Top Putin Aide Discusses Russian-Armenian Ties In Yerevan

Radio Free Europe, Czech Rep.
June 1 2005

01/06/2005 09:34

The chief of Russian President Vladimir Putin's staff met President
Robert Kocharian and other Armenian leaders in Yerevan on Tuesday
for talks which officials said focused on ways of ways of shoring up
economic relations between the two nations.

Kocharian was cited by his press service as telling Dmitry Medvedev
that Russian-Armenian business ties are seeing "dynamic development."
He said it was made possible by an increase in Russian investments
in the Armenian economy. No other details were reported.

Russia's share in Armenia's external trade has steadily declined over
the past decade and stood at a modest 12.5 percent last year. The
overall volume of bilateral trade fell by 13 percent to about $250
million in 2004.

A lack of rail communication between the two countries, which have no
common border, is seen as a key reason for the drop. That communication
was only partly restored with launch last March of a regular rail
ferry service between Russian and Georgian Black Sea ports.

According to official press releases, issues related to the functioning
of the ferry link were on the agenda of Medvedev's separate meetings
with Kocharian's chief of staff Artashes Tumanian and Defense
Minister Serzh Sarkisian. The latter is also a co-chairman of the
Russian-Armenian inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation.

According to Kocharian's office, Tumanian and Medvedev also discussed
practical modalities of revitalizing five Armenian enterprises that
were handed over to Russia in 2003 in payment of Yerevan's $100 million
debt. Armenian officials are increasingly frustrated with Moscow's
failure so far make promised multimillion-dollar investments in those
industries. The issue provoked heated debates during a May 17 meeting
in Yerevan of a Russian-Armenian commission on inter-parliamentary
cooperation.

The ongoing construction of a pipeline that will pump Iranian natural
gas into Armenia was also on the agenda of the meeting between the
two top presidential aides. But there was no word on what specifically
the two men discussed. Russia's state-run Gazprom monopoly is directly
involved in the construction work and had reportedly made sure that the
future pipeline is not extended to third countries, notably Georgia.

Officials said Medvedev, who is one of the most powerful figures in
the Kremlin hierarchy, also discussed the ongoing series of cultural
events held within the framework of the Year of Russia in Armenia
that was officially inaugurated during Putin's visit to Yerevan last
March. Medvedev is the head of the Russian organizing committee for
those events.