By Karine Kalantarian
Senior Russian government officials will arrive in Yerevan on Friday to put the finishing touches on the repeatedly delayed assets-for-debt agreement with Armenia, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian announced on Tuesday.
Sarkisian told reporters that the Russian delegation headed by Deputy Prime Minister Ilya Klebanov will make the visit to “find a final solution to the issue.” But he declined to unveil the list of state-run Armenian companies that will be handed over to Russia in payment for Yerevan’s $94 million debt to Moscow.
Sarkisian, who co-chairs an interstate Russian-Armenian commission on economic cooperation together with Klebanov, had earlier listed several enterprises in which the Russians are likely to get controlling stakes. Those included the Hrazdan thermal power plant, the largest in Armenia, two factories that used to produce electronic parts for the Soviet defense industry and two research institutes.
Some reports have said the Russians pushed for the inclusion of the lucrative Armenian power grids in the deal. But Yerevan appears to have rejected such option.
The debt agreement was initially expected to be signed last September during President Vladimir Putin’s official visit to Armenia. But several unpublicized disagreements have delayed its signing.
Klebanov announced “considerable progress” after last week’s meeting in Moscow between Putin and his Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian. Putin said the deal will be seal “by the end of the year.”
It is not clear yet whether the Russian government will write off Armenia’s entire debt or only part of it under the negotiated scheme.