for Kocharyan. The Armenian opposition has for the past few
    months been pressing for significant political changes in the country,
    including the resignation of the current government. PACE and OSCE
    have both criticized Kocharyan's heavy-handed approach, while Russia
    has remained altogether silent on the issue.

    "We have many opportunities to work together better, more effectively,"
    President Putin said about Russian-Armenian relations. It is clear
    what Russia has done for Armenia - but as for now only the Russian
    government knows what Armenia will do for it. Sell it more Armenian
    cognac perhaps? MN

    From: Emil Lazarian | Ararat NewsPress