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By Aza Babayan in Moscow
Russia remains interested in maintaining close ties with Armenia and boosting its already strong economic presence in its main South Caucasus ally, President Dmitry Medvedev said on Tuesday after talks with his visiting Armenian counterpart Serzh Sarkisian.

The two men met in the Kremlin on the second day of Sarkisian’s first official visit to Moscow in his current capacity. The visit also involved talks with Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, upper house speaker Sergey Mironov and prominent members of Russia’s sizable Armenian community.

Speaking after the talks, Medvedev said he and Sarkisian “reaffirmed a mutual desire to develop our strategic partnership and allied cooperation.” “We are convinced that the close interaction between Russia and Armenia is essential for the stable and dignified development of the entire region,” he told journalists. “And here Russia’s priorities remain unchanged.”

Medvedev welcomed in that regard growing commercial ties between the two countries which resulted in a 67 percent surge in bilateral trade last year. “It is in our interests to reinforce this positive trend and to further stimulate investments, manufacturing and technological cooperation,” he said, citing the presence of leading Russian companies such as Gazprom in Armenia.

The recently elected Russian leader added that he and Sarkisian agreed “on a number of additional steps to push forward large projects” implemented by these and other companies. He did not elaborate.

“We agreed to look for new possibilities of enhancing the scale of bilateral cooperation and are ready to pay the most serious attention to the realization of concrete and mutually beneficial projects,” Sarkisian said for his part.

Sarkisian and Medvedev stressed the need to boost economic ties between their nations in a separate joint statement signed by them after the meeting. It singled out the energy, mining and telecommunication sectors.

The unresolved Nagorno-Karabakh conflict was also on the agenda of Sarkisian’s visit. Medvedev said he discussed with the Armenian president “new opportunities for intensifying the negotiation process.” “We feel that both [conflicting] parties are showing interest in that,” he said.

Russia has long been spearheading international efforts to broker a peaceful settlement of the conflict together with the United States and France. Last month it hosted the first-ever meeting between Sarkisian and Azerbaijan’s President Ilham Aliev which the mediators described as a step forward in the protracted search for Karabakh peace.

(Itar-Tass-Photolur photo)
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