Kocharian Begins Moscow Visit, Confirms Russian Control of Iran-Armenia Pipeline

MOSCOW (Combined Sources)–President Robert Kocharian confirmed on Monday that Russia’s state-run Gazprom monopoly would gain a controlling stake in Armenia’s national gas distribution company that will almost certainly own the incoming gas pipeline from Iran. Gazprom’s board approved and announced on Friday the issuance of additional shares in the ArmRosGazprom operator, saying that it will buy all of them and thereby raise its ARG stake from 45 percent to 58 percent. Kocharian confirmed the information as he met with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin. "I would like to immediately inform you that all of our serious agreemen’s on energy projects with Gazprom are entering the implementation phase," he said in remarks posted on the Kremlin’s website. "Just a few days ago, they were finally approved by the Gazprom board." The Armenian government has until now owned another 45 percent of ARG, with the remaining 10 percent belonging to ITERA, a private Russian gas exporter. Russian control of the first 40-kilometer Armenian section of the pipeline, slated for completion this winter, now seems a forgone conclusion. Prime Minister Andranik Markarian revealed last week Yerevan’s plans to incorporate the pipeline into ARG, saying, "It would be illogical to have two gas distribution networks in Armenia." The ARG chief executive, Karen Karapetian, likewise indicated on Friday that his company’s ownership of the pipeline is imminent. "The question is whether the Iran-Armenia pipeline will be a separate enterprise or will be given to ARG," Karapetian told reporters. "In my view, giving to ARG would be logical."ARG has offered to take over that pipeline," he added. This and other economic issues apparently topped the agenda of Kocharian’s talks with Putin, who described as "shameful" the fact that Russia is only the third largest foreign investor in Armenia. "I say shameful’ because it is odd that Russia does not occupy the first place in terms of investmen’s in the economy of its strategic partner," Putin said. Kocharian who arrived in Russia Monday for an official visit noted that all the serious agreemen’s reached with "Gazprom" have entered the round of implementation. "So, we may say that in the coming year the investmen’s will notably increase," Kocharian said. As a clear example of effective bilateral cooperation the Armenian president pointed to the operation of modernized "Armenal" foil mill factory, which has several times increased the volume of its production. During the meeting the Russian president also referred to the Year of Armenia in Russia’saying that it is being held in Russia quite successively and is a natural continuation of the Year of Russia held in Armenia. The two presidents also discussed a wide-range of issues on bilateral relations and exchanged views over the international and regional developmen’s. Prior to the Kocharian’s trip to Moscow, a senior Kremlin official said, "Russia is the most important trade partner of Armenia and one of major investors in its economy," he said. The official also emphasized the importance of the existing "solid legal base" of relations between Moscow and Yerevan. Thus, in 1997 the sides signed a treaty on friendship, cooperation and mutual assistance and declaration on allied partnership into the 21st century. Over 160 interstate, intergovernmental, and interdepartmental treaties and agreemen’s have been concluded between Russia and Armenia. Kocharian is scheduled to meet with Russian Minister Mikhail Fradkov and Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov. He will also participate in the opening of the monument to world-famous Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian.

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