MOSCOW—In his first visit to the Russian capital as Armenia’s new foreign minister, Zohrab Mnatsakanyan reaffirmed Armenia’s desire to strengthen its alliance with Moscow as its strategic partner during a meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov Thursday.
“Our relations, really, have quite a strong base. The Armenian government’s commitment to deepen and strengthen our allied relations, our cooperation based on understanding and mutual respect has been and remains as one of our priorities. It is also reflected in the government’s program, which today is being debated in the Parliament. And I am in Moscow with that spirit and mood,” Mnatsakanyan told Lavrov ahead of their closed-door meeting.
During their meeting, the two ministers emphasized the importance of continuing and strengthening the allied ties between the two countries, and pointed to several agreements reached on May 14 during the meeting in Sochi between Armenian Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan and Russian President Vladimir Putin.
Mnatsakanyan and Lavrov also discussed, in-depth, issues surrounding the peaceful resolution of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and recent development in that realm, with the Armenian envoy attaching importance to the efforts of Russia, together with the US and France as OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, aimed at finding solutions to the conflict.
Following their meeting, the two leader held a joint press conference to summarize the results of the meeting, which both called constructive and in line with the with the spirit of the partnership, strategic cooperation binding the two countries.
“During the meeting I highlighted the importance Armenia attaches to the strategic partnership with Russia. We plan to continue that partnership later based on the principles that exist in the 1997 Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Mutual Assistance,” Mnastakanyan told reporters in Moscow on Thursday. “The intensity and depth of our relations really oblige us to make new efforts to ensure their continuation.”
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The Armenian foreign minister said that the sides plan to further deepen and expand the close cooperation in all spheres, including within the Collective Security Treaty Organization (CSTO) and the Eurasian Economic Union.
“These plans have already been announced during the Sochi meeting between the Armenian Prime Minister and the Russian President. We are happy that the dynamics of these meetings is being maintained, we expect new meetings in the nearest future,” Mnatsakanyan said.
Lavrov echoed his counterpart’s enthusiasm for advancing Moscow-Yerevan relations, pointing out that Russia remains Armenia’s largest trade partner with nearly 2,200 Russian companies working in Armenia making up 35 percent of foreign investment in Armenia.
“Russia remains Armenia’s key partner. Last year the trade turnover between our countries increased by 30 percent. The positive dynamics continue now as well. In the first quarter the trade turnover growth reached almost 40 percent. We agree that such high figures became possible also due to the advantages given by our countries’ membership to the Eurasian Economic Union,” said Lavrov.
Russia’s top diplomat said that he and Mnatsakanyan discussed issues of ensuring security and stability in South Caucasus, including the Nagorno Karabkah conflict.
“Russia both in the context of bilateral ties with Yerevan and Baku, and with the US and France, as OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair countries, will continue assisting the sides to come up with mutually acceptable solutions,” said the Russian foreign minister.
Lavrov also hailed the Russian-Armenian cooperation in humanitarian efforts, by pointing out that the a branch of the Russian center for science and culture has been active in Gyumri since December 2017, providing educational opportunities for students in that city, where Russia has a military base that guards Armenia’s border with Turkey.
“Nearly 5,500 Armenian citizens study in Russia, 1,550 of whom at the expense of the [Russian] Federal budget,” said Lavrov.
The Russian foreign minister said that together with his Armenian counterpart they discussed issues facing their respective representatives in international organizations such as the United Nations, OSCE and the Council of Europe, as well as within the CIS, EEU and CSTO. According to Lavrov, the two also discussed the upcoming summit of foreign ministers of the Black Sea Economic Cooperation, scheduled to be held in Yerevan later this month.