Renowned Russian conductor Vladimir Spivakov led a group of musicians to Yerevan on a rare direct flight from Baku on Thursday after giving a concert in the Azerbaijani capital attended by former culture ministers of Armenia and Russia.
Officials at Yerevan's airport Zvartnots confirmed to RFE/RL's Armenian service that the plane carrying members of the Commonwealth of Independent States Youth Symphony Orchestra landed in the Armenian capital after a direct flight from Azerbaijan.
The orchestra, which is due to give a concert in Yerevan on Friday, was set up three years ago on the initiative and with the support of the Council on Humanitarian Cooperation and the Interstate Foundation for Humanitarian Cooperation of CIS member countries. The foundation is currently headed by Armen Smbatian, a former Armenian culture minister and ambassador to Russia. Smbatian visited Baku on Wednesday to take part in a music festival dedicated to the 125th anniversary of the late Azerbaijani composer Uzeyir Hacibeyli, according to a report by the Azerbaijani news agency APA. He attended the concert of the CIS orchestra led by Spivakov in Baku along with a special representative of the Russian president, former Culture Minister Mikhail Shvydkoy, and Azerbaijan’s current Ambassador to Russia, Polad Bulbuloglu.
Smbatian, Bulbuloglu and Shvydkoy jointly visited Azerbaijan, Nagorno-Karabakh and Armenia in July 2009 as part of a Russian-backed initiative to rebuild bridges between the two estranged peoples. During that visit they held a series of meetings with Armenian and Azerbaijani leaders and visited Shushi, a Karabakh town where Bulbuloglu’s late father owned a house.
Visits of Armenian and Azerbaijani journalists, public figures, athletes and government officials to each other’s countries have been extremely rare in the past two decades. In one such example, the supreme head of the Armenian Apostolic Church, Catholicos Karekin II, visited Baku in April to take part in the summit of world religious leaders.