By Shakeh Avoyan
Armenian leaders pressed a visiting senior Russian official on Wednesday to ensure that Moscow honors its pledge to revitalize four Armenian enterprises that were given to it in 2002 in payment for Yerevan’s $100 million debt.
Meeting with the speaker of the Russian parliament’s lower chamber, Boris Gryzlov, President Robert Kocharian and other top officials indicated their dissatisfaction with the way the Russians are managing Armenia’s largest thermal power plant as well as an electronics plant and two research institutes.
Parliament speaker Artur Baghdasarian said after talks with Gryzlov that the Armenian side is still “awaiting concrete steps” that will breathe a new life into those enterprises. He reminded of the Russians’ pledges to make substantial investments and create new jobs there as part of the equities-for-debt deal. Fulfillment of those pledges is also important for Russia’s positive image among Armenians, Baghdasarian added.
All of those enterprises except the Hrazdan power plant have stood largely idle for years. Kocharian and Gryzlov specifically discussed the situation at the Yerevan-based Mars electronics company. “The two sides stressed the need to work towards modernizing and fully reactivating the Mars plant,” read a statement by Kocharian’s press service.
Speaking to reporters, Gryzlov admitted that the Russian owners have so far done little to revive the industries. He promised to deal with the issue on his return to Moscow.
The Armenian leaders also called for more Russian efforts to restore Armenia’s rail communication with the outside world. The talks addressed in particular the transportation of rail cars through an erratic ferry link between Russian and Georgian Black Sea ports. Gryzlov said the commercial route should be up and running starting from February.
The State Duma speaker also said Moscow will continue to press for the resumption of rail traffic through Georgia and its breakaway republic of Abkhazia. “Both Armenian and Russia are interested in a quick resumption of rail communication. Russia has done a lot to reopen it,” he said.
Gryzlov acknowledged that the absence of such a transport link is the main reason for the “insufficient volume” of Russian-Armenian trade.
(Photolur photo: Gryzlov, right, received by Baghdasarian.)