By Hrach Melkumian
The Armenian and Russian governments said on Friday they have agreed in principle on the repayment of Yerevan’s $88 million debt to Moscow. Officials from both countries making up an inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation indicated that the Russians will be given a stake in state-run Armenian industries in return for writing off the bulk of the debt.
“Our intention is to turn this debt into investments by the Russian Federation into the Republic of Armenia,” the Russian co-chairman of the commission, Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov, told reporters after winding up talks with his Armenian counterpart, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian.
Sarkisian said the repayment will take the form of Russian-Armenian joint ventures or involve a handover of factories to Russian companies willing to invest in them. The agreements were contained a joint communiqué issued by the two sides.
Klebanov, who visited several Armenian enterprises during the trip, said Moscow takes a particular interest in the energy and mining sectors. He confirmed reports that Russian energy firms will participate in the new international bidding for Armenian energy distribution companies.
Klebanov declared on his arrival in Yerevan Thursday that Russia wants to complement its close political and military links with Armenia with greater economic cooperation. He told President Robert Kocharian the next day that the joint commission will prepare “package of basic agreements pertaining to the integration of the two countries’ economies” in time for the September visit to Armenia by Russian President Vladimir Putin.