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By Ruzanna Khachatrian
Armenian leaders heaped praise on China on Monday as they secured $605,000 worth of Chinese assistance for alleviating grave consequences of the last, unusually cold winter that wreaked havoc on Armenia’s agricultural sector.

An agreement on the provision of the aid, mainly seeds and fertilizers, was signed during a visit to Yerevan by a leading member of China’s governing Communist Party, Luo Gan. Officials said the supplies will reach Armenia by the end of this year.

Both President Robert Kocharian and Prime Minister Andranik Markarian assured Luo that Armenia “attaches particular importance” to deepening political and economic relations with China. Kocharian was quoted by his press service as saying that the bilateral ties are “encompassing new spheres every year.”

Markarian, for his part, told reporters that the volume of the Chinese-Armenian trade, which totaled $40 million in 2002, will nearly double this year. He also offered a blanket endorsement of Chinese foreign policy, reaffirming in particular Yerevan’s recognition of the Beijing government’s sovereignty over Taiwan.

Markarian said he invited Luo to visit Armenia in his capacity as the leader of the governing Republican Party (HHK). “This was rather an inter-party meeting than an inter-governmental one,” he explained, adding that the center-right HHK is seeking closer ties with the Chinese Communist Party despite their ideological differences. Those ties will play a “substantial role” in the broader Sino-Armenia relationship, he said.

Incidentally, Markarian is a former Soviet-era dissident who spent several years in jail in the 1970s for challenging Communist rule and campaigning for Armenia’s independence. He paid an official visit to China in December 2000.

The Chinese official avoided speaking to journalists on Monday. Official Armenian sources quoted him as saying that the world’s most populous country is interested in strengthening Armenia’s independence and contributing to its economic development. He told Kocharian that China is closely following developments in Armenia and is encouraged by its “political stability and economic growth.”

(Photolur photo)
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