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By Shakeh Avoyan

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Kasyanov arrived in Armenia late Monday on a two-day official visit which officials said will result in the repeatedly delayed signing of a final agreement to settle Yerevan’s $98 million debt to Moscow.

Kasyanov told reporters at Yerevan airport that the so-called equities-for-debt swap agreement will give a new impetus to economic cooperation between the two allied nations. He said it will boost bilateral trade and foster more Russian investments in the Armenian economy.

The two governments agreed last December on the list of five state-run Armenian enterprises that are to be transferred under Russian control in payment for the interstate debt. Those are Armenia’s largest thermal power plant, an electronics factory and three Soviet-era research institutes.

Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, who has represented the Armenian government in the negotiations, told RFE/RL on Monday that under the terms of the deal, Russia will write off Armenia’s entire debt. He said it will be signed on Tuesday.

The signing ceremony has for months been held up by differences over several contentious issues, including the fate of the biggest but still incomplete Fifth Unit of the Hrazdan power plant. It is still not clear whether it will be covered by the settlement. Some Armenian officials said earlier this year that the Fifth Unit alone is worth $100 million.

Kasyanov and his Armenian counterpart, Andranik Markarian, may also consider the possibility of placing most of the enterprises in question under the management of Ara Abrahamian, a Moscow-based ethnic Armenian tycoon. Abrahamian, who owns one of Russia’s biggest diamond companies, said during a visit to Yerevan on October 9 he has been discussing the idea with the Russian government.
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