By Aza Babayan in Moscow
The Nagorno-Karabakh conflict and economic issues figured prominently during Foreign Minister Vartan Oskanian talks with senior Russian officials in Moscow on Tuesday.
Oskanian met with Russia’s Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov and high-level lawmakers on a rare visit to the Russian capital which some observers in Yerevan link to the renewed international efforts to find a solution to the Armenian-Azerbaijani dispute.
“We discussed the Karabakh problem and can talk about some positive movements there,” Lavrov told a joint news conference with his Armenian counterpart. He cited the recent series of meetings between the Armenian and Azerbaijani foreign ministers as well as the “more active” work of the Russian, French and U.S. co-chairs of the OSCE’s Minsk Group.
Both Lavrov and Oskanian would not go into details of their discussions on Karabakh. The latter said only that he is “very satisfied” with the results of the talks. “This shows that the agenda of our dialogue is quite extensive and deep,” he said.
A separate statement by the Armenian Foreign Ministry said Oskanian briefed Lavrov on his trilateral meeting in Istanbul last week with the Azerbaijani and Turkish foreign ministers. Turkey is seen as trying to overcome Azerbaijani opposition to the reopening of its border with Armenia with efforts to facilitate a Karabakh settlement.
The statement said Russian-Armenian commercial ties was another major topic of the Moscow talks, with both sides agreeing on the need for “restoring transport communication” between the two allied states. “The Russian side promised to keep the issue at the center of its attention,” it said, underscoring Armenia’s long-running efforts to restore rail communication with Russia via Georgia’s breakaway republic of Abkhazia.
Oskanian was also cited as calling for a “prompt revival” of the five state-run Armenian enterprises that were handed over to Russia last year as part of a swap agreement to settle Yerevan’s $100 million debt to Moscow. Critics have questioned the Russians’ ability to breathe a new life into those enterprises, claiming that the deal has only deepened Armenia’s economic dependence on its former Soviet master.
Unlike President Robert Kocharian who seems to take every opportunity to confer with Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Oskanian has not been a frequent guest in Moscow since being appointed foreign minister in 1998. Tuesday’s meetings marked his first official visit to the country.
They also led to a surprise revelation that Lavrov, who was the Kremlin’s longtime representative to the United Nations before becoming foreign minister recently, has ethnic Armenian roots. “I have Armenian blood,” he told journalists. “My father is an Armenian from Tbilisi.”