By Artur Terian in Moscow
The presidents of Armenia and Russia reaffirmed their commitment to furthering bilateral ties in the political, military and economic spheres following talks in Moscow on Friday.
Russian President Vladimir Putin praised the ongoing “active political dialogue” between the two nations and cited progress in their economic cooperation. His visiting Armenian counterpart, Robert Kocharian, said the Russian-Armenian relationship is now “close to ideal.”
The two leaders spoke to reporters in the Kremlin after a face-to-face meeting and expanded talks involving other top officials. Russian Foreign Minister Igor Ivanov and Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov were among them.
The tone of Putin’s remarks was clearly positive, suggesting that Moscow is satisfied with the current Armenian leadership -- something which could be portrayed by Kocharian as an endorsement of his reelection plans.
Putin noted in particular that the recent assets-for-debt agreement settling Armenia’s $100 million debt to Russia gave a new impetus to Russian-Armenian economic cooperation. But he said a 10 percent growth in bilateral trade last year was “not sufficient.” "I am sure we could have done better, if the relevant structures had worked more effectively,” Putin said.
In a joint statement, the two presidents said they are satisfied with the current state of their relations. They also called for a peaceful settlement of the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict.
At a news conference later in the day, Kocharian spoke out in favor of further strengthening military ties between the two countries and, in particular, continued presence of Russian troops in Armenia. “Our military-technical cooperation is a powerful factor which stabilizes the situation in the Transcaucasus,” he said.