Putin Kocharian Discuss Economic Issues

MOSCOW (Armenpress–RFE/RL)–During Tuesday’s meeting between the presidents of Armenia and Russia–issues concerning bilateral economic cooperation were discussed. They focused on steps the two countries are to take to implement the agreemen’s they reached during Russian president’s visit to Armenia in September. Russian Deputy Prime-Minister Ilya Klebanov informed the public of the meeting which lasted for two hours.

Ilya Klebanov stressed that the presidents "are satisfied with the work which has been done. However–both presidents agreed that they need to move faster."

The deputy Prime-Minister said that an intergovernmental agreement was prepared–which regulates "investmen’s for debts" formula. "Both presidents want the agreement to be ready to sign as soon as possible," he said.

Vladimir Putin and Robert Kocharian also discussed issues concerning bilateral cooperation for gas and energy as well as joint efforts to modernize and develop the Medzamor power plant.

President Vladimir Putin and other top Russian officials said on Tuesday that the assets-for-debt agreement with the Armenian government–negotiated for the past several months–will be finalized before the end of this month–Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty reported.

Putin said at the start of a meeting with his visiting Armenian counterpart Robert Kocharian that the two sides are working "intensively" on details of the scheme and will sort out all sticking points "by the end of the year."We must settle this problem of debts and further cooperation," Putin told Kocharian.

Russian Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov told reporters afterwards that "considerable progress" was made at the talks but gave no details. "Generally–there is satisfaction regarding the work that has already been done–but there is also an understanding that we have to move faster," said Klebanov.

Under the planned agreement–Moscow will write off much of Yerevan’s $94 million debt in return for obtaining substantial stakes in state-run Armenian companies. The precise list of those companies has still to be agreed.

Economic issues were the main theme of Kocharian’s two-day working trip to Russia–which precedes his three-day official visit to Japan. The Armenian president on Monday met with the chief executives of the Gazprom monopoly and its main exporting arm–the ITERA corporation. A Gazprom spokesman told RFE/RL that Kocharian pledged to clear all debts for the supplied natural gas in the course of next year.

But there was no word on the Russian company’s possible participation in the planned construction of a gas pipeline linking Iran to Armenia. Kocharian is expected to discuss the $120 million project during a visit to Tehran later this month. Before meeting with Putin–Kocharian said that Armenia is concerned about the obstacles–which exist in Armenian-Russian economic relations–reported Armenpress.

Putin expressed his satisfaction with the fact that the two presidents were meeting regularly.

It should be stated that Kocharian met with the chairmen of Gazprom and Itera companies while in Moscow. During these meetings issues on cooperation in the sphere of energy were discussed–as well as the latest developmen’s in the Karabakh conflict settlement.

Kocharian also met with Russia’s Prime-Minister Mikhail Kasyanov during his diplomatic trip to Russia. They both expressed their adherence to the immediate realization of agreemen’s to strengthen the partnership between the two countries.

Russia’s Prime Minister said that despite close and active cooperation between the Russian and Armenian ministries–the agreemen’s are being implemented slowly. He stressed that Armenia and Russia must implement their agreemen’s in "shortest time" necessary.

Armenia’s President Robert Kocharian–who is in Moscow on a two-day working visit–met with the chairman of Russia’s Gazprom Alexey Miller and the chairman of ITERA company Igor Makarov on Monday evening to discuss energy related issues.

Kocharian and Russia’s President Vladimir Putin are expected to discuss economic cooperation in the light of the several agreemen’s that were signed during Putin’s visit to Armenia on September 14 and 15. They will also discuss Armenia’s long-standing dispute with Azerbaijan over the Nagorno Karabakh.

Among the economic accords signed during Kocharian’s visit to Moscow is one that will see Russian interests involved in Armenian enterprises in exchange for a major reduction–or a cancellation of Armenia’s $100 million debt to Russia.

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