Armenian Belarus Leaders Hail Ties

MINSK (RFE/RL)–President Robert Kocharian began on Thursday a two-day official visit to Belarus that was expected to result in the signing of more Armenian-Belarusian economic and military agreemen’s.

Meeting in Minsk–Kocharian and his Belarusian counterpart–Aleksandr Lukashenko–said vowed to strengthen bilateral cooperation and welcomed deepening commercial links between the two former Soviet republics. The Russian Itar-Tass news agency quoted them as saying that they will build upon the Armenian-Belarusian treaty of friendship and cooperation signed during Lukashenko’s visit to Yerevan last year.

An official from the Belarusian foreign ministry told the agency that Kocharian’s visit "will serve to consolidate the positive tendencies in the development of political relations–will give fresh impetus to the commercial and economic contacts between the Belarus Republic and Armenia."

Although the volume of bilateral trade remains quite modest–official figures showthat it more than doubled in the first quarter of this year to about $1 million.

One of the agreemen’s to be signed at the end of the talks upholds visa-free travel between citizens of the two countries. Another document aims to deepen military cooperation between Yerevan and Minsk. The two countries are signatories to the Russian-dominated Collective Security Treaty–a defense grouping of six ex-Soviet states.

Kocharian is a rare foreign leader to visit Belarus–which has been ostracized by the West over Lukashenko’s authoritarian rule. The Belarusian leader is known for his tough anti-Western rhetoric and intolerance toward political dissent.


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