Kocharian Offers Putin “Assets for Debt”

YEREVAN (RFE/RL)–President Kocharian met today with Russian Ambassador to Armenia Anatoly Dryukov to discuss Putin’s visit.

Armenian President Robert Kocharian denied Thursday rumors circulated in some Russian and Armenian newspapers–that Russian President Vladimir Putin could postpone his upcoming visit to Yerevan–because the issues related to Armenia’s debt to Russia has not been solved yet. Speaking to reporters in Yerevan today–after a cabinet meeting Armenian President said that the purpose of Putin’s visit to Armenia is not related to this issue.

"We’ve come up with some solutions regarding our bilateral economic relations. The Russian side positively reacted to our proposals and we continue to work on this. But it is wrong to link this directly to Russian president’s visit to Armenia," Kocharian said. Russian president Vladimir Putin is scheduled to visit Armenia in mid-September. President Kocharian also said that the so called "assets for debt" formula–according to which part of the shares of some major Armenian enterprises would be handed over to Russia in lieu of Armenia’s debt–was proposed by him–during his visit to Russia. "I think it is possible. It is important that the Russian big businesses express interest in the enterprises that we have proposed to exchange with the Armenian debt.

During his meetings with the Armenian leaders last month in Yerevan–the Russian Deputy Prime Minister reportedly has made a very specific offer to restructure Armenia’s debt to Russia as an investment in the Armenian big state enterprises–such as Kajaran Copper and Molybdenum mining factory–"Mars"–"Orbita" factories and some other major assets that are not privatized yet. Klebanov also discussed a possible participation of the Russian companies in the second tender for privatization of Armenian electricity grids.

Armenia hopes that offering some of its major assets in exchange of its debt to Moscow will attract more investmen’s from Russia and will open Russia’s markets for Armenian industrial products. But critics in Yerevan say–that the real value of the Armenian assets is much higher than the Armenia’s $116 million debt to Russia.

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