Putin Kocharian Reaffirm Commitment to Close Ties

MOSCOW (RFE/RL)–Following talks in Moscow on Friday–the presidents of Armenia and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to further bilateral ties in the political–military and economic spheres–signing a joint declaration outlining the direction of bilateral cooperation–as well as a governmental agreement on military-technical cooperation.

Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the ongoing "active political dialogue" between the two nations and cited progress in their economic cooperation. His visiting Armenian counterpart–Robert Kocharian–said Russian-Armenian relations are now "close to ideal."

The two leaders spoke to reporters in the Kremlin after a face-to-face meeting and expanded talks involving other top officials. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov were among them.

The tone of Putin’s remarks was clearly positive–suggesting that Moscow is satisfied with the current Armenian leadership–something that could be inferred as an endorsement of Kocharian’s reelection plans.

Putin particularly noted that the recent assets-for-debt agreement settling Armenia’s $100 million debt to Russia presented a new impetus to Russian-Armenian economic cooperation. But he added that the 10 percent growth in bilateral trade last year was "not sufficient."I am sure we could have done better–if relevant structures had worked more effectively," Putin said.

In a joint statement–the two presidents said they are satisfied with the current state of their relations. They also called for a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.

At a news conference later in the day–Kocharian spoke out in favor of further strengthening military ties between the two countries and–in particular–continued presence of Russian troops in Armenia. "Our military-technical cooperation is a powerful factor which stabilizes the situation in the Transcaucasus," he said.

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