By Shakeh Avoyan
Armenia and Russia announced on Thursday an agreement to step up their already close cooperation in the areas of defense and security, reiterating that they pursue common geopolitical goals in the region.
“Our countries have no common border, but we share common goals and objectives in terms of ensuring stability and peace in the Caucasus,” Vladimir Rushailo, secretary of Russia’s Security Council, said at the end of a three-day visit to Yerevan.
Rushailo and his Armenian opposite number, Defense Minister Serzh Sarkisian, held a joint news conference after signing a plan of cooperation between their security agencies for next year. The document was not made public, though. Sarkisian said only that it calls for increased contacts between security officials and other “numerous joint activities.”
Military cooperation is a key component of the close Russian-Armenian relationship. Rushailo’s talks will be followed by a visit to Armenia by Russian Defense Minister Sergei Ivanov which is scheduled for next week. The Itar-Tass news agency cited on Wednesday Russian military sources as saying that Ivanov will discuss, among other things, possible supplies of more “advanced Russian weaponry” to the Armenian armed forces.
Rushailo revealed during his previous trip to Yerevan in June 2002 that the Armenian military is seeking fresh Russia arms deliveries and that Moscow will likely agree to the request. But no official statements to that effect have been made since then.
The Russian security chief, who had served as interior minister before being appointed to his current post, was received by President Robert Kocharian on Wednesday. Kocharian’s press service said the two men discussed regional security and the unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict in particular.
Rushailo assured reporters that his country, long accused of exploiting regional ethnic disputes, wants to have a “positive influence” on Armenia, Azerbaijan and Georgia and is interested in a Karabakh settlement. But he made it clear that Moscow, which spearheads the Karabakh peace process along with France and the United States, will not pressurize any of the conflicting parties into accepting particular peace plans. “I don’t think that Russia should press anyone or impose any solutions,” he said.
Also on the agenda of the talks were economic ties, with Rushailo saying that Russian-Armenian trade has grown substantially in the past three years. Kocharian was quoted as singling out bilateral “more active” cooperation in Armenia’s energy sector which is now overwhelmingly controlled by state-run Russian companies following a series of controversial equities-for-debt agreements between the two governments.
Rushailo noted that there is still “a number of unresolved issues” in the implementation of those agreements. But both he and Sarkisian, who also co-chairs a Russian-Armenian economic commission, refused to elaborate on them.