Demirchian Seeks Closer Economic Ties with Russia

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Parliament speaker Karen Demirchian urged on Tuesday a reversal in the dwindling economic ties between Russia and Armenia during talks with Russian leaders in Moscow on a first official visit there in over a decade.

Demirchian and Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin told reporters that bilateral economic cooperation lags far behind close political and military relations maintained by the two countries since the break-up of the Soviet Union. They pledged to work closer on spurring Armenian-Russian business contacts.

Economic relations were also the main focus of Demirchian’s meeting the same day with Yegor Stroev–speaker of the upper house of the Russian parliament. The two men know each other from Soviet period when they held senior posts in the Communist party.

Demirchian–who ruled Soviet Armenia from 1974 to 1988–made industrial revival the main theme of his victorious campaign for last May’s parliamentary elections that brought him back to government. He on Tuesday deplored the negligible number of Russian companies operating in Armenia. Armenia’s trade with Russia consistently declined in the last several years. It took a deep tumble following a grave economic crisis that hit Russia in August 1998.

While in Moscow–Demirchian revealed that Yerevan will seek Russian assistance in re-activating a second older reactor of the Medzamor nuclear power station. The announcement was made during his meeting with the head of Russia’s government agency on nuclear energy who said the issue requires a thorough analysis.

The currently operating Medzamor reactor was re-opened in 1995 and accounts for more than a third of electricity generated in Armenia. The Armenian government is supposed to shut down the reactor in 2004 under the terms of agreement with the European Union concerned about its safety.

Demirchian also brought up the issue of continued supplies of Russian nuclear fuel to Medzamor. Technical and financial assistance from Russian was vital for the plant’s re-activation which ended severe power shortages in Armenia.

"We are satisfied with the state of relations between Russia and Armenia–which have developed in the spirit of strategic partnership committed to the 21st century," Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov said during talks with Demirchian on Monday–the Itar-Tass news agency reported.

Ivanov also expressed satisfaction "with the way relations between our parliamen’s and foreign ministries develop."

At the same time–he noted that "there are practical questions which need to be resolved." These include "some international issues which concern us–such as the situation in the Caucasus and the strengthening of regional stability".

One of the issues Ivanov intended to discuss with Demirchian is "preparations for an important OSCE summit in Istanbul. The summit participants plan to sign a number of documen’s–including the Charter of European Security and agreemen’s on the adaptation of the Conventional Forces in Europe Treaty".

"This is why we attach such great importance to our talks today," the minister said.

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