By Aza Babayan in Moscow
Prime Minister Serzh Sarkisian on Monday discussed the post-election unrest in Armenia with Russia’s top leaders and assured them he will strive to further deepen Russian-Armenian relations during his forthcoming presidency.
Sarkisian met with Russia’s outgoing President Vladimir Putin and the latter’s handpicked successor, Dmitry Medvedev, in Moscow on what was his first trip abroad after his victory in last month’s controversial presidential election. Both Putin and Medvedev were quick to recognize the official outcome of the February 19 vote strongly disputed by the Armenian opposition.
“I know that political processes in Armenia are complicated,” Putin told Sarkisian at the start of their talks in the Kremlin. “But we very much hope that no matter how the internal political process in Armenia unfolds, what has been built in the past years in relations between the Russian Federation and Armenia will be maintained and will develop in the future.”
“This is your first visit after the elections and of course we see a special symbol in this fact,” Medvedev said at a separate meeting with his Armenian counterpart. “I hope that our relations will continue to develop rapidly during your presidency.”
Sarkisian assured Putin that he is committed to “deepening and expanding” Armenia’s already close political, military and economic ties with Russia. The Armenian president-elect has played a major part in the development of those ties in his past capacity as defense minister and co-chairman of a Russian-Armenian inter-governmental commission on economic cooperation.
The political situation in Armenia was high on the agenda of the talks, with Sarkisian thanking the Kremlin for supporting the authorities in Yerevan “in the pre-election and post-election period.” “To be honest, we had never expected such an explicit approach [from the Russian government] before. Thank you for that,” he told Putin in his opening remarks released by the Kremlin. He did not elaborate on what form the Russian support has taken.
According to the Armenian government’s press service, Sarkisian said he is “determined to do everything to establish stability in the country, consolidate the society and create an atmosphere of tolerance.” No further details were reported. Putin had earlier joined Western officials in urging a dialogue between the Armenian leadership and the opposition.
Sarkisian also discussed with the Russian leaders the long-running international efforts to resolve the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict. Both he and Putin were reported to call for the resumption of Armenian-Azerbaijani peace talks mediated by the Minsk Group of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. Russia co-chairs the group along with the United States and France.