YEREVAN—Ahead of his meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Saturday, Prime Minister Nikol Pashinyan said on Friday that Armenia-Russia relations “have a unique place and significance.”
In an interview with the Defense Ministry’s “Zinuzh” program, which airs on Public Television of Armenia, the premier also expressed his strong interest in strengthening Moscow-Yerevan relations further in order to make the partnership more effective.
“Our relations with Russia have a unique place and unique significance, so we are hopeful to make them more effective in the future. Our relations should be on a much higher level today; they need to be more strategic, and rely on a better partnership and a stronger fraternalism,” Pashinyan told Zinuzh.
Addressing the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, Pashinyan emphasized the existing mechanisms and possible ways toward achieving resolution to the conflict. He also stressed the need for closer cooperation with the Collective Security Treaty Organization.
“In my very first meetings with leaders of the CSTO member states, I immediately addressed the same concerns that they shared. What we need to do first is to state the problem in order to be able to discuss solutions in an atmosphere that inspires resolve among the allies and allows us to identify the CSTO’s obligations to Armenia and Armenia’s obligations to the organizations and its member states,” said Pashinyan.
While Pashinyan’s first foreign visit since being elected prime minister in May was to Russia where he met Putin, official Moscow has utilized the probe into the March 1, 2008 events to voice its criticism of Yerevan. Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov last month called the arrests related to the probe “political.” He stepped up his criticism on Monday with another statement that centered on the criminal investigation.
“We are concerned that the situation in Armenia is still far from calming down. In particular, there is an open investigation of events that happened a decade ago, arrests are happening. We consider it a domestic business of the Republic of Armenia and we want these domestic affairs to remain grounded in the law and the constitution. We also wish for them to be completed as soon as possible, so that Armenia can focus on constructive activities,” said Lavrov.
Armenian authorities are investigating former president Robert Kocharian, former Mikael Harutyunyan and former deputy defense minister Yuri Khachaturov. All three have been charged with breaching Armenia’s constitutional order in relation to the March 1, 2008 events, during which eight civilians and two police officers were killed in a standoff with security officials at prost-election rally.
Kocharian was remanded into custody and was later released after a higher court overturned a lower court’s decision on the pre-trial remand. Haruyunyan has escaped Armenia and an international warrant for his arrest has been issued, while Khachaturov was released on bail.
The main point of contention for Moscow seems to be the charges against Khachaturov, who is currently the secretary-general of the CSTO. On Friday, however, the Russian authorities announced that they have withdrawn the arrest warrant for Harutyunyan.
On Wednesday, a Putin aide, Yuri Ushakov, said that Russia was expecting an honest and serious conversation during Pashinyan’s scheduled visit on Saturday.
“Many questions have accumulated from both our and the Armenian side, therefore we expect an honest and serious conversation around all those issues which relate to both bilateral cooperation, as well as cooperation in terms of EEU and CSTO,” Ushakov told RIA Novosti on Wednesday.