By Emil Danielyan
President Robert Kocharian discussed on Thursday Armenia’s outstanding debts to Turkmenistan for past deliveries of natural gas in a telephone conversation with his Turkmen counterpart, Saparmurat Niyazov.
Kocharian’s office said the two leaders agreed that senior officials from their governments will soon hold further talks on the issue in the Turkmen capital Ashgabat.
Turkmenistan was Armenia’s main gas supplier until 1997 when the government in Yerevan formed a joint venture with Russia’s Gazprom monopoly to run its gas distribution network.
But part of the fuel supplied to Armenia by the ITERA company, Gazprom’s export arm, still comes from Turkmenistan. Yerevan has paid for Turkmen gas with industrial equipment and consumer goods. It still owes Ashgabat $12 million.
A delegation of the Armenian finance ministry sought a rescheduling of the debt payments during a recent visit to Turkmenistan. But no agreement was announced. Kocharian’s office said the two governments will create “working groups” that will try to find a mutually acceptable solution.
Kocharian and Niyazov were quoted as saying that the relationship between Armenia and Turkmenistan are “characterized by a high degree of mutual trust.” They also agreed to step up cultural links between their nations.
The Turkmen leader was invited pay an official visit to Armenia this year.