Putin Hails ‘Allied’ Ties With Armenia

SOCHI, Russia (RFE/RL)–President Vladimir Putin welcomed the “truly allied character” of Russia’s relationship with Armenia as he received his Armenian counterparty Robert Kocharian in his summer retreat in the Black Sea city of Sochi on Thursday.
“It is very pleasant to note that our relations are developing well, that our trade is growing, not to mention our relations in the political sphere,” Putin told Kocharian at the start of their meeting, in remarks broadcast by Russian television.
Kocharian agreed with Putin, singling out growing economic and military-technical cooperation between the two countries. He said the two leaders need to meet regularly to “review their positions” and “consult” on issues of mutual interest. No further details were reported.
Kocharian’s press secretary, Victor Soghomonian, said separately that the Armenian president plans to hold a number of other meetings in Sochi, but did not elaborate.
“Our meetings here have become traditional but this one has a specific significance as in a few days Armenia and Russia will be marking the 10th anniversary of signing the Friendship and Cooperation Agreement,” Putin said after talks with Kocharian.
Kocharian for his part praised the growing trade and political ties between the two countries and thanked his Russian counterpart for warm welcome. He described bilateral relations with Russia as a dynamic process.
The two presidents discussed a wide scope of issues pertaining to interaction in different sectors, especially from the perspective of boosting commercial ties, joint implementation of big investment projects in Armenia. They also discussed a set of international and regional questions.
Armenian-Russian trade in the first six months of this year grew 70 percent from a year before to $337 million and is expected to go beyond $500 million.
Russia is the biggest investor in Armenia having invested over $800 million over the last 15 years. The biggest investors are Gazprom, VTB bank, Vimpelcom mobile phone operator and Rusal aluminum foil producer.-0-/39/
Political analysts expected Putin and Kocharian to discuss the pipeline pumping Iranian gas to Armenia.
Russia’s state-run gas monopoly Gazprom last year took control of the pipeline’s Armenian section in exchange for setting gas prices at half of European levels until January 1, 2009. Until that date, Armenia will pay $110 per 1,000 cubic meters of natural gas.
Analysts say weapons purchases were also likely to top Kocharian’s agenda. As a member of the Collective Security Treaty Organization, Armenia is entitled to buy Russian weapons at preferential prices.
Putin and Kocharian previously met in Sochi in January. The one-on-one talks reportedly focused on Russian-Armenian commercial relations, with the two presidents praising Russia’s increased economic presence in Armenia and agreeing to boost it further this year.
At that meeting, Putin noted the absence of “unresolved problems or difficult issues” in Moscow’s ties with Yerevan, and welcomed growing Russian-Armenian trade.

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