Kocharian Chernomyrdin Optimistic About Ties

YEREVAN (Noyan Tapan)–An Armenia-Russia business forum initiated by Industrialists and Businessmen Unions of Armenia and Russia began Thursday in Yerevan.

Russian and Armenian prime ministers Victor Chernomyrdin and Robert Kocharian addressed the forum participants–hoping that the event will promote the economic cooperation between the two countries.

The forum was attended by more than 350 businessmen–110 of whom represent Russia. The event was also attended by leaders of Industrialists and Businessmen Unions of Ukraine–Belarus–Georgia–Lithuania–dozens of entrepreneurs and manufacturers from these countries.

Chernomyrdin’s message of welcome was read out by Anatoly Adamishin–Russian Minister for CIS relations. Russia’s premier stressed the importance of the forum which–according to him–must contribute to the further development of economic relations between Armenia and Russia.

The prime minister assured that Russia’s government is using all means to speed up the execution of several agreemen’s signed between the two countries–and noted that there are real chances to increase commodity turnover between the two states in the near future. Russia and Armenia have a real potential for industrial growth and high quality production.

"An unlimited field of activity opens for us and only desire and initiative of industrialists and businessmen are needed. On behalf of the government I wish the forum a fruitful session to solve our common problems and advance cooperation," read the address by the Russian prime minister.

Kocharian noted in his speech that the authorities and government of Armenia also attach special importance to the Yerevan business forum and expect much from it.

According to the premier–there are several aspects in the Armenia-Russia integration that should be immediately solved by the political leadership.

First of all it is necessary to create a legal field to ensure investment safety–effective work of the customs and tax systems.

The second task is the communication between the two countries that is troubled by regional conflicts. The third problem is to establish a necessary investment climate in both states (a favorable tax field–among other things).

According to Kocharian–even now–with its current problems–Armenia is attractive for foreign investment–but the image created because of regional conflicts–electricity problems and blockades–still remains in the minds of some entrepreneurs.

"We are actively trying to break the opinion that we have no electricity and roads. Such business forums and visits show that Armenia has long become a different country–Yerevan is no longer the dark city it used to be several years ago," Kocharin said.

He assured that Armenia’s government is making all efforts to form a favorable investment climate in the Republic: the tax legislation is being completely revised–privatization is under way–a number of big Armenian businesses are presented at international tenders "which is unheard of to many–but that is the correct policy."

According to Kocharian–foreign investors have already shown interest in Armenia–in particular–in spheres of mining and smelting–chemical industry–precious stones and metals–engineering. "Interesting processes" are underway in the fields of small and medium business.

According to Kocharian–free business can be realized in Armenia: investors working in Armenia for the recent two years admit that here they are getting more income than in any other country.

The government is going to improve the investment climate–establish a system of incentives for big investors.

"The situation in Armenia is controllable–and I can assure you that whoever has some serious intentions in Armenia–that person won’t be sorry. We are interested in Russian capital and Russian businessmen coming into the Armenian markets. We are expecting a real continuation from this forum," Kocharian concluded.

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