Duma Speaker Urges Armenia to Join Russia Belarus

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–Gennady Seleznev–speaker of the lower house of the Russian parliament–on Friday added his voice to domestic calls for Armenia’s accession to the Russia-Belarus union. Seleznev–who arrived in Armenia the previous night for a three-day official visit–said he will raise the issue with President Robert Kocharian and other Armenian leaders.

However–a government press release on Seleznev’s meeting with Prime Minister Andranik Markarian later in the day made no mention of the Russia-Belarus union. The Russian official is scheduled to meet with Kocharian on Sunday.

Kocharian has repeatedly opposed the idea of Armenia joining the union–strongly advocated by the Armenian Communist party and other left-wing groups. He reaffirmed this stance in Brussels on Thursday–saying that Yerevan will continue to build its relations with Russia and Belarus within the framework of the CIS and the Collective Security Treaty.

Seleznev said on arrival in Yerevan that–while political and military ties between the two countries are close–he is unhappy with the current level of Russian-Armenian economic cooperation. Economic issues were the main focus of his talks with Markarian–according to the government’s press office.

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